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

22Aug/150

Audio Drama Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem / The Empty House


The second series of Big Finish's Sherlock Holmes range kicks off with the adaptation of the two Sherlock Holmes stories. "The Final Problem," where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempts to kill Holmes off,  and "The Empty House," where Holmes returns.

As writer/star Nicholas Briggs admits, these are not traditional adaptations.  In the previous adaptation, a bonus talking book of "The Speckled Band" was released with a word-for-word reading of that story. This is similar but this production dispenses with "He said." Otherwise this is a  straightforward, almost word-for-word adaptation of Doyle's stories with most of it told through Watson's narration or Holmes narrating to Watson what has happened previously. As such, the strength of these adaptations rest on the strength of the underlying story.

However, Big Finish does add some nice touches. There's an emotional core in these stories that Richard Earl, as Watson, does a superb job of capturing. Briggs turns in a solid performance as Holmes, playing the character perfectly as written, even when he's being smug in "The Empty House."  And one of the most interesting and subtle things they do in "The Final Problem"is tell the narration as Watson writing this down, and we hear the pen crossing the paper and the sound of pen will change and become more pronounced at certain emotional points. It's a simple bit of sound design, but it's  clever and adds something interesting to the production.

These are solid, dramatic readings with a good soundscape added in. However, given the wealth of material and the countless adaptations of these stories, the appeal of this release is limited and this would be the last time Big Finish used the format for Sherlock Holmes.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00

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21Aug/150

EP1657: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Rolling Stone Matter

Bob Bailey
Johnny investigates a missing, underinsured jewel.

Original Air Date: May 11, 1958

When travelling, remember JohnnyDollarair.com

 

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20Aug/150

EP1656: Nick Carter: The Case of the Tatooed Cobra

Lon Clark

A young, wealthy heir is found murdered, but another man claiming to be the heir shows up.

Original Air Date: May 23, 1948

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19Aug/150

EP1655: Philip Marlowe: The Man on the Roof

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe is hired by a woman to save her son from a dangerous set-up.

Original Air Date: April 4, 1950

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18Aug/154

EP1654: Ellery Queen: The Man in the Street

Lawrence Dobkin

Ellery sets out to capture two conmen who have swindled 10,000 people and ensure they're captured before they're murdered.

Original Air Date: December 11, 1947

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17Aug/150

EP1653: The Saint: The Children’s Crusade

Tom Conway

The Saint investigates a threatening note sent to a teach at a military academy.

Original Air Date: May 27, 1951

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16Aug/150

EP1652s: Theater 5: The Button Stealers

A former spy is drawn into a web of an intrigue when a colleague turns to him for help in preventing American intelligence from falling into the wrong hands.

Original Air Date: January 11, 1965

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15Aug/150

EP1652: Dragnet: The Big Dare

Jack Webb
Friday and Romero investigate the death of a single mother.

Original Air Date: August 3, 1950

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15Aug/151

Audio Drama Review: The Empire Strikes Back Original Radio Drama


The Empire Strikes Back was adapted by NPR soon after its release, just as the original Star Wars film was. Mark Hamill and Anthony Williams once again reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker and C-3PO with Billy Dee Williams also joining the cast as Lando Calrissian. The rest of the roles from the movie were filled in by other actors with Ann Sachs as Leia, Perry King as Hans Solo, Brock Peters as Darth Vader, and introducing John Lithgow as Yoda.

Compared to the solid Star Wars Radio Drama, the ten part Empire Strikes Back is a far better production. There’s hardly any padding (and none after the first episode.) The production works perfectly as an Adventure radio serial rather than a supplementary derivative of its source material. There's quite a bit of extra running time and it's all used to good effect and the big winner is the character of Hans Solo who is fleshed out even more than in the film. The audio drama fleshes out his relationship with Luke as well as Leia.

Perry King started off a bit shaky in Star Wars as Hans Solo, but he gives a really compelling performance here and his interpretation of Solo is different but just as good as what Harrison Ford did on the screen. Ann Sachs turns in another great turn as Princess Leia and again, the audio makes her a much stronger character.

The same thing goes for Brock Peters who is absolutely brilliant as Vader, who also gets more scenes in the course of the search for rebel base and for Vader. Peters has captured the essence and menace of Vader while offering his own twist.

Anthony and Billy Dee Williams as well as Hammil turn in good performances that are little different than what they did on screen.

The sound effects and music are exactly what you'd expect from Lucasfilms and the action is really well-executed. The awkward adaptations from screen to audio in Star Wars has become much more seamless and natural.

Probably the only really disappointing aspect of the production was John Lithgow as Yoda. Lithgow is a talented actor who has gone to much bigger and better things, yet while Peters, King, and Sachs took their iconic roles and made them their own, Lithgow essentially does a so-so imitation of Frank Oz's performance. It made me wish they'd just gotten Frank Oz in the first place.

Still, despite that weak spot, this is one of the best Audio Drama series I've heard. It shows greater appreciation for the medium and really hits it out of the park, making this iconic story come alive.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5.0

 

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14Aug/150

EP1651: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Carson Arson Matter

Bob Bailey

Johnny investigates a series of market arsons.

Original Air Date: May 4, 1958

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