Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chapter 2-15: Atom Man vs. Superman

Previously on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear:

Against my better judgment, I told the GM this morning that I could be persuaded—if necessary—to sit in on the first four hours of the audit to make certain these two were up to speed on the changes.  (I had also been asked by the full-time auditor at the La Quinta on 204/I-95 if she could sit in as well.)  Lord knows I did not want to do this, and in fact I was praying that the GM would say “Hell, no” because I’m already swimming in enough overtime to incur the wrath of his boss.  No such luck.  He’s given me the greenlight.

Why do I have a bad feeling about this?

So I arrived at work last night around nine-ish, and I’m making major preparations to finish the pre-audit in time so that Little Miss Weekend Warrior, Dreads and the I-95 auditor can benefit from my aggravations with our new Nite Vision system this past week.  At 9:45 p.m., one of the individuals manning the front desk answers the phone and on the other line is Dreads.  She tells him she will not be in this evening.

What followed was a high-pitched primal scream that broke the sound barrier, emanating from yours truly.  I knew she was planning to dick me over—I should have seen it coming.  Dreads worked for us once before as a front desk clerk before agreeing to move up to the assistant head of housekeeping position and being transferred to the Southside La Quinta.  She was relieved of her duties when she phoned the GM one Sunday morning five minutes before her shift to inform him that she couldn’t come to work that day…a pattern that she had established on several other occasions.

I take the front desk person who spoke to Dreads into my confidence, and instruct him to call the GM, telling him that he needs to let our GM know that there is no way on God’s green earth that I will work out the rest of the audit—that is not what I agreed to, and if necessary I will walk the hell out right now.

Co-worker phones the boss, who chats with him for a minute or two, and then asks to speak to me.  “It’s a good thing you agreed to come in tonight,” he says weakly.

“Listen—I’m serious about this.  If that dame thinks she’s going to get away with this, she’s nuts.  I am not going to…”

He cuts me off and tells me I’m “jumping to conclusions.”  He’ll find someone else to finish out the shift.  (As it so happens, he talks my co-worker into it—my co-worker is a bit of a night-owl anyway—and because I really appreciate him stepping in and taking the bullet, I buy him a bacon cheeseburger and fries from Denny’s later that morning.)  The GM then lets me in on the knowledge that he also feared that Dreads would be a no-show as well.  Apparently Dreads is scheduled to go on a cruise beginning Sunday night, and the GM has the Big Balls in Cowtown to remark that the AGM (assistant general manager) at Southside was concerned about this because that meant the relief auditor would have to work six days straight.

Talk about chutzpah.  “I notice she never displayed that kind of concern when she was working over here and scheduling me for six days in a row,” I remarked through clenched teeth.  He tries to weasel out with an explanation on how the Southside’s relief auditor is on some sort of disability but at this point in the conversation I have ceased to care.

Naturally, the rest of the evening did not go as planned.  Miss Weekend Warrior also failed to show (in fact, I believe they tried to call her to come in for Dreads, with no luck) and the planned midnight audit was stalled when I learned that no one—despite my mentioning it to at least three individuals that morning—had bothered to make sure that the rooms for a group that was in-house would all be routed to the same folio.  (Yes, I ended up having to do this.)  Then I learn from my new best friend at the front desk that we still have three more rooms to rent (the housekeeper who cleans at night failed to bring this to my attention, though in her defense I was sort of busy at the desk selling a bunch of rooms we were stuck with because no one cancelled the 6pm arrivals) and so we were trying frantically to rent those before closing out the day.  At 1:30am, I get a call from the I-95 dame that the reason she missed her midnight appointment was that she drove her car into a ditch (I didn’t ask; apparently her driving skills are legendary as well as atrocious).  I tell her that if she can find a way to the motel she can still witness the audit since I’ve not been able to start it yet.

I ended up clocking out around 3:30am, which is when I sashayed over to Denny’s to buy breakfast for myself and my front desk colleague.  I then secured a cab about an hour later, stumbling into the house about 4:55.  By that time, I wasn’t in the mood to sit down with pen and paper and chronicle the events of Chapter Two of Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)—instead, I just put the DVD on and started to watch the rest of the serial until its completion.  Let’s be honest—I have no idea what the next round of Saturdays are going to be like (I think it’s safe to say Dreads won’t be pulling down any more shifts at either location, and that they’ll find some prized schmuck to fill in on Friday nights…to quote Dick Powell, “Yours truly will likely get a chunk of it”) and while I have made every attempt to emulate the ways of my serials mentor, Laughing Gravy (watching a chapter a week) I’m failing miserably at it.  My craving for instant gratification has necessitated the cancellation of Saturday Morning Serials for the time being, and from now on cliffhangers will be devoured in one full gulp.

There are, however, some loose ends to tie up.  I’ve stated in the past that I’ve thought the first Superman serial was the superior chapter-play…but after re-watching Atom Man, this statement doesn’t hold water.  Atom Man is a better serial, though it’s not without its faults.  To start off, the whole Atom Man character—dictated by the plot to be a decoy persona for arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot), who is pretending to go straight—is completely unnecessary.  Talbot spends a great deal of screen time resplendent in black choir robe and a helmet that looks like a cross between a champagne bucket and ornate planter, and he speaks with an accent that sounds like a bad Bela Lugosi impression.  The character comes across as totally embarrassing and ridiculous—if they needed to include Atom Man, they should have used the one from the radio Superman that was played by Mason “With a name like Smuckers’, it’s got to be good” Adams.

The other debit in Atom Man is that its interesting plot peters out much too quickly—though this could be due to Columbia’s infuriating habit of padding out material over fifteen chapters, when twelve would have sufficed.  The major scenario—Luthor invents a device that will scatter Superman’s atoms hither and thither through out outer space—gets underway in Chapter Eight, and concludes around Chapter Ten.  This leaves five more chapters of the same-old, same-old shenanigans: Luthor’s henchmen are able to commit crimes and vanish from the scene thanks to coins with a special alloy in their pocket.  It would have been better to shuffle the series of events so that the Man of Steel’s trip into “the empty doom” was featured in Chapter 13 or 14.

Apart from all this, Atom Man is a fun (good, but not great) serial; one of Columbia’s best, in my humble opinion.  The cliffhangers are better than those in the previous Superman outing, the characters more engaging (though the source material has more to do with that than anything) and there are some nicely nuanced throwaway bits to lighten up the proceedings.  There’s a priceless scene where Clark Kent (Kirk Alyn) helps Lois Lane (Noel Neill) blow out the birthday candles on her cake with his “super breath” and Perry White is featured in a funny running gag in which he pulls out a stogie but can’t find a light.  Atom Man also contains one of my favorite jokes in a cliffhanger: Lois tells Jimmy Olsen (Tommy Bond) that they must return to Metropolis (whose destruction has been threatened by Luthor) to “write the story—even if it’s our last.”  “I’d rather read about it!” is Olsen’s hysterical reply.

No comments:

Post a Comment