When Last We Left Our Story: An increasingly reckless Abel has gone for broke and sent his men to kill everyone in Lady’s Manor…sort of. Poison gas is sent through the house’s heating vents, and Spike, John Howett and Valerie are trapped inside by gunmen. Spike goes down in the basement to stop the gas, while upstairs hoods enter to abduct John Howett and daughter Valerie. (Why not quite sure why they just aren’t left to die.) Down in the cellar Spike is knocked out by his numerous adversaries. As they leave, a tossed matched ignites the cloud of gas, causing a large explosion that engulfs Lady’s Manor in flames. Outside, Howett and Valerie watch in horror, knowing the rampant flames spell for our hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
Cliffhanger Resolution: Spike survives the explosion, despite being at ground zero and having just waded through a cloud of poison gas. Laying unconscious, he is (sure enough) saved when the Green Archer pops up to once more, this time literally, pull his fat from the fire. I will say that as with the warehouse fire in a previous chapter, this is a rather spectacular set piece.
Cheat Scale: I’ll give it a 3. The not dying, or even been injured, in the explosion thing is pretty suspect. The Green Archer save isn’t a cheat, but man, we’ve seen this resolution at least half a dozen times now. Lazy!
“Hey, I’ve been carrying you for the entire serial. Why stop now?”
The gang takes the hidden lift down to the dungeon area with Howett and Valerie in tow. Meanwhile, the Archer leaves Spike a note (tied to an arrow, of course) and runs over to the Castle. Spike rouses soon after and reads the missive, learning that Abel means to kill all his prisoners. If that’s true, again, why bother to remove the Howetts from the burning house?*
[*In the novel Abe Bellamy proves to be insane and so wants to kill pretty much everyone in a trap of his own devising. The serial’s Abel Bellamy, however, has never been played as anything but a pretty level-headed—indeed, generally quite even-tempered—crook. Even if he decided to kill the Howetts, it seems out of character that he’d be invested enough in it to want to do it himself.]
Indeed, what with Lady’s Manor burned to the ground, even the hyper-loyal Dinky sees that the jig is all but up. He even suggests that Bellamy let Howett, Valerie and Elaine go and just flee to country to live on his riches. Say what you will about how silly these things were, and this one certainly is, but at least even the crooks in them think killing someone is a fairly big deal that should be avoided if possible.
Abel, however, feels he has to see things through to the bitter end. Again, I’m not sure why the guy we’ve seen here would be so invested in the destruction of his in-laws, but that’s the idea. In one of the serial’s odd notes of how it portrays its villain, though, Abel sincerely tells Dinky he is free to wash his hands of the business and leave, with no hard feelings.
Dinky remains ever loyal, though, and strenuously avers such. Abel is touched, and considering he’s been double crossed by about half a dozen henchman by now, he might well be. Rising, Abel puts his arm around Dinky’s shoulder, leans in close, and expresses his appreciation. Dinky all but blushes in response. I’m not one to look for homoerotic subtext in things, since people generally find such stuff because they are looking for it. However, even I raised a brow here:
Dinky, grinning bashfully: “Gee, boss, if I had a tail I’d be wagging it funny!”
“Dinky, you’ve made me a very happy man. Go go pack our bags. We’re moving to Massachusetts!”
Spike, who for the final time has been presumed deceased, arrives outside the Castle gate where he is stymied by Abel’s hounds. (Including, if I’m not mistaken, the pair the Archer killed a few chapters ago.) Hilariously, Spike just goes around back and jumps over the wall. Luckily (I’ll say!), this doesn’t draw the dogs’ attention. Well, that’s convenient enough.
Abel goes to see Elaine, the widow of the brother he betrayed, and reveals that her father and sister are also his prisoner. Meanwhile, Spike might have eluded the dogs, but he’s spotted by some of Abel’s men. The de riguour fight breaks out, and our eyes turn misty, for this might be the last one. By the way, among other mishaps and explosions and car crashes, this marks the third time at least that Spike has been KO’d via a gun butt to the head. And never a concussion, or even a subsequent headache! That’s one tough dude.
Elaine is brought back to her old quarters, where she is finally reunited with her family. And remember, this has been John and Valerie’s goal since Elaine disappeared in the first episode. Abel is telling John that Spike is really, truly dead this time, when Dinky announces they have the still extant Spike a prisoner. This is the cherry on the sundae for Abel, however, as he can now kill all of them together.
Meanwhile, the Archer enters the underground garage via the hidden lift. His bow ready, he plugs a nearby mechanic before the alarm can be raised. I’m not sure that guy ever did anything more directly illicit but tune up Abel’s cars, but hey, he was working for the bad guys, so good enough.
Spike remains defiant, and in one of those things that just makes you laugh, challenges Abel to untie him and settle things like men. Abel, despite never have been involved with any rough stuff we’ve seen, of course accedes to Spike’s dare, and orders his men out of the room. He even puts a fully loaded revolver on his desk, daring Spike to get to it.
“Why don’t you untie me, you coward, and we can settle this like men!”
“But no, a rat like you…wait, what? Really? Why the hell would you do that?!”
Spike demurs on that score, noting that if he wanted to simply kill Abel, he could have done it before now. “I don’t specialize in murder,” he says. Again, as naïve as this is, I kind of admire the idea that the hero wants first to protect the innocent and second to catch the villains and see them jailed, rather than send them to Hell.
Cue the obligatory fist fight. Despite never having seemed like much of a tough, Abel by dint of being the main villain puts up a better fight against Spike than any of his men ever did. It’s sort of the reverse of the Hero’s Death Battle Exemption. Indeed, Spike was never downed by less than four guys working together. So really, Abel just trying to go it solo is to be considered impressive.
Even so, Spike naturally handles him rather easily. With Abel down, his men move in to trap our hero. Before Spike can defend himself, however, a battered Abel throws yet another hidden switch. Sadly, Spike just happens to be standing directly on the trapdoor this opens and he plunges to a room below. Abel orders his men to get the Howetts and put them and Spike in “the room we prepared.” Even now, Dinky tries to talk him out of murdering the captives, but Abel is set on it.
The men leave to carry out these orders, leaving Abel alone in the office. This allows for the showdown we’ve all been waiting for, as the Green Archer enters and finally confronts the villain of the piece. And so is the final mystery answered; the Green Archer is…Michael Bellamy, the brother Abel framed for murder and who didn’t die in the train wreck after all.
“You! You’re the Green Archer! You, all the time! You’re… You’re…. Wait, who are you again?”
Gee, that’s a shocker.
Now, it’s been pretty apparent who the Archer is all along. But really, think of yourself as a kiddie back in the ‘40s watching this thing. Let’s even posit you’re a fairly attentive one who has returned to the theater 15 weeks in a row to see the entire serial. Even so, you might be forgiven for thinking, “Who?!”
Michael, after all, hasn’t been seen since a few brief scenes early on in the first chapter of the serial. Under the normal course of things, in those days of yore long before you could buy the whole serial on DVD, this mean that even the attentive viewer who had seen all the chapters would have to remember Michael from his short appearance nearly three months earlier.
And that’s a best case scenario. Everyone else would just have to follow along and glean the general idea that a) Abel had a brother, and b) had betrayed him and then tried to murder him and then abducted his wife Elaine, and that Michael managed to survive and that his moment of revenge and vindication is now at hand.
However, even following all this wouldn’t necessarily mean all that much to you. Michael is just a guy you either barely remember or have never even seen, or quite possibly never even heard mentioned, who now has appeared pretty much out of nowhere and is laying out a bit of expository dialogue explaining who he is.
Hell, depending on what chapters you saw you might not even really know who Elaine was supposed to be. It was the nature of the beast, I guess, but aggravated by revolving around characters who only popped up intermittingly or hardly at all.
Abel cowers before his nemesis the Green Archer, and is even more freaked out by the revelation of the Archer’s identity. Then…shock…the two have a fist fight. Guess who wins? However, with his destruction standing before him, Abel can only take insane pleasure in confirming the impending doom of all those Michael holds dear.
Meanwhile, the prisoners are all shoved into a small room. Since we already saw the old Ceiling of Death earlier, I assumed this chamber would feature the venerable Smooshing Walls. It’s far better, though.
Underneath the room is another room blazing away. To the horror of the prisoners, the floor of the room they are in starts falling into to the fires section by section, leaving them less and less to stand upon. It’s pretty damn slick, and a very impressive two-story set.
OK, that’s pretty cool.
(By the way, speaking again of inconsistent characterization, but Dinky listens in before he leaves and grins upon hearing their screams. I can see him following Abel’s orders like a faithful soldier. However, now all of the sudden he’s outright enjoying dooming the prisoners to a horrible death?)
Back upstairs. Forcing the truth from Abel as to the fates of the others, Michael forgoes revenge, opting instead to use the same trapdoor Spike fell through earlier to rush to their rescue. Things look dire when Michael appears at the very last second to release them, just as the final section of floor plunges below.
Elaine is predictably happy not just to be saved, but to learn that her husband is alive. Spike keeps his eyes on the prize, though, and focuses on getting everyone out of there. Abel alerts his men, who begin the search. However, before things can progress from there, Thompson and Inspector Ross burst in with a bunch of cops. The men are trapped.
Meanwhile, one lone cop sees Abel and orders him to surrender, although he then fires a split second later. Hearing this, Spike and Michael and the detectives rush to the room to find the officer standing over Abel’s barely visible body. And thus the rather anticlimactic end of Abel Bellamy. I mean…weird. He’s just killed, offstage at that and by an extra? What the hell?
Yep, after four months, the villain of the piece dies offstage at the hand of a bit player.
The rest of the gang, including Dinky and Brad, is rounded up by a squad of cops lead by…Henderson the Butler. However, he’s really O’Riley, a detective sent undercover by Ross to watch over Spike. This makes sense, as he had ‘accidentally’ helped Spike escape several times.
I wonder if we’re supposed to dwell on the fact that Dinky, mostly played as a comic relief character, is likely to get the death penalty. Probably not. Brad, meanwhile, surely will, as he directly killed several people.
More amazing than the revelation about Henderson is that Thompson was in on the thing the whole time as well. He only played the buffoon so he could also help out Spike when necessary.
I could go back and point out several instances where this makes no sense—for instance, Thompson in the privacy of his office acting like an idiot in front of his own men, who surely would notice that all of the sudden their boss was a moron—but on the other hand, it’s quite of an amusing, not to mention completely unexpected, twist. So I’ll just go ahead and enjoy it.
“I’m not really a butler!”
“I’m not really stupid!”
“Yay, plot twists for everyone!”
Even so, the end of the serial involves Thompson as a gag barely missing Spike, Michael and the girls with an arrow. (!!!) Spike just gives him a big, “Oh, you!” hand gesture and everyone happily heads off. And so ends Our Tale.
“Ha, he nearly killed us! What a scamp!”
Wallace-o-Meter: Abel indeed throws a bunch of people into a death trap at the end is the climax of the book, although Elaine and Howett aren’t among them. In the book, though, it’s a flooding cellar, which perhaps inspired the trap the serial’s Spike nearly drowned in at one point. The identity of the Archer is different, since Michael is dead before the book starts in the novel. Unsurprisingly, in the novel Abe(l) meets his end via the Archer’s bow, not offstage by a cop’s bullet as he does here.
All in all, not much is taken from Wallace’s book save for a very loose interpretations of Garr Castle. Even character names were often altered for no apparent reason; Abe became Abel, Walter Howett became John Howett. The book’s hero doesn’t appear in the serial at all, while Spike Holland, a reporter and secondary character in the novel, becomes an insurance investigator hero. Abel has a few henchmen in the book, but isn’t masterminding heists or anything remotely of that nature.
On the whole, Columbia appears to have used The Green Archer as the extremely loose basis for this serial not because it was a good fit, but rather because presumably they had the rights to the book already and decided to use them.
As you’d expect on a low-budget deal like this, there was a premium placed on getting the sort of veteran actors who could quickly learn their lines and hit their marks. For instance, Kit Guard, who played Dinky, racked up nearly 350 often uncredited film credits in his career. It’s quite possible Dinky was the highest profile role he ever had.
Same thing with the behind the camera people. Director James Horne had been grinding them out since the silent days, directing over 200 movies, serials and shorts between 1915 and his death in 1942. His early work was mainly on two-reelers, often for the Hal Roach Studio and starring such actors as Charlie Chase and Laurel & Hardy.
One such, Big Business (1929), starred the Boys as Christmas tree salesmen who get into a destructive tit for tat battle with perennial foil and slow burn artist James Finlayson. The short was one of the first 100 films chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the then newly created National Film Registry. Aside from that, Mr. Horne later directed several Laurel & Hardy features, including one of their two great full-length films, Way Out West.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Horne’s last years were spent as a house director of serials at Columbia. Other such projects included the serial The Shadow (in which Victor Jory played Lamont Cranston and his mind-clouding alter ego), as well as two serial featuring The Spider, a pulp knock-off of the Shadow. As well he helmed Terry and the Pirates, Captain Midnight and several other chapterplays.
Dorothy Fay, who played Elaine, is probably best known as the mother of John Ritter, and/or the wife of western star Tex Ritter. Sadly, she lived long enough to die two months after the early death of her son John.
Oddly, Abel Bellamy seems to have been the first screen role for the 48 year-old James Craven. His hammy performance suggests he may have been a stage actor previous to that. As with several other actors here, The Green Archer may have provided him with his most prominent screen role. He did, however, also play the villain two years later in the Captain Midnight serial. Mr. Craven continued to work onscreen and on TV until 1956. Past that, most of his parts were of the small, uncredited variety.
Fred Kelsey, the veteran comic actor who played Thompson, was probably the serial’s second most prominent actor. With nearly 450 (!) credits, he specialized in playing boobs and hotheads and boobish hotheads, many of them cops. His career spanned 1911 to the late ‘50s. Again, many of his roles were uncredited, but by sure dint of the number of appearances he made, he would have been a familiar face to audiences of the time.
Easily the biggest actor associated with the serial was Victor Jory, who played Spike. Mr. Jory had one of those crazy lives that actors back in the early days of film often led, ones most actors today could barely conceive of. For instance, the imposing and athletic Mr. Jory was the Coast Guard’s wrestling and boxing champion in his youth. (He was also married to the same woman for 50 years, something equally unimaginable in today’s Hollywood.)
Although he often played the hero, as here and as Lamont Cranston in The Shadow, Mr. Jory’s saturnine features and deep voice also kept him busy as a heavy. For instance, he played the brutal slave overseer and later carpetbagger Jonas Wilkerson in Gone with the Wind, and Injun Joe in the 1938 version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Over a long career Mr. Jory worked steadily in movies, radio and television. In 1959-1961 he starred in the syndicated TV series Manhunt. Given the odd nature of fame, however, Mr. Jory will be best remembered by many for co-starring in Cat-Woman on the Moon, or his role in the TV movie Devil Dog: Hound of Hell. Mr. Jory also appeared on a ton of classic TV shows. He continued working nearly until his death at 80 in 1982.