Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Green Hornet – Chapter 9: The Hornet Trapped

OUR STORY SO FAR: Britt Reid (Gordon Jones), disguised as The Green Hornet, is snapped by a Sentinel photographer as he hurriedly leaves the house of a cleaner named Lavonson (Robert Brister).  Monroe (Cy Kendall) sees the picture in The Sentinel and realizing the Hornet is on the trail of Lynch (Guy Usher), head of the cleaners’ racket, orders Lynch and his shop “removed” and evidence planted pointing to The Hornet as the perpetrator of the crime.  Corey (Gene Rizzi) and Dean (Walter McGrail) saturate Lynch’s plant with combustible cleaning fluid, and when The Hornet traps and is struggling with Lynch in his shop…

…there is a honkin’ big explosion when the struggle for Lynch’s gun results in the weapon going off by mistake.  But this is only if you watch it in Chapter 8.  In this chapter, the explosion is considerably milder and what results is merely a fire that quickly spreads like…well, like wildfire throughout Lynch’s establishment.  I attribute this to the decision to rename what henchmen Corey and Dean saturated the place with as “combustible cleaning fluid”…which in the previous chapter was common variety gasoline.

The Hornet manages to escape the blaze by tearing out the back way, but the unidentified cop in the screen cap above sees our hero in the alley and fires a few rounds in his direction.  The Hornet starts hauling ass and elbows toward where Kato (Keye Luke) waits with the car as Unidentified Cop blows his whistle.  Meanwhile, back in the inferno that was once Lynch’s Cleaning and Dyeing (now with One Hour Martinizing!), the titular owner of that establishment manages to vacate the building as well—something that Corey and Dean are discussing as they watch the fire trucks pulling up to tackle the conflagration.

DEAN: Did Lynch get out of the fire?
COREY: I don’t know…
DEAN: We gotta make sure…The Chief wants his mouth shut…
COREY: It’ll be a pleasure

It’s gratifying to see goons taking pride in their work.  The Hornet finally reaches the Black Beauty and getting in, tells his valet: “Quick, Kato…they’ve spotted us!”  The vehicle then starts its getaway and passes another uniformed cop in the act of calling into the station.  He runs out into the street and fires several rounds at the car going 200 mph with little success.  Then you have these two idiots from Chapter 5

…who are also quickly left behind eating the Hornet’s dust.  “Gone…the way it always does,” remarks one of the cops.  “There’s something spooky about the way that car always disappears.”  (It’s voodoo or something.)

As the firemen continue to battle the Lynch Cleaning and Dyeing fire with the help of stock footage that clearly does not match the earlier shots of the establishment, Dean and Corey are frustrated in their attempts to locate the missing link…er, Lynch.  But not for long.

DEAN: Hey…I got an idea on how we can get a line on that guy Lynch…
COREY: Yeah…what is it?
DEAN: He’s got an interest in his brother’s business…if he escaped, he’s just dumb enough to go over to his brother’s place to hide out…

“And we’re just dumb enough to go over there after him.”  (“If” he escaped—sounds like they’re not sure.)  Could his brother’s business be that real estate establishment which I mentioned in the previous chapter?  Well, in this screen cap…

…it’s the same storefront that Dean was lurking outside of in Chapter 8—though you’ll remember that the office was just a stone’s throw away from the cleaning and dyeing business.  So why it would take Lynch that long to get over there (and later, as we’ll see, Corey and Dean) is a question I can’t answer.  But the action shifts to the real estate company, where Lynch enters his brother’s office and begins to make a phone call…

The Hornet and Kato arrive back at their secret garage.  “That was a bad stroke of luck, losing Lynch like that,” G.H. tells his trusty manservant.  “We’ve got to find him again if we hope to end this cleaning and dyeing racket.”  But they’ve had a hard day, so the Hornet suggests the two of them catch some sack time…and that segueways to a shot of Sentinel reporter and bodyguard Michael “Sufferin’ snakes!” Axford (Wade Boteler) asleep in a chair with a copy of the paper he works for splayed across his face.  He is awakened by the sound of the ringing telephone.

AXFORD (answering the phone): Hello…?  Yes, this is Mr. Reid’s apartment…no, this is Michael Axford, his bodyguard…what?  Yes, Mr. Reid’s here, but he can’t be disturbed…
LYNCH (on the other end): I’ve got to talk to him!  It’s a matter of life or death!
AXFORD: Now, look…I can’t understand you—will you calm down?

As their phone conversation continues, the Hornet and Kato are entering Reid’s bedroom via the secret passage behind the bureau drawer.

LYNCH: Tell him it’s about the Green Hornet…
AXFORD: The Green Hornet!  Well, why didn’t you say so?!!

Axford puts the receiver down and, running over to Reid’s bedroom door, starts to pound furiously on the wood.  “Reid!  Reid, wake up, will ya!”  The only problem is, Reid is still decked out in his Hornet regalia—is this what the title chapter means by “The Hornet Trapped”?  Kato helps Reid off with his things, and supplies our hero with a dressing gown while he talks to Axford through the door.

REID: What is it, Michael?
AXFORD: Y-Y-You’re wanted on the phone!  It’s the Green Hornet!
(Kato starts laughing, and Reid can’t help but grin)
REID: The Green Hornet?
AXFORD: I mean, it’s about the Green Hornet…it’s life or death, he says!

Reid emerges from the bedroom and walks over to where Axford laid down the receiver.

REID (on the phone): Britt Reid speaking…who are you?  Lynch…what Lynch?  Oh, I see…what do you want?
LYNCH (on the other end): I just got a tip that my associates are going to kill me…I don’t dare go to the police…and the Green Hornet is after me, too!
REID: What do you expect me to do about it?
LYNCH: You’ve got influence, Mr. Reid…say, I’ll tell all I know about the cleaning and dyeing rackets…and it’s plenty…but I want a guarantee of protection…
REID: Well, I can’t promise you anything…but I feel the District Attorney would be interested…where are you now?
LYNCH: My brother’s office…219 Fourth Street…and I’m alone…get over here at once!  My associates are hot on my trail!
REID: I’ll be right down!  (He hangs up the phone) Michael…we’ve got to move fast—where’s your car?
AXFORD: It’s in front…I was gonna put it away, but I dozed off…
REID: Kato!  My hat and coat!

“Right where you left it, boss!”  In his brother’s office, Lynch paces nervously and is unnerved by the sound of a car pulling up outside.  He goes outside to the front entrance to check, but sees only automobiles driving by randomly.  Back at Reid’s apartment, our hero and Axford are all ready to go—“Call the police,” Reid instructs Kato.  “Send them to 219 Fourth Street…tell them there may be a murder!”  The scene then shifts back to the real estate office, as we observe Lynch taking a seat at his brother’s desk and start to put pen to paper.  There is then an insert of a car speeding down city streets—a vehicle whose occupants are Corey, Dean and cowardly henchman Pete (John Kelly).  As they race toward the real estate company, Dean muses: “I wonder who tipped Lynch he was on the spot?”

Another car is also headed in the direction of Lynch Real Estate, one with Michael Axford at the wheel and Britt Reid riding shotgun.  “Step on it, Michael,” Reid tells his bodyguard.  “We’ve got to get to Lynch before his gang does.”  And at a nearby police precinct, a dispatcher tells our cop buddies to head to 219 Fourth Street because “there may be a shooting…that is all.”

Lynch is still writing at the desk when the car with Corey, Dean and Pete pulls up.  All three men exit the vehicle, but Pete positions himself behind the wheel because he is known for his skill at driving away very, very fast.  Dean and Corey, on the other hand, stake positions outside the front entrance to the company…and Dean discovers that the front door is locked, so he instructs Corey to cover the back door.  Dean then pulls out his Handy-Dandy Li’l Lockpick Kit and begins to work on the front door—the noise from which startling Lynch inside.

Peering outside of his brother’s office, Lynch can see the silhouette of a man trying to break into the company and he knows that it will not be too long before he’s gunned down like the miserable cur he is.  He goes back over to the desk and crumples up the paper on which he was writing, and chucks in a nearby wastebasket.  Then he takes the time to draw this:

At this point in the serial, the pristine elements lent to VCI by Universal take a nose dive in quality; the company apparently had to make do afterward with an inferior print.  Just another piece of mounting evidence that our film treasures of the past are suffering from the ravages of time and neglect, and that we need to figure out a way to stop this from happening with all deliberate speed.  Compare these two shots of Lynch’s “wastebasket drawing”:

Good print.
Substitute print.

As Reid and Axford pull up to the outside of the company, Dean has entered Lynch’s office and despite Lynch’s pleas, shoots him down like a whimpering dog in the dust.  The gunshot attracts the attention of Reid and Axford, who enter the building and arrive long enough to exchange a round of gunfire with Dean, who then escapes out the back entrance.  Dean tells Corey of the two men’s arrival, and they rush off…but Reid and Axford aren’t too far behind.  Firing at the fleeing henchmen, Reid does a humorous bit of editorializing by telling his bodyguard “You’re a rotten shot, Michael!”—something I’ve been saying ever since this serial got underway.  “Ah, ‘tis this police ammunition I’m using,” alibis Axford.  (A poor workman blames his tools, Axie.)

Sirens kick in because the police have arrived, but Dean and Corey manage to get to the end of a side street where Pete has fortuitously arrived with the getaway car.  Axford suggests that they go after them in his car, but Reid nixes this idea, saying they’ve got too much of a lead.  Stopping the patrol car, Reid tells the two cops to follow the black sedan because the men inside are responsible for Lynch’s murder…and that he’ll report in to headquarters for them.  (What a guy!)  Reid and Axford then run back into Lynch’s office, where Reid tells Axford to get the police on the phone.

AXFORD (on the phone): This is Michael Axford…there’s been a murder at…uh… (To Reid) Where is this place?
REID: 219 Fourth Street!
AXFORD (back into the phone): 219 Fourth Street!  Send the homicide squad, the coroner, fingerprint men, photographers and… (He stops shortly) No, I don’t want the Mayor and the Governor, too…I know what I’m about…’twas me that was followin’ cars while you were still bawlin’ in your cradle

Dean, Corey and Pete are being followed by the police…so Pete yanks a lever inside the car and exercises this nice little Bondian maneuver:

Meanwhile, in the office—Reid is rifling through the papers on Lynch’s desk when he spots Lynch’s work of art:

REID (to Axford): Hey!  What do you make of that?

“That?  Sure, I can be makin’ a hat…or a brooch…or a pterodactyl…”

AXFORD: Oh, sure…Lynch was drawin’ pictures while he was talkin’ to you on the phone…
REID: No…men don’t do that when they’re excited…

Um.  Yeah.

REID: That’s a picture of a wastebasket!
AXFORD: Now, why would he be drawin’ that?
REID: To call our attention to it!  (Reid starts looking around for a wastebasket, and upon finding it puts it on the desk and starts looking at the papers in it until he finds Lynch’s letter) A letter…Lynch hid it in the wastebasket so the men that were after him wouldn’t find it!
AXFORD: Well, read it!
REID (reading) “Mr. Reid…they’re closing in on me…if they get me I’ll have my revenge with this letter…the Green Hornet has nothing to do with the protection racket…my associates in the syndicate made me lie about that…they also killed Lavonson…now they’re after me…I hope you will avenge my death by trapping them…the boss of all the rackets is a man named…”
AXFORD: Well, go on…what’s his name?
REID: Unfortunately…that’s all the time Lynch had to write…

Probably because he was too busy sketching the wastebasket.  (Dumbass.)  But according to Reid: “It confers my belief that there is a head to this crime ring…and we’ve got to find him and wipe him out!”  Capitalizing on the fact that he buys his ink by the barrel, Reid is able to get out this headline…

…this is then our cue to pay a visit to the offices of Curtis Monroe, kingpin of crime.

Now that establishing shot in the above screen cap is featured practically every week in The Green Hornet (I went back and got a capture from an earlier chapter with the better print) and I didn’t notice until I got caught up with the recaps of The Phantom Creeps (1939) over at my BBFF Stacia’s She Blogged by Night that this “Bradley Building” is the same hideout used by the bad guys in that serial as well.  The ramifications of this are a little staggering; it’s nice that the landlord isn’t judgmental about the backgrounds of his tenants…but on the other hand, I’m sure some of the other law-abiding occupants might be a little pissed off that the joint has become a wretched hive of scum and villainy.  (“How in the hell is it that our jewelry store is robbed every week?”)

But back to the serial.  Monroe has gathered up his henchmen—including Joe Ogden (Arthur Loft) and Andrew T. Thug (Ralph Dunn)—and, as is his usual wont, is pissing and moaning about the shoddiness of their work.

MONROE: I’ve just been talking to The Chief…he’s pretty sore about what happened last night…you had both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid on the spot and you let ‘em go!
DEAN: I’m not so sure the Green Hornet wasn’t burned up in that fire!
MONROE: That’s just it—you’re not sure!  Lynch got out…why couldn’t the Green Hornet, too?  If anything, you had Reid dead to rights!  And if you hadn’t been anxious about your own necks, we’d be free of those damaging editorials of his!

I’m pretty sure that “anxious about your own necks” part was directed toward Pete.

OGDEN: Reid seems to be a pushover for a call for help…maybe we can get him dead to rights again?
MONROE: All right…see if you can arrange something…
OGDEN: I’ll do that…

The scene shifts to The Daily Sentinel, and in Britt Reid’s office our hero and Axford are conferring with the Police Commissioner (Stanley Andrews):

REID: Lynch’s letter proves conclusively, Mr. Commissioner, that the rackets are under one hand…the thing to do is to find him…
COMMISSIONER: The police department is doing everything they can…we follow every lead, but they all fade out…the organization is too well-protected…
AXFORD: Well, the Green Hornet’s doin’ his best to knock ‘em over so he can be the big boss himself…uh…by the way…have you increased the reward for him?
COMMISSIONER: Not officially…but I’ll personally double it to anybody who gets the Green Hornet, dead or alive…
AXFORD (laughing): Put it aside for me…sure, I’m gettin’ closer to Mr. Hornet every minute…

It’s not easy to tell, but Jones’ Reid sits through this exchange with an amusing “I know something you don’t know” grin on his face.  “Seriously now…I’d like this all cleared up before the elections,” the Commissioner tells the two men like a typical politician.  “Otherwise conditions would be bad for an honest vote!”

Outside in the office of Reid’s secretary, Lenore “Casey” Case (Anne Nagel), ace reporter Jasper Jenks (Phillip Trent) rushes in with big news:

JENKS: I gotta see the boss!
CASEY: What’s the rush, Jenks?
JENKS: I’ve got the Hornet!
CASEY: Where?  In your pocket?

“No…that just means I’m happy to see you, darlin’…”

JENKS: No kidding, Casey—this is the real McCoy!
CASEY: Mr. Reid is busy

Back inside Reid’s office…

REID: You can count on The Sentinel in every way…
COMMISSIONER: I’m sure of that, Reid…thanks…

The Commissioner rises from his chair and after shaking hands with Reid exits the office.  This prompts Jenks to run into Reid’s, much to Casey’s amusement.

JENKS: Boss, I’ve tracked the Hornet to his lair!  I know where that big black car of his goes every night!
REID: How did you learn all this?
JENKS (taking out a folded-up note): This anonymous letter that came this morning… (Reading) “If you want the Hornet you can trap him at his hideout…it is the two-story house four miles from the city limits on State Highway Number Seven…don’t tell the police or there may be a tip-off…”
AXFORD: Say—I know that place!  It’s the old Mortinson house…it always was a crook hangout…
REID: So it is…

It has to be the old Mortinson house.  There’s no money in the budget for another hideout.

AXFORD: Let’s get out there, Reid…
REID: And find nothing?
AXFORD: Well…then you’re not going?
REID: Yes, Michael…I am…tonight…

In Reid’s apartment, our hero issues instructions to the loyal Kato.

REID: I’ll go with Jenks and Axford…you wait behind the Mortinson house with Black Beauty and the Hornet’s disguise…
KATO: But…why do you take this risk, Mr. Britt?
REID: Because I feel that letter was a trap…meant for me as Britt Reid…we’ll let the Hornet out and see if we can’t get somebody…understand?
KATO: No, sir…but…if you say it is all right, it must be…

“I will follow you blindly, sir.”  Reid tells Kato to take the lower road and that he will get there before they do…the only drawback is that Kato will be in Scotland afore ye, and not at the Mortinson place.  Okay, I am joking about that—we see a shot of Kato zipping along in the Black Beauty, and then that’s followed by a shot of Reid, Jenks and Axford tooling along in Axford’s car.  Arriving at the house, they are being spied on by the three thugs inside—Corey, Dean and Pete.

REID (as they get out of the car): You cover the front…I’ll take the back…
AXFORD: Let’s rush ‘em!
REID: No…there’s no need of anybody getting hurt…besides—I want to catch whoever’s in there alive…
JENKS: Okay—you scare ‘em out and we’ll grab ‘em…
REID: Give me a couple of minutes to get set…
AXFORD: Now, Reid…go easy, boy—will ya?  I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to ya…and me not with ya…

Inside the house, Dean’s plan is fairly simple: “Wait until they come in, then let ‘em have it.”  But Reid’s told his friends to give him a couple of minutes because he’s having a powwow around back with Kato, who has faithfully brought his Hornet gear:

REID (as he puts on his disguise): I’ll try to gas whoever’s in there…and then rejoin Jenks and Axford when they’ve found them…
KATO: Be careful, Mr. Britt…
REID: I will…

“You wait for me at the corner of that house,” he instructs Kato.  “I may have to get out of this disguise in a hurry.”  Inside the house, Dean and Corey have positioned themselves behind a desk, waiting to ambush whoever comes through the front way.  So the Hornet cleverly approaches the house from behind them…climbing through an open window.  (Why didn’t they just shut the window?  Well, it was stuffy in there.)

HORNET: Hold it!  Drop those guns!
DEAN: The Green Hornet…

It ain’t Sergeant Preston of the Upper Yukon, kiddies.  Outside the house, Axford and Jenks have decreed that Reid has been in there long enough…and so they’re coming in the front way.  

Now, Pete—good ol’ cowardly Pete—is hiding in the shadows…which is a good vantage place for him to break out in a run if necessary…except he’s apparently downed a few shots of courage in the interim and he decides to ambush the Hornet from behind, just as G.H. asks the other two goons: “What’s the idea of using my place as a hideout for your dirty work?”

Unfortunately, that liquid courage has left him with the coordination of an expectant elephant, and he embarrassingly bungles jumping the Hornet, falling against his other comrades.  Hearing Axford and Jenks coming up the stairs, the Hornet ducks out of sight (couldn’t he just gas everybody?) and so do the henchmen…they station themselves alongside a wall, then when The Sentinel guys burst into the room, cold-cock both of them before running like hell out of the house.  The Hornet gives chase, and then he ducks into a closet at the top of the stairs…presumably to change out of his Hornet uniform and assume Britt Reid-proportions.

Axford, clever sod that he is, has deduced that the Hornet is in that closet and yells at him from outside: “I’ve got ya, Hornet—you better come out…dead or alive, they said—it makes no difference to me!”  So Axford starts firing into the closet as the Hornet frantically tries to take off his gear.  And then we have this little plot point:

Son of a…he would hide in the only closet where the acid is kept!  What are the odds?  Axford’s continued gunfire eventually creates a toxic cloud that sends rhe Hornet to the floor…

1 comment:

Stacia said...

In this chapter, the explosion is considerably milder

They cheat and they lie!

Seriously, though, these serials were meant to be seen and then mostly forgotten over a week's time before the next one came out.

The substitute print actually looks better than some of the Phantom Creeps footage. Well, most of it, actually. I think it was filmed through a blender as it was whipping up a delightful smoothie, so it wasn't exactly a lovely print even in its original form.

Speaking of, I think that is not only the same Bradley Building, but the same footage of the Bradley. Hopefully the entire building is occupied by crooks, who spend their days stealing from each other and getting stolen from and wearing fake moustache disguises and blocking their hats.

I love how this entire episode is about a wastebasket. Such a delightfully unintentional metaphor.