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1Feb/140

Radio Drama Review: Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr

Eight months ago, I reviewed Tarzan and the Diamonds of Asher, a thoroughly thrilling 1934 Radio 39-part radio serial starring Carlton Kadell as Tarzan faces many challenges in the jungle in a complex and compelling story in which Tarzan's feats of courage and strength are totally enthralling.

Two years afterward, a sequel was released The Fires of Tohr. According to Robert Barrett,  the Fires of Tohr was heard by few people because they waited too long to offer it for syndication and radio in the mid-1930s was certainly a fast-moving medium.

In this series Carlton Kadell and Ralph Scott reprised their roles as Tarzan and Lieutenant D'Arnot. Cy Kendall who'd played the Egyptian villain Atan Thome in Diamonds of Asher returned playing Chinese Dr. Wong Tai. Also featured in the cast was the great Gale Gordon.

The plot has Tarzan and D'Arnot helping a party of explorers who've been abandoned by their native guides. The party is looking for the lost city of Tohr. They find it and are quickly imprisoned by Ahtea, the White queen of the Tohrians (who are somehow "Yellow")  who wants Tarzan to marry her and become king to preserve the white royal line. Tarzan refuses because she's totally crazy, cruel, and stupid. 

So we commence with a very long and drawn out plot where Ahtea imprisons Tarzan and the rest and promises to kill them. Some or all of the party escapes and they are recaptured, and so on.  One of the story's biggest faults is that it's padded.  It bears some similarities to the plot of The Diamonds of Asher except the type of story that takes more than 30 episodes to tell in Fires of Tohr was only about 17 episodes of The Diamond of Asher.

The story really drags and seems to repeat through the middle, with our heroes often doing stupid things that are out of character. D'Arnot blows an escape attempt and Tarzan is unbelievably helpless based on the previous serial. This is particularly hard to buy as Athea is just not a good enough villain to give Tarzan this much grief.

Janet Burton, the designated damsel in distress for this series is a definite downgrade from the previous serial's heroine Helen Gregory. Helen Gregory had engaged on a dangerous trip to find her brother while Janet Burton seemed to do so for no good reason other than to serve as a plot complication.

Finally, lazy ethnic stereotypes get out of hand in this story.  I'm the last one to complain about this type of stuff, but the character of Terrance O'Rourke's constantly "Sure and Begoreying" and other "Irish" phrases is grating. He can't even begin a sentence without doing it.

Doctor Wong Tai's dialogue is also quite  stereotypical but unlike O'Rourke, he's actually a pretty interesting character and one of the program's saving graces.  While it's clear that Wong Tai is madly greedy (which leads him to side with Athea against his friends int he party), he's more than that. He practically steals the show by keeping the audience guessing  where he actually stands.

Overall, this isn't a great serial but it's not a horrible one. Wong Tai is an interesting characters, the last half dozen episodes or so are pretty exciting, and there are quite a few episodes throughout that have good action and good cliffhangers, but this serial has a lot of padding, some of the secondary characters are not likable, and the main villain is just over the top foolish and cruel.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5.0

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