When Last We Left Our Story: With treacherous henchmen Tardoni and Tinder dead, the race is on to find the fabulous necklace the two stole. With neither side knowing that Tardoni hid the necklace on the grounds of Garr Castle before he died, both Abel’s gang and intrepid insurance agent Spike Holland rush to Tardoni’s high rise office to look for the item. Sadly, Our Hero finds the crooks already there. Following the inevitable fistfight, Spike is tossed out the window, his body plummeting to a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Cliffhanger Resolution: Luck (I’ll say!) is with our hero, for he lands on the building’s front door fabric canopy, which cushions his fall.
Cheat Factor: Ok, I’m giving this one a six. I realize physics work differently in serials and comic books and action movies, and that people are a lot harder to kill. (Unless you jerk their head slightly to one side; then their spines snap like a breadstick.) First, let’s look at this still from the last episode:
Pretty high up, right? I suppose it’s technically possible that the canopy would cushion the fall enough to save you, as a sort of one-in-a-thousand sort of chance. Still, following the just previous cliffhanger resolution of “Gee, lucky I wasn’t hurt at all in that terrible van crash,” well, they maybe should have put a little more work into these things. Two resolutions of “I didn’t escape, but I survived,” could at the very least have been spread out a bit more.
“Wow, the odds against this must have been like three to one! Maybe more!”
Seeing our hero’s spot of luck, the gang runs down to get Spike before he escapes, and another fistfight ensues. I have to say, Spike is pretty tough. Just today he’s been in numerous brawls with up to half a dozen opponents, been knocked out several times, was in a van that crashed with his arms tied up so he couldn’t brace himself, was a few feet from a safe when an explosive charge detonated, and fell six or seven stories to land on an awning. Yet here he is, wind milling those haymakers and uppercuts while fighting five or six guys again with nary a pause to catch his breath.
Suddenly a siren is heard; Valerie, who had been waiting outside for Spike, has followed his earlier instructions and gone to fetch (comparatively) competent police detective Inspector Ross.
The crooks are forced to flee, except for henchman Vrooner, who has remained in Tardoni’s office to continue his vain search for the necklace.
Ross hops out of the cop car, sending it after the hood’s car. (The crooks eventually lose the cops with the old ‘driving their car up inside a trailer truck’ gag.) Then he joins Spike, berating our hero per usual for his impetuousness. Before they can return to Tardoni’s office, Valerie arrives. They tell her to wait outside, presumably because it’s been an episode or two since she was last abducted. Then they head upstairs, where they in time to capture Vrooner before he can escape.
Hearing of his gang’s latest screw up, Abel of course is rather cheesed. He calls a gang meeting and rags everyone out. I have to say, this isn’t a very impressive crew. During the chewing out they all hang their heads and wring their fedoras in their hands and look like chastened schoolboys. As for Vrooner, Abel trusts not to talk. The important thing is to spring him.
Meanwhile, the Green Archer hops over the Castle’s stone wall and recovers the necklace from where the late Mr. Tardoni stashed it in the previous chapter. I don’t know how he knew where they were. We didn’t see him spying on Tardoni when he hid them, and even if he had, why would he wait until now to retrieve them? Seriously, they’re not even trying to explain some of this stuff. Anyway, he has them.
“OK, this might seen a bit unlikely. But think about it! You’re about to hide a priceless necklace. Where do you put it? A tree, right? See, it makes total sense.”
Meanwhile, Spike has a typically silly plan. He wants Ross to stage a breakout for Vrooner. Spike will then follow him and hopefully trace him to Abel’s secret lair. Among the various screwy aspects of this scheme is the fact that Spike isn’t a cop, but wants Ross to rely on him to follow a suspect the cops already have in custody. Of course, Ross goes for it, without even the fig leaf of demanding to accompany Spike during this.
Back at Garr Castle, another henchman is presenting Abel with a bomb. This is to be planted in a radio—one of the old, big cabinet models—whereupon it will “warm up” and explode after the radio is switched on. I’m not sure why a bomb would have to warm up, unless it also has cathode tubes in it.
So Abel of course intends for Brad, the ersatz Green Archer, to sneak over to Lady’s Mansion and plant the bomb there. Because that’s the simplest, most foolproof way to kill people, I guess; send a guy dressed like Robin Hood across the street in broad daylight to plant a radio bomb that has to warm up before it explodes. Sure, why not?
Meanwhile, once again lurking in the hallway and eavesdropping is the authentic Green Archer. And once again he is sort of screwed when he hears someone approaching. Luckily it’s comic relief doofus Dinky. Now, in the previous chapter Dinky jumped Brad and gave him a shiner because he thought he was the other Green Archer.
Here the other Green Archer just nonchalantly walks past Dinky and Dinky assumes he’s Brad. This holds even after the Archer grabs ahold of Dinky and pastes him one. Of course, Brad in full Archer regalia shows up seconds later, and Dinky ‘comically’ whines about Brad having hit him. Take that, Moliere!
Here’s an idea; either give Brad a badge or armband to wear while in the Castle, or maybe tell him to leave off his mask so they can see his face. Of course, that would make things a lot harder for the scriptwriter. And to be fair, Brad only wears his mask inside occasionally, generally when it’s most convenient for the plot.
One element I haven’t really gotten into before is that Abel comes off more as a putz than a criminal mastermind of the Moriarty to Mabuse type. He basically has three modes, undeservedly smug about his own ‘brilliance’; panicky; and ‘comically,’ bombastically irate in that Mr. Spacely Yelling at George Jetson sort of way.
Here we see the latter, as he appears to scream at the childishly bickering Dinky and Brad. James Craven, the actor playing Abel, occasionally plays into this with exaggerated, mugging facial expressions. I’m not sure why they thought playing the head bad guy for comedy was a good idea.
Cut to Brad, again in full costume and mask, squatting in the Howett’s living room in broad daylight and wiring the bomb into the radio cabinet. He hears a noise just as he finishes, though, and pops back out the window.
Out in the Hall, John Howett greets the returning Spike and Valerie. Howett reports he received an Arrow-o-Gram “in the usual way…missed me by inches!” No mention of a punctured chair, though. Hilariously, the case with the necklace on it apparently was attached to the arrow. I really find it hard to believe that thing flew in any arrow-like way with that thing hanging off of it. Of course, the Duke boys fired arrows with dynamite sticks attached, and those worked fine.
It’s at this moment that Thompson, the comic relief cop who tries to arrest (and shoot!) Spike last night for stealing the necklace, enters to find the hero holding that exact article. However, since Thompson had what he thought was the real necklace—the paste copy hidden the previous evening in Spike’s bedroom to frame him—he admits something weird is going on. He impatiently waves off the Green Archer talk. “The whole thing’s goofy!” he exclaims, and really, he’s right.
Spike asks Thompson to call Inspector Ross to vouch for him. Thompson is so comically inept, however, he can’t figure out how many digits are in a phone number. Ha, he’s mildly retarded or something. Meanwhile, naturally, the others for the first time decide to turn on the radio to catch the news broadcast.
However, Brad apparently wired it incorrectly, perhaps because he was chased out of the house by Spike and Valerie’s return. And so the radio starts smoking when Valerie turns it on. Realizing it’s a bomb, Spike runs to the radio. Turning it around, he yanks out the device and tosses it into the garden where it explodes sans casualties.
Sadly for Brad, he’s back at Abel’s boasting what a great job he did. “There ain’t a chance of it missing. I’m kind of proud of myself!” he preens. Just then—comedy ahoy!—Abel’s phone rings and he gets the report of the bombing having failed. “Get out!” he yells at Brad. Oh, ho, that Abel sure is a curmudgeon. (Not sure why he didn’t think maybe the bomb was defective, but there you go.)
Back at Lady’s Manor Thompson has been convinced by Ross that Spike is one of the good guys. Again, we’re getting a lot more odious comic relief now, especially from Dinky and Thompson. However, we luckily move past that when Ross calls and tells Spike his plan regarding Vrooner has been put in operation. Vrooner is being transported through a lonely country area, and Spike is told to head out to the rendezvous point. Before he leaves, he confirms with Thompson that no one is to enter or leave Lady’s Manor until he gets back. That includes Valerie, who’s up in her room sulking because Spike intends to leave her behind.
So Spike leaves, only to learn well into the trip that Valerie has hidden herself in the rumble seat of his convertible, Spritle-like. With nothing to do for it, he lets her climb into the front with him. Eventually they park and wait for things to develop. The plan is to have some undercover cops pretend to be hoods sent to spring Vrooner. With the darkness obscuring their faces, they’ll yell for him to flee in the cop’s sedan. Then Spike, currently parked nearby, will covertly follow him to the gang’s lair.
Sadly, Spike as to hang back to keep from being seen. Since he expects Vrooner to head to the Castle’s main gate, he misses the hoodlum instead entering the grounds via the secret hedge door. Luckily, he figures out something is up in time to back up and take a closer look around. Meanwhile, Abel is annoyed that Vrooner fell for what obviously a trap, but figures out a way to turn it to his advantage. (This revolves around assuming Vrooner was being followed by Spike instead of the cops, but then, Spike is the hero.)
Spike parks and jumps over the stone wall surrounding the Castle for a looksee. He is spotted by a party of Abel’s men. This includes Vrooner, who pretends to be sneaking around and who let’s Spike see him lifting up the cover to a wee underground chamber. This proves to be a sort of antechamber to the underground tunnels running under the castle, accessible via an inner door at the bottom of the shaft.
Per their plan, Vrooner goes into the tunnel, where he is met by Abel and Savini. Spike follows him down, only to find the inner door locked. As he futzes with it, guys topside pull up the ladder. Spike is then trapped in these narrow confines when Spike turns a wheel, which causes water to start gushing into the chamber, a flood which heralds for our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
“Man, this Czechoslovakian hi-flo shower head is awesome!”
Well, we’re clearly in the treading water portion of things, as we have hit roughly the halfway point. As noted, novels do not make particularly good inspirations for serials, being rather more intrinsically plot-driven than serials.
It’s notable that the few aspects taken from the novel, albeit in heavily altered form—most pertinently the ongoing imprisonment of Elaine—are the ones they have the most trouble dealing with as the action progresses. Really, until the last few chapters when Elaine is rescued, there’s really not a lot to do with her. So her presence has been pretty slight, really, since the second chapter or so.
Meanwhile, the stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with Wallace’s book, but everything to do with the obligations of the serial format—Abel being a criminal mastermind with a gang of guys who every week strives with the heroes over some McGuffin or other—predictably dominates things. And it must be said that Abel is a rather prosaic villain for one of these things. If you have a serial villain who isn’t even trying to build a death ray, you’re not doing it right.
By the way, there’s no way they heated the water that gushes onto actor Victor Jory in the cliffhanger. He earned his money that day. Also, the title of this one makes me laugh. Garr Castle is full of secret passages, which have been well used throughout. To me, titling an episode The Secret Passage is like calling one ‘The Guy In the Shirt.’
Wallace-O-Meter: Who? OK, I’ll give it a 10%. In the climax novel, Abe—not Abel—Bellamy sets up a much larger scale water trap to drown all the good guys down in the Garr Castle dungeons. Are they really going to forgo this exciting premise later in the serial? But now even if they do have this happen, it will just seem reminiscent of this scene. Kinda dumb either way, I think.
Fights: Yes, Spike on the street after falling out the window, and later when the undercover cops jumps Vrooner’s guardians.
Car Crashes: No.
Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: Yes, when they could just shoot him rather than drown him.
Valerie Endangered: Yep, by the bomb, then at the end of the episode when she’s captured again while waiting for Spike.
Big Explosion: Yes, the radio bomb. Not a huge explosion, but a fairly big one.