The Green Archer (1940) Chapter 11: The Flaming Arrow


When Last We Left Our Story: Although both sides acknowledge the document is at best a potential annoyance to our hero, Spike seeks to reclaim the false confession to Abel’s crime, which the latter extorted him to sign. Following the umpteenth failed assassination attempt against him, Spike sneaks into Abel’s office. He quickly cracks the office safe—we can tell he knows how, because he buffs his fingertips on his suit jacket before applying them to the dial—not realizing it contains a booby trap. Upon opening it a concealing gun goes off right in Spike’s face, ensuring our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….

Cliffhanger Resolution: Spike falls to ground, apparently fatally wounded. However, when Abel and Savini approach him, he jumps back up. I guess the gun missed.

Cheat Factor: That’s some bullshit right there. Spike was looking right into the safe when the gun, with an overlarge barrel indicating some sort of large bore shotgun blast, went off. (Indeed, when I reexamined the opening text recap, it explained, “When Spike swings open the safe door, it sets off a shotgun, and both barrels blast directly at him.”)

One weird thing is how often they double up situations in this serial. Elaine almost is killed by Abel’s dogs in the first episode, then Spike is nearly killed the same way at the end of the chapter. Spike nearly drowns in a trap, then in the same episode is tossed off a pier to drown. In the last chapter Spike was apparently shot by a guy at the Roadhouse, from about five feet away. He goes down, but then just jumps back up later. I guess the guy missed.

Then this. I mean, c’mon. At this point it would actually make more sense if they revealed Spike was secretly a bulletproof superhero. Cripes, couldn’t they say he was wearing a bulletproof vest or something? Toss us a bone, why don’t you? When Spike improbably survived a van crash, he said it was a miracle. Then he fell out of a high rise window and fantastically survived because he hit an awning. Then the guy at the Roadhouse missed, and we sort of let that go too.

But this? This here is too much, man. Screw you. They don’t even bother trying to explain it; Spike just isn’t dead, not even wounded. There you go. What an awesome cliffhanger resolution!

“Look, I’m not dead! And so is the cliffhanger resolved.”

A big fat 10 on the Cheat Scale.


So Spike flips the surprised Savini, and then jumps after the frightened looking Abel. I’m not calling Abel a coward, by the way. I wouldn’t want to fight a dude who was clearly undead or a robot or has Luke Cage skin or whatever the hell he is either. Anyway, since it’s been established that it takes a bare minimum of four guys—if they’re lucky—to bring Spike down, clearly these two ain’t going to get the job done.

During the brawl Abel reaches for his intercom, er, the Devil’s Dictograph, to call for help. A punch from Spike dissuades him, but he accidently hits the switch to the microphone in Elaine’s hidden chamber. This allows Spike to hear her voice and confirm that she’s in Garr Castle. Sadly, the intercom is smashed before Spike can hear more.

The fight is interrupted by the arrival of Comically Inept Captain Thompson. Following the charades of the previous episode, he’s again out to arrest Spike. Seizing the opportunity, Abel accuses Our Hero of robbing his safe—which he was—and reveals the existence of the confession. Thompson all but licks his chops at the thought of evidence confirming his theory.

Savini goes to the open safe to collect the document, when the Green Archer (who we had seen listening in) appears in the window. He fires the titular missile into the safe, and the confession and whatever other papers were in there go up in flames. Spike is saved! Er, some inconvenience. I still don’t know how Abel was going to explain how he ended up with such a thing.

Forty years before Zorro, the Gay Blade, there was The Flaming Arrow.

Thompson, for his part, is gobsmacked to actually see the Archer, whose existence he’s always dismissed. He fires at the fleeing figure. However, we’re in a universe where you can’t manage to hit a guy with a double shotgun blast from like a foot away. The Archer thus escapes unscathed.

Thompson still plans on arresting Spike on the safecracking charge, though. Which…well, yeah. Spike pushes Thompson away and escapes out the open window. ‘Comically,’ when Thompson gets off the floor, he somehow has his own handcuffs on his wrists. I have no frickin’ idea how that would happen, but it does.

Spike makes it back to Lady’s Manor, where he informs John Howett and Valerie of having heard Elaine’s voice. His plan is to wait until he can shake Thompson, then sneaks back to Bellamy’s house and trace the wire from the speaker. He’s just assuming Abel will be dense enough not to have this removed, which is probably a safe bet.

Spike suddenly notices that Howett is wearing a bandage over his hand. Upon questioning, Howett nervously asserts “Why, a book of matches exploded.” OK, that’s like the worst explanation ever. I know it’s 1940, but really, did books of matches back then just ‘explode’? Anyway, this is clearly another red herring clue implicating Howett to be the Green Archer.

Back to the Garr Castle Dungeons, where 12 chapters in, we’re finally ratcheting up the Crazy. It’s here they finally give Abel a Serial-esque goal, in this case to steal the eminent Professor Rackerby’s new formula for “synthetic radium.” Sadly, it’s still to sell the formula, rather than to use it to power a death ray. Baby steps, though.

Oh, and the Archer is watching and listening in again from the portrait spyholes. The room is fully lit this time around, and several guys are about three feet from the portrait. So you might think somebody would notice. Apparently not, though.

Just coincidentally, the agent for Prof. Rackerby is none other than Spike Holland. Because that’s the sort of thing an insurance investigator does, I guess. (Even they thought this was lame, so that establish that Rackerby’s research was sponsored by Spike’s insurance company. Because that’s the sort of thing an insurance company does, I guess. Sponsor chemists to whip up a formula for synthetic radium. The insurance applications are obvious.)

In any case, Rackerby plans to “donate [the formula] to Humanity,” because that’s how scientists think. I guess his insurance agency sponsors are also copacetic with his giving away the rights to an invention “worth millions.” They probably just sponsored his years of research because they thought it was neat-o keen.

However, Rackerby trusts no one to handle things except Spike. As Spike is currently a fugitive, things are in stasis. Abel has a brilliant plan, though. He brings in Madison, a disguise expert. He looks nothing like Spike, although they at least cast somebody around the correct height. He enters a side room with his make-up box and a few minutes later emerges looking EXACTLY like Spike. It’s almost like he’s become a different actor or something.

The transformation is particularly impressive in that we have no indication that Madison has ever met Spike. Even if he was working off photos for the disguise part, how did he get the voice down so exactly?  By the way, it kind of makes those Impossible Mission Force guys look kind of lame. They had super-advanced latex masks and such. This guy accomplishes his impersonation using nose putty and spirit gum.

Dinky suggests they give Madison a password “too”—presumably Brad has one now to identify himself when wearing his Archer costume—at which everyone laughs like it’s a joke. Uh, yeah, wouldn’t you in fact want to do that? Anyway, I think we can guess how a future cliffhanger resolves itself.

With his ability confirmed, Abel has the gang take Ersatz Spike out via the secret garage lift. The plan is that Ersatz Spike will steal the formula, leaving them with millions and Spike holding the bag for the robbery. Bwahaha.

Dinky is sent to fetch Brad, and bumps into the Green Archer along the way. Because he’s the Odious Comic Relief (along with Captain Thompson), he asks for the aforementioned password, but then gives the answer himself. Pretty goofy, eh? Of course, it’s the real Archer, and he pastes Dinky in the face and runs off.

Sure enough, about one second later Brad appears in costume to find the prostrate Dinky. Again, rather than a password, how about ordering Brad to not wear his mask inside? (Actually, he usually doesn’t. Just occasionally, so they can keep playing the confusion card regarding him and the real Archer.)

Over at Lady’s Manor, a few of Abel’s men appear, impersonating cops looking for Spike. Luckily, they walk right past the room where Spike is actually located, allowing him to make his escape after they go by. Sadly, that’s better than some of the serial’s cliffhanger resolutions. Spike warns Valerie that those guys are Bellamy’s men, and head’s out. Unobserved, I guess—nobody seems to ever notice anything happening on this street, even in broad daylight—he secretes himself inside the rumble seat of the bad guy’s car.

Abel’s men search Spike’s room, finding the badge and ID they were sent for. Having succeeded in their goal, they jump into their car and take off.

I guess they do need some stinkin’ badges.

Out in the country they park, waiting for some of their associates to appear. Naturally they engage in a highly exposition-y conversation about things both of them already know, which handily allows the hidden Spike to learn about his doppelganger and the plans to steal the formula. These guys really need to work on their anti-eavesdropping protocols.

With all the vital info pithily delivered, it’s time for the other men to show up. This includes the Ersatz Spike, who sneers at the idea that he even needs Spike’s ID. Then, rather conveniently *COUGH*, the first two crooks join the others in the second car, meaning to pick up their own automobile later.

Rather a stroke of luck for Spike, eh? Not only is he not discovered, but he now has access to a car with which to follow the bad guys. Sure enough, Spike leaps out of the rumble seat and is quickly tailing the other car.

Meanwhile, back at Garr Castle the Green Archer is using Bellamy’s phone to call the local police station. I kind of wish they’d go farther with this aspect. I’d love to see a scene of the Archer in Bellamy’s kitchen, whistling as he assembles a huge Dagwood sandwich, topped off with a glass of milk and slice of cake. Or maybe emerging from Bellamy’s shower and leaving all his towels soaked and balled up on the floor. This would be even funnier in modern times. Bellamy would be waving his cable TV bill at this men, yelling, “Who ordered all this pay-per-view porn?!”

“Yes, I’d like 50 extra-large pies sent to Garr Castle. Yes, 50. Bill it to Abel Bellamy. Oh, and they want anchovies on all of them!”

So Thompson’s phone rings, ‘comically’ interrupting his lunch. However, the cop is excited to get a tip that “Spike Holland and his gang are on their way to Prof. Rackerby’s laboratory.” Of course, the Archer is unaware that the real Spike will be on the scene too. Oh noes! Anyway, Thompson leaves to intercept the men.

The men arrive at the lab. Ersatz Spike tells the others to stay out of sight—difficult, as they appear to have parked on the quiet street directly opposite the guard station—while he goes in. The guards greet ‘Spike’ warmly, apparently not caring overmuch that he’s an accused thief and the subject of a major police manhunt.

In his ‘lab,’ Rackerby (amusingly, they made the actor look like Einstein) is doing Chemist Stuff. As a measure of the lab’s top security, the door is locked. However, Madison’s vocal impersonation passes muster and Rackerby lets the crook inside. However, we can tell he’s bad because he squints his eyes a lot more than the real Spike.

Rackerby informs ‘Spike’ of the pressure to *gasp* sell his invention for Filthy Lucre. Of course, being a Scientist he refuses to think of anything but the Betterment of Mankind. (Who would surely be helped by synthetic radium, right? Think of the plunging prices on radium-painted watches and Fiestaware!)

“If my formula is correct, then the sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side!”

‘Spike’ tricks Rackerby into opening his safe, and then attacks the Prof. for the formula. Meanwhile, the real Spike arrives on the scene. He parks by a side entrance and picks the lock to a secondary gate. Yeah, the security here is air tight.

Back in the lab, we find Rackery knocked out and ‘Spike’ holding the formula. He exits the lab, however, only to be surprised—in an admittedly Spike-like way, since this same thing has happened to the genuine article like half a dozen times—by the real Spike coming the other way.

Needless to say, a big fistfight breaks out. Normally no one guy would give Spike much of a fight. This guy looks like Spike, and even dressed exactly the same, so I guess he has gained some of his power. They couldn’t afford split screen shots, of course, so everything is done with a double, probably Eddie Parker, Victor Jory’s stunt double. Parker is best known for stunt doubling many of the various Universal monsters, including the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and Mr. Hyde.

Meanwhile, Abel’s gang, figuring something’s gone wrong, storm the place. When next we see them they’re entering the lab, so I guess we’re to assume they overpowered the guards. Astoundingly, they find that Madison has knocked out Spike. Well, that’s convenient. That’s the first time anything less than like four guys was able to do that. I’m a little surprised too that they didn’t have them mistake the real Spike for the fake one, which seems like an obvious bit of scripting.

The crooks flee, with Madison having the formula. A revived Spike runs out after them. “They went that way, Spike!” one of the guards says. Hilariously, they don’t offer to join him in chasing after the like five guys who just stole the top secret formula they were supposed to be guarding. That’s the Hero’s job, I guess. Anyway, cue car chase.

Seeing Spike in pursuit, the gang turns on the tear gas disperser used in a previous episode. Blinded, Spike loses control of his car, which crashes and burst hugely into flame, ensuring our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….

“Damn this LA smog!”

Join us in two days for Chapter 12: The Devil Dogs.

Wallace-O-Meter: Not even a little.

Fights: Spike fights Abel and Savini in Abel’s study, the Archer decks Dinky, Spike fights his double in Rackerby’s lab.

Car Crashes: Yes.

Gunplay: Thompson shoots at the Archer.

Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: Yes, in the lab.

Valerie Endangered: No.

Chair Murdered: No.

Big Explosion: Yes, when Spike’s car goes up.

Abel Blithely Accepts Report of Spike’s Death: No.


  • Anonymous

    Hey Abel!  Next time use bullets in your gun and not just blanks!

  • I guess everything smoked back then… smoking jacket, smoking car…

  • Bob in Berkeley

    Why does the Green Archer wear his mask to make a PHONE CALL?  Even Bruce Wayne didn’t when he spoke with Commissioner Gordon!

  • Christian

    I remember that in the Underground Empire the gangsters were after the radium that the titular empire had – I guess it must have had a reputation for being really valuable (at least in serials).