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In Retrospect

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By Bruce Dettman

For a very short period in my life I actually liked parades. This is when I was quite young and my father would take me downtown on Veteran's Day or Memorial Day to watch the bands and the soldiers from World War II (and sometimes even World War I) move by the small but exuberant hometown crowd. There were horses and bands and lots of pretty girls and usually some toothy public officials in convertibles waving stupidly at everyone. My father would swing me up on what I thought then were the broadest shoulders in the world and I would sit there until all the attractions had moved by us. Then we would go across the street to a combination café and ice cream parlor (which on the outside had a stenciled drawing of the little Langendorf Girl biting into a piece of buttery bread) and he'd treat us both to cones-he strawberry, me chocolate. Good memories.

A few years later, however, my appreciation of parades turned a corner, a decidedly unpleasant one.
During this period, when I was ten or eleven, my mother's father came to live with us following the death of my grandmother. My grandmother was a lovely and wonderful lady who both my brother and I loved dearly. Although she looked the way grandmothers always seemed to look back then-matronly, I suppose you would say-she was lively, very warm and always good fun. Professionally, she had accompanied silent movies on the piano as a young woman, and one of my best recollections of her was one afternoon when the two of sat down on the piano bench and she played for me all the signature themes for the westerns, serials and action films she had helped bring to life on the big screen. When she died I was heartbroken. My grandfather, however, was a different matter. When I got to know him better I realized that not only was he a rather stingy and self-centered individual, but that he had not really treated my grandmother very well during their marriage (his idea of showing her a good time on her birthday was to take her hunting). In addition, soon after his move into our house he began to act rather peculiarly. At first he would just talk to himself but this quickly escalated into a situation where he began conversing with assorted imaginary friends, invited strange people into his room, gave away his social security check to complete strangers on the street and got up every night between two and three a.m., dressed and tried to walk the 3000 mile trek back to Chicago. Each night there was a loud confrontation in our house and I doubt if any of us got a complete night's rest for the three years he was with us. Nowadays, of course, Alzheimer's Disease would immediately be considered as the cause for his eccentric behavior but back then people just saw their parents or others getting old and pronounced them as being "senile," a catchall term for the mental changes that often accompanied the aging process. I think one time my mother took him to our family doctor who pronounced him physically fit for a man of age and that was that. Meanwhile the James Thurber antics and behavior-funny when written by James Thurber but not so amusing when you're actually experiencing them-went on. Eventually I began to dislike him intensely, particularly when I couldn't get him to stop feeding my dog pork bones, several of which almost killed him. This business culminated for me one afternoon when my mother had taken me shopping for some school clothes, a chore I was not too pleased with in the first place. As it happened that day there was some sort of minor parade going on downtown-I don't recall what it was all about since it wasn't a major holiday of any sort-and my mother and I stood for a second on a street corner watching the small bands and local celebrities and finally a military group marching by in their spotless uniforms. There was one member of this latter group, however, who was neither spotless or in a uniform of any kind but rather who was highly conspicuous in the bright green pajamas he had failed to remove before leaving the house and who was also wearing a straw hat. It was my grandfather. In the past he had come to believe that any parade with military personnel involved should include him since he had been in the First World War, but up to this moment someone in the family had always managed to curb his desire to join in. This time, however, he came on the event by himself and instantly got into the middle of the thing and began marching.

My mother was horrified, embarrassed, and completely unable to cope with the situation. Standing frozen, all she could say was "Bruce, get your grandfather out of there this instant." I tried to protest. I wasn't going to make a fool out of myself. As a child I was incredibly shy and hated any interaction with crowds or audiences of any sort.

"Get him out of there!"

It wasn't a request, not even an order. It was a command I couldn't ignore.

People were laughing and pointing at my grandmother but he didn't seem to notice.

I edged into the middle of the road and took his wrist.

"Grandpa, this parade isn't for you."

Over time he had come to dislike me as much as I he and he quickly shook loose of my grip. I tried again and that's when the tirade began. Just about every swear word and colorful epithet imaginable was leveled in my direction. He refused to move and parade gridlock began. I don't even remember how long it went on before someone officially connected with the parade came over and got him to go over to my mother. I had been embarrassed before but nothing like this.

Since that episode I have never been able to see a parade, whether in person or on TV, without cringing.
It seems that Superman didn't really want much to do with parades either, even one dedicated exclusively to him as a gesture of appreciation by the citizens of Metropolis, in Superman Week. Written by Peggy Chantler and directed by Harry Gerstad, this is a fairly benign tale with a bit of crime thrown to spice things up just a bit.

The whole thing centers around Superman Week, seven days built around scads of events designed to thank the Man of Steel for all the good deeds he has done not only for the local community but for the whole world. Lois (Noel Neill) mans the phones receiving RSVPs (one would think a big operation like the Daily Planet would have some clerical staff to handle this sort of thing but Perry White wants his top female reporter to do it) from heads of state wishing to acknowledge the many things Superman has done for them in the past (saving some sacred elephants, a palace during an earthquake, a burning temple, etc).

Meanwhile, a local criminal kingpin named Si Horton (Herb Vigran), wishing to get rid of Superman once and for all, receives a visit from Jimmy Olsen who has masqueraded as a phone repairman to see what the notorious gangster might have up his sleeve. Unfortunately, Jimmy is made to drink a truth serum and subsequently reveals to Horton the fact that Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite, the only known piece being at the bottom of the Metropolis Bay where he threw it at the conclusion of the second year's The Defeat of Superman.

Jimmy later reveals his unintentional indiscretion to Clark who is understandably upset by this. He has a plan, however, and quickly puts it into action. He pretends to have retrieved the Kryptonite and allows Horton to get his mitts on it. Impersonating a sculptor named Vanderglas who has created a bust of Superman, Horton subsequently imbeds the piece in the work of art and lures the Man of Steel into what he thinks is a full-proof trap. Superman pretends to be effected by the phony Kryptonite then rounds up both Horton and his assistant (Paul Burke).

This mess having been cleaned up, Superman now has only one order of business to take care of, one that very much interests the always suspicious Lois since a TV show has been scheduled in which Superman is to be interviewed by none other than Clark Kent. Jimmy and Lois sit down to watch the show but are in for a disappointment as an off-screen Kent, in a pre-recorded tape, asks his questions of Superman which he humbly and graciously answers. Why no one else, a director or technician, is in the studio or why Superman brings along the sculpture and puts Clark's hat and glasses on it-as if this would fool anyone-remains a mystery.

The show closes with Superman riding in a parade and the citizens of Metropolis showering him with confetti and adoration.

It's a harmless and remarkably budget conscious little episode with that claustrophobic look that all the color episodes seem to have in common. All the interiors and furniture look pretty much the same, almost interchangeable, the music is highly forgettable and never adds to what little dramatic tension there is, and the criminals seeming more dingy than dangerous.

However, there are worse and less painful ways to spend an afternoon than with this show, well, like watching a parade for instance.

March 2009



By Bruce Dettman

When I was in elementary school, fourth grade I think it was, a boy named Terry was enrolled in our class for about half a year. Most of the kids in my school came from middle class homes. No one was particularly rich, but things seemed pretty good for nearly everyone. Most of us were sent to school in nice clothing and no one appeared to want for the current toys or comic books. Terry was a bit different though and not just in the fact that his attire appeared somewhat older and was probably hand-me-downs. For one thing, he was originally from back east, from New York, I would later learn, and seemed to have a peculiar sort of accent, sort of like the Bowery Boys whose old films I often caught on television. For another he had a bit of an edge. He tried to come across as tough and to intimidate some of the other kids and when this didn't work he was sullen, introspective and unapproachable. He was bigger than me and I immediately summed him up as someone I didn't want any trouble with. In other words, I kept my distance from him. Then one day as I was reading the latest issue of Green Lantern on one of the playground benches he sat down beside me and we started to talk comics. It really was the only thing we had in common-he didn't play sports or like westerns-but it was enough to create a kind of bond between us. One day I even had him over to my house to check out my collection. I don't know what sort of domestic environment he came from, but I recall that he seemed a bit ill at ease at first, particularly when my mother (who often dressed like June Cleaver) came in with some refreshments. Still, once we got into my two boxes of comics he relaxed and we had a pretty good time. I think he came over a few times after this and then suddenly he moved away without a word to anyone, even the school it seemed. One day he was there and the next he was gone. No one knew exactly where or cared one way or another except me. He was different in a lot of ways but having a different sort of friend can sometimes be satisfying and I had enjoyed our comic book afternoons.

Years went by, about five of them. After grade and junior high school a lot of us who had gone all through elementary school together scattered. There were eight high schools in our district and many old friends ended up going to different campuses. Often, despite living in the same town, we never saw each other again.

One night in my freshman year a couple of my friends and I went to the movies, I think to see a double feature of The Angry Red Planet and Gigantis, The Fire Monster. It was about ten o'clock when we got out (Note: we always went to the movies on weekend nights and even walked home by ourselves-this was before parents thought Jack the Ripper was lurking on every corner) and as we walked through the lobby we realized that a pretty large pack of kids was following us and making threatening comments. Once outside they began to surround us but somehow my two friends took to their heels and escaped while I found myself alone and unable to get away. There must have been half a dozen of them, all wearing knee-length sharkskin

raincoats over dirty jeans, with socks and pointed Italian shoes, their hair greased up into a style then referred to as jelly rolls. At that point they began to taunt me, to poke and prod me and to tell me in no uncertain terms what they were going to do to me in just a couple of minutes. It was a pretty dicey moment. I could see no way out, just angry faces and fists moving my way. Then I realized one of these faces was familiar. It was Terry's face, a bit older but still his face. Our eyes met and I could tell that he recognized me as well. He looked just as mean and intimidating as the rest, however, and in a second I realized he wasn't about to admit that we had once been friends. I was trying to get ready to try and defend myself as best as I could. I was pushed harder and I could feel my anger increase along with my fear. Then suddenly I heard Terry's voice.

"Let's split. Too many people around. This guy ain't worth problems with the cops."
They all stared at me, gave me a few more pokes, called me some names then turned and as a group jay-walked across the street. I thought maybe Terry would glance over his shoulder at me but he didn't. He just disappeared into the darkness with all the others and that was that. I never saw him again although years later, after college, I was told that he had been murdered in a nearby park. Something about a drug deal gone wrong.

I thought of Terry when I recently watched The Boy Who Hated Superman from Season Two. Not only was there a slight physical resemblance between he and Tyler MacDuff, who portrays the title character Frankie in the show, but you can clearly see that without the timely involvement of Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) and the Man of Steel a similar violent fate could have befallen him

George Blair directs this time out from a script by David Chantler which obviously reflects society's then mounting concern with the growing juvenile delinquency problem reflected in such films as The Blackboard Jungle.

Frankie has a chip on his shoulder about as big as Metropolis. He can't stand anyone except for his uncle known as "The Duke" (the legendary Roy Barcroft), a career criminal in the state pen who has brought up his nephew to embrace all his anti-social and criminal beliefs. Frankie particularly hates Superman-he doesn't even want to hear his name mentioned-because he believes his uncle's imprisonment is a direct result of the Man of Steel's interference during a botched caper. Clark and Jimmy want to help out Frankie, however, and when the surly youngster is up before a judge in juvenile court Kent agrees to let him stay at his place. As it happens, Jimmy is also temporarily bunking there since his mother is away (apparently Jimmy can't stay by himself-perhaps the aftermath of the problems he had in The Woman in Black) so it's the three bachelors under one roof. Actually, Frankie wants nothing to do with the deal ("I don't need any of that junk") but agrees to be amenable to the idea when he realizes that Kent has assembled some further damaging evidence against his uncle which he wishes to get his hands on. To this end, Frankie pretends to soften up for Clark, pretending that he might just wish to check out a career as a reporter. At the same time he attempts to indoctrinate Jimmy into the fast life which the cub reporter pretends to go along with until Lois and Clark have had it with his new insolent routine and call him on it. Eventually, in his dealings with two other criminals whose help he needs to break the Duke out of jail, Fixer (Leonard Penn) and Babe (Richard Reeves) Frankie ultimately learns the truth that his uncle set him up and has no intention of taking him to South America with him.

The gang at the Daily Planet give Frankie (his first) birthday party, an act which greatly moves him and he, now knowing that he has been betrayed by The Duke, calls the Fixer and says to cancel his uncle's scheduled breakout but it is too late to change things. Kent overhears this conversation while the lights are out, switches into his Superman duds and puts the kibosh on the Duke's plans (by placing a car over the manhole the criminal was going to climb out of) then returns to the shindig with no one the wiser. Frankie is a changed boy now. He feels so great he doesn't even hate Superman anymore; a fact which Clark explains will make Superman very glad to hear.

This was one of those so-called human interest tales that you watched as a kid hoping for a bit more action but it never really comes save a slight demonstration of super strength at the very end. I found it dull in my youth and haven't changed my mind much when I recently watched it. George Blair's direction simply lacks pizzazz and the story needs some spicing up. I also wish Roy Barcroft, the greatest serial villain of all time, had been given more to do.

I doubt if my old friend Terry would have thought much of it either. He liked things tough and mean and dangerous.

Up until his end at age 19.

February 2009



By Bruce Dettman

I was not quite old enough to enjoy serials, cliffhangers if you prefer, on the big screen. By the time I was going to the movies in the mid to late 1950s they were already pretty much a dead issue. Not only was the studio system that had once fostered them as a part of the multi-layered package theatres traditionally booked for their patrons (two full length films, a cartoon or two, a newsreel and short feature) quickly eroding to be replaced by independent production and performers, but television, the new kid on the media block, was overnight taking up the slack in terms of juvenile entertainment and adolescent thrills. Why go the movies and spend that precious quarter when you had Zorro, Captain Midnight, Roy Rogers and yes, even Superman in your very own living room?

My first contact with cliffhanger was one afternoon when my older brother introduced me to the Buster Crabbe/Flash Gordon trilogy that one of the local stations was airing. The Crabbe/Gordon trio of cliffhangers, produced by Universal Films, was probably the most famous the genre ever produced and I thrilled to the inner stellar exploits of Flash, the planet Mongo's stunningly evil ruler Ming the Merciless, Flash's girlfriend Dale Arden (though I readily confess to being more interested in Ming's evil daughter Aura), his scientific pal Dr. Zarkov and a host of supportive players such as Thun the Lion Man and Prince Baron. I was totally captivated not only by the bigger than life characters and storylines but by the whole serial framework and couldn't wait for the next installment to be shown when I would learn how Flash had been able to save himself from a giant octopus, fire breathing dragon or a horn-headed gorilla. When the three serials were over I found myself craving more cliffhangers but where to find them? Fortunately, early television was an incredible repository of old material from earlier days of Hollywood and as luck would have it one of the local San Francisco kiddie show hosts, a guy called Fireman Frank (but who his trio of puppets - Carl the Carrot, Dynamo Dudley and Happy --sarcastically referred to as "Skinny In The Pit"), who had a four hour live TV show on Saturday afternoons, began to showcase a serial installment each week. Because of this I was able to view quite a few of some of the very best cliffhangers, most, like The Mysterious Dr. Satan, Zorro's Fighting Legion and The Crimson Ghost produced by Republic Studios.

Not content simply to watch these wonderful cliffhangers, I also felt compelled to duplicate as best as I could the action I had been watching. To this end I created my own cliffhanger scenarios, each performed twice just like in the movies, the first time where it seemed I had been destroyed, the second showcasing how I had really survived my brush with death. The wonderful thing about being a kid is that the adult world, which at time can be just a few feet away, can so easily be erased from your world, totally dismissed from your consideration. While they might have glanced my way with curiosity, I don't recall any of our neighbors--who were usually within sight trimming the trees or watering their lawns--ever commenting on my jumping twice over the top of our backyard shed, bailing out of my father's parked car or pretending that our booth-like front porch area was actually a room closing in on me. In short, I had a great time with serials, both watching them and then emulating them in my own backyard versions.

I do wonder, however, what George Reeves thought about the genre

when he elected to direct Episode 103 of the Adventures of Superman titled The Perils of Superman, co-written by Robert Leslie Bellem and producer Whitney Ellsworth as the next to last installment in the series final season. After all, just before being cast as Superman, Reeves had appeared in what many - myself included - believe to be one of the worst serials ever produced, Columbia's 1949 disaster Adventures of Sir Galahad. Reeves charm and Reeves charm alone, was the only thing that even remotely saved this bottom of the barrel mess from being a 100% failure with its cardboard swords and impossibly bad special effects courtesy of skinflint producer Sam Katzman. It certainly wasn't the best professional experience for the actor and revisiting the cliffhanger formula probably didn't provide him with his best career memories. Nonetheless, The Perils of Superman emerges as one of the best of the final season shows, thanks not only to the entertaining concept, but Reeves' deft and energized handling of the spirited material.

The storyline is a pretty simple one even by Superman standards. A crook (Michael Fox) in a lead mask (looking quite a bit like the similarly hooded villains from the second seasons The Man In The Lead Mask although the design is a bit more shark-like) visits the Daily Planet and calmly explains that the Man of Steel has ruined too many of his enterprises in the past and that to get even he is going to strike back at all his friends. The mask, he adds, is locked in place so even Superman can't discover the wearer's identity (well, unless he pulls the whole thing off, head included - I guess this didn't occur to anyone). To further confuse matters, he has engaged a whole group of lead-headed men to walk around the streets of Metropolis, something the police can't seem to do anything about.

There is some momentary consideration given by the Daily Planet staff to hiding out until this whole threat business blows over but Editor Perry White will have none of it and Jimmy and Lois agree. Clark, however, is worried -- and not just because he seems to be wearing a new hat that is too small for him -- but because he senses that these are no idle threats and that these masked guys mean business. And mean business they do. The rest of the show, the majority of it really, showcases the various devices the bullet-headed characters have devised to get rid of Perry, Clark, Lois and Jimmy, all of which hearken back to the glory days of the movie cliffhanger. Lois is stretched out a railroad track awaiting death from an on-coming train. Jimmy's car breaks are marinated in acid, a fact he discovers as he drives down a dangerous windy road. Perry is tied to a log in a lumber mill as a huge twirling blade moves his way. And Clark is suspended over a vat of acid and eventually dropped in as his captors gleefully watch. As soon as they are gone, however, Superman emerges from the corrosive bath and heads out to save his three friends. He manages to reach Perry and Lois in time but can't quite get to Jimmy who at the last second manages to bail out of his death trap of a car before it shoots over a steep cliff. Jimmy is hanging from a convenient branch when Superman pulls him to safety. But let's face it, without that branch Jimmy would have been toast.

The criminals are captured (off screen) and the last scene has two of them (Fox plus Steve Mitchell) conversing behind bars about why their scheme failed. But even more troublesome to them is how Clark, who they both saw lowered into the tub of acid, has managed to survive. They can't believe what they have seen and don't even wish to think or talk about it. It just couldn't have happened.

It's really too bad that George hadn't more opportunities to direct, both for his own series and in the future on other projects which was supposedly his intent. He displays a nice feel for the material and camera, creates good pacing and installs energy into the show which had been sorely lacking from many final season episodes.

Our loss.

January 2009



By Bruce Dettman

Personal memory is a funny thing, not always subject to what we may think of as the laws of the rational and/or predictable. For instance, why is it that some people have the ability to recall every baseball statistic on their favorite team or player yet is unable to remember their own social security number? Why can one person conjure up the most insignificant dates in their lives while others are hardly able to recall their own birthdays? I score highest on the memory scale when it comes to the movies and actors I watched growing up as a boy in front of our first TV, a coconut-colored Packard Bell with pretty awful reception. Somehow, with little or no effort, I can usually pick out actors of a certain era sometimes identifying them just from their backsides or their voices. This skill-if it can be called that-is not intentional on my part. I never made a concentrated effort to study these people. On the other hand, ask me if I remember how to divide a fraction or what the capital of Missouri is and I'm usually in big trouble. I'm also good at remembering the people I have met in my life. Show me a classroom portrait of a particular year in elementary school and I can pick out and name at least three quarters of the kids whereas many of my contemporary buddies are lucky if they remember a half dozen. I also know lots of people who can't put faces on more than two of their elementary teachers whereas I can see them all clearly, Mrs. Moe (a wonderfully sweet old lady but feisty), Jones (southern and shrill), Gates (an impatient Hispanic harridan), Tootle (chucky, bespeckled, very patient), Elkington (my favorite, tall and skinny and very encouraging) and Markowitz (big-boned, Germanic, very creative but a harsh disciplinarian when crossed). For all of this, however, I have always remained frustrated by my inability to recall a certain relative, an aunt who died when I was quite young. She was my father's younger sister and was killed in a horrendous car crash. She babysat me and I was apparently around her a lot up to the age three, but I don't have a shred of memory linked to her and photographs do not help, only make this memory gap all the more frustrating. I can remember every other family member from great-grandparents and great-uncles to distant cousins but I can't see my Aunt Shirley's face or hear her voice. For some reason this has always troubled me. I'm not certain why.

I was thinking about this, about memory and things, when I watched the second season's Shot in The Dark because it has been reported over and over again that child actor Billy Grey, who appeared in this particular episode, has absolutely no memory of the experience, a fact I find astounding. This might be personal bias on my part, but while I could understand a juvenile performer of the period with numerous credits under his or her belt eventually forgetting that they had a days work on such early and mostly forgotten video productions as Meet Corlis Archer, Cannonball or Steve Donovan, U.S. Marshal, the notion that being featured on the Adventures of Superman would not be indelibly stamped on the old cerebellum is hard to fathom. I don't know how old young Master Grey was at this time-he looks to be in his early teens-nor how involved he was at such a tender age in his well-publicized pharmaceutical pursuits that he would freely own up to following his long stint on Father Knows Best, but one still imagine that working on TAOS would be something a bit memorable for him, comic book fan or not. In the show he is featured only in the early scenes, admittedly never sharing a moment with Superman, but he has lots of camera time with Clark and Jimmy. A few years before this he had a large part in the classic sci-fi film, The Day The Earth Stood Still and has been interviewed about it numerous times. It is an experience he seems to recall with enthusiasm and vividness even though he was much younger at the time. But not TAOS. As I said, memory is an odd thing.

In the show, directed by George Blair with a script by David Chantler, Gray plays Alan, a youthful amateur photographer who one night, snapping random pictures behind the Daily Planet Building, happens to take a picture of a figure in the dark. The developed shot depicts nothing short of Clark Kent turning into Superman (or perhaps vice versa). Oddly, this doesn't seem to impress Alan or his ditzy Aunt Harriet (played by Gracie Allen clone Vera Marshe) as much as the fact that during this same period Alan has also been the victim of an attempted robbery tied to a man who wants the return of another photograph the boy once took of him. Because of this the aunt and nephew seek out Superman-who they now think to be Kent-to see if he can unravel the mystery. The fact that in the process they have seemingly managed to expose Superman's other identity seems not to have made the slightest impact on them. In what has to be one of the series' most unbelievable explanations, the reporter manages to convince everyone (except perhaps Jimmy Olsen who seems to remain a bit

skeptical) that the photo of him turning into Superman is merely the result of a double exposure since Alan took a number of pictures in the dark that same evening.

This business dispensed with-at least for the time being-Clark and Jimmy set off to find out what's behind the strange man's attempt to get back Alan's other picture which ultimately leads them to identify the individual as Burt Burnside, a confidence man known by the underworld as "The Tulip" (portrayed by our old friend John Eldridge whose mug shot is situated right next to a photo of actor Hugh Beaumont who would appear in the same seasons The Big Squeeze). In a subsequent confrontation Burt takes the photo from Kent but Jimmy manages to snatch it back and hightails for the Metropolis' underground railway (34th Street Station) and the Valley Express. Burt can't catch Jimmy but he can, with the help of his confederates, attempt to blow up the speeding train. Kent gets wind of this, eventually ditches a very stubborn Lois, and after a first season takeoff cancels the explosion leaving Jimmy to stick the photo in an envelope and mail it.

Eventually the whole thing falls into place. Burt faked his own death by killing another man a few years before to collect a double indemnity insurance claim but Alan's picture proves that he is still alive and therefore the photo must be destroyed. Subsequently the con man and his lackeys plan to rob the postal truck carrying the photo but don't count on the driver being impersonated by Superman. The latter allows himself to be shot numerous times (a rather violent scene that must have made the Kelloggs folks wince) then trails the three men to the hideout where the two henchmen are summarily dispatched. This leaves Burt to threaten exposing Superman's other identity (the sharp confidence man apparently ain't buyin' the double negative story) but the Man of Steel, seeing the photo in the crook's safe (hey, I thought most safes of that period were made of lead and we know Superman's X-Ray vision can't make a dent in lead), destroys it with his heat vision. But that's still not quite the end of things. Henderson arrives just as Burt pulls out a hidden pistol strapped to his leg and fires point blank at Clark. One absurd explanation per episode is bad enough, but here we have two as Kent explains that the bullet was deflected by a silver dollar. Even as a kid I recall cringing at this one even if the policeman and cub reporter seem to have no problem accepting it.

Although he doesn't have a great to do in this episode I must mention that John Hamilton as crabby, thundering Perry White is wonderful as always. In the opening sequence Kent and he accidentally collide in a Daily Planet hallway with the following exchange:

Kent: "I had my hands full"

White: "And your head empty."

It is odd, however, that White wouldn't notice something unique (not to mention formidable) when running into Kent's steel frame. But then Perry's no lightweight himself.

In any case, aside from Alan not getting his photo back everything is tied up nice and neat except for the fact that Burt "The Tulip" really does know Superman's other identity and he might still do some talking when and if he ever gets out . But perhaps by that time Burt won't have much of a memory left.
For Superman's sake, let's hope so.

November 2008



By Bruce Dettman

My first long distance love affair was with film star Kim Novak. The movie was director Josh Logan's Picnic which co-starred William Holden. From the backseat of my family's 1955 red and white Buick Special I watched fascinated as Novak and Holden glided around the dance floor to the lush strains of the romantically evocative tune Moonglow. I was just six years old at the time, but something staggeringly potent clicked in my adolescent head that night, something that my parents in the front seat drinking coffee and munching drive-in popcorn and Eskimo Pies would not have imagined possible. That click was telling me that there was a profound difference between men and women beyond the one wearing dresses and the other long pants. I didn't know yet exactly what this difference was except that it was obviously pretty potent stuff and not something that would go away or that I could readily dismiss. It was here to stay.
Not too long after this I dumped Kim for Elizabeth Taylor when I was once again taken to that same outdoor theatre this time to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In an early scene that immediately grabbed my adolescent attention, Liz is pelted with ice cream projectiles launched at her by a bunch of southern brats. She hurries to her room and removes her soiled nylons and dress and stands in all her glory in a white slip. Again, my parents, lapping up their java and mustard-marinated dogs, paid absolutely no attention to my intense fascination with what was happening on that big screen. After all, I was just a dumb little kid. Well, maybe.

In any case, this was the start of my on-going love affair with a whole bevy of film actresses, affairs that for a long time preceded my real-life dealings with the fair sex. There were many of these as the years went by, certainly too many to chronicle here, but they were varied and often very different types, tough and soft, fragile and robust, good and bad girls. I loved watching the old movies from the 30s and 40s that were shown on TV in late Sunday afternoons when my father was off golfing or working in the garage and my mother was otherwise occupied cooking or gabbing on the phone or pasting Blue Chip Stamps in booklets with a mind to acquiring enough for a trip to Hawaii (although the biggest thing I ever recall her buying was an imitation cow stool that doubled as a telephone stand). I would pull the drapes, load up on Hawaiian Punch and a stack of Oreos-the latter which I would share evenly with my Dalmatian-and watch the likes of my favorites…Gene Tierney, Ella Raines, Linda Darnell or Jane Greer giving much needed support to heroes Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, George Raft and John Payne. I just couldn't get enough of this stuff.

Nighttime TV had its allure in this area as well. Once again I would sit with my folks viewing certain shows and never let on that the real attraction was not the shows themselves, the comedy or the dramatic content but the featured actresses. I particularly liked Barbara Britton from Mr. and Mrs. North (something about her voice), Irish Mac Calla from Sheena of the Jungle (this one's pretty obvious) and my all time favorite, the spunky, effervescent Anne Jeffreys as the "ghostess with the mostess" on Topper.

Also high on the list, however, was an actress whose name I did not know at first. She only showed up on a semi-regular basis on the comedy hit The Bob Cummings Show portraying Shirley, one of photographer Bob's regular models who he pursued every week but never caught.

This, of course, was the era of the 50s blonde bombshell personified by Marilyn Monroe (not exactly a new phenomenon for Hollywood if you can manage to recall Jean Harlow, Betty Grable or Alice Faye, but Marilyn and a host of tinted clones certainly put the concept back on the map). Besides Ms. Monroe, there was Mamie Van Doran, Diana Dors, Sherrie North and Jane Mansfield, to name just a few. Oddly, even though it might have sounded strange at the time when the whole world seemed enamored if not obsessed with Marilyn and company, I was not all that impressed. Although there were a few exceptions, I normally was

not attracted to blondes, always preferring the darker, sultrier, semi-exotic look in the ladies. Ava Gardner and Yvonne De Carlo also come to mind.

I did, however, make an exception and it was with this stunning person who contributed so much to Bob Cummings' on-going frustration. The actress's name, I would eventually learn, was Joi Lansing.
In addition to her obvious standout good looks (a sensational figure and ravishing smile) there was just something highly appealing about this woman, something that went beyond tape measurements, gobs of makeup and her over the top sexuality. In short, Joi was fun, effervescent, radiant and sparking and things really lit up when she walked into a scene. I never missed an episode and when she was not featured I was pretty letdown. I suspect I was not the only one in the great TV audience that felt this way.

Imagine my surprise then, one nearly approaching disbelief, when I sat watching Superman re-runs one afternoon and not only came across an episode I had never seen before but one which featured Joi!!!!! One thing I did know for certain was that whether the show was good or bad really didn't matter. Joi and Superman were going to be in the together.

Could life get any better than this?

Superman's Wife, episode 100 of the series, filmed in 1957 and directed by Lew Landers from a script by Robert Leslie Bellem and producer Whitney Ellsworth, starts out with a bang. No slow buildup here. In a police interrogation room Inspector Henderson and Superman are giving the verbal assault to Duke Barlow (Wayne Heffey) a suspect in a series of bank robberies but getting nowhere fast. They suspect that Barlow is merely one small clog in the wheel of a crime syndicate king pin with the moniker of Mr. X.

Enter Sgt. Helen J. O'Hara portrayed by Joi. No sooner as she shaken hands with the Man of Steel than he suddenly proposes to her. No ring, no flowers. He doesn't even go down on his knees to pop the question but she accepts anyway. I guess you couldn't blame her.

As a kid I don't know if I thought the nuptials-never actually depicted on the screen-were the real McCoy but I probably bought the concept. I mean, who wouldn't want to marry Joi? One person, however, who is not very happy about this set-up is Lois (Noel Neill) who doesn't do a very good job of masking her true feelings, something Editor White (John Hamilton) recognizes and tries to console her about but Lois is having none of it. She is one miserable girl reporter and doesn't care if it shows.

Of course, the whole thing turns out to be a scam, a plan set up by Superman, Henderson and O'Hara to trap Mr. X into coming out in the open. Mr. X, by the way, emerges as none other than actor John Eldridge who it may be recalled portrayed another criminal mastermind Walter Canby in the first season's Crime Wave. Actually, since Mr. X's real name is never revealed, I tend to think that Mr. X is Canby, just released from prison. There is no evidence of this, of course, but I like to think it all the same.

To further ensure that his scheme will work, Mr. X also hatches a second backup scheme to lure Superman into a bathysphere (at Pier 96) containing Lois, Jimmy and Perry White which is subsequently lowered to the bottom of the harbor while across town Sgt.O'Hara (now known to all as "Mrs. Superman"-which begs the question, is Superman a legal immigrant, a registered U.S. citizen with the name Superman on the official documents? -just curious) is tied to a soon to be detonated bridge. Naturally, Superman would have no problem escaping from the bathysphere, but in the process of crashing out of it Lois, Jimmy and Perry would succumb to the ocean pressure. It's a bad situation all right until the Man of Steel realizes he can pull the bathysphere to the surface using the cable attached to the top of the roof (couldn't he just fly three feet upwards and push the thing?). In any case, despite a bit of water getting in, Jack Larson, who is reported to have hated scenes where he was forced to endure getting wet, must have hated this moment although it's poor Perry, hat or not, who gets the most soaked.

So after saving his three friends Superman arrives just in time to rescue Sgt. O'Hara, to watch as the bad guys, in typical later episode style, knock themselves out (fifty years later and I still hate these scenes!) and Mr. X is corralled.

The whole plan and bogus marriage is revealed and Lois couldn't be happier. Both ladies let it be known that they each wouldn't mind tying the knot for real with the Man of Steel and thy make a stab at getting along.

Personally, I don't-and didn't then-think that Superman was the marrying kind but if that was the case and he was going to pick a partner, my money would have been on Joi.
In any case, there was still The Bob Cummings Show to watch her on.
Yep, life sure was good back then.

And by the way, for the record, I ultimately married a brunette.

October 2008



By Bruce Dettman

The angriest I ever recall being as a kid was one afternoon when I came home from grade school, rounded the corner onto our neighborhood street and discovered two older boys who had cornered my three-legged Dalmatian Rocky near a rose bush and were in the process of viscously tossing rocks at him. I guess I was about ten at the time and these characters were at least two years my senior-which in kid's terms can mean a big difference size-wise-and while normally this would have been a major deterrent to my tangling with them, in this instance it wasn't even a factor. To be frank, I don't even recall what I did or the methods I used to dissuade these pint-sized thugs from getting the hell away from my dog, but I have a hazy memory of screaming, flailing fists and a few dirt clods rocketed in their direction. In any event, for whatever reason, they scrammed. I think I would have taken on Godzilla in defense of my dog.

I bring this up only because while Superman in the person of George Reeves could occasionally work up some genuine extra agitation when dealing with the likes of Lou Cranek (The Mind Machine), Baby Face Stevens (Night of Terror), the sword wielding Colonel Brand in The Evil Three or even the unnamed professor (Joe Mell) in Crime Wave, I never read more anger on his face as when he noted Hank (Ben Weldon) winding up to smack his dog friend Corky in the 2nd season's THE DOG WHO KNEW SUPERMAN. If ever Krypton's number one son was on the verge of really losing his temper this was the time and Hank certainly knew it.

Generally, not many of the so-called human interest stories in the series were my favorites, but even as a kid I liked this one. I suppose this had to do with the dog theme since I am unabashed fan of canines and am a sucker for movies, TV shows or books detailing their trials and tribulations (how many handkerchiefs did I wear out watching Disney's Old Yeller or even more recently the film My Dog Skip?). In any case, this episode resonated with me more than a lot of others so-called soft shows and I have to admit that on watching it recently I still experienced a few sharp tugs at my admittedly desiccated heart strings.

The reason why this somewhat hokey script by David Chantler (with directorial support from the veteran Tommy Carr) works is a very simple one, George Reeve' remarkable sincerity in handling the material and the wonderful poignancy he brings to the dilemma of the most powerful man in the world caring for a small dog. Sometimes in film or TV you see a character who is supposed to be fond of a pet and at best he or she can occasionally be glimpsed quickly patting the mutt on the head, but it's fairly obvious that Reeves really liked dogs and Superman or not, is not above demonstrating this through a lot of physical affection which comes across as very genuine and very touching.

This meeting of Superman and Corky materializes purely by accident when driving along as Clark Kent in his spiffy Nash-Healey he comes across a group of people trying to free the dog from a well. The group includes the owner Joyce and her dog-hating hubby the aforementioned Hank, an underworld character who seems by his own cautious omission to have been responsible for the canine's predicament. Running off to change into his Superman duds, Clark accidentally drops one of his driving gloves at the scene (question: why

would Superman need to wear gloves-I guess Clark is more of a clothes horse than one would have thought given his unchanging daily attire). Before taking off into the air, there is a terrific shot of the Man of Steel standing against some large boulders then he is up and a second later-in what must have stretched the show's weekly budget a bit-is seen crashing into the earth and burroughing underground. It's a pretty impressive shot. Of course he saves Corky who thanks him with lots of dog kisses although his master Joyce (Dona Drake), a Runyonesque gal with the manners of a pit bull, doesn't so much as acknowledge his intervention (note that in close-ups Reeves is wet from his plunge into the well but when the camera depicts him in a medium shot he is dry).

Corky is a pretty smart mutt with a very talented nose. He stumbles across Clark's glove and memorizes the scent. At Hank and Joyce's apartment the former again tries to rid himself of the animal and when Joyce is out of the room shoos Corky out the door so the dog heads to the Daily Planet and his rescuer whose suit and glasses don't fool him for a second. Clark is initially very glad to greet the exuberant canine, a fact which rather intrigues Jimmy and Lois, but it doesn't take him long to realize that the little dog is the only creature on the planet who has successfully put together the fact that he and Superman are one and the same, something he has to do something about. However, he doesn't reckon on the memory and gratitude of his new four-legged friend who keeps showing up. Complicating matters is the fact that Hank, just a bit behind Corky in the brain department, has also figured out the connection between the glove and Superman and plans to track him down. His flunkey Louis (the always terrific Billy Nelson) wants nothing to do with the Man of Steel, however, and decides to diffuse the whole deal by taking Corky to the pound. Naturally this does not sit well with Superman who saves the mutt from being put down and in the process is indirectly responsible for letting loose an entire truckload of unlicensed dogs who have also been picked up by the city (this also lets all the kids watching the show know that none of these dogs will come to harm-well, at least not immediately). Eventually Hank gets his hands on Corky again and tries to have the dog track down Superman but Corky warns the reporter with a well-placed bark and this is where the earlier referenced scene occurs where Superman has to restrain himself from playing fetch with Hank as the ball.

Naturally, Superman can't have the dog showing up and threatening his secret identity so in what is surely one of the most poignant scenes in all of TAOS has to confront his canine buddy in his Daily Planet office and tell him not to come around any longer. Most actors, I'm pretty certain, couldn't pull this off, but Reeves' grieving eyes at having to say good-bye to the one creature on the Earth who not only knows his secret but who loves him with no strings attached is real and heartfelt and believably touching.
"Why Clark, you look like you've lost your best friend," says Lois after Corky has glanced one last time and left the room.

"Maybe I have Lois. Maybe I have," Clark responds staring straight ahead.

Pass the Kleenex, please.

February 2008



By Bruce Dettman

Dale Robertson, star of the popular 1950s TV western series Tales of Wells Fargo, visited my hometown sometime in the latter part of that decade to appear at the opening of a Purity Market. He did not emerge atop his familiar chestnut video steed with hands wrapped tightly around his six-guns, but rather in the backseat of a splashy Ford convertible with arms happily looped around two Marilyn Monroe clones who sat snuggly on each side of him. The sight was a bit unexpected and incongruous but I didn't care. None of us did. This was an honest to goodness TV cowboy and the street was lined for blocks with kids out to see one of their small screen sagebrush heroes. At this point I'm fairly certain I didn't think life could get any better than this. I even got an autograph picture out of the deal.

Like most of my generation, I had been hooked on the western ever since I could recall. My family moved west from Illinois in 1953 and on that long automobile trek my parents bought me my first cowboy boots in Salt Lake City and that same historic day I saw my first big screen oater when we took in the classic production SHANE. From that moment on I ate, drank, slept and daydreamed the west. Not only was I super-glued to the television watching my favorite western shows (Laramie, Gunsmoke, Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne and about fifty others)-as well as catching hundreds of old B western movies regularly aired on the TV-but the moment I got home from school I strapped on my gunslinger holster and pistols and slipped on my Stetson. Even now, if I think on it, I can still feel the slight tugging weight of my Fanner 50 (made by Mattel) hanging from my right hip and recall the thousand hours I stood in front of the mirror perfecting my fast draw. I was also lucky because my father, a history buff, would go out of his way on vacations to take me to spots like Tombstone, Deadwood and Dodge City.

The Wild West then not only provided an exciting entertainment centerpiece for my generation, but beyond this we felt a sort of historical kinship to it. After all, the American west was really not all that removed from the mid-Twentieth century-not much over fifty years-and with many grandparents from that era still alive we acknowledged an association that no kid today could possibly fathom. My own suburban tract home, for instance, had been built over the site of an old Spanish ranchero and digging in the backyard I was thrilled to find an old spur and on another occasion part of a rusted revolver, both of which hung from my bedroom wall for years. Our attachments to the old west were many, something that ran deeper than just Saturday matinees and plastic cap guns. We might not have been able to articulate it but we sensed it anyway. We were kids of the west.

No wonder the thought of Superman in a western setting was an interesting concept. If only the results would have been more satisfying.

The Bully of Dry Gulch from 1955, has Jimmy and Lois out of town set on covering a big rodeo (certainly an odd assignment for big city crime reporter Lane) when their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded in the town of Dry Gulch, a community that with the exception of a few modern inventions such as phones and cars seems to have not advanced much since its wild west heydays*. Making the best of things, Lois and Jimmy swap their city duds for some western attire with Jimmy selecting one of the goofiest "tinhorn" outfits one could imagine. Problem comes when they run afoul of the local

bully Gunner Flinch (Myron Healy) and his two abused lackeys Pedro (Martin Garralaga) and Sagebrush (the wonderful old character actor Raymond Hatton) who tells Jimmy he has until nightfall to get out oft town or else. Despite all the threats of gunplay against his life, Jimmy doesn't seem as nervous as you'd think he'd be and has enough of an appetite to frequent the Silver Dollar Café (burger and coffee are 40 cents).

Lois finally finds a phone and calls Clark for help but he dismisses the whole thing as a joke until she mentions that Gunner has been "making goo-goo eyes" at her. Threatening to drill Jimmy full of lead is one thing, getting fresh with Lois is quite another and before you can say green-eyed monster he's flying as Superman towards Dry Gulch. Most of the confrontation in the script by David Chantler comes between Clark and Gunner with Superman only making token appearances. Clark outwits the mean-spirited gunman in cards at one point employing his X-ray vision ("maybe it was a hot deck") and later exposes Gunner for the fraud he is (his reputation is based on phony gunfights he's concocted with Sagebrush and Pedro).

Like most of the later shows, this one limply directed by George Blair, the problems are numerous, the first being that the villains pose no real serious threat and can't be taken seriously, a decided flaw in a show about a super hero who needs legitimate adversaries to showcase his own powers and strengths. From the very first, even as a kid, I didn't think much of Gunner as an authentic bad guy, certainly nothing like the nasty villains appearing regularly on real TV westerns. Secondly, George Reeves lacks obvious energy and doesn't seem particularly engrossed by the action around him. The thing is simply played too broadly with nary a hint of legitimate mayhem. To be honest, the whole episode could have been sorted out without the need for Superman. Surely Lois could have handled Gunner with no problem.

Incidentally, if you listen closely to the graveyard scene I believe you'll hear the faint strains of Mussorgsky's classical piece "Pictures at an Exhibition." How this ended up here I haven't a clue.

* For the record, the idea of combining the modern world with older sagebrush trappings was hardly a new one. Many B westerns, although set in (then) contemporary times had their heroes, people like Tom Mix and Ken Maynard, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, taking care of business with their horses and six-shooters. Rogers' own popular TV series would also utilize this fusion of elements.

January 2008



By Bruce Dettman

I sometimes think that my brother wriggled out of the womb already loving airplanes. As a boy, his bedroom walls were always covered with framed photographs of every sort of airborne craft although he favored fighter planes. We had several family friends who worked for companies like Lockheed and Boeing in addition to knowing a few pilots who had survived World War II, and someone was always bringing him new pictures of planes to add to his collection. In addition, he constructed models of various bombers, pursuit planes and fighters, many of which he hung from the ceiling. My favorites were the ones he had cleverly designed with shards of cotton he had painted bright red which belched from the front of the fighters to simulate gun fire and flames. On vacations and weekends my father would take him to air shows, airports and air museums and once, at the opening of the news Oakland International Airport, he was thrilled to meet and talk to Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz, two of the 20th century's most famous aviators (both of whom later worked as stunt pilots in the movies and died in aviation mishaps). How jealous he was some thirty years later when I chanced to pull up a bar stool in a nearly deserted San Francisco tavern and Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier and one of my brother's great heroes, walked in and sat two bar stools down from me. I don't think my brother's recovered from this yet.

Chris White in the second season Jet Ace is a stunt pilot too. He is also Perry White's nephew (the son of his sister from Kate from Drums of Death perhaps) although it would be an understatement to say there isn't much of a family resemblance. White the younger is played by veteran B actor Lane Bradford, a ubiquitous presence in dozens and dozens films and TV shows, usually in westerns and for the most part cast as a villain (a rare exception to this was his appearance in the Republic serial Zombies of the Stratosphere where he played one of the invading space aliens). Bradford's craggy, almost granite like features and receding hairline made him a perfect bad guy and it's a bit jarring to see him in the role of Perry's aviator nephew. Bradford, by the way, was also the son of John Merton, another familiar face in scads of B features and was also seen briefly in TAOS's The Man in the Lead Mask episode as the flame thrower wielding plastic surgeon.

The story here is that Bradford is testing out a new airplane and has invited, as guests not reporters, Uncle Perry, Jimmy, Lois and Clark to watch the trial (when Lois spots Clark staring upwards she snaps "You don't think you can see him through the ceiling, do you Clark?"). Not invited, but who shows up anyway, is Steve Martin (no, not that Steve Martin and not Raymond Burr's reporter character from Godzilla either) an unctuous, unethical (and, as we soon discover even more nefarious) newsman from the Daily Planet's rival organ The Blade (played with oily glibness by the always enjoyable Larry Blake). Blake accuses the military of giving preferential treatment to the Planet staff, but there are more problems than this to deal with when Chris's plane begins to give him serious problems and he eventually passes out as he plunges to the earth. Something has to be done and fast but Clark can't handle the pressure ("I can't stand it. I have to get out of here") and bolts near hysterically

from the room only to transform into Superman who flies to Chris' aid and rights the ship. Chris is understandably shaken and is convinced to go up to Perry's cabin for a few days to recover where he can relax and work on his report of flying the new plane (Perry throws in the added incentive of the gift of a shotgun for hunting purposes although the weapon Chris is later seen with looks nothing like a shotgun to yours truly, more like a Mauser though I am no gun authority).

Unbeknownst to everyone, our sleazy friend Mr. Martin is interested in more than just a story for his paper. He's a foreign agent out to get information on the new test plane and has a couple of goons (Richard Reeves and Ric Roman) doing his dirty work for him. Said goons follow Chris to his cabin, try to strong-arm him into giving them the plans to the ship (which he has cleverly hidden in the barrel of the gun) and kidnap him but are later caught by Superman who they spill a lot of bean to. When Martin realizes his scheme is being exposed he returns Chris to the cabin, ties him up and sets the place on fire. Superman gets wind of the plan via a mailman who reports that he has just seen Chris and flies to the rescue. When he explains to the young flier that he can hitch a ride back to Metropolis with Clark Kent who should be arriving at any moment Chris is grateful:

"He's a pretty swell guy in spite of what Lois thinks of him."

"Well, he'll be glad to hear this."

And I bet this is so. Superman must get a bit tired of hearing his alter ego constantly lambasted. Hell, everyone likes to be liked.

So Superman rigs it so that Martin believes the flyer to be dead, lures the duplicitous news man into a trap and confronts him. His time around Superman saves his brawn and allows Chris to wipe the floor with the shady character while he watches with enjoyment.

There's a few gaping holes in David Chantler's script, particularly regarding the time element of the mailman getting back to Metropolis in time to alert Superman to having seen Chris (and the odd business of the gun being left outside in plane sight and no one picking it up) but these are minor quibbles.

JET ACE, directed by Tommy Carr, isn't a superior episode, but it's solid and enjoyable with a likable performance by Bradford even though I bet anything Chris White was adopted.

November 2007



By Bruce Dettman

I suspect the first time I realized that intelligence could be at great odds with parental affection was the year my mother and father gave me both bongo drums and a chemistry set for Christmas. The bongos-tied into America's short-lived flirtation with Calypso culture in the 1950s-didn't last long because they required practicing which I had no patience for (about a year later a similar scenario would be repeated when I attempted to master the saxophone until my father-whose late afternoon martini sessions had been negatively impacted by my infernal screeching-coerced me into giving up the instrument by raising my allowance a quarter a week, an attractive bribe I quickly accepted).

The chemistry set, however, was quite a different matter and while I really had no interest in actually mastering the properties of the chemical world, I certainly was attracted to creating stuff that might produce visual results (i.e. an explosion). To this end-and tiring of the boring experiments outlined in the little booklet that accompanied the set-I began a concentrated effort to combine all the ingredients at my disposal in an attempt to achieve the intended dramatic effect. With no great reaction from the set's limited resources, my next step was obviously to up the ante. In order to accomplish this I waited until a Saturday when my parents were away from the house and then telephoned a few of my closest pals come to over and help me with my plan. Placing a bucket in a fenced in area behind the backyard, we began to fill it with every liquid at our immediate disposal, not just from the chemistry set, but from the garage and house, a mix that included everything from my mother's perfume and bath oils, to ant killer, root beer (Hires), my brother's Vaseline hair tonic, Ajax cleanser, vanilla extract, detergent, turpentine, acetone, anything and everything we could find that would pour into the mixture. I guess we tried this on two or three occasions before getting a satisfying reaction. Suddenly on that immortal day the concoction began to bubble and hiss and a kind of milky and frothy material rose up and started to pop and spit. The explosion that followed wasn't earth-shattering, but it was sufficiently loud enough so that inquisitive neighbors were soon spilling out of their houses to see what all the ruckus was about. It was at this point that we determined it would probably be wise to go back to playing baseball, eating PEZ for lunch and watching Sky King instead of searching for a new version of the A-bomb.

Uncle Oscar, making his second appearance on TAOS (played by the wonderful Sterling Holloway), dreams up his explosive purely by accident when he is trying to do the world a favor by coming up with a new (6) flavored postage stamp. Invited to the grand unveiling of the stamp by Oscar's niece Nancy (Allene Roberts)-who, by the way, Jimmy seems mighty

chummy with-Clark (embarrassed at having been caught napping in his office-yes, Superman naps!) and the cub reporter are on hand for the big trial testing but when Kent fixes the stamp to an envelope with his fist, kabooom!! The implications are obvious, that Uncle Oscar has unwittingly invented one of the world's most powerful explosives, a fact Kent wants to let the authorities know about. Unfortunately, a group of bungling spies (Toni Carroll, Joseph Vitale, and Otto Waldis) who have been watching the goings-on from an upstairs window also want to get their mitts on the potential weapon. Uncle Oscar, however, has wisely left a portion of the formula out of the instructions and confided this essential element exclusively to his chatty parakeet Schyler, which means the trio must somehow get the creature to spill the goods. They attempt this by switching Schyler with winged look-alike but this doesn't work and before you know it the spies threaten the lives of Oscar, Jimmy and Nancy. Eventually trapped in a secret, lead-lined (and therefore X-ray vision proof) room which is filling with water, things look pretty grim for all concerned until Superman shows up, hears the water and pulls everyone to safety.

For me Holloway makes the episode come alive with his quirky delivery of lines and amusing physical take on things. I'm also fond of the wrap-up scene where Superman, having once digested the liquid explosive to save his friends, decides the crooks aren't worth another sampling of the unpleasant solution and tells them to run for their lives instead. Reeves is great in this scene showing a very human side to the Man of Steel.
While not a superior episode, Holloway's presence and some excellent chemistry between the cast makes it enjoyable and satisfying light romp.


September 2007


Thanks for Watching.

Lou (March 6, 2011)   

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