Saturday, May 31, 2014

Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion – Chapter 5: Deadline for Disaster

After a week’s hiatus, we’re back with another installment of Serial Saturdays…and if you were with us last time on Big Gubmint Agents vs. Phantom Legion, you’ll remember that henchies Regan (Dick Curtis) and Cady (Fred Coby), having overheard a two-way radio conversation between Hal Duncan (Walter Reed)—Special Government Agent!—and his gal Friday Kay Roberts (Mary Ellen Kay), snuck into the Interstate Truck Owners Association offices to look for a reward payoff of $50,000.  Hal’s number two (heh) man, Sam Bradley (John Pickard), was placed in charge of guarding the fifty large but suffered a beatdown at the hands of the two bad guys…and it was really all for naught, anyway, because the money wasn’t actually there, as the two thugs discover to their disappertment.  They do spot, however, the silhouette of Mr. D on a glass door as he returns to the ITOA and fire at it…but I don’t have to tell you that Hal survives the encounter.

Regan and Cady beat a hasty retreat out the same window they came in…and as Hal enters the office in pursuit, the camera covers the bad guys’ departure only as far as the fire escape before we fade in to another dull ITOA meeting.  (You never learn if they made it back to their lair or not.  For all we know, they could still be trapped on the fire escape.)

But you have been with this serial long enough to know that each week, Hal explains to the other four members—Armstrong (Pierce Lyden), Crandall (Arthur Space), Thompson (Mauritz Hugo) and Willard (George Meeker)—that he’s painfully inept in bringing not only Regan and Cady to justice but their boss, the mysterious individual known only as…The Voice.  This is because unbeknownst to our hero, one of the four is that no-goodnik, incognito…we just don’t know who.

HAL: So I was able to save the reward money…but the shipment of electronic instruments was completely destroyed…
WILLARD: That certainly won’t help our reputation with the government…why, they’ll be afraid to use our trucks after this!

To be honest, I’m puzzled as to why they still keep any of you on the payroll…unless some Senator has recently been receiving hefty contributions to his re-election campaign.

WILLARD: Especially with that uranium!
HAL: Well, not necessarily…they still want you to go on moving critical supplies to the national stockpile—but they’re imposing certain conditions…so from now on, all government shipping orders will be given to me…and I’ll hand them out, one at a time, to your different companies at the last minute…

“So let the sucking up to me commence!”

ARMSTRONG: Just how much business are we going to get?
HAL: Well, I can’t give you any details…but there’s a considerable amount of refined uranium to be moved to the central stockpile…as the consignments are ready, I’ll hand out shipping orders to each of you…
CRANDALL: Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable…

“Aw, bite us, Crandall,” the others are probably thinking…though Thompson isn’t shy about his opinion, saying “Well…we’d better get plenty of business to pay for being treated like this.”  The action then shifts to the Metz Building—where inside, The Voice brings his goons up to speed on the fact that Hal will now be calling the shots with regards to the shipments.

VOICE: So the only shipping orders I will be able to see are the ones issued to my own company…and if we should take any of those cargos, I would immediately be under suspicion…but I must have a supply of uranium for my foreign customer!
REGAN: Is there any chance of getting those schedules from Duncan?
VOICE: Possibly…if we did, he’d just order them cancelled…unless we had some other hold on him…
REGAN: What do you mean?
VOICE: Miss Roberts, the Association’s secretary, is our best chance…if we were holding her prisoner—I believe Duncan would do anything we asked…

I doubt that very much.  Secretaries are a dime a dozen, and Hal has a pocket full of dimes.  But since that’s going to be this week’s plot, let’s run with it.

REGAN: How do we work it?
VOICE: She doesn’t leave the office until dark…so get there just before six…

Jeebus, she sure has to work late.  If activity at the ITOA is virtually at a standstill, what the hell is she doing there all that time—playing Minesweeper?  The scene fades to Kay’s tidying up of the office just as she’s preparing to go home to her lonely single gal existence, where she’ll dine on Stouffer’s Mac-and-Cheese and then later design outfits for her cats.  Salvation arrives in the form of Regan and Cady, who burst into the office like they own the joint.

REGAN: Now just take it easy, Miss Roberts…and you won’t get hurt…where are those government shipping schedules?

“If they were up your ass, you’d know…”

KAY: Why—I don’t know…Mr. Duncan has charge of them and I don’t know what he does with them…
REGAN: Oh?  Well, we’re gonna take a look around and you’re gonna help us!

“Goody!  I’ve always dreamed of trashing my own office!”  As The Voice’s hired help gives the ITOA a going-over, the action switches to Hal and Sam, who are en route to the office after a long day of…well, whatever the hell it is they do.

HAL: We better get to the office…I want to pick up my mail before Kay leaves…
SAM: Suits me…

“Hey—it’s a good thing she works a dead-end job with so little hope for advancement…huh, pal?  Otherwise you’d have to wait until tomorrow on your mail!”  A dissolve finds us back in the office, with Cady keeping an eye on Kay as Regan looks through paper in her desk.

REGAN (throwing down the papers): Where else can we look?
KAY: I tell you I don’t know—maybe Mr. Duncan has them with him…
REGAN: Okay, let’s go… (As he heads towards the door, he grabs Kay’s arm) We’re gonna keep you with us until someone gives us those schedules!

As Hal and Sam pull in, the two men notice Regan and Cady shoving Kay into their sedan.  “It’s Regan and Cady…they’ve got Kay!” exclaims Sam, drawing his weapon and getting ready to fire out the passenger window.

Hal holds him off.  “No—you might hit her,” he tells his partner.  (“Maybe not…maybe I’ve been practicin’…”)  Duncan decides to let the two men drive off, and he and Sam will trail them with their car.

The car chase begins with another dissolve, and as Regan motors down a familiar stretch of highway Cady gets a look behind them.  “Hey—it looks like somebody’s trailing us,” Cady observes.  “You better step on it!”

At one point during the chase, it looks as if Kay tries to lunge for Cady’s gun…but after a brief tussle he knocks her unconscious.  This amused me because in this screen cap…

…it looks like Kay just decided to take a nap during a long trip.  (“Kay?  Honey?  Put your shoes on…we’re at Grandma’s…”) “Here goes,” declares Hal in the other car.  “I’ve gotta crowd ‘em off the road without a smash-up.”

“Who’s pushin’ who off the road?” cracks Sam the Smartass.  Duncan’s second attempt also ends in failure…he and Sam wind up stuck in a ditch with their back wheels spinning.

Back at the ITOA…

SAM: Any news?
HAL: Yes…I just got this ransom letter…”If you wish to see Miss Roberts again, bring duplicates of the uranium shipping schedules to Apartment 27, 954 Clayton Street…say nothing to anyone until we have time to get the uranium…then Miss Roberts will be released…”
SAM: So we give ‘em all the dope and then sit back and wait for ‘em to hijack all the stuff?

“No—we let them keep Kay.  I’m sure she’ll understand, seeing as this is national security and all that nonsense.  But I’ll need you to put an ad in the classifieds.”

HAL: Yeah…and then trust them to turn Kay loose…
SAM: So are you gonna do it?
HAL: Not quite…I’ll take the papers to them…and then we’ll try a trick of own, too…

Oh, Dunky…you clever little sod, you!  As is so often the case in serials, Hal will give Sam the details along the way…so a dissolve finds our heroes pulling up at the address in the letter.  Fortunately for what will eventually take place, the villains’ car is also parked directly outside the apartment building.

SAM: That’s their car…
HAL: It sure is…I’ll go on in and see what gives…you do your stuff and then get out of sight…
SAM: Okay…

Hal enters the building, and there’s a cut to Regan inside the apartment—fortifying himself with a slug of Scotch.  Hal knocks on the door and Regan walks over to answer it, gun at the ready.  (“Helllooo…Duncan…”)

REGAN: Anybody with ya?
HAL: No… (Regan shuts the door, then turns to Hal) Where’s Miss Roberts?
REGAN: We’ll talk about her later
HAL (after a pause): All right…what’s the proposition?
REGAN: Gimme those shipping schedules now…if they’re okay, and nobody bothers us…Miss Roberts will be turned loose as soon as we get the uranium…
HAL: That’s what you say…

Oooh, Regan!  Ya burnt!  “You better believe me,” replies Regan, “if you ever want to see that girl again.”  Hal drops his pathetic tough guy bluff and admits defeat, as he pulls the schedules out of his vest pocket.

Regan grabs the schedules greedily and puts them in his own pocket.  “You stay here till I get away,” he warns Duncan.  “And don’t get any ideas about following me.”

But Hal is already several chess moves ahead of Regan.  For as Regan leaves the building and gets into his badass sedan, Sam watches him, concealed in the bushes.  It would appear Sam left Regan a little surprise in his radiator…

HAL: Looks like it worked, all right…
SAM: Yeah…I put the calcimine in the radiator, and opened the pep cock a little…he’ll be easy to track till he runs out of water…
HAL: Let’s get going!

So with Regan leaving a trail of whitewash like Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs, our heroes have no difficulties following Regan’s ride to the hideout where Cady is keeping Kay under wraps.  Regan eventually stops at a familiar-looking farmhouse, and upon getting out notices his radiator is about to blow over.

CADY: Howdja make out?
REGAN: Okay…I got the schedules all right, nobody tried to follow me here…but my radiator’s boiled dry—fill it up for me, will ya?

I guess Cady is the mechanic out of the outfit.  The henchman leaves to do the other henchman’s bidding as Regan pores through the uranium schedules.  In the distance, Hal and Sam pull up in their auto far enough to keep from being detected.  “We’d better leave the car here,” intones Hal to his chum.  (Well, where the hell else would you leave it?)

As Hal and Sam inch slowly toward the farmhouse, they observe Cady tending to the dry radiator.  “Hey,” Sam nudges his pal, “he’s liable to see that stuff in the radiator.”

“If he does, he’ll be expecting us,” Hal assures Sam.  “Let’s circle around and try the back door…”  Sure enough, the sharp-eyed Cody notices that there’s been some whitewash deviltry afoot…and rushes back to report to Regan.

CADY: Say…somebody put whitewash in your radiator, then opened the pep cock…probably figured to trail you here…
REGAN: Watch that door—I’ll put a gag on the girl…

Not so fast, my greasy friend!  Hal and Sam enter the barn through the back entrance!  “Hold it!” Duncan warns.  “Drop that gun!”  As the two of them come closer, Regan grabs Kay (with gag in mouth) and places his pistola to her temple.  “Now drop your guns!”

Regan orders Cady to rustle up some rope, then begins to gloat as only Dick Curtis can.  “Well, Mr. Duncan—you’ve outsmarted yourself this time,” jeers Gloaty McGloat.  “You two are gonna live just long enough for me to make certain that these schedules aren’t phonies!”

If you’re thinking—“Hey…we’ve almost gone through this entire chapter without a Republic fistfight©”—I will not disappoint you.

"Saracen pig!"

"Spartan dog!"

As the four men continue to roughhouse, Kay remains tied up on the sidelines.  “Mmm-mph!” she says, which translated means “Kick his ass, Hal!” 

Predictably, Sam is of little help.
As the fight nears its conclusion, Cady throws a pickax blade at Hal and it winds up lodged in one of the barnstall walls…and echoing a similar scene in The Adventures of Frank and Jesse James, Hal is thrown into that very wall and onto the blade!

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