When Last We Left Our Story: Battling Abel’s hoods to protect Professor Rackerby and the Formula, Spike finally falls to their superior numbers. Rackerby, meanwhile, has been shot and killed. Meaning to frame Spike, who is already under heavy police suspicion, for the murder, the gun is placed in the unconscious investigator’s hand. Before leaving, henchman Kardak turns the nozzle on a tank of poison gas. A toxic white cloud envelopes Spike, promising our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Cliffhanger Resolution: Spike wakes up and tosses a chair through the window, clearing the room of gas.
Cheat Factor: Pretty high. The room is so full of gas by this point that if it were smoke from a fire, Spike would already be dead. Surely ‘poison gas’ should be worse than that. In fact, the cloud was so thick I was puzzled by what they actually used on set. Water vapor? Dry ice fog? And why would breaking a window open clear all the gas out? Is the lab in outer space? Anyway, I’ll give this like a 6 or 7.
As you can see, Spike was just barely exposed to the poison gas.
The hoodlums escape out the side door, while Captain Thompson concurrently arrives with a team at the front gate. They nearly catch Spike as he’s leaving, but Our Hero is able to escape by hiding up a flight of stairs. Brilliant!
Spike leaves after Thompson walks by, but the gun bearing his fingerprints is left behind. Outside, meanwhile, Spike distracts the uniform cops left there specifically to arrest him should he appear by saying Thompson wants them inside. Cops, I guess, are really, really dumb. One of the three cops eventually twigs that this might be a trick, but an uppercut takes care of him. (I’m sure all these assaults will be forgotten in the end when it’s proved Spike isn’t a bad guy.)
Back at Garr Castle, Savini sneaks into the room where they are holding Valerie. He’s still of the opinion that Abel’s latest actions spell doom for the gang. Rackerby’s death alone would potentially spell the electric chair for all of them. (Not to mention the passenger train derailment the gang effected which presumably killed umpteen people. Literally, they don’t mention it.)
With an increasingly reckless Abel unwilling to heed his advice, Savini seeks to cut a deal. He will provide Spike with the (rather convenient) bundle of evidence that exonerates the now deceased Michael, the brother Abel framed back in the first episode. Spike, in return, will have to guarantee Savini isn’t prosecuted.
Valerie protests that she can’t do see to any of this while a prisoner. Savini, however, plans to let her “escape.” This is pretty believable, as she has escaped from the Castle several times already. Indeed, Abel’s gang is so inept that it’s quite credible he won’t even blink an eye at this latest mishap.
Speaking of ineptitude, Kardak calls Abel and reports that a) they didn’t kidnap Rackerby, they killed him (indeed, Kardak just purposely shot him down, although he doesn’t explain that part), and b) the Formula was also destroyed.
Abel is piqued by this news, and then seconds later discovers a moaning Savini lying in the hallway. Savini has slightly wounded himself with an arrow, and explains that the Green Archer appeared yet again and freed Valerie. Abel buys his story, and again, given how things have gone for 14 chapters now, you can’t see why he wouldn’t.
“No, I didn’t get the ‘arrow’ coverage. I mean, who knew, right?”
Valerie returns to Lady’s Manor, where she finds the fugitive Spike in the front parlor. She explains about Savini’s offer, and he agrees to protect him in exchange for the evidence. Savini has arranged to bring it to Lady’s Manor that night. (Surely they should meet at a location other than one right across the street from Garr Castle, but there you go.)
I mentioned in the last chapter review that Spike is quite cheerful in this one, which seems weird as his old friend Prof. Rackerby was just murdered like an hour ago or something. However, as I noted, the three Rackerby-related chapters were designed to be a removable, stand-alone story arc for theaters that wished to show the serial for 12 rather than 15 weeks.
Thus there are only brief allusions to those events, such as the short report by Kardak, which could easily have been clipped out. Still, even knowing this, Spike’s sheer sunniness here is pretty off-putting. If you didn’t know about it, as you wouldn’t have back in 1940, well, it kind of makes him look like a dick.
Howett returns with a report that Spike’s fingerprints were found on the gun that killed Rackerby. Spike decides he better get while the getting is good, but Thompson arrives just at that moment, and Spike has to jump behind a sofa to avoid being seen. Presumably in the shortened version of the serial, Thompson is supposed to be looking for Spike because he had broken into Abel’s safe back in chapter 11.
Things look bad when Thompson plants himself on the very couch Spike is hiding behind, and avers that he’s not leaving until they find Spike. However, cutting upstairs we see the Green Archer (one of them, anyway) hiding himself in Spike’s bedroom closet, presumably because he hears the police coming to search the place.
The cops open the closet, and the Archer begins brawling with them. He’s captured, but the ruckus at least distracts Thompson, allowing Spike to jump out a nearby window and make his escape. Thompson assumes Spike is in the Archer get-up, but sputters in surprise when the man behind the mask proves to be Henderson, the butler.
We in the audience are not surprised, so much, as Henderson is taller and broader in the shoulders than most everyone else in the cast. (Indeed, where the hell did Henderson get a copy of the costume, anyway?) For those keeping track, we’ve now had four Archers; the ‘real’ Archer, Brad the Ersatz Archer, Spike and now Henderson.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s ploy here amusingly anticipates Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler. Alfred would be introduced in 1943, and it became kind of a cliché for him to don the Bat suit to provide similar cover for Wayne.
Anyway, Thompson has Henderson for being the Archer, but also observes that *bumbumbum* Howett was never around when the Archer appeared. His suspicions of both men are allayed, however, when another arrow strikes a wall over their heads and above the frame. I assume the arrow was always there, and a sound effect was used to save them from having to set up the old arrow-on-a-string.
The shaft bears an Arrow-o-Gram, taunting Thompson that he has failed to capture the real Archer. However, outside we see that it was Spike who fired the missile (via the convenient backyard archery set they introduced earlier in things) to get Henderson and Howett off the hook.
Even so, I like the fact that Henderson is never asked to explain why he’s wearing the outfit. I don’t know, you’d think Thompson would be curious about that. The scene ends when Thompson, who’s a bit chunky, sits on a chair and it breaks. Really. That happens. My, how hilarious.
Who doesn’t have an outfit like this?
Back at Garr Castle, Abel is informed that Elaine has fallen into a coma or something and can’t be roused. He goes to investigate, whereupon we in the audience learn that Elaine is faking the whole thing.
Even so, it’s made her jailer Mrs. Patton nervous. If Elaine dies it’s murder, and Mrs. Patton would be in line to get the electric chair. Serials are usually all over the place on stuff like this, and this one is a prime example. Half the time the crooks are cautious about killing people, but at other times they do things like derail a passenger train.
When Abel heads down to the dungeons to check on Elaine, it allows the ‘wounded’ Savini to sneak into Abel’s office and grab the aforementioned evidence clearing Michael Bellamy. However, before he can make off with it, Dinky discovers him ransacking Abel’s safe and jumps him. Savini manages to knock him out, but during the fight the Green Archer pops out of one of the ubiquitous secret panels and steals the evidence. Savini is flummoxed to find the packet has disappeared, but is forced to flee without it.
Abel gets a call from the dazed Dinky and returns upstairs. At this Elaine surprises Mrs. Patton and manages to knock her out with a lamp. (This occurs offscreen, I guess because it wouldn’t be decorous to see one lady knocking out a second.) Sadly, Elaine bumps into a party of Abel’s men before she can escape and her stratagem goes for naught.
Meanwhile, Savini appears at Lady’s Manor as planned. He begs for Spike to protect him, even though he has failed to bring the promised evidence. Before he can spill any further beans, and to our complete lack of surprise, Brad the Ersatz Archer appears at the window and plugs him with an arrow. Amazing how much easier it is to successfully kill one of the bad guys than any of the good guys.
Down in the cellar, meanwhile, we see that Abel has stopped messing around. He’s sent some men with another canister of poison gas (where they hell did they get that?!) and they start wafting it up through the heating vents. Spike, Howett and Valerie are trapped, meanwhile, by gunmen who have surrounded the house.
I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Spike earlier survived being in a room chock full of poison gas—in a previous review I mentioned the serial’s odd habit of duplicating perilous situations in a single chapter; this is another example—by opening a single window. Well, the house is full of windows, so presumably the gas wouldn’t be that dangerous.
Anyway, Spike heads downstairs to cut off the gas supply. He fights a pair of Abel’s men, but is weakened by the gas and falls to them. As the men leave they toss a match in the gas-saturated room, causing a large explosion that soon engulfs a rather unconvincingly miniature of Lady’s Manor in flames, twin perils which ensure our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Join us tomorrow for the final chapter of our serial, The Green Archer Exposed.
Wallace-O-Meter: Well, Savini worked with Valerie in the novel, but for different reasons. Still, it’s something. 10%.
Fights: Savini and Dinky fight, and Spike in the basement of Lady’s Manor.
Car Crashes: None.
Gunplay: The cops shoot at Spike as he escapes, and at the end.
Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot Hero Ignored: I’m not sure why they could shoot Spike when he leaves the house, but instead they just force him back inside with gunfire.
Valerie Endangered: Yes, by the gas, the gunfire, and then she gets abducted along with her father at the end. By the way, when two seemingly unarmed men enter to grab her (and why they don’t leave the Howetts in the deathtrap makes no sense whatsoever), the armed Valerie merely drops her gun and screams. Chicks.
Chair Murdered: Several burn to death when Lady’s Manor goes up in flames.
Big Explosion: Yes.