Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Green Hornet – Chapter 4: Pillar of Flame



OUR STORY SO FARBritt Reid (Gordon Jones) suspects the Bartlett Flying School of a scheme to collect insurance on both planes and student flyers.  As the Green Hornet, Reid visits the flying school, binds Bartlett (Ben Taggart), head of the school, then forces Bartlett to fly with him in a plane “specially serviced” for a student flyer.  Bartlett, facing death, confesses the plane has been fixed to burn in mid-air, and pleads with the “Hornet” to remove his bonds so he can bail out.  Once free, Bartlett treacherously attacks the “Hornet” and…

…practically gets his freaking clock cleaned.  You see, Bartlett is a doughy, pasty individual—and what he thought he was going to accomplish by attacking the Hornet in the plane is a question wiser men than I will have to answer.  Even the Hornet wants to know what this guy’s major malfunction is, because as they’re wrestling at the controls he intones in his Al Hodge voice: “It’s no use!  You haven’t a chance!”  (He uses that “You haven’t a chance!” admonition a lot, I’ve noticed so far.)


The Hornet manages to bail out of the plane in time, and when the plane meets the immovable object known as Planet Earth it blows up real good, while G.H. and his prisoner float down like a rogue goose feather.  As Kato pulls up in the Black Beauty to offer his assistance, the Hornet tells him that Bartlett is “still alive, but unconscious.”

HORNET: Bartlett’s too smart to carry any dangerous evidence…
KATO (after conducting a quick search through the unconscious man’s pockets): Look what I found!


HORNET: This card may be a clue we can use!  Pete…he’s the mechanic who phoned to Bartlett!

I’m not entirely certain where he got the “Pete” from…unless it’s written on the back of that claim check.  “Let’s get him back to his flying field,” the Hornet tells Kato.  “We may get enough evidence there to smash his racket!”

Arriving back at the field, the Hornet instructs Kato to tie Bartlett up, and then announces he’s going to “take a look at that flier I had to knock out with the gas gun.”  But I guess he calls an audible on the play, for it is loyal Kato who makes sure the flier is okay while G.H. goes into the hangar and starts snooping around in one of the lockers.  Pete (John Kelly), the henchman whom Kato subdued earlier with a little martial arts medicine, stirs from his horizontal position on the floor but decides to merely observe the Hornet’s actions.  G.H. stumbles across the makings of an incendiary bomb in the locker just as Kato returns with a status report on flier Gilpin (Alan Ladd).

KATO: The flier…will wake up soon…and be none the worse…

In other words, “Mr. Radd will be okay…”

HORNET: This is what I’d hoped to find…evidence of how they made their incendiary bombs!  This should convince even the district attorney!

Handing the evidence to Kato, the Hornet instructs him to carry it to the car, and then grabs the phone on the desk to phone that very same D.A.  An officious looking butler (Wilson Benge) answers on the other end:

BUTLER: Hello?
HORNET: Hello…is the District Attorney home?
BUTLER: No…he’ll be back in a half an hour…any message?
HORNET: No…no message…I’m bringing someone to see him…
BUTLER: Uh…who is it?  Oh, well—if you don’t wish to give the name

“Tehdibly rude, old chap.”  The Hornet goes out to the Black Beauty and the three men speed off into the night, just as Pete decides to stop playing possum in the office (he’s still tied up from his last encounter with our heroes) and Gilpin regains consciousness outside.  Gilpin goes into the hangar to use the telephone, and then discovers Pete on the floor:

PETE: Gilpin!  I thought you went up!
GILPIN: I didn’t get a chance, Pete!  The Green Hornet knocked me out!  (Gilpin bends down and begins to free Pete from his bonds)  He must have stolen the plane!
PETE: No, he’s still around…he’s too tough for me—I’m gettin’ out…you better do the same…
GILPIN: I know…but he said…
PETE: Never mind what he said…beat it while you got the chance!  And keep undercover!

Pete runs the still-confused Gilpin out of the hangar and then gets on the phone to this man…


…a thug named Joe Ogden (Arthur Loft).  I found Ogden’s reaction to Pete’s news that the Hornet a) is taking Bartlett over to the D.A.’s home and b) has the incendiary bomb evidence with him kind of funny, he seems incredibly blasé about the whole affair.  “Well, never mind…get back to the Meadows garage and lay low,” he tells Pete, and then after finishing the call decides to call in just the very men who’ll be able to take care of this situation: useless henchmen Dean (Walter McGrail) and Corey (Gene Rizzi).

After racing down city streets with that buzzing motor of his going full blast—honestly…you’d think someone would occasionally open a window and yell, “Shut that %$#@ing motor off!”—the Hornet and Kato arrive at the home of the D.A. with their prisoner, Bartlett.  G.H. tells his sidekick to “stand by”…I wonder if Kato ever turns on the radio in that car and listens to his stations while waiting for his boss to finish.

The D.A.’s butler answers the ringing doorbell, and in steps the Hornet with Bartlett.

HORNET: I want to see the District Attorney…
BUTLER: He’s not in…
HORNET: Stop lying and take me to him!


If this guy was hired to keep salesmen and peddlers away, he really sucks at his job.  Jeeves reluctantly complies with the Hornet’s command, and our hero finds himself face to face with character actor Selmer Jackson, familiar to moviegoers in scads of bit parts in both A and B-movies like Front Page Woman, A Family Affair, You’re Only Young Once, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Johnny Apollo and City for ConquestJackson had the distinction of playing real-life Admiral Chester A. Nimitz in two feature films (as well as a 1956 episode of TV’s Navy Log), Hellcats of the Navy and The Gallant Hours, and he’s a familiar face in serials with chapter plays like Ace Drummond, Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island and The Royal Mounted Rides Again to his credit.

D.A.: The Green Hornet! 
(He slowly sinks into his desk chair and starts to reach for the phone)
HORNET: Keep away from that phone until you’ve heard what I have to say!
D.A.: What do you want?
HORNET: To bring a racketeer and murderer to justice!

I’ve discussed in previous Green Hornet installments how the radio Hornet, Al Hodge, was brought in to dub the voice of the masked hero at the insistence of George W. Trendle, who felt audiences would be more comfortable with the familiar voice.  This necessitated shooting close-ups of actor Gordon Jones in the Hornet getup moving his mouth (with the dialogue inserted later) but it’s amusing in that his mouth movements rarely match what he’s actually saying.  I don’t know if directors Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor did a Mr. Ed and put peanut butter on the roof of his mouth or threw him a pack of Doublemint and said, “Gordie, go to town on this while we get these inserts…”

HORNET: This is Phil Bartlett…owner of the flying school…his racket was to enroll students, insure them and the planes, and send them up in ships that were fixed to crash and burn…
D.A.: Of course you can prove your charges…
HORNET (handing him the container): You’ll find parts of an incendiary bomb in here…there are more in a locker out at the flying school…I’d advise you to send men out there and pick them up before they’ve been removed
D.A.: I suppose your object in bringing this man to justice is to eliminate a dangerous rival…
HORNET: Perhaps…the only thing that concerns you is that I brought him…

In another part of town, goons Dean and Corey speed along city streets in their ride on their way to the D.A.’s residence…Dean was told by Ogden to pick up “a couple of boys,” so perhaps they’re on their way to do just that.  (“Sweetheart, I ain’t got time for dinner,” the henchman pleaded with his wife.  “The fellas are coming over to collect me shortly!”)

D.A.  What have you to say about this, Bartlett?
BARTLETT: Nothing…except that I’m not going to take the rap alone
HORNET: Who’s in this with you?
BARTLETT: I’ll talk…at the right time
HORNET: Mr. District Attorney…

Hey!  Hang on a second there, old man—you can’t say that!  That program is on a rival network!

HORNET: …in lining up your case, I’d wish you’d see that Josephine Weaver receives the insurance money she’s been cheated out of by Bartlett and his associates!  And don’t forget to send men to the flying field to pick up those bombs!  You’ll also find a man tied up out there who’s just as guilty as Bartlett!
D.A. (picking up the phone): This is the District Attorney speaking…send a squad car to the Bartlett Flying Field immediately…close the field and hold anyone you find there until I arrive… (As an afterthought) And send a radio car to my house…I’ve got the Green Hornet here!  (He hangs up the phone)
HORNET: I admire a public official with courage

The word gets out on the police radio that the Hornet is holed up at the D.A.’s crib, so it looks like it will be a race between the cops and the goons to see who gets there first.

HORNET: Well, good luck with your case…I’m sure the breaking up of another racket will benefit your future political career
D.A.: Oh, don’t go…there are two or three things I’d like to ask…

“Sorry…I left my valet in the car with the motor running and the windows rolled up—didn’t you hear that buzzing sound?”  It looks like the hoods win the big race today…a car pulls up, and Dean and Corey exit the vehicle with a couple of nondescript henchies, and all four men split up into teams—two taking the front of the house, and two the back.  As the Hornet expresses his regrets to the D.A. that he can’t stick around (“Hello…I must be going…”) he backs out of the room with his gas gun drawn…right smack dab into Dean and Corey.

DEAN: Now we’re going to see who you really are, Mr. Green Hornet…

He reaches up to grab the Hornet’s mask, but hears a voice from around the back yelling “Scram!  The police!”  Momentarily distracted, this allows G.H. to connect right on Dean’s button, sending him to the floor.  As the hoods and the Hornet try to get the upper hand on who’s getting the hell out of there first, an exchange of gunfire results in the death of Bartlett…and this splendid Sentinel headline:


I kind of snickered at that story below the “Green Hornet Escapes” headline: “Leaders in Senate Smash Filibuster.”  (If that’s not proof this story is fictitious, I don’t know what else will convince you.)  In the office of Britt Reid, the paper’s staff—editor Gunnigan (Joe Whitehead), ace reporter Jasper Jenks (Phillip Trent) and Reid’s secretary, Lenore “Casey” Case (Anne Nagel)—engage in a little high-fiving about the Sentinel’s story.

GUNNIGAN: And so The Sentinel busts another racket…
CASEY: You mean the Green Hornet did…it’s about time he were being given some of the credit…
REID (laughing): Aw, tell it to the District Attorney…The Sentinel busted this racket, and it’s going to bust others…why, since The Sentinel started its campaign, people have written in by the hundreds telling of rackets and abuses… (He sifts through a pile of mail on his desk) Look at those letters…take this one for instance…

“Dear Daily Sentinel…I never thought this would ever happen to me, but…”  Whoops!  That’s a little something for the more adult readers of the paper…heh heh…

REID (reading): “Why not look into the parking lot racket?  Cars are damaged, even stolen…gas is drained from tanks…packages and equipment are taken…”

“And somebody keeps fiddling with the presets on the radio!”

REID: That’s something for you to look into, Jenks…
JENKS: Oh, that’s small-time stuff—the police can handle that…
REID: Well, the police would if they could…but the parking lot owners…avoid responsibility of any kind by posting signs…legal or not…
JENKS: Oh, we’re after bigger game…

“Public enemies that even the G-Men can’t reach!”

REID: Most of the complaints concern one particular lot…


REID: The Meadows Park Lot…especially in regards to cars disappearing…perhaps I’ll take a look at that one myself…I feel like I’ve been missing a lot of fun…


Get it?  Lot of fun?  Parking lot?  Bueller?  Reid’s staff laughs (not at the pun—that was unintentional), with Jenks warning him “Don’t get your nose punched, Boss…”  Jones-as-Reid does an amusing bit where he taps his nose with his fist as he answers: “Well, it hasn’t been punched for some time—might do it some good.”  He then tells Jenks to “find Axford for me” and to tell him to bring around both Axford’s car and his (Reid’s) older vehicle, too.  (I chuckled at the “find Axford for me” line…apparently there must be a bar stool in the neighborhood where Mike spends a great deal of his time.)

CASEY: Why not let Jenks handle this?
REID: Oh, his heart isn’t in it…besides, I wanna play some…I’m going to take Michael with me…
CASEY: Now I know you’ll be heading into trouble…

Three chapters ago, she was busting his chops because of his wussy editorials.  Now she doesn’t want him to get hurt.  Figure a dame.  Anyway, let’s check in with the brains of this criminal outfit, Curtis Monroe (Cy Kendall), who’s currently in conference with the Ogden gentleman I mentioned earlier:

MONROE (slightly smug): Too bad about Bartlett…but at least he didn’t get a chance to talk and involve us
OGDEN: Have you heard anything from The Chief about it?
MONROE: No, not yet…but I’m expecting to… (Intercom buzzer) There he is… (Switches the intercom on)  Yes?


CHIEF (over the intercom): Who’s there?
MONROE: Monroe and Ogden…
CHIEF: The Hornet is crippling our syndicate…I want the take in all lines stepped up…I’m offering $5,000 to the man who puts the Hornet out of business…pass the word along…
OGDEN: Five grand!  The boys will sure get busy when they hear about that!

Yeah!  Because the only reason why they haven’t stopped the Hornet until now is that they were waiting for that little extra financial incentive.  (I’d get that bonus in cash if I were you—no bank is going to cash a check with just “The Chief” signed at the bottom.)

The scene shifts to the Meadows Auto Park, where playboy publisher Britt Reid has decided to do a little undercover work.  He pulls up in a rattletrap sedan at the lot, and hands the keys to an unidentified employee, telling him he’ll only be a couple of hours.


I don’t know who the actor playing this guy is…but he just looks like the sort of guy the police are always hauling in when they’ve been told to do a roundup in B-pictures.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if the cops had this guy’s number on speed dial.)  So the attendant waits until Reid enters a building across the street, and then walks over to where Corey is seated, perusing a newspaper.  “All right, Corey,” he tells him, “I got a hot one for ya…”  Corey gets into Reid’s car, and speeds off the lot in such a manner you’d think the vehicle was stolen.  (Oh…it is.)

Reid has been watching all this from behind one of the columns outside the building, and when he notices that Corey has taken off, he motions for Michael Axford (Wade Boteler) to pull up in his car so that the two men can follow Corey.  But Reid’s been spotted by the attendant, who runs over to tell Corey’s pal Dean what he’s witnessed…and he’s even taken the liberty of jotting down the license plate number of Axford’s car.  Dean (who picks up an associate at the corner) manages to catch up with Reid and Axford rather quickly, cutting off Axford on a side street similar to the way he did in Chapter 1.


DEAN: What’s the idea?
AXFORD (getting out of the car): You blind spalpeen!  I’ll teach you to look where you’re goin’!
DEAN (getting out of his auto as well): You think you will!


Punches are then thrown as a real donnybrook breaks out.  Reid manages to knock Dean’s comrade down with the help of a stuntman, and then, picking up his hat, scrambles over to help Axford.   But Mike has the situation in hand, telling his boss: “Go ahead!  I can handle this lad!”

So Reid gets into Axford’s car and speeds off in the direction where Corey was headed.  But the little diversion by Dean and his fellow goon has allowed Corey to duck into a parking garage (which doubles as a paint and body shop, and also bears the “Meadows” name), driving up two levels and into a hiding area where other employees conceal the car behind steel doors and a pull-down one.  Reid, arriving at the garage, is quite puzzled: he could have sworn Corey drove in there, and so he starts to ask questions of a grease monkey named Lew (Robert Long):

REID: Say, buddy…I’d like to see the driver who just drove that sedan in…
LEW: No sedan come in here…
REID: That’s funny…I was sure I saw one come in here…
LEW: I’d-a seen it if it had, wouldn’t I?
REID: Yeah…I guess you would…is the boss in?
LEW: No…he’s out of town…be back next week…

As his conversation with friendly Lew comes to a curt close, another mechanic walks by in the background.  It turns out to be none other than the versatile Pete, who has now found himself a lucrative job in the stolen automobile industry!

REID: I don’t suppose that you saw a sedan come in here, either…?
PETE: You’re supposing right, Mister…
REID: Hmm…I guess I must have made a mistake…thanks…

Reid departs, but his exit has left Pete with an uneasy feeling:

PETE (to Lew): Who was that guy?  I’ve heard his voice before…

No, Pete…that’s Al Hodge’s voice.  (You need to pay a bit more attention during the write-ups.)

LEW: You got me…his face is familiar, but I can’t place him…
PETE: You think he’s a detective?
LEW: So what?  He didn’t see anything, did he?

So Reid drives back to where he left Axford…who now sits forlornly on the curb, wiping at his face with a hanky.  “Well, where are your friends?” is Reid’s query to his “bodyguard”:

AXFORD: They run off…one of them yelled to the other that you was Britt Reid…and about that time I tripped over the curb…
REID: Did you get their license number?
AXFORD: By golly…I did not

There’s just something about the way Boteler’s Axford expresses himself in the negative that makes me laugh out loud…I guess I’m just odd that way.  Reid tells him not to sweat it; he had the foresight to copy down the digits “but I don’t think it’ll do us much good”:

AXFORD: Oh…did you find your car?
REID: No…
AXFORD: Well, what’ll we do?
REID: Report it to the police as stolen…what do you usually do?

Judging from the speechless non-response from Michael, I’m beginning to think he made the right career move in landing his current job with Reid Publishing because unless he had somebody down at City Hall looking out for him he wouldn’t stay a cop for very long.  The scene then shifts to the not-quite-stately-looking apartment house of Reid, who is preparing himself for another night of Horneting:

REID: I was sure my car went into that garage, Kato…doubly sure since I recognized Pete there…
KATO: You mean the mechanic who escaped from the airfield?
REID: Yes…they must have some quick way of hiding stolen cars, and I mean to find out what it is…
KATO: You mean The Green Hornet will find out?

Kato…buddy…someone has clearly not been paying attention in this chapter.  (There just may be a test on this later.)  “Yes, Kato,” says actor Jones…and then putting on his mask, we hear actor Hodge say “The Green Hornet rides tonight!”

Zipping through the streets of the unnamed metropolis, the Hornet and Kato pull up outside of Meadows Garage…where Kato is once again told to “stand by.”  (“Not to worry, Mr. Britt.  I brought a crossword puzzle.”)  Inside the dark garage, the Hornet (with flashlight) does his customary poking around, but the light from his lantern attracts the notice of Pete, who must be working some henchman overtime.  “Who’s out here?” he calls out.

HORNET: Take your hand off that light switch and come over here!
PETE: The Green Hornet!
HORNET: Right!
PETE: What do you want?
HORNET: Information…
PETE: About what?
HORNET: Where do you hide your stolen cars?
PETE: I don’t know nothin’ about stolen cars!


“And I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, neither!”  The Hornet accuses the weaselly Pete of lying…but before he can really turn the thumbscrews, Lew enters the room, introducing the Hornet to a flying tackle.  Now, I have to say…I kind of admire Lew—he’s a scrappy little goon, and he takes the Hornet to the mat…which is more that can be said for Pete the Weenie, who yells out “I’m gonna beat it—he’s too tough for me!” as he gets into a car inside the garage and decides to head toward Nagadoches.  After a brief scuffle with Lew’s stuntman, the Hornet runs out of the garage to where Kato is waiting with the Black Beauty.  “After him, Kato—he’s too valuable to escape!” he barks at his valet…who is probably thinking, “This car is a freakin’ cheetah…I’ll let the little miscreant take off a bit and then catch up to him faster than you can say ‘Fran Striker”…”


And catch up to Pete they do, as they then try to run his vehicle off the highway.  Finally, the Hornet climbs out of the Beauty and into Pete’s car, where the two men briefly scuffle before Pete finds this on the floor of the car…


…and introduces it to the Hornet’s cranium.  As Pete struggles to get back control of the vehicle, he sees that he and G.H. are headed for the pumps at a roadside gas station…so he leaps from the car, leaving the Hornet’s dummy to bear the full brunt of the oncoming conflagration…


2 comments:

Jeff Overturf said...

That tears it. I`m too into this...I'm watch ing along witcha starting next week!

Stacia said...

“Leaders in Senate Smash Filibuster.”

With the right inflection, this sounds like the Senate Leaders are performing their smash hit "Filibuster!"

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the roads used in "The Green Hornet" were used for "Phantom Creeps." And stock footage, and actors, and planes, and suits...

These look like really great prints, though. Very clean and easy on the eyes, it's nice.