Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 6 - Episode 12: "The Perils of Superman"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: April 21, 1958

Writers: Robert Leslie Bellem and Whitney Ellsworth

Director: George Reeves

Guest Cast:
Michael Fox as Rogan, Leader of the Lead Mask Gang
Steve Mitchell as Hale, Rogan's Henchman
Yvonne White as Ethel, Perry White's Secretary

"The Perils of Superman"

Daily Planet editor Perry White's secretary Ethel has just called the chief. A most unusual person wants to see him. White, exasperated with all the mystery and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen's bumbling, allows the insistent visitor to enter his office. He, Lois Lane and Jimmy are surprised by what they see. The man is wearing a mask made of lead. He is discussing his intentions as Clark Kent enters the room. Since the Planet and Superman were responsible for his incarceration, he and his ten other similarly disguised men will exact their revenge on the Man of Steel by trapping his friends in differently creative ways. His mask is locked on, and only the ringleader has a key. With no way for Superman to identify his enemy, the caped hero will have to discover other means to stop him before Perry, Lois and Jimmy find themselves in grave peril.

Clark has convinced Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson to assign some men to protect Perry, Lois and Jimmy. However, he may be too late for two of the group. Jimmy has told Henderson that Perry and Lois have gone to a press luncheon. Unfortunately, they never arrived for it. A villain in a lead mask has taken them to the criminals' hideout, where the next phase of gang leader Rogan's plan can go into effect. His next target is Jimmy Olsen, and like Lois and Perry, he may meet a horrible end if Superman cannot rescue him.

While he is being secretly recorded, Perry tells Rogan how he'd tell Jimmy to get to the gang's hideout shack. He'll have to take the Crest Lake Road about four miles past Belleville. Then, he'll need to make the first right turn past the railroad track on a dirt road. The first house Jimmy sees will be where he can find Lois and Perry. Rogan knows that the chief won't tell the cub reporter this by telephone, so the tape is played for young Mister Olsen. Little does Jimmy realize that he's about to walk into the jaws of death while he searches for Perry and Lois. Will he be able to get word to Superman before the Lead Mask Gang sets their diabolical trap for him?

The fact that nobody is answering the telephone in Perry's office worries Clark and Inspector Henderson. Clark intends to be captured by Rogan to discover where his friends are. Henderson and his men, in the meantime, are guarding the main entrances to the Daily Planet building. Rogan, however, has planned for that eventuality. He takes Kent to the roof, where a helicopter awaits. The whirly bird takes to the sky to evade Henderson. Now, all Clark Kent has to do is wait for the right moment for Superman to go into action. Rogan's Lead Mask Gang surely won't stand a chance when he does.

Rogan has designed his traps in honor of the old movie serials. Perry White is tied to a log in the old saw mill in the back of Centerville. The buzzsaw is set to cut him to pieces in five minutes. Lois Lane is bound to the railroad tracks on the main line just east of Rock Port Junction, where the Midwestern Flyer hits better than eighty miles per hour. Once the locomotive strikes her, it will be the end for her. Jimmy Olsen's brakes and steering wheel have been sabotaged. Once he is near a dangerously sharp curve, the car will fall, and Jimmy will plummet to his death. All of this is revealed to Clark while he dangles over a large vat of acid. As the villains take their leave of Kent, the mild mannered reporter is lowered into the chemicals. Our hero now wonders if he can save his friends as Superman before Rogan's lethal, melodramatic attempts at murder succeed in ridding the crime boss of those closest to the Last Son of Krypton.

The clock is ticking as each vicious plot device from a movie serial is preparing to kill Lois, Perry and Jimmy. There is a five minute space between each trap starting. Meanwhile, Superman has emerged from the acid in his full red, blue and yellow costumed glory. Unfortunately, with very little time to spare, the Metropolis Marvel may not be able to pull off the most daring rescue of his career in order to reach his friends in time. Will he make it, or will Lois, Perry and Jimmy meet their maker in a most terrible and violent manner?

Having blocked the buzzsaw with his invulnerable chest, untied Lois and gotten a hanging Jimmy off a cliff, Superman only needs to get the Lead Mask Gang to Inspector Henderson. Thanks to the directions Jimmy wrote down, the Man of Tomorrow is able to confront his foes and take them to police headquarters. Once Superman's eyes X-ray Rogan for the mask key, the criminals are put into prison cells. As Inspector Henderson discusses the adventure with Perry, Lois, Clark and Jimmy in the editor's office, Rogan and Hale are wondering how Kent could have survived the acid trap. Nobody would believe what they suspect of the mild mannered reporter. For this reason, they vow never to discuss the subject again.

4Rating - 4 (out of 5): Michael Fox was Jim Olson in 1987's Over The Top, Doctor Raskin in 1970's The Dunwich Horror and Coroner George McLeod in Burke's Law.

In addition to various bit parts, Steve Mitchell played Starkey in The New Phil Silvers Show.

Yvonne White can be spotted in the 1961 unaired pilot of The Adventures of Superboy.

As Superman comes out of the vat of acid, George Reeves' foot gets stuck on his cape.

Jack Larson lets go of the cliff before George Reeves grabs his hand in the scene in which Superman must rescue Jimmy.

Upon first viewing of "The Perils of Superman", I was about to give it a perfect score. However, watching it a second time showed some bumpy acting in the first scenes taking place in Perry and Inspector Henderson's offices. Robert Shayne and John Hamilton seem to struggle a bit with dialog and performances. This also looks as though it disrupts George Reeves, Noel Neill and Jack Larson's overall rhythm during those parts, and as a result, the audience feels like the pacing of the story gets thrown off a bit.

Seeing the lead mask plot device return was great. Yet, it would have been nice to see it come back as a sequel to season two's "The Man in the Lead Mask". Plus, this version leads to a question in the minds of the viewers. Rogan was brought to prison by Superman. It's understandable that he'd want revenge. However, one has to ask this. Wouldn't Clark Kent/Superman be able to recognize the villain's voice if he had arrested him before? Had Supes been a human, we as an audience could chalk all this up as him forgetting details, but the big guy is supposed to have a superhuman brain to remember such things. Then again, there probably wouldn't be much of an episode if Clark knew the bad guy by hearing him speak. Still, it's a detail that kind of sticks out for fans like myself.

There really isn't the classic confrontation scene between Superman and the bad guys this time around. It is discussed in Perry's office, but that lacks the satisfaction of actually watching Superman take on his foes. Even the radio show used the mind's eye to give an image of the Man of Steel fighting bad guys. Since television is a visual medium, not seeing Supes fight the Lead Mask Gang in the final minutes of the episode makes the audience feel cheated to some degree.

Rogan and Hale discuss Clark Kent surviving the acid trap in the conclusion of "The Perils of Superman". While nothing is said in detail, it is implied that the two gangsters know or suspect something about Kent. Perhaps they believe that Clark and Superman are one and the same. It's really a pity nothing further was done with this dangling plot thread. It would have made a great episode in the series.

As melodramatic as Rogan's plan to get rid of Perry, Lois, Clark and Jimmy was, it works perfectly into the story of "The Perils of Superman". His love of gimmicks and movie serials comes out as great aspect of his character. Plus, his elaborate traps give the audience a sense of suspense as they wonder if Superman will make it in time to rescue his friends. We all know he will, but there are moments that leave everyone on the edge of their seats with a slight bit of doubt. That helps the entire half hour be an extremely entertaining one. It also makes the Lead Mask Gang an amazing bunch of bad guys that break away from the normal bank or jewel robberies in the series.

It's a pity George Reeves wasn't given much of a chance to direct anything before "The Brainy Burro", which, granted, was a poor episode. This was no fault of Reeves so much as it was just a downright bad story. Reeves was offered a chance to go behind the camera for at least half of the proposed seventh season that was never made. Unfortunately, that never came to be as it was discussed mere days before his death. For what it's worth, Reeves seemed a capable director for both "Burro" and "The Perils of Superman", though he seems to be better with the latter of the two entries. Let's hope he did as well with "All That Glitters". We'll have to wait another week to see.

In spite of some minor flaws, we have been given a rather good episode in "The Perils of Superman". It has all of the qualities that make many of the best stories in The Adventures of Superman such great classics. George Reeves does especially well on both sides of the camera, proving once again why he was considered a fantastic Superman for generations of fans. This is a half hour I'd recommend to anyone. It's simply, if you'll pardon the pun, super.

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