Month: August 2013

EP1029: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Bennett Matter, Parts One and Two

Bob Bailey

Johnny flies to San Francisco to investigate a fire set in a warehouse belong to a slick owner.

Original Air Dates:  February 20 and 21, 1956

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TV Series Review: Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime

Agatha Christie’s best known detectives are Poirot and Miss Marple but far from their only ones. The 1983-84 series, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime followed the adventures of a lesser known detective pair Tommy and Tuppence (played by James Warwick and Francesca Annis). 

Before the series began, an adaptation of the first Tommy and Tuppence novel The Secret Adversary aired as a telefilm and told of the first adventure of Tommy and Tuppence when they met after World War I in need of work and began their careers with an ad in the newspapers and found themselves involved case of international intrigue. The plot was superb with a lot of tricks and an amazing number of red herrings. The cinematography was great for the 1980s with a far better quality than the typical British TV show of the era.

The cinematography of the main series was more typical of the era which was a definite downgrade. The series finds a married Tommy and Tuppence taking over a detective agency and assuming the pseudonym of the jailed original owner of the Agency, Mr. Blunt while Tuppence pretends to be his confidential secretary, Miss Robinson.  The stories are set in the 1920s  and the producers do a great job creating a period feel, even on a limited budget. Annis carries the show in that regard, looking very much the fashionable 1920s woman in looks as well as her general manner.

The book upon which the series was based,  was a bit of a tongue in cheek look at popular detective fiction and that feel comes through with several tips of the cap to the great detectives while maintaining a light feel to most stories.  The pacing could be a bit slow with too much melodrama and lead to a resolution that was more than a little bit rushed.  There were some great episodes in the series, but some stinkers as well.  The best episodes in the series are arguably the last two, “The Case of the Missing Lady” (from a comedy standpoint) and “The Cracker” from a dramatic standpoint with “The House of Lurking Death” probably the weakest.

In the end, the series is worth watching because of the delightful performance of Annis and her chemistry with Warwick. While not a great show, like many other programs of bygone days, it will beat most of what’s on television these days.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

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EP1028s: Play It Again Adam: Barrie Craig: A Time To Kill

William Gargan

A woman hops into Barrie’s car and they’re chased by another car all the way to New Jersey. Who is this woman and why is someone after her?

Original Air Date: February 13, 1952

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A Look at John J Malone

John J Malone was the best known creation of mystery writer Craig Rice a pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig that was pretty popular in the 1940s, spawning two movies, a TV series, and several radio incarnations. I’ve read two of the out of print books ahead of the launch of the Mr. Malone programs

I actually found The Fourth Postman at my local public library, but wasn’t thrilled with it, so I decided to give an earlier book a chance.

The Corpse Steps Out was the second John Malone mystery comedy. Jake Justus is a publicist for a radio star who is being blackmailed. She and Justus find the blackmailer dead, and then the body disappears. Quickly, the book becomes a tale of disappearing bodies, bodied being moved, and more murders follows while Jake, Helene, and Malone seek to solve the mystery and get married.

The theory behind the Malone stories was that everything was better with booze. Characters have drinks to be social, drinks to calm down, drinks to think, drinks because it’d been twenty minutes since their last drink. In that way, it was similar to the Thin Man, only moreso. As post-prohibition America embraced these stories of over the top fantastic drinking as catharsis or a weird sort of alcohol fantasy.

At any rate, readers we’re treated to a good enough mystery, some decent humor, and some keen philosophical points that were obtained when the characters were, of course, drinking. The big downside to the book was that no characters was all that likable or human even other than the murderer. The drinking buddies didn’t really care about catching the murder or justice, only protecting the reputation of Jake’s client, a well-beloved radio singer who was like one of ancient sirens who led men to their ruin. So perhaps that gave it a cynical element of realism.

The Fourth Milkman finds John J Malone investigating the murder of three postmen with a wealthy and meek man accused of the crime.

It was released in 1948, fifteen years after the end of prohibition. Orgies of alcohol were really out of fashion. Perhaps more than that, the talents of Craig Rice were in decline. Call Ms. Rice many things, but she was no hypocrite. She practiced the wild hard drinking lifestyle her books uplift and perhaps that caused a decline of her writing ability ahead of her too early death.

Jake Justus was the main on-stage character in The Corpse Steps Out and had been relegated to third banana. He finally married the wealthy woman sometime after that book and seems to have become a shiftless derelict whose main scene involved waltzing into the crime scene with a murder weapon while in a drunken stupor.

Malone investigates the case somewhat ably in his constantly pickled state. The book is a notch below The Corpse Steps Out with no real likable characters and even more of its humor falling flat.

Jake Justus was the main on-stage character in The Corpse Steps Out and had been relegated to third banana. He finally married the wealthy woman sometime after that book and seems to have become a shiftless derelict whose main scene involved waltzing into the crime scene with a murder weapon while in a drunken stupor.

Malone investigates the case somewhat ably in his constantly pickled state. The book is a notch below The Corpse Steps Out with no real likable characters and even more of its humor falling flat.

Overall, neither book is horrendous, but neither holds up well over time. The radio shows are a different matter of course. While the best known detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe were defined to some extent by their literary counterparts, most other detectives from books took the names of their literary counterparts and a few elements of their stories but made their own way. The Malone radio shows did this under several different actors and we’ll look forward to bring you these radio episodes in September.

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EP1028: The Line Up: The Bakery Bandit’s Bad Blooper

William Johnstone

Guthrie investigates a bakery robbery by a robber wearing a stocking over his head.

Original Air Date: March 25, 1952

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