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

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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13Aug/150

EP1650: Nick Carter: The Accidental Bullet, Parts Three and Six

Lon Clark

Nick and Scubby are trapped by the killers as they try to close in on the killers.

Original Air Dates: June 14 and June 19, 1944

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12Aug/150

EP1649: Philip Marlowe: The Sword of Cebu

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe is hired to find a sword over which his client's partner was killed.

Original Air Date: March 28, 1950

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11Aug/150

EP1648: Ellery Queen: The Saga of Ruffy Rux

Lawrence Dobkin

Ruffy Rux, a gangster, kills a friend of Ellery's.

Original Air Date: November 27, 1947

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10Aug/150

EP1647: The Saint: Pin No Roses on My Corpse

Vincent Price

A woman turns to Simon, scared because of a red rose she's receiving with a sinister meaning.

Original Air Date:  May 20, 1951

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9Aug/150

Video Theater 068: Ellery Queen: Death Spins a Wheel

Ellery Queen goes undercover as a piano player to find the truth behind the death of a piano player.

Original Air Date: May 10, 1951

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8Aug/150

EP1646: Dragnet: The Big Gent, Part Two

Jack Webb
The hunt for the gentleman bandit continues.

Original Air Date: July 27, 1950

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8Aug/150

DVD Review: The Last Detective, Series One


Dangerous Davies, the Last Detective (played by Peter Davison of Campion and Doctor Who fame) isn’t your usual crime drama lead character. His estranged wife Julie describes him to one of her many boyfriends as “Dangerous because he isn’t..." " He is "''The Last Detective’ because he’s the last man they’d put on anything important.”

His boss tells him, “The last detective, that’s what you are, Davies. The last detective I’ll ever think of for a job. Unless it’s a crap job; then you’ll be the first.”

Of course, PC Davies is far from incompetent. Whatever task he’s given, he takes on with relish and shows competence and intelligence. He’s easy to underrate and gains people’s confidence. He’s kind of like Columbo (most of his episodes are about the length of a 1970s columbo episode) except instead of being assigned every celebrity murder case, he goes out and investigates the report that a jeweler has shot a duck.

This first series collects four episodes including the feature-length TV movie, along with the episodes “Moonlight,” “Tricia,” and “Lofty.”

The TV movie is a great story as he takes on a cold case murder investigation without telling his superior based on a clue he came up with in a far less desirable case. It’s a well worked out procedural that does a great job showcasing the character and his overall decency. It's probably the most traditional mystery of the four, and also the most engaging.

“Moonlight” is an odder story as Davies investigates the disappearance of an elderly man with a shady past, and an often tempestuous relationship with his wife. The story has some character moments and solid guest performances, but gets tedious in a few spots with the same themes harped on repeatedly. That and a less than a satisfying conclusion make this my least favorite episode of the season.

"Tricia" has Davies experience the downside of being a personable and caring person. He ends up taking on a case of a woman who claims to have been assaulted and robbed. The story shows Davies being shrewd and cautious as he figures out Tricia is falling for him and begins to discover what a bad thing that can be.

"Lofty" is the second strongest episode of the story. The episode begins by showing Davies' friendship with an eccentric old man named, "Lofty." When Lofty dies under mysterious circumstances, the police don't care much, but with a word from her social worker, Davies presses. Believing the case to be a waste of time, his boss gives it to him. What follows is a solid investigation leading to a great mystery involving World War II and a ring. There are some red herrings thrown in, but I found this to be a very engaging story.

Overall, this was a strong series.  The mysteries are not concerned with big sensational "ripped from the headlines" crimes but rather with jobs that many policemen might look down upon. What makes Davies so admirable as a character is that any serious job, he takes on with serious dedication and determination. Finding how Lofty died or investigating Tricia's robbery will not earn him plaudits from "the man upstairs," however the way he approaches his work ultimately gives importance to it that supersedes the dismissive attitude of his superiors and gives the cases weight and dignity.

While the series has comedic elements, the comedy isn't played broadly. Indeed, he's a character you feel sympathy for because he's a genuinely nice and decent person who it feels like life itself has turned against him with an estranged wife who (though not divorced) tells him about her boyfriends, and mocks and belittles him to his face,  younger colleagues who act like they're in high school, and a series of unfortunate incidents that happen to him like he's being followed by a rain cloud.

There are also two very important relationships. His friend Mod (Sean Hughes) provides a non-policeman sounding board for Davies in his investigation and the two have some wonderfully fun interactions and it's with Mod that most of the real comedy occurs. And then there's Detective Inspector Aspinall, who  has a complex relationship with him. While Aspinall rides him and saddles him with essentially meaningless cases, he also has some moments that are more respectful and rebukes the younger detectives who seem bent on finding new ways to make Davies' life unpleasant.

Overall, this first series is a great start, showcases the fine acting talents of Peter Davison, and tells some great human mysteries.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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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 purchase

 

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7Aug/151

EP1645: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Village of Virtue Matter

Bob Bailey

Johnny investigates a series of thefts that threaten to create a war between the native inhabitants of a South Carolina town and the gangsters who have moved there.

Original Air Date: April 27, 1958

When making your travel plans, remember http://johnnydollarair.com

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