When Last We Left Our Story: Spike had again tracked the constantly abducted Valerie to Garr Castle. However, it was a trap. Abel first shot at him, creasing Spike’s forehead, and then loosed his vicious dogs. Dazed, Spike fell to the ground as the slavering hounds attacked, ensuring our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Cliffhanger Resolution: The Green Archer shows up and kills two of the dogs with arrows. The other pair runs off.
Cheat Factor: None. Although the Archer pulls Spike’s fat out of the fire again, this is a pretty bitchin’ cliffhanger resolution. Modern audiences might be freaked out by the dead dogs, though. Killing people is fine, but….
“Uh, oh, PETA’s not going to like this!”
Abel investigates the scene, and discovers to his dismay the dead hounds. Of Spike there’s no sign; the Archer has spirited him away. Meanwhile, Valerie is escorted to the hidden chamber that previously held Elaine.
As seen in the previous chapter, Elaine herself is now confined to the small chamber with the descending spiked ceiling. Mrs. Patton, the women’s jailer, predicts that Valerie’s presence will cause further trouble. (She probably just noticed there are only two chapters left after this one.)
Meanwhile, the Archer enters Lady’s Manor via the back door and carries Spike up the main staircase. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, because Odious Comic Relief cop Captain Thompson is sitting right in the front parlor and doesn’t notice this happening.
Depositing Spike in his bedroom, the Archer departs; through the window, of course. Then John Howett enters to find our hero just recovering consciousness. Spike admits he is unaware of how he got back.
Back at Garr Castle, the gang is confused by Abel’s latest instructions. And they should be, because he wants them to blindfold Valerie (again) and return her to Lady’s Manor. He explains that since Spike actually saw Valerie brought into the Castle, it’s possible he will be able to convince the police to search the place. If Valerie returns home before that happens, that remains unlikely.
Kardak, the hood who was just briefed, heads out into the hall to relay the news to his comrades. However, he is interrupted by Dinky, who sees in Kardak’s pocket the Fountain Pen Dinky had earlier stole from Spike. In case you forgot the events of the previous episode:
- The gang is after a valuable formula.
- Spike stole the Formula first and hid in the Fountain Pen, which only he knows.
- Dinky fell in love with the Pen, and took it when Spike was a prisoner.
- Spike later retrieved it, but Valerie dropped it in the front parlor of Lady’s Manor.
- Now Kardak, who like Dinky can apparently think of nothing finer than owning a fountain pen, found the Pen and purloined it whilst they were abducting Valerie from the Manor.
So Dinky and Kardak squabble over the pen, until Abel, who much of the time is basically a perennially aggravated sitcom-esque grouch like Mr. Mooney of Here’s Lucy or Mr. Wilson of the Dennis the Menace comic strip, comes out to yell at them to shut up. Abel grabs the pen away from both of them, little knowing—OH THE IRONY!!—that he now possesses the formula he so desperately seeks.
“But, boss! This is no ordinary pen! It’s a genuine McGuffin!”
Back to Lady’s Manor. Spike needs to get rid of Odious Comic Relief Inept Cop Capt. Thompson, currently sitting down in the front parlor. He tells Howett to head down there and turn on the radio. (Yes, this is same radio that had a bomb wired to it earlier. No, Howett doesn’t check it before turning it on again. How can these guys still be alive?)
Luckily, Spike has a portable radio transmitter up in his bedroom. (!!) Using this, he issues a fake radio broadcast, announcing that the desperado Spike Holland has turned himself in to the village police. A *cough* comically smug and ebullient Thompson leaves to interrogate Spike down at headquarters.
Spike, Howett and Henderson the butler begin to search the parlor, not knowing that the pen has made its way back to Garr Castle. Abel, meanwhile, has sent his crew over to ransack the place; he was the pen, but thinks the Formula is still hidden over at Lady’s Manor. At this point you really have to think this was all a purposely tongue in cheek gag on the scriptwriter’s part.
Unable to find the pen, Spike whips up a fake Formula by copying something from the encyclopedia. He plans to use this ersatz info to bargain with Abel. Just then, though, the blindfolded Valerie is being dropped off in front of the house. She enters the house, to the jubilant shock of Spike and her father.
However, this is also a diversion. Seconds later Abel’s gang starts pouring into the house, and a pretty elaborate melee breaks out between them and Spike, Howett and Henderson. In the end the crooks prevail through superior numbers.
However, all they end up with is the fake Formula Spike had just written out to give to Abel anyway. Grabbing this, they flee the house. The irony is that Henderson, in trying to capture Dinky, has come away with the latter’s suit jacket. In the pocket…yep, you guessed it. The Fountain Pen.
Abel is all smiles—when he’s not a total grump he’s amusingly friendly for a crimelord—over the gang having (apparently) retrieved the Formula. He sours rapidly, however, after a bit of research reveals the formula is a fake. Pushed to his limit, Abel sends half the gang over to tear apart Lady’s Manor. The remaining men are to abduct Prof. Rackerby, the inventor of the Formula.
A shaken Savini senses disaster in this heedless plan. When Abel ignores his warnings, Savini tries to talk the men out of following Abel’s orders. Abel reacts to this insubordination by cold-bloodedly—slapping Savini in the face. Wow. Never has the screen known such cruelty. “Any other objections?!” Abel snarls, looking over the rest of his men. Well, damn, of course not. Not after that display.
So Dinky and two other guys (the gang ain’t what it used to be) head over to Lady’s Manor. Henderson hears a noise but is jumped when he investigates. Meanwhile, Valerie is abducted for the second time tonight, and brought back again to Garr Castle. I hope she’s at least getting Frequent Hostage Points.
At this point I’m starting to assume this was meant to be a flat-out comedy. Valerie was kidnapped while in her car by a crook who had been hiding in her back seat. However, once the car enters the grounds of Garr Castle, we see that the Green Archer has been hitching a ride on the back of the same vehicle. Meanwhile, I’m assuming Spritle and Chim-Chim are still in the trunk. Anyway, the Archer disengages himself topside before the car is lowered to the underground dungeons.
In the end, Valerie was glad she sprung for the Green Archer option package.
Spike returns to Rackerby’s lab, having brought the Formula. However, the guards still think he was the one who assaulted the Professor and stole it. (This occurred in the previous chapter, by a disguise artist made up to look like Spike.) However, he says he’s innocent, so the guards just kind of shrug, open the gate and let him run around unescorted on the Lab grounds. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
For his part, Prof. Rackerby is locked in the actual lab, trying to recreate the Formula. Spike arrives and knocks on the locked door. Rackerby, who also thinks Spike was the thief, orders him to leave. “If you try to enter here,” the scientist warns, “it will mean death!” Backing up his threat, he puts his hand on the nozzle of a large compressed air tank full of POISON GAS. Yes, that’s exactly the perfect self-defense weapon for this situation.
Yes, that’s the sort of professional signage I like to see on my poison gas canisters.
Spike convinces the Prof that he’s on the level, though, by slipping the recovered Formula under the door. Following this, Rackerby unlocks the door and greet his old friend warmly. Little do they know that their troubles are just beginning.
Meanwhile, at the local cop shop, Thompson is just about to enjoy his dinner when the phone rings. (This ‘comical’ interruption of his meal happened once before, so it’s now officially a running joke.) The guard at Rackerby’s lab, hoping to grab a piece of the reward, is belatedly calling to report Spike’s appearance there. An ecstatic Thompson calls a squad of men together and departs.
Before Thompson can arrive at the laboratory grounds, however, Abel’s men appear. Seeing the guards at the front gate, they decide to use the same side gate to get in that Spike used earlier. (Oddly, this second entrance now appears entirely visible from their parked position outside the lab. This is strange, as the men were also on hand when Spike used it, and they somehow didn’t see him at that juncture.) Apparently nobody thought the lab needed further security after the initial break in and assault on Rackerby, because these four guys use the gate without drawing any notice.
In the actual lab, Spike has been explaining the story to Rackerby. Fences mended, he tells Rackerby to get the formula back in the safe. Before this can be accomplished, however, Abel’s men break in. Only henchman Kardak has a gun out, and purely for convenience’s sake he’s the one who illogically approaches to fetch the Formula.
Spike distracts him by tossing a vial of chemical in his face—luckily it wasn’t acid or something—and the inevitable brawl breaks out. By the way, Kardak’s gun falls to the floor right next to the Formula, but it’s the latter Spike grabs up, tossing it to Rackerby’s. Since Spike got the Formula before the men reached him, he clearly could have gotten the revolver instead. Of course, if Spike had grabbed the gun, there wouldn’t have been much of a cliffhanger. (Nor, or course, does Rackerby grab it. He’s a scientist, you know.)
Spike not only has to defend himself, but Rackerby as well, and eventually falls to his foes. Meanwhile, probably to the surprise of much of the audience, the Einstein-like Rackerby catches a bullet and is killed. Worse for Abel’s plans, during the tussle a beaker of acid—one sitting rather precariously on a shelf—falls over and smashes on top of the envelope containing the Formula. With Rackerby’s demise, the Formula is lost to the ages.
With Spike unconscious, Kardak puts the gun that killed Rackerby in his hand, implicating him in the death. (Remember, Spike is still considered to have been the one to rob and assault Rackerby earlier.) This actually provides a reason not to just shoot Spike, as they want to preserve the frame-up. Instead, on the way out of the lab Kardak turns the nozzle on the previously mentioned tank of poison gas. As a thick toxic cloud sweeps out the inert Spike, it promises our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Sorry. Radishes for lunch.
Join us tomorrow for Chapter 14: End of Hope.
I know I’ve discussed this topic in the past, but who the hell came up with the chapter titles for this thing? This one appears to have been named for the five second bit where Spike sends comic relief character Thompson on a harmless wild good chase with the fake radio broadcast. Yeah, it’s not like anyone else would have gone with the poison gas that threatens to kill Our Hero or anything.
The abrupt killing of gentle scientist Rackerby is surprisingly grim, but there is an explanation for it. The serial’s standard run was the 15 chapters that I’m reviewing. However, theater owners could also book a 12 part version, which skips over the three episode arc involving Rackerby and his Formula. Hence the destruction as well of the Formula. Basically, a little light editing would have been done, removing episodes 11, 12 & 13, and bridging the 10th and 14th chapters.
The most disconcerting effect of this in that in the next episode, Spike pretty much perforce is entirely cheerful and never mentions nor seems in any way troubled by the death of his supposed old friend Rackerby, despite the fact that he himself is partly to blame for his murder. They were probably counting on the short attention spans of the ten year-olds in the audience to elide over this. However, it’s kind of disconcerting when watching the episodes in short order, and kind of makes Spike look like a prick.
Wallace-O-Meter: Good lord, in Wallace’s source novel the Green Archer killed a few of Bellamy’s dogs with arrows. That means that something that happened in the book happened in the serial too! It’s out highest reading on the Wallace-o-Meter in about 10 chapters. Say, 15%.
Fights: In the parlor of Lady’s Manor. It’s a doozy of a brawl, if oddly short, with Spike, Henderson and Howett fighting the whole gang. Also, the melee in Rackerby’s lab.
Car Crashes: Nope.
Gunplay: Yes, when the Professor gets plugged.
Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: Yes, in the house.
Valerie Endangered: Well, abducted again.
Chair Murdered: No.
Big Explosion: No.