The Green Archer (1940) Chapter 10: The Dagger That Failed


When Last We Left Our Story: Forced to sign a false confession to crimes committed by Abel and his men, Spike Holland manages to free himself and flee with Valerie from the 10 Mile Roadhouse. However, a radio alert from Abel sends a bomber pilot (!) out against the intrepid pair. Forced off the road by his bombs, and cornered by the guns of Abel’s gang, the two hide in a woefully exposed small cabin. A final bomb is dropped from the plane, blowing the cabin to bits and auguring for our heroes a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….

Cliffhanger Resolution: Spike pushes Valerie out a small window in the rear of the cabin. He however stays inside for no apparent reason, even as he hears the bomber plane circling overhead. Finally he too leaves, at the very last second, barely escaping with his life.

Cheat Factor: No cheating, but kind of prosaic. At least Spike isn’t saved by other people or sheer dumb luck.

A window! Wow, the writers really killed themselves to come up with ingenious escapes!

As the smoke from the explosion clears, Abel’s men move in to deal with Valerie and the dazed Spike. However, a siren heralds the arrival of the cops, and the crooks flee.

Here we meet, for little apparent reason, a new head cop; senior uniform officer Shannon. The latter looks at the wreckage and is shocked when Valerie and Spike report that this was the result of an attempt on their lives. Neither of them says anything about the bomber plane, though; which, I don’t know, seems like the sort of thing you’d at least mention.

Spike tells Shannon he thinks he knows where the crooks are heading and they all set out. Sure enough, the crooks do head back to the 10 Mile Roadhouse. This makes no sense whatsoever, because why would you return to a place where you just attempted to kidnap two people? But they do.

Seconds later, Spike and the cops appear on the scene. Shannon wants to move in fast and sweep the gang up. Spike, however, convinces him to wait until he can case the joint. Spike’s unstated objective is to reclaim the fake confession he signed before the crooks can give it to the cops. There’s obviously no reason Shannon would agree to this. But this is a serial, so he just kind of shrugs and waits behind.

Spike enters the Roadhouse, gun drawn, and manages to capture the gang off guard. However, he is distracted by a tossed pitcher and a raucous fistfight breaks out. Hilariously, even with the sounds of smashing furniture and whatnot, the cops still elect to wait patiently outside. This holds true ever after there’s the sound of a shot. Apparently plugged at point blank range, Spike tumbles to the floor.

However, the fleeing crooks find the cops waiting outside. Of course, the only reason these serials go on as long as they do is that the good guys and bad guys are equally inept. So the crooks escape because they also have cars parked in the back of the Roadhouse, which the cops didn’t bother to cover.

Valerie runs inside and is horrified when she sees Spike laid out on the floor. But he jumps up; he was only playing possum so that Abel would think he was killed for like the 47th time. (The guy who tried to shoot him from like four feet away must be a terrible shot.)

Shannon, meanwhile, chews out Spike for the gang having escaped. If the cops hadn’t listened to Spike, they would have rushed in there and captured all the crooks. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do to me,” Shannon says. This idea goes nowhere, and we never see Shannon again after this.

Spike wants to call Inspector Ross, which Shannon allows. However, they leave to do it. Huh? Wouldn’t the Roadhouse have a telephone? What the hell? And why are the cops all leaving? Shouldn’t some of them stay behind to search for clues or just secure the premises or something?

The gang arrives safely at Garr Castle and is soon meeting with Abel. For once they have good news; they still have the fake confession and Spike is reported “plugged.”

Then we head over to Lady’s Manor, where an agitated John Howett greets Spike and Valerie on their return. Agitated by the constant peril to his daughter Valerie, he wants to call it quits. This forces Spike to marshal his most persuasive and brilliant arguments:

Howett: “No more plans, please! I’m in the mood right now to give up the whole thing.”
Spike: “We’re not giving up, Mr. Howett. What I propose to do will give us plenty on Bellamy. A chance to lock him up.”
Howett: “All right, you win. I’ll do all I can.”

Whew, that was a close one.

Back at the Castle, Abel announces they’ll sit on the confession until they know how badly Spike is hurt. Meanwhile, we see Elaine—remember Elaine?—escaping from her hidden room, having managed to tie up her keeper Mrs. Patton with rope she got somewhere. Sure, why not?

Elaine makes it upstairs, but can’t get the front door open. Ducking into the front office, she calls Lady’s Manor, but no one in the parlor.Elaine grows increasingly agitated as the phone continues to ring.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Patton has somehow slipped her bonds and informed Bellamy that Elaine is loose. Oh, the suspense. Finally Valerie answers the call, but Elaine stutters rather than reveals her whereabouts. “I’m at…I’m at…” she gasps.

“Hello?! Hello?! ‘KHITZ Rocks the Night Away’!! Hello? Did I win the tickets?!”

People never finish sentences at a time like this. (Remember when Lanton was dying and he rambled but didn’t actually name Bellamy?)

Bellamy finds Elaine before she can actually give her location—assuming she would ever have gotten around to it—and drags her back downstairs.

Spike is chagrined to learn all this. Although he assumes Elaine is in the Castle, he doesn’t want to have the place raided, for fear Abel will “destroy” her.

That’s twice they’ve used ‘destroy’ for ‘kill,’ so I assume just saying kill or murder was verboten to avoid scarring the kiddie audience. It was OK to shoot arrows right into bad guys, though.

Meanwhile, Spike’s cunning plan proceeds. He has had Ross plant a story in the papers. I guess. See, Spike says Ross “will have that fake newspaper in Bellamy’s hands before tonight,” so maybe they’re printing up a fake newspaper rather than planting a story? I’m not sure how they’d do that.

Anyway, this will report that Spike is disabled, but planning to “reveal the name of the chief crook” to the cops tonight when he revives. Not sure why Abel would fear this, as Spike’s been blabbing his name to the cops for all ten chapters now.

And so there’s a stalemate. Spike’s afraid to act for fear of Elaine’s life, and because as Abel notes, “he lacks substantial, cooperative proof.” (‘Cooperative’?) Meanwhile, Abel doesn’t want to give the police Spike’s fake confession until he knows what condition Spike is in. Impasse.

That changes, however, when Dinky runs in with the fake newspaper, or the paper with the fake story, or whatever. Again, I’m not sure why they’re freaking out that Spike will name Bellamy, because he’s been doing that forever at this point. Hell, he’s already brought the cops to the Castle. You’d think they’d have at least said he has new evidence or something.

Speaking of, they now hilariously have Abel admit that the faked confession really doesn’t do much. “He can still prove his innocence,” Abel shrugs. So much for the elaborate plan to get him to sign the damn thing rather than just killing him. “The confession is no good until Holland is unable to talk,” Abel says.

Until he’s dead, you mean. Jeez, just say it. Dead, dead, dead. Realizing the implications of his statement, Abel’s eyes widen and he snaps his fingers. “That’s an idea!” he exclaims. What, killing Spike? Dude, you’ve been trying to do that for ten chapters now! Does everyone in this serial have Memento disease or something? Yeesh.

Anyway, Abel naturally falls for Spike’s clever ruse. He phones down and sends Brad the Ersatz Archer over to do the deed. (Why don’t the cops just plant somebody in the yard of Lady’s Manor and keep an eye out for this guy? It’s not like he’s particularly inconspicuous.)

“It’s me for Lady’s Manor this time!” Brad boasts to a comrade. “A real job, what I’ve been waiting for!” Uh, you’ve already been sent to Lady’s Manor to kill Spike on at least one occasion I can recall. I swear, it’s like there’s been a mass Men in Black memory wipe here.

Over at the Manor, Spike is in bed and pretending to be unconscious. Thompson shows up, attracted by the newspaper story that Spike intends to reveal the name of the gang leader. He hopes this will bring him a promotion.

The odious comic relief is pretty pungent here, especially Thompson’s acting all buddy-buddy to the guy he’s been accusing of being the criminal himself all this time.

Of course, again, Spike has been telling Thompson that Abel’s been behind the robberies throughout the entire serial, and even recently brought Thompson over to Garr Castle to confront Abel. So again, why is it a big deal that he’s to “reveal” the name of the gang leader?

I think I have it figured out; I’m insane. Yep, I just imagined all the previous chapters, which is why I ‘remember’ them and none of the characters do. But now my fantasy world is catastrophically failing for some reason. And you reading this, I undoubtedly imagined you too. Have you popped like a soap bubble yet? Because you probably will.

So they send Thompson downstairs, where the cop waits impatiently for Spike’s awesome scoop. Meanwhile, Brad arrives and climbs the trellis to Brad’s bedroom window. Instead of the bow and arrow, he goes for his dagger this time, and via his shadow—oh, expressionisty—he plunges the blade into Spike’s prostrate body.

Take that, F.W. Murnau!

After he exits, though, we learn something that will completely shock anyone who didn’t, uh, read the episode title. Spike’s not dead! He was hiding in the closet, and Brad stabbed a Fake Shemp Spike had assembled under his blankets. Spike makes for the window himself, but first throws a chair on the floor. This makes a noise that brings the others up to investigate.

Outside, Henderson has tried to keep Brad from escaping, but was knocked down. He ends up on his back with his legs up in the air, a position he ‘humorously’ assumed in a previous episode. I guess it’s his hilarious comic trait.

Bewildered, the butler rises just in time to grapple as well with Spike as he follows after Brad. Another shove, and again Henderson is legs up on the lawn. Oh, my sides.

Back at Garr Manor, Savini is ordered to put Spike’s signed confession in his safe. They here take a lot of time to establish a booby trap. It’s a switch that when turned on activates a gun on a tripwire inside the safe. I’m not sure how the switch would work, but there you go. Anyway, if you open the safe without turning it off, BLAM! I think you can guess where this is heading.

Sure enough, following Brad leads Spike to the Castle. After listening to Abel call Thompson about the confession—Thompson is on the warpath again after finding the Fake Shemp—Spike enters via an unsecured window to Abel’s office. I mean, why would that be closed and locked, right?

Spike quietly starts to work on the safe, but is spotted by Abel and Savini. Savini starts to raise a gun to shoot Spike, but Abel silently stops him. Better to let the booby trap in the safe do the job. This actually makes sense, since the situation would further incriminate the deceased Spike.

So Spike gets the safe open. With a large cloud of smoke and a BLAM!, the gun goes off right in Spike’s face, delivering for our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….

Wow, a shotgun blast right in the face! You won’t believe how Spike survives this one!

Join us in two days for Chapter 11: The Flaming Arrow.


I understand the writing wasn’t really very sophisticated on these things, which generally involved a series of contests over an assortment of McGuffins. (The classic serial scenario is a supervillain who needs to steal three components to make a death ray or something.) Still, the Faked Confession here is particularly weak. They go to all the trouble to get it, but then Abel admits it doesn’t really do much.

(They ever even address the real problem with the confession; how would Abel explain how he ended up with such a thing!)

Eventually they imply that the whole plan rested on the idea of ‘destroying’ Spike after he signed it, so that he wouldn’t be able to defend against the charges. This makes sense, but I guess they felt they had to tiptoe around it because of whatever weird censorship restrictions they were laboring under.

I think a better writer, though, would have put some sort of time element in here. Some goal that Abel needed X amount of time to accomplish, so that getting Spike tied up for a few days defending against the confession would have provided Abel a huge advantage. There’s a reason thrillers usually have time elements, after all.

One obvious flaw in this exact serial is that there’s never a clear objective that Abel is trying to accomplish and Spike is trying to frustrate. Abel just has a gang of crooks, and they steals jewels. There’s no overarching goal here. Abel wants to keep stealing and stay out of jail, Spike wants to put him away. That’s weak tea for 15 chapters.

The novel does actually provide a final act. Abe, the book’s Abel analogue, again is a retired Chicago gangster who bought Garr Castle in England. And he does have Wallace’s version of Elaine captured, but it was for revenge. Here Abel speaks of keeping her prisoner “forever,” although there’s no reason to, and some danger to keeping her around.

In the book, Abe, who had no gang and indeed seemed to be largely living in retirement, had abducted Elaine for revenge purposes. He kept her prisoner for years and years to punish her and to satisfy his hatred of her. So there was a reason she was around all that time. Here, again, not so much.


Wallace-O-Meter: Oh, please.

Fights: At the roadhouse.

Car Crashes: No.

Gunplay: Yes, again at the roadhouse.

Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: Yes, although actually justified this time.

Valerie Endangered: No.

Chair Murdered: Nope.

Big Explosion: Not a big explosion, but a bit of one when the safe is opened.

NEW CATEGORY: Abel blithely accepts report of Spike’s demise: Yes, after Brad returns from Lady’s Manor.


  • Anonymous

    Poor little Dagger.  It tried so hard.  Don’t worry, little Dagger, you’ll manage next time.  Just remember your cousin, the Little Engine.

  • Don’t feel bad, Little Dagger.  I am sure that gun blast missed him too or hit the wrong target.