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


EP1429: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Wayward Widow Matter

Bob Bailey

Johnny is brought in to guard an elderly widow as she transports a hideous piece of art to a cabin after the suspicious death of her husband.

Original Air Date: August 4, 1957

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EP1428: Nick Carter: The Case of the Persistent Beggars

Lon Clark

Nick Carter investigates a panhandling racket.

Original Air Date: January 26, 1947

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EP1427: Philip Marlowe: The Ebony Link

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe helps a disabled man whose being blackmailed over his wife for the second time in six months.

Original Air Date: May 28, 1949

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EP1426: Crime and Peter Chambers: The Rooming House Murder

Dane Clark
Peter Chambers investigating a murder in a theatrical bordering house.

Original Air Date: April 27, 1954

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EP1425: The Saint: A Real Gone Guy

Vincent Price
Simon investigates the death of a band leader.

Original Air Date: July 2, 1950

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EP1424: Dragnet: The Brick Bat Slayer

Jack Webb
Friday and Romero investigate a series of brutal murders of women.

Original Air Date: September 24, 1949

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Telefilm Review: Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man

Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man was the third made for TV movie featuring Jessica Fletcher following the cancellation of the long-time hit TV mystery show. This is definitely not your typical Murder She Wrote story.

In the film, while in Virgina, Jessica (Angela Lansbury) strikes up a conversation with Cassandra Hawkins (Phylicia Rashad) who is looking into the case of one of her ancestors Samuel Pickney who was labeled a murderer in the waning days of the antebellum South. To add to the mystery, he has not one but two gravemarkers with two different dates of death. Jessica and Cassandra uncover accounts left behind by Jessica’s Great Great Aunt Sarah (also played by Lansbury) who was a slaveowner who owned Sam Pickney (Michael Jace) but considered him a friend.

Through the journal entries, the audience is transported back to the late 1850s and we witness the events leading up to the murder and see how Sarah tries to solve it while dealing with prejudice and tense politics of the era.

The telefilm can be divided into two parts: The framing story and the Antebellum story that takes up most of the movie.

The latter is very well done. The cinemotography is solid and captures the feel of the era quite nicely. Lansbury has a nice turn as the proper but determined Aunt Sarah. Jace has a great emotional performance as Sam. The mystery is an interesting puzzle. It’s not great, but certainly worth watching.

The framing story is far more problematic. There are four scenes in the twenty-first century around the three larger scenes in the 19th century and the first three scenes involve uncovering letters and journals written by Aunt Sarah that tell the story of the murder and its investigation. In no case is the search actually interesting. There's no one trying to stop them from finding the information. Their search is simply finding a location, digging through boxes, and finding the documents for the next part of the main story. Where the final journal entry is found is not only easy to get to, it's absurd to imagine that something of that nature would not have already been found in the location they had it in.

Unfortunately, the framing story serves mainly to offer some ham-fisted political commentary about the modern South (the film clumsily suggests a link between Civil War re-enactors and people who spray paint racially motivated graffiti on cars) and debates over the history of the Civil War.  In some ways, it feels like the purpose of the modern day scenes isn't to tell a good story but to tell us how we should feel about the scenes from the 19th century, which is the definition of bad writing.

The historical portion with the antebellum mystery is enjoyable and evocative. but the weak writing on the modern day portions leads to wasted performances by Rashad, as well as David Ogden Stiers.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

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EP1423: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Markham Matter

Bob Bailey
Johnny is called in when a wealthy insured woman disappears and her husband begins taking control of her finances.

Original Air Date: November 18, 1956

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EP1422: Nick Carter: The Case of the Gold Headed Cane

Lon Clark

Nick Carter is hired  to recover jewels stolen from a foreign mine.

Original Air Date: January 19, 1947

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EP1421: Philip Marlowe: Night Tide

Gerald Mohr
Marlowe is hired by a businessman who is concerned that a dock worker he sent to prison is out for vengeance.

Original Air Date: May 21, 1949

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