"The first moment that Jim Olsen set foot on Moose Island, off the coast of Maine, to spend his vacation with his Aunt Louisa Horne and his cousin Chris, he had a feeling that something was wrong."
LAST MONTH WE LOST JACK LARSON: BEST KNOWN AS SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN IN THE TV SERIES "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN". To mark his passing, and since it is the Halloween Countdown, I thought I'd take a look at the spooky second episode of the series: "THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE" shot in the summer of 1951. It's interesting the in only the second episode of the series, after Superman's origin story in the first episode, the show's creators chose to make a "scary" episode right off the bat. Granted, the "scary" factor for a 1951 TV show meant for kids is relative; however, the spooky factor is quite good in this episode.
There always seems to be trouble when Jimmy Olsen (or for that matter Lois Lane) go on vacation. Jimmy chooses to visit his long lost Aunt Louisa at her cottage on a remote island off the coast of Maine. The show begins with some stock footage of the sea as George Reeves provides a lovely voiceover beginning with the quote that begins this article. Jimmy hasn't seen his aunt since he was a baby and Aunt Louisa's house is, in fact, the only one on the island. Also there is a lighthouse which has been shut down for the last 20 years since Aunt Louisa's husband drowned. The talk is that the lighthouse is haunted. Jimmy arrives on the island to be
greeted by matronly Aunt Louisa as well as his surly cousin Chris and his aunt's "deaf and dumb" housemaid Alice. While taking a stroll through the woods and down to the beach (in his stripey, maritime shirt), Jimmy hears the ghostly wail of what sounds like a woman's voice pleading "Help! I'm drowning!" Search as he might, Jimmy cannot find the woman. What he does find is a sinister sailor lurking in the underbrush who, after realizing Jimmy isn't his cousin Chris, tells Jimmy to tell Chris that Mack wants him in a hurry. When Jimmy returns to tell Chris, his cousin accuses him of spying on him and grabs his lapels. After Aunt Louisa sends Chris away, she explains to Jimmy that Chris has a terrible temper . . . especially when anyone goes near the lighthouse. Later that night while Jimmy prepares for bed, he sees the light in the lighthouse is suddenly working. As he goes out to investigate, Jimmy is attempting to pry open the lighthouse door when Chris hurls a knife which sticks in the door inches away from Jimmy's face. Chris threatens to knife Jimmy for real if he sticks his nose where it doesn't belong. Returning to his room, Jimmy finds a puzzling note from Aunt Louisa: "In terrible trouble won't you come?" Curiouser and curiouser. The next day, Jimmy telephones Clark Kent that there's something fishy on Moose Island and he'd better come right away. While talking on the phone, the ghostly cry of "Help! I'm drowning" happens once again; causing Jimmy's eyes to bug out.
"THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE" begins with that beautifully read narration by George Reeves which, combined with the seascapes, sets the mood right away. Being a programme in the early days of television, the actual outside sets are filmed in the studio with backdrops of the sea and sky in the background (onto which the actors cast shadows). Despite this fact, the episode is shot beautifully with dark, moody shadows inside Aunt Louisa's house giving a horror film look to the programme. George Reeves and Jack Larson are the only members of the regular cast appearing in this episode (no Lois or Perry at all) but it still manages to hold the viewer's interest and avoid the dullness that creeps into a lot of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN episodes. I may be a little biased but the spooky theme helps a great deal as well, no doubt, as the snappy direction of Republic serials director Tommy Carr. Also in the cast as Jimmy's Aunt Louisa (or IS she????) is British actress Sarah Padden whose genre credits include THE MAD MONSTER, MAD LOVE, MURDER BY INVITATION, HANGMEN ALSO DIE!, HOUSE BY THE RIVER and THE RETURN OF THE WHISTLER. While not one of my favourite TV series of my childhood (owing to the preponderance of dull episodes featuring Superman bothered by hoods and gangsters), here and there one may find some really good episodes -- like "THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE" -- which shake things up a little.