The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio The great ones are back in action.

31Aug/110

EP0483: Let George Do It: The Ant Hill

Bob Bailey

Lieutenant Riley calls George in to help find the girlfriend of a illegal slot machine repairman in hopes of finding the racket's kingpin.

Original Air Date: May 15, 1950

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30Aug/110

EP0482: Rogue’s Gallery: Impossible Murder

Dick Powell

Rogue is hired to protect a lawyer who has been threatened with murder.

Original Air Date: May 16, 1946

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29Aug/110

EP0481: Barrie Craig: Murder Island

William Gargan

Barrie is hired by a wanted fugitive to find out who really committed the murder he was charged with.

Original Air Date: January 9, 1952

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28Aug/112

Zorro Comes to Radio

If you grew up in the 1950s, when you think of Zorro as Guy Williams in the Disney series. Or if you grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, Duncan Regehr may have provided your vision of Zorro. Others may remember Antonio Banderas as Zorro and for many classic film buffs, it is without a doubt Douglas Fairbanks who defines the character in the silent film version.

Zorro did make it to radio in 1957, in a short-lived serial based on the Curse of Capistrano, however only two episodes of this series survive.

Zorro has been interpreted and reinterpreted so many times throughout the years that it's hard to remember that Zorro originiated in the pulp magazines in stories by Johnston McCulley. may have passed Zorro by for the most part, modern producers of radio drama have picked up the torch.

The Colonial Radio Theatre  brought two of these stories to radio in Zorro and the Pirate Raiders and Zorro Rides Again.

Summaries

In Zorro and the Pirate Raiders, the commandante of the pueblo, Captain Ramon, forms an alliance with cutthroat pirates to  raid the pueblo and split the booty. Ramon also orders the pirates to kill Don Diego de la Vega and kidnap his bride-to-be. Zorro thwarts the attack on Don Diego with the help of other caballeros and then pursues the pirates across the sea.

In Zorro Rides Again, Zorro has retired after The Pirate Raiders but is forced to return when an imposter begins to commit injustices in the name of Zorro. Zorro must clear his name and find the imposter before friends turn against him and the government executes.

Review

These Zorro productions are superb swashbuckling adventures.  Each feature length adventure was filled with action, adventure, and surprise twists throughout the story. The sound effects were amazing, and help to transport you back to Old California.

There were differences between this production and most Zorro adaptations. The biggest was that Zorro had allies: twenty caballeros who fought alongside him. This is a stark difference between modern productions which have Zorro fighting a lone battle against evil, which has become the trend.  However, the CRT's version of Zorro remains faithful to the original vision of McCulley.

Zorro and his caballeros are courageous and gallant, living by a code of honor.  McCulley's vision of Zorro was as a North American version of the knights of old and this really shows through in the Colonial Radio Theater production.  The cast from the stars to their supporting players were all excellent. In particular, Sam Donato shined in the role of Sergeant Garcia.  Oftentimes, the role of the Sergeant in Zorro is often played as buffoon or coward, but Donato's portrayal was more nuanaced, and there was a lot more to Sergeant Garcia than meets these eyes.

There were very few flaws in these productions, and they were  a result of being faithful to the source material, so I can't complain about them. I will say that when a radio drama features a fight between two guys with knives in their mouths, the theater of the mind has to work overtime to supply the images.

Overall, these are great productions that represent Zorro as he was meant to be and provide hours of fun and excitement.

Note: If you are an Audible Member, the digital download of these programs are only $2.95 each which is a fantastic price for these great productions.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0

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27Aug/110

Book Review: Three for the Chair

While shopping in the thrift store, I found a 1968 Bantam Paperback copy of, Three for the Chair, a 1957 compilation of three Nero Wolfe novellas. While the book was not my planned next Nero Wolfe read, I decided to grab it cheap and enjoy the book.

There are three stories in this book and each should be reviewed in its own right.

A Window for Death:

A man who left his family under a cloud of suspicion and then made a fortune in mining, apparently dies of natural causes after returning home.  Members of the family aren't so sure, and are suspicious of the man's partner who inherited the entire mining interest. Wolfe is hired to determined whether there is enough to call the police in.

This story is very workmanlike. There's little action. The majority of the story involves Wolfe questioning witnesses in the Brownstone and the rest involves Archie doing so outside. No added deaths occur and there are no real plot twists. Inspector Cramer does not appear in the story, with A Window for Death ending with Wolfe composing a note to him. Still, the actual solution is pretty clever.

Rating: Satisfactory

Immune to Murder

At the request of an Assistant Secretary of State, Wolfe leaves the comfort of the Brownstone for a rustic fishing resort to help with sensitive oil negotiations by cooking fish for the ambassador who had specifically requested Wolfe. Wolfe hates the  locale and plans to leave after lunch. Wolfe's plans are upset when Archie discovers the Assistant Secretary of State lying dead in stream.

Given the other potential suspects (members of a diplomatic delegation who are immune to prosecution and two rich oil magnates), the District Attorney suggests absurdly that Archie was there as a hired assassin. The truth doesn't come out until the murderer does something that insult's Wolfe's vanity.

This story was adapted for television on a Nero Wolfe Mystery as the last episode and was panned by fans. In my opinion, there was nothing wrong with either the episode or the story. It was, however unfortunate to make this the last episode, as we had none of the familiar supporting characters that fans loved, plus in the context of a final episode, the solution was unsatisfying. However, in the context of a Nero Wolfe reading binge, the story represents a nice change of pace.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Too Many Detectives

Thanks to Archie's interest in learning about wiretapping, Wolfe agrees to help a man tap his own phone. Later, Wolfe learns he was duped and the man who hired him didn't own the phone being tapped.

Wolfe's embarrassment is deepened when he's summoned to Albany and forced to endure a long car ride to discuss the matter. Wolfe and Archie to find several other detectives waiting.

When it's their turn to testify, they learn that the man who fooled them claimed they knew the wiretap was illegal. When it was time for the phony client to testify, he's found dead, and Wolfe and Archie are arrested as material witnesses.

While Archie and Wolfe are released on bail, they can't leave  the jurisdiction, a situation Wolfe can't tolerate. The only way out is for Wolfe to find the killer.

Wolfe compares notes with the other detectives and finds that all but one of them was taken in by the same scheme as Wolfe. Wolfe then gets all six detectives to share every available operative back in New York City to solve the case, leading to a surprising and satisfying solution.

This story in notable for featuring Dol Bonner. Bonner had appeared in her own novel in 1937 and also appeared in a Tecumseh Fox novel. She and Wolfe got along well which had Archie nervous as he figured that Bonner was that rare type of woman Wolfe could actually fall for. Archie even imagines a situation where Archie, Wolfe, Bonner, and Bonner's assistant Sally Colt all in the Brownstone solving cases together. Thus, even great authors have intriguing ideas occur to themwhich if tried would wreck their franchise.

As an aside, the story makes me curious to read Stout's Dol Bonner novel.

As for Too Many Detectives, it was truly a good use of an hour and deserving of a:

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Overall rating for the Collection: Very Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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26Aug/110

EP0480: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Birdy Baskerville Matter

Edmond O'Brien

 A rich man decided to change his beneficiary to charity as he fears his brother will kill him. He's killed immediately after meeting Johnny Dollar.

Original Air Date: November 10, 1951

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25Aug/110

EP0479: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Tom Conway

A young woman who is engaged to be married comes to Holmes because she is afraid that she'll share the fate of her sister and die before her wedding.

Original Air Date: June 23, 1947

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24Aug/110

EP0478: Let George Do It: Picture with a Black Frame

Bob Bailey

When a blackmailing photographer tries to hire George to front a blackmail scheme, George goes to warn the intended victim.

Original Air Date: May 8, 1950

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23Aug/110

EP0477: Rogue’s Gallery: Snowbound

Dick Powell

Rogue recognizes the husband of a beautiful woman, but doesn't remember where. He's rescued by a hermit and trapped in a cabin.

Original Air Date: May 9, 1946

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22Aug/110

EP0476: Barrie Craig: Death of a Private Eye

William Gargan

A former confidential investigator hires Barrie to go with him on a visit.

Original Air Date: January 2, 1952

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