The Green Archer (1940) Chapter 5: The Fatal Spark

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When Last We Left Our Story: The Green Archer had infiltrated Garr Castle and steal back the gems stolen by the gang in their most recent job. Unfortunately, Spike picked this moment to try to sneak back into the Castle himself. After a terrific fistfight, he was taken prisoner and tossed in a certain chamber at Abel’s instruction. Abel then threw a hidden switch out in the hallway. Spike looked up to discover the ceiling of his room, studded with sharpened metal spikes, was lowering towards him, promising Our Hero a horrible, seemingly inescapable death….


Cliffhanger Resolution: Spike is nearly, well, spiked, with a gloating Abel and Savini watching from a small window (which would offer a blocked view from the lowered ceiling, but anyway), when suddenly the Green Archer appears and fires an arrow into the hidden control box, disabling the device in a burst of sparks. OK, that’s pretty cool.

I can’t deny it — serials can be pretty bitchin’.

Cheat Factor: None. I mean, it strains credulity that the Archer is still just running around with all of Abel’s men searching for him, but that’s a pretty small beer complaint.

The spikes jam just inches above the prostrate Spike. Meanwhile, Abel and Savini set off after their foe. However, they are again stymied by the descending iron bars, and the Archer makes his escape. Abel runs off to fetch his men, allowing the Archer to double back and free Spike. Luckily, although firing an arrow into the control box caused the mechanism to jam, throwing the switch again still causes the ceiling to retract. Huh, that’s weird.

Spike finds the door now unlocked, but emerges to discover his savior has fled. Luckily, Spike is becoming more acquainted with the Castle’s various secret passages himself. However, down in some previously unseen tunnels, he manages to stumble across some of Abel’s men, leading to—ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?!—a frenetic fistfight.  One fellow runs off to fetch help, but by the time the assembled gang returns, Spike has once more escaped.

The next morning we see our heroine, Valerie Howett, puttering around the rather modest sitting room of her rented house, Lady’s Manor. This is right across the street from both Garr Castle and Abel’s actual house right next door to that. So far she’s been kidnapped from Lady’s Manor twice and shot at several times, with both bullets and arrows. Naturally, though, neither she nor her father John seems particularly interested in decamping.

Looking on the writing table, Valerie finds the note Spike left the previous evening because trying to break into the Castle. In it, he reports that he was nearly slain by the Green Archer. Of course, the culprit was Brad, Abel’s henchman and the false Green Archer. The Heroes don’t yet know there are two of them, you see. And really, just one of them is pretty damn silly to start with.

Valerie rushes out of the room, allowing for Henderson to run over to the phone. Henderson is the Howett’s butler (again, in a house that doesn’t remotely look like a ‘manor’; millionaire Bruce Wayne lives in a similarly modest place in the Columbia serial Batman and Robin), but we in the audience know he’s also spying for Abel.

Valerie soon returns downstairs. She’s found her father John is not in his room, and is fearful he joined Spike in going to the Castle. Luckily, her fears are alleviated when Dad walks through the front door, saying he was out for a morning stroll. Howett is being set up as a suspect for being the Green Archer, you see, so he’s never around when the Archer has been active.

Howett decides to call the police, despite Spike’s instructions not to. However, he is foiled when it turns out the phone line has been cut.  Presumably this what Henderson was doing when he headed for the instrument.

Of course he’s upset. No actor likes to have his lines cut. (Get it?)

This disturbing tableau is interrupted by the doorbell. Henderson answers it, and it’s Abel’s henchman Dinky, disguised as a glazier there to fix the busted window. Things look for grim for Valerie, as Howett is planning to leave the house to fetch the police in person.* Oh, and also because she hasn’t been kidnapped in a good couple of hours, and thus is due.

While Dinky’s at the window, though, no doubt planning mischief, he’s flummoxed to see Spike come running back to the house. Fearing Spike might recognize him (or perhaps recognize him later), Dinky pulls his worker’s cap low over his eyes and scrunches down before the window. Luckily, Spike proves rather obtuse for an ace insurance investigator, and spares the guy fixing the window about five feet away nary a glance.

Spike and Valerie share a pot of coffee, while Spike relates his latest adventures and his new theory that there are two Green Archers, one a foe, one a friend. However, Dinky finally gets his attention when he clumsily breaks a replacement pane. Spike jumps up and runs over to him, but fails to recognize him. Instead, he explains that he doesn’t want the window fixed. This is apparently all part of Our Heroes’ ingenious “make myself as easy a target as possible” plan.

Dinky takes his leave. Spike then explains to Valerie that he didn’t want the window fixed because “I want to make it easy for the Green Archer to help us.” Well, you can’t argue with that logic. Valerie tries to wrap her head around the two Archers idea when—I HOPE YOU’RE SITTING DOWN—an arrow streaks in through the window and embeds itself in a chair. I’m beginning to think the Green Archer’s mom was killed by a recliner or something.

Spike eagerly unwraps the Arrow-o-Gram, but sadly, it’s only a Sbarro’s takeout menu. Nah, kidding. It’s a note referencing the drawstring bag also attached to the arrow, which contains the stolen jewels the Archer recovered in the previous chapter. You’d think such a thing might reduce how aerodynamic the arrow was. Quick, somebody call the Mythbusters!

Spike plans to take the jewels to the police, and Valerie demands to be taken with. However, all this has been overheard, not just by Henderson, but by Dinky as well, who was listening in at the window. (This is the front window, by the way, and also the one the arrow came through. And it’s broad daylight out. Wouldn’t some of the neighbors find any of this to be sort of odd?)

Spike and Valerie drive off, as Dinky runs across the street to report to Abel. Dinky is pretty long-winded about it, because he’s Odious Comic Relief, and all the while I was wondering why Henderson wasn’t phoning in the same info. Why was he planted over there, if not to call in stuff like this? Anyway, Abel deduces that Spike must be headed to “the city,” which we were previously told was “a long way,” and orders Dinky to have his car intercepted.

Meanwhile, Inspector Ross is sweating Abel’s associate Lanton in the latter’s garage. (Why not at the police station? Because they already built the garage set.) Lanton is trying to hold the line, but is clearly feeling the pressure. When Ross waves the mug shots of Lanton’s now deceased mechanics, the ones he previously failed to identify, Lanton nearly folds but manages to keep his mouth shut.

Ross stalks out, promising to return. The frazzled Lanton calls Abel, and insists that he cancel the heist operation just about to commence. Abel indeed orders his henchman Tardoni to cancel the job, although the latter objects strenuously. Instead, Abel sends Brad (the ersatz Green Archer, although this job he does in civilian attire) and another hood to go silence Lanton.

As you may recall, Abel has already tried to kill his fence (and what happened with that guy?), and now is talking about bumping off another partner in crime.  This is like those villains who keep killing their henchmen at the drop of a hat. Isn’t there ever any blowback to this sort of thing? Who’s going to work with Abel, fence his stolen goods or provide him with vehicles and equipment, if he goes around murdering everyone he works with?

After dropping the jewels with Inspector Ross, who notes they’ve been recut to the extent that they can’t be positively identified as the stolen gems. Meanwhile, Spike asks for permission to take another run at Lanton. Ross says OK, and Spike speeds off. Sadly, he’s too late. Brad, this time in civilian attire, gets there first and plugs Lanton when the latter reaches for a gun. Fingering the hole he’s just blasted through his suit coat pocket, Brad laments, “Well, there’s another suit for the expense account!”

Brad and his associate begin to search for anything tying Lanton to Abel, unaware that Spike has just arrived outside. Spike strides into Lanton’s office, only realizing at the last moment the situation. Cue this week’s first fistfight. After they demolish the flimsy set, a fatally wounded Lanton rouses enough to shoot Brad’s associate in the shoulder. The crooks run for it.

The creation of the Olympic logo was a lot more exciting than you might imagine.

Valerie, seeing the men flee, enters the garage. The quickly expiring Lanton spills the beans on the gang’s current robbery, occurring right at the same moment out in the country “by the power wires.” Spike asks him who he worked for. “His name!” Lanton gasps. “His name…. Find the Green Archer! Arrgh.” So saying, he kicks the bucket. Only in the movies.

Spike exclaims they’ve got to stop the robbery, and he and Valerie jump back into his roadster. Meanwhile, the armored car (a pretty dinky one) has stopped on the remote highway because some *cough* City Power workmen are clearing some spare power cables from the road. Despite Abel’s orders, Tardoni is clearly proceeding with the heist.

Saying they’ll be done faster if one of the guards lends a hand (!), the guy indeed comes over to help. Then, when they jump him, the two other guards, including the guy in the back of the armored car, leap out too. I have a feeling these dudes don’t work for Brink’s.

Having subdued the guards, the crooks—like half a dozen of them—all pile into the teeny truck. Given the size of the vehicle, I can only assume the hoods did their postgraduate work at a clown college. Meanwhile, Spike arrives at the scene of the crime. Stopping to talk to the three stranded guards, he hilariously tells them to contact the police while he and Valerie chase after the crooks. Yes, you sure wouldn’t want to take a couple of those guys with you or anything.

Up ahead, the crooks have switched into a flower van. Valerie is now driving the car. At Spike’s instruction, she pulls along aside the speeding van and, in a nifty stunt, Spike jumps over onto the other vehicle’s running board. Waving his gun, Spike forces the driver to pull over. Sadly, though, Spike proves a bit of a mook.

♫♪ Everybody cut loose…footloose…

When he orders the hoods to toss over the valise holding their latest haul, they do, but right to his feet. Spike tries to keep his eyes on them as he bends over, but they’re too close and they jump and disarm him. (Too bad Spike didn’t think to drag the satchel back with his foot until he was at a safe distance to pick it up. Or have Valerie run over and get the bad while he watched the hoods.)

Once they jump Spike, the other guys hidden in the back of the van leap out and both Spike and Valerie are quickly captured. For his part, Spike is tied up and thrown in the rear of the flower van. Meanwhile, Valerie run into the nearby trees and astoundingly manages to evade capture.

With Spike bound and bundled in the back, the hoodlum races the truck forward. Leaping to safety at the last moment, he watches as the truck crashes at speed into an electrical transformer. The truck overturns and explodes into flames, dooming our hero to a horrible, seemingly inescapable death….

They *are* more than meets the eye!

[*For those keeping count, this is the second time the gang has sacrificed a vehicle while using it as a torpedo in an attempt to kill Spike. I don’t know, aren’t bullets cheaper?]

Join us in two days for Chapter 6: The Necklace of Treachery!

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Wallace-O-Meter: Let’s just say it’s a good thing Wallace’s estate wasn’t being paid based on how much of his book they used.

Fights: Spike brawls with some guys in the tunnels under Garr Castle, then in Lanton’s garage, then again with the crooks after they steal the jewels.

Car Crashes: Yes, at the climax of the episode.

Gunplay: When Lanton is shot, and when he shoots another guy in turn.

Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: Yes.

Valerie Endangered / Captured: Yes.

Murdered Chair: Yes!

Big Explosion: Yes, when the car smashes into the transformer.

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