Category: Golden Age Article

Audio Drama Review: The Twilight Zone Audio Dramas, Volume 5 Review

Volume 5 of the Twilight Zone Audio Dramas offers six more adaptations of Twilight Zone in TV episodes.

The set kicks off with, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper.” It’s a story of a well-planned robbery where a scientist is part of the gang and has a plot to avoid prosecution: have the gang hide out in the cave with their stolen gold and then put themselves in suspended animation. The story delivers a smashing twist at the end, but before it gets there, we’re given some great interaction between the members of the gang. The story is a clever and intricate morality tale that holds up quite well.

The next story is, “A Most Unusual Camera,” which is about small-time crooks getting a relatively small haul from a pawnshop burglary that includes a camera that, as they discover, can predict the future. After an unnecessary scene with the crime being reported to the police by the owners of the pawnshop (who are never heard from again), the interaction between the small-time crooks dominates the rest of the story and is a real treat to listen to with a lot of plans, double crosses, and twists.

In “Twenty-two,” a singer is terrified by dreams about the number 22 and she senses impending doom surrounding it and tries to avoid whatever fate awaits. This is a well-done suspenseful tale, though to be honest, it’s the weakest story in the set, which says a lot for this particular box set.

“The Midnight Sun” finds two women trapped in an apartment in a big city as the Earth is moving closer to the sun and everyone is trying to get away from it. The characters in this are great, and there’s a big twist at the end.

In “Walking Distance,” a stressed out ad executive takes a walk while his car’s getting fixed to the nearby town where he was raised. It’s a wistful, sad, yet wise story for anyone who’s ever visited somewhere they grew up and expected it to be exactly as it was as this time he finds it that way.

The set concludes with, “The Passerby” which finds a Confederate War Widow watching the defeated Southern Army return home. She begins to notice strange things, including the return of a soldier she’d believed dead. The story has some atmospheric moments, a great reveal, and an unforgettable closing scene. It’s a picture of the sadness and tragedy of war that’s beautifully realized.

Overall, this is one of my favorite sets in this series. Unlike previous sets, there are no recognizable guest stars in the cast, but to be fair, the original Twilight Zone series, most episodes didn’t feature huge stars or those who would become big stars. For every episode of the TV series featuring William Shatner, Peter Falk, or Burgess Meredith, you’d have an episode or two featuring actors no one remembers. The strength of the Twilight Zone are its writing, its concepts, and the thoughtful ideas at the heart of each script, and that strength really shines through here.

If you’re curious about the radio series, this is definitely a set I’d recommend. The stories are very well-realized and capture the spirit of the original series beautifully.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A Look Back at the First 100 Episodes of the Amazing World of Radio

With Wednesday’s episode of the Whistler, we marked our 100th Episode of the Amazing World of Radio. The series launched in June 2016 to feature our first Summer Series of Patreon-chosen programming. That first series was only six episodes, but it has been followed by three longer Summer Series, four rounds of Christmas and Thanksgiving episodes, along with other various holiday programs and spring series. It’s not an every week series. It intermittently presents a wide variety of different radio programs.

We really aim to bring a wide variety of different programs, including some well-known shows as well as some more obscure offerings. Here’s a list of every series we’ve played so far:

Lux Radio Theater (17)
Les Miserables (7)
Cavalcade of America (6)
Suspense (6)
Screen Guild Theater (5)
Bold Venture (4)
Escape (3)
The Whistler (3)
Hallmark Playhouse (3)
You Are There (2)
Bing Crosby Show (2)
NBC University Theatre of the Air (2)
Proudly We Hail (2)
Stars Over Hollywood (2)
The Les Paul Show
Jackie Gleason and Les Tremayne Show
Diamond Dramas
Meet Corliss Archer
Hour of Charm
Columbia Workshop
Abbott and Costello Show
Stroke of Fate
Shakespeare Cycle
Humphrey Bogart Presents
Father Knows Best
Grand Central Station
The Big Show
Living
The Man Called X
Mr. President
The Quiz Kids
Elgin Holiday Special
Railroad Hour
Dr. Christian
Chicago Theatre of the Air
Coast to Coast on a Bus
Anthology
MGM Theatre of the Air
NBC Star Playhouse
The Great Gildersleeve
Here’s to Veterans
Bird’s Eye Open House
New World A Coming
Shirley Temple Time
Prudential Hour of Stars
CBS Network Special
The Jack Webb Show
One Out of Seven
Three for Adventure
Are These Our Children?

Lux Radio Theater is our top series because every episode in our Great Movies Over Radio series was an episode of Lux. Plus we brought four hour-long adaptations of Humphrey Bogart adaptations to you during our Summer of Bogart which also featured four weeks of Bold Venture. For our 2018 Spring Series, we played the entire seven-part Orson Welles-led Les Miserables.

Most of the other programs with a lot of play are anthology programs which produced episodes in a variety of themes. My goal is to share a sampling of a wide spectrum of radio programs. As a whole, we’ve played fifty series.

I continue to look for new and different programs to bring you on the Amazing World of Radio. Between now and Easter, I’ll have eleven more episodes of the Amazing World of Radio for you before I sign off until our summer series. Of those eleven episodes, only two come from a series we’ve featured frequently, and only three come from a series we’ve featured at all.

There were a whole lot of amazing programs produced during the Golden Age of Radio, and here’s hoping we get a chance to share many more.

Book Review: Corpses are Where You Find Them


In Corpses are Where You Find Them, Michael Shayne is preparing to go out of town with his young wife Phyllis despite pleas from the Mayoral candidate he’s supporting. However, his plans change when a beautiful young woman shows up high. He deposits her in his apartment and drives his wife to the train station, but he returns to find her dead and is then accused of kidnapping by the political opponent of the candidate he’s supporting. Shayne has to solve the murder to not only save his candidate’s campaign but also to avoid going to prison.

Corpses Are Where You Find Them is a fast-paced, fun read with the body of the murdered woman disappearing and re-appearing, political intrigue, and hidden agendas.

The writing of Brett Halliday (aka Davis Dresser) is improved from the first book, where Shayne’s antics could be insufferable. Here Shayne doesn’t do anything too off the wall until late in the book where he steals the clothes of an insane asylum patient, but that turns out to have a good reason.

Overall, this is a solid 1940s mystery with hard-boiled overtones. For lovers of these sort of books, this makes for a fun, diverting read.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: The Diary of River Song, Series 7

River Song (Alex Kington) was married to the Doctor in Doctor Who, making her last appearance opposite Peter Capaldi. This spin-off series continues her adventures.

One thing that was established in the TV series was that River Song was a detective, operating in New York under the name Melody Malone. For the Seventh Series of her spin-off, Big Finished did an anthology release featuring River encountering mysteries in a series of different genres from Scandinavian Noir to Legal Dramas.

“Colony of Strangers” finds River Song in a Nordic Noir story on an Earth Colony world that just happens to feature a Fjord and a perpetually frozen landscape. Bodies of creatures begin washing up on the shore where River Song is renting her house and the local police begin to suspect her.

The mystery, its solution, and the sci-fi element are all well thought out, but ultimately what makes this story so compelling is how it goes all in on its concept. This is River Song doing Nordic Noir and they hold to that pattern, unlike the 2018 Doctor Who audio story Hunting Grounds which borrowed some elements but was essentially a Doctor Who story. It maintains clipped stylized dialogue, sparse soundscape, and a downbeat feel. This could easily come off as pretentious, but it’s done well and the result is something that’s very different from any other River Song story we’ve heard.

In “Abbey of Heretic,” River arrives at a 12th Century convent disguised as a nun. When she arrives she discovers a strange disease spreading with the blame being cast throughout the nunnery.

“Abbey of Heretics” is inspired by the Brother Caedfel Mysteries and the TV adaptions starring Derek Jacobi which are set during the same time period. This is a fairly good story, though it felt longer than it needs to be. There’s a great sense of atmosphere and each of the characters is well-drawn. I also thought it showed a sufficient amount of respect for faith.

In “Barrister to the Stars”, River’s accused of murder at a bizarre space station. River appoints an English attorney from the 20th Century as her barrister. This is a remarkable story, particularly for the writer’s first Big Finish. While the writer cited a number of sources in the extras, Rumpole of the Bailey’s influences are clear from the barrister’s asides during Counsel/judge statements, and he refers to himself as an old Bailey hack. This is nearly a perfect Rumpole pastiche but set…in space. David Rintoul is fantastic as the barrister.

There’s quite a bit of imagination and world building that goes into creating this situation and the weird and amazing creatures that inhabit it. It’s a wonderful, hilarious, and practically flawless mix of genres.

“Carnival of Angels” is the only story in the set that doesn’t standalone. It’s a prequel to the Doctor Who TV episode, “The Angels Take Manhattan” and also sees the return of what seemed to be a one-off assistant character from the fifth River Song box set, though its not required to have listened to that story as its explained with some blatantly expositional dialogue.

The story finds River Song operating as a private detective in New York City as Melody Malone when a hard-boiled musician comes into her office to report he saw someone murdered…himself.

Like all the stories, this one aims for a sense of atmosphere…this time the feeling of 1930s and 40s Film Noir. It hits somewhat, but at times it tries too hard and at others gaps in knowledge show up. For example, the writer has American characters use British idioms like, “What are you playing at…”

Still, there are are some spooky moments as well as a great hook for the start of the episode. Despite the flaws, most American production companies couldn’t have done better in creating the feel of film noir. So this story was still a worthwhile hour of listening.

Overall, if you liked River Song on Doctor Who, or if you just like mysteries with a Science Fiction twist, this is a pretty good box set with Barrister of the Stars easily the highlight of the set.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Audiobook Review: Chase Darkness With Me

Billy Jensen’s book, Chase Darkness with Me is part memoir and part how-to guide for wannabe twenty-first century citizen detectives who want to join Jensen in finding missing persons and helping to solve America’s more than 200,000 unsolved homicide.

As a memoir, the book provides an origin for Jensen’s fascination with unsolved homicides, and how that led him into the world of true crime television and podcasts. He also writes of his friendship with the late Michelle Macnamara, author of I’ll be Gone in the Dark. Jensen writes how her efforts helped lead to the capture of a suspect in the crimes of the infamous Golden State killer, who committed a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s.

In the past few decades, the nationwide solve rate for murders has plummeted from above 90% to a little more than 60%. Jensen attributes the change to a couple of factors. First is a decline in trust for the police. Second is the shift in how people get news and information. In past decades, newspapers and TV newscasts would carry information about homicides, as well as pictures of unidentified suspects  the public might know. However, as people have begun to curate their own news, these sources have been viewed less and less.

Jensen began to have success in helping locate killers from cold cases by launching social media campaigns that reached people who had turned off their television. He was able to do this by leveraging skills he’d learned when newspapers began to decline at the turn of the century. In the book, he tells the stories of several murders and missing person cases where he used social media to reach people who may have the key to solving a case.

He does a good job structuring each chapter and giving appropriate time to each incident. He also does show a healthy introspection about his motives and about the way these campaigns affect the investigation and the families of the victims.

He also writes about how familial DNA databases like 23andme and ancestry.com may hold the key to solving murders, as with their popularity, it’s quite likely  many killers who have left DNA evidence could be located through family members who have signed up for these services, although he discusses many challenges on that point.

The how-to-section at the end of the book mostly serves to re-enforce lessons gleaned from the narrative portions of the book but adds a few handy tips on technical details.

In addition to the sort of social media detective work Jensen has specialized in, he mentions other tasks that can aid the capture of criminals, including volunteering to digitize old police records and helping build family trees for those who’ve used familial DNA databases to trace killers.

Jensen also does spend a good deal of time discussing  how to do citizen detective work responsibly and ethically. He sees a great opportunity for citizen detectives to bring closure to victims and justice to killers who’ve thought they got away with it. However, he knows that a few irresponsible people could ruin things for everyone.

He advises those who’d like to be Batman that they can be. They just can’t be the vigilante that plays by his own rules. They have to be the Adam West 1960s Batman and play by the rules.

Jensen is also honest that Citizen Detective work is often time-consuming and frustrating. He pegs his own success rate at cases he became involved in at under 20 percent. In addition, running social media campaigns to locate someone who saw something gets to be expensive. However, America boasts a growing affluent retiree population that’s looking for something to do with their time. Jensen thinks for many retirees this may be an answer to how to deal with all the time on their hands.

If there’s one thing I’d caution potential readers/listeners on in these highly polarized times is that Jensen goes off into dictum expressing his opinion on a variety of controversial subjects, including religion and political issues (though thankfully not opinion on politicians). Some are related to crime such as gun control and the death penalty and others are not. The good news/bad news about these portions is that he makes assertions and offers no evidence to support them. The bad part is that it seems he’s taking for granted that his view of the world is correct and that his entire audience agrees with it. The good part is that because his views aren’t key to the central premise of the book, you can move on rather than getting bogged down spending hours on irrelevant side trails.

Still, despite my disagreements with Jensen on some things, I walked away from the book admiring his desire to make the world more just and the practical steps he’s taken to do so. If you’re interested in true crime, in becoming a citizen detective, or if you’re a mystery writer looking for realistic methods that your characters could use to solve crime without a badge, this definitely is a worthwhile read.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.