Tag: audio drama

Audio Drama Review: The Maltese Falcon

The Hollywood Theater of the Ear released its own adaptation of the classic Dashiell Hammett novel The Maltese Falcon in 2008. The production sticks closely to the book and contains moments not included in the 1941 movie. The Maltese Falcon tells the story of Sam Spade (Michael Masden), a private detective whose partner is murdered and who finds himself caught in a web of intrigue involving a mystery woman (Sandra Oh) and a group of dangerous men seeking the priceless Maltese Falcon.

The acting is superb with Masden doing a good job portraying all the facets of Sam Spade. Edward Hermann’s take on Casper Gutman was also nearly as good as Sidney Greenstreet’s. I also liked the idea of portraying Joel Cairo as an Egyptian. That gives a reasonable explanation for the character’s name.

The one off-putting part of the production was it’s decision to include all of the third-person narration in the story and have the actors read the narration about their characters’ actions. It was odd, as if the production was trying to straddle the line between being an audio drama and being an audiobook. Either using a third person narrator or showing narration through sound effects would have made a better listening experience.

Still, this was a fun listen that captures the heart of a classic detective story.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: The Complete Bowdrie Dramatizations, Volume 1


Random House dramatized many of Louis L’Amour’s short stories, mostly with one-shot characters. However, they also dramatized all eighteen L’Amour stories featuring Texas Ranger Chick Bowdrie.

The Collected Bowdrie Dramatizations, Volume 1 features six hour-long Bowdrie adaptations. It begins with “McNelly Knows a Ranger,” the story of how Bowdrie became a Ranger. It was written much later, but it established what led Bowdrie to become a Texas Ranger.

The series is fascinating. As a Texas Ranger, Bowdrie wanders throughout the wide expanse of the State of Texas. He has to act alone, hundreds of miles from headquarters with no other law around. Occasionally, local law enforcement is present but complicit in crimes. Many of the stories require Bowdrie to play detective before tracking down the criminal. L’Amour makes these work as good Western stories and as well-constructed mysteries.

All the dramatizations on this release are excellent, with high production values and good acting. However, two stories are particularly noteworthy.

“The Outlaws of Poplar Creek” features a stunning cave scene which is one of the tensest you’ll ever hear on an audio drama.

In “Bowdrie Follows a Cold Trail,” Bowdrie stumbles on a dead body at an abandoned homestead. The story portrays how Bowdrie uncovers clues at the crime scene. He also discovers how the victim built his dream ranch for his family, only to be murdered and have them disappear. Bowdrie pledges to bring the man’s killer to justice, no easy task in the wilds of Texas. A lot isn’t said but can easily be inferred by the listener. The scene shows a subtle use of emotion to reveal an aspect of Bowdrie’s character.

Note one episode includes a recording of L’Amour talking about his research into the Old West.

My only issue is one aspect of Bowdrie’s character is not believable as written. We’re told repeatedly Bowdrie could have ended up walking “the outlaw trail.” Bowdrie is so morally upright from his first story that it’s just not plausible. Reathel Bean’s straight-laced portrayal in the audio drama amplifies that wholesomeness.

Overall, these are six fine stories of law, order, and justice in the Old West, written by a master of the genre. It’s well worth a listen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Paul Temple: The Complete Radio Collection, Volume 1

Paul Temple is a legendary amateur detective. His adventures first aired over British radio in the 1930s and continued until 1968. Like much British radio of the era, the earliest Paul Temple serials are lost. This collection offers three adventures that managed to survive in that era. Each serial is composed eight twenty or twenty-five-minute episodes. (The most popular format for Paul Temple.)
 
The first serial, Send for Paul Temple is a Canadian remake of the first Paul Temple broadcast. This is a treat. Little Canadian radio from the era is circulating, so it’s nice to see how they measure up to the BBC. This holds up to most American and British programs of the time, but the sound effects are a bit sparser.  The police are baffled by a series of jewel thefts, and in the newspaper, there’s a simple cry, “Send Paul Temple.” The official police are reluctant to call in the amateur sleuth. A policeman friend of Temple’s wants to talk to him but is murdered, setting Temple on the trail. The story stars Bernard Braden as Temple. It’s a fairly good mystery that shows how Paul and his wife Steve met.
 
1942’s Paul Temple Intervenes features Paul (Carl Bernard) and Steve (Bernadette Hodgson). They look into an affair to find the head of a ruthless blackmail ring named the Marquis. This story was fine. It’s not horrible, but it does have some improbable plot turns, and it goes too deep into melodrama for its own good. Not bad, and I’m thankful for almost any classic radio that survives, but it’s easily the weakest story on the set.
 
The actor Kim Peacock plays Paul in 1950’s Paul Temple and the Vandyke Affair. Paul investigates the disappearance of a baby and her sitter, Miss Millicent. The only clue is a message referencing a mysterious Mr. Van Dyke. Of course, their investigations lead to a sinister trail.  At this point, Steve is far more assertive and a stronger character.
 
One thing that makes this stand out is Marjorie Westbury’s performance. Westbury took over as Steve in 1945. She continued opposite four different Paul Temples until 1968. Kim Peacock also turns in a solid performance. I’d be thrilled if more episodes featuring this pair came into circulation. The story features a strong supporting cast. This includes future Paul Temple Peter Coke and Roger Delgado (Doctor Who.)
 
The box set has more to offer than just the stories. The set includes a documentary on the remastering of the Canadian Send for Paul Temple. It began as cardboard transcription disks. Yet they managed to make it sound good in the twenty-first century. How is a fascinating story for audio buffs. Further, the CD features an interview with Coke. Also, there are three episodes from incomplete original Paul Temple serials. They will only appeal to hardcore Temple fans.
 
Many Paul Temple fans council new listeners to avoid this set for a first listen. This isn’t Paul Temple at his best, and it doesn’t feature the most well-known Paul Temple actor. There’s merit to that argument. But I like to hear things from the beginning. While these stories had their weak points, I found them a lot of fun to listen to. If what’s to come is even better, then I’ll enjoy all the Paul Temple collections to come.
 
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Third Man

LA Threatre Works adapted Graham Greene’s The Third Man in 2009.

The story follows novelist Holly Martins (Kelsey Grammer) as he arrives in post-War Vienna hoping to get a job from his old friend Harry Lime, only to find Lime has died of an apparent car accident. However, he stumbles on evidence that there may be more to Lime’s death than meets the eye, and his friend may not be the man Holly thought he was.

This audio drama is a well-done retelling of the classic film with few deviations along the way. Kelsey Grammer is superb as Martins bringing just a right mix of toughness, romance, and innocence to the role. The rest of the cast is generally good, though John Mahoney used an American accent when playing the British Major Calloway which took me out of the story a few times.

The production quality was pretty good, with only a few scenes having minor issues. The entire production feels authentic to the original movie, helped by a good rendition of the classic theme. Overall, LA Theatre Works provides a worthy adaptation of a great story.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Jimmy and the Star Angel

In Colonial Radio Theatre’s musical Jimmy and the Star Angel, Jimmy and Samantha, a young brother and sister, are dealing with their first Christmas without their dad. On Christmas Eve, Jimmy destroys one of his father’s Christmas tree ornaments which leads to them being shrunk to the size of ornaments. All the ornaments on the tree come alive. Jimmy and Samantha need their help to reach the top of the tree by dawn to ask the Star Angel for help or risk being turned into Christmas ornaments forever.

If you like Babes in Toyland or the Wizard of Oz, Jimmy and the Star Angel is that type of journey, so you’re sure to enjoy it. This magical quest up a Christmas tree is full of imaginative and fun characters. It’s also an emotional journey for Samantha and especially Jimmy.

The music in this is great. The songs alone are worth the price of the purchase. They vary in tone, mood, and purpose, but they’re all fun. I loved the swinging “Snowman Spectacular” and the penultimate song “Star Angel” is still bouncing around in my head more than a week and a half after I listened to it.

While the plot is a fantasy, there’s an emotional through line for  Jimmy and Samantha that’s moving. I also found the use of the Christmas trees to be interesting. Jimmy’s family has passed down ornaments for years and the idea these ornaments serve as a family connection through the generations is well-presented, and it helps to serve as a solution to the problem.

The plot has minor issues that adult listeners will pick up on. The villain, the pirate Scrimshaw (Jerry Robbins) feels like he’s  been written because these stories need a villain which leads to the less than satisfactory way in which he’s dispatched as well as the strained way he’s brought in. That said, though Scrimshaw’s not necessary to the plot, Robbins (who wrote the play) is a lot of fun in the role. I like the idea of a Christmas Tree ornament seeking revenge against the boy who broke him.

Overall, this is a great production for the whole family. I recommend you try it out and see if it becomes a tradition like your favorite Christmas tree ornaments.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Disclosure: I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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