Brother Theodore’s serial role

In the Glare of Hitomu

theodore  hitomu

At first, there might still be some doubt…

Unmistakable, though, the thousand yard glare, near hunch and eagle claw grip on his chair arms. Some black hair barely showing. He was probably not much older than the rest of the cast.

It’s interesting to see glimpses of a younger vulnerability; his willingness to remain held in by a limited script, but one that at least permits him to channel his emotional reservoir and memory of authoritarian impulses. Yes, it’s really Brother Theodore, serial villain.

With ideas slightly more clever than other serials, and despite the usual frontloaded fistfights, hectic running back and fro to the same sets, and ‘that didn’t happen’ additions post-cliffhanger endings, The Black Widow (1947) displays some fun ideas:

hitomu  gal glass  chapt 6hitomu  MYST  chapt 7

the spiderbite chair for visitors, used only in the first and last episodes; trunk with gal, supposedly inside, plummeting from an airplane; window glass falling like a guillotine; fingerprints on “cellophane” (coating?) of handbag; ‘M-Y-S-T’ cut in polish of dead woman’s fingernails; use of phone ringing equipment; flailing w/ rubber steering wheel (heroine cuffed stupidly to by ‘hero’) in female stunt doubles fight; guard with newspaper meant to aid Sombra’s escape–“HA ha. That Dick Tracy kills me.”

None of which involve Theodore, the best reason for watching, tho’ he is, as ever, underused. No Hollywood script of the day was pliant enough to allow any but mere hints of the dark, snarling poesies that would emerge from him later.

The novelty is in seeing him at all. Seventh billed as Theodore Gottlieb, he fulminates, rather than histrionically emoting villainy as ‘Hitomu’,“the next #1 Guy of the World”.

Theodore appears in only six of the serial’s thirteen episodes. Usually within the first few minutes. Always arriving via console dials & magnesium smoke explosion, (the same, centered shot is reused), and seated appropriately enough, on an ornate, highbacked ‘throne’.

hitomu alone in chair, curtains

From this initial distance, like an image out of Cocteau, a sunflare collar; what seems a Louis the Umpteenth wig, but proves to be the white part of a turban; and Dr.Seussian striped pantaloons all make for an immediately absurd costume which he seems to wear with complete disregard.

As ‘Hitomu’, he frequently ‘grows impatient’, a typical trait of the few allowed him, episodically craving atomic rocket fuel formula (ep 1); the secret to opening ‘the quartz tube’ (ep 2); the rocket’s motor, (ep 4); the ‘Sinetrone’ sound wave device, (ep 6); general appeasement, (ep 9); and the atomic rocket itself, (ep 13).

hitomu w paper re sinetrone  from chapt 6

Other traits and talents of Hitomu:

-dispenses practical advise for us all: “Use the Vocatrobe.”(ep 2)

-disinterestedly ‘lifts a (ringed index) finger’ to permit his daughter’s departure.(ep 2)

-he can hear what is said before he arrives, tho nothing much is made of this later.(eps 2,6)

One glimmer of the familiar perversity: “We progresss. Yet I grow impatient. We must speed the next move toward placing me on the Throne of the World.” (ep 4).

The funniest of Theodore’s scenes turns up in episode nine, when one of Sombra’s flunkies is reasonably fed up serving without ever meeting Hitomu, “a Supreme Master who lives on the Other Side of the World and can be brought here in a few seconds by some sort of superscientific Rube Goldberg contraption???”

When she allows the two men to stay, cranks up her malicious ‘popsy’, and introduces them, her otherwise professionally thuggish man, Ward perks, “Pleased ta meet cha”.

Hitomu (surly and unimpressed): “I am aware of your identity. And I am disappointed in the results you have achieved. There are delays. Delays! Delays! The fate of my World Empire hangs in the balance.”

In a rehash episode, using previous material as with ’60s TV budgetary tricks, Sombra and then Ward ‘retell’ repeat showings of her ‘mask’

sombra makeup  chapt 6The Mission Impossible routine.

do-ups and his fight scenes to justify themselves, eliciting only the backhanded, “Perheps yeww haf done well…up to the limits uff yer capabilities.”

But, this and the final ep are the only two that have Theodore in more than one scene, dovetailed with other activity.

Thirteen, the last and only episode wherein the pyjama’d worldbeater rises from his chair, walks over to the others and ‘mingles’.

Shorter even than Sombra, and with that outfit not exactly imposing, he is still gruff and penetrating enough, for a young man, and I wondered what his pretty, petulantly ‘wicked’ costar thought of him.

Gloating about the rocket parts nearly to hand, he has another brief flareup, a merest taste of performances to come: “Nothing must be ASSUMED!” he growls.

Hitomu wants them to dismantle the rocket they have just put together, and use his chair to send it to “my laboratories”, wherever he came from, for future use against other nations. While the nitwit hero, slave to the ‘weekly forgetfulness’ of the serial’s original run, is out front ‘triangulating’ to locate their headquarters, a place, surprise, he has visited twice before.

After a frenetic little contretemps over escape via Theo’s beam-a-throne, Hitomu: “I guess this is the end.” Taking his chance in the chair, he rolls back his eyes strangely, resignedly(?), is shot throo the smoke by the cornshuck hero, and a double, in the ‘same’ tacky outfit falls, face down onto the floor.

Both Hitomus thus missing out on the literal final ending, as the giddy reporters head out on their next breaking story: Hitler Hiding In The Everglades!!

In episode five, tho’ Brother Theodore does not grace us with an ‘audience’, the hero reacts to the Black Widow’s boasts about her dictator-wannabe daddy-o:

“Wull, I don’t know the gentleman. But, he sounds unpleasant.” A line which could sum up the public’s avoidance of Brother Theodore’s whole future career.  — Grimes (September 23, 2009).

{With the catch-as-can of surfing for pics these days, you don’t often find it necessary or even possible to acknowledge the efforts of someone else. But, most, (if not all, assuming others may have used this source as well) of the above photos  are from the http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_5.html of Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. Lest I give any impression on this page that these screen saves are mine (I couldn’t), they are instead the dedicated work of the aforesaid. Scroll down the linked page for a chapter by chapter relating of The Black Widow, among other serials. You will find more perhaps than you want of it; and doubly perhaps save yourself the pursuit of the dvd itself, from which my above impressions were culled}. –rg 5/23 ‘015

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