Tag: mixed review

Audio Drama Review: Black Jack Justice Season Six Review

After five seasons and thirty-six episodes, Black Jack Justice had established  the main characters of Jack Justice (Christopher Mott) and Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective (Andrea Lyons). Season six features a fair share of experimental episodes.

“Cops and Robbers” is a story told mostly by the supporting cast, “The Sky’s the Limit” is a story of a Poker game where the players try to suss out what happened on a case where no one has all the facts. “Man’s Best Friend is told from the perspective of the office dog, King.

Of the three, I think “Sky’s the Limit” was probably the best. It’s definitely fun to hear the story pieced together and to be learning details as the characters are. The ending is a bit ambiguous but it’s still a lot of fun. The other two stories have their moments but don’t work as well. The side characters are not as interesting as Jack and Trixie so that limited my enjoyment of “Cops and Robbers.” As for, “Man’s Best Friend,” the dog narration part landed flat. The approach seemed to be, “I’m a dog who thinks he’s a detective.” I think it would have been funnier had he been thinking more like an actual dog.

I personally preferred the other three episodes which were more traditional Justice and Dixon mysteries. “The Albatross” was my favorite as Lieutenant Sabian (Gregg Taylor) hires them to look into the murder of a black girl in a tenement which his superiors want him to lay off of. The episode examines the idea that certain unresolved cases haunt detectives, whether official or otherwise.  It’s a well-done episode.

Overall, while I’m not crazy about all the experimental episodes in this season, I still enjoyed it pretty well.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

You can download Black Justice Season Six from Decoder Ring Theatre.

Book Review: Dragnet Dailies Septemer-November 1952


Dragnet was not only a radio program, a TV program, and a movie in the 1950s, it was a pop culture phenomenon that not only led to spin-off novels and board games but a daily newspaper strip that spanned from 1952-1955.

Single strips have surfaced. Lewis Lovehaug (aka Linkara) did a review of an Australian Dragnet comic book which appears to have been made up of several edited newspaper strips. A few strips have appeared on various blogs around on the Internet. There does seem to be disagreement on the start date with many websites indicating 1953 as the start date, but this appears to be inaccurate. As best I can tell, it started in June 1952 and continued through May 1955.

This book collects an entire storyline from September 22-November 8, 1952. The overall plot is a good, standard Dragnet story about a search for a drug ring with the first clue coming at the scene of a drug-related accident.

The story features Frank Smith as a young police officer rather than the middle-aged character we came to know on TV. The Dragnet strip began in the interim period between the time Barton Yarborough (who played Friday’s first partner Ben Romero) died and when Ben Alexander was cast as Frank Smith. Clearly, the idea of having Friday with a younger partner appealed to Jack Webb. In addition to the newspaper strip, on a radio show, a young Martin Milner was cast as Friday’s partner Bill Lockwood for a month, but it didn’t work out, with Milner entering the military during Korea foreclosing the possibility. The newspaper strip Frank Smith does have a resemblance to Milner with a touch of Jimmy Olsen thrown in. The one plot complication is Joe Friday having a young partner makes Joe Friday going undercover as a college student seem silly. Smith would have been a more natural fit.

The art is decent with a fair likeness of Jack Webb as Friday. To be honest, it’s tough to tell how much of the mediocrity in the art has to do with the art and how much of it has to do with the quality of the scan of the material.

If you’ve read other collections of major newspaper strips, such as those published by the American Comics Library, this will probably not be all that impressive. Collections of major strips are often carefully restored. The collections are readable public domain comic strips of fair quality.

In addition, the price of $7.99 for a 42-strip story is a bit steep. Still, if you want to enjoy Dragnet as a newspaper strip and want to own a physical book as opposed to downloading them online then you may enjoy this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: The Mark of Zorro

On the big screen, Val Kilmer played iconic heroes such as Batman and the Saint. In 2011, he added the role of Zorro in LA Theatre works presentation of The Mark of Zorro, based on Johnston McCulley’s novel The Curse of Capistrano.

The play opens with Don Diego de la Vega (Kilmer) trying to woo the beautiful Lolita Pulido (Ruth Livier) to be his wife as his father is pressuring him to wed now that he’s in his mid-twenties. Lolita isn’t interested because of his foppish, bookish nature, however she falls in love with the masked adventurer and vigilante Zorro (also Kilmer). The villainous Captain Ramon becomes a rival for Lolita while also trying to capture Zorro.

The play has some great professional sound design and music. The cast is generally good, though a couple are very broad and big for audio. Unlike another Hollywood Theatre of the Ear Production I reviewed (The Maltese Falcon), this doesn’t have each character narrating their own actions. Instead, the events are narrated by the landlord at the local tavern (Armin Shimerman) giving the effect of the story being told to you by your friendly barkeep Shimerman. This is a fun choice and the casting may be a bit of a nod to his role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Ferengi bar owner and landlord Quark. I also think the story story did a good job establishing the culture and values of the time.

This story strives for book accuracy probably more than any other Zorro work. That does mean there are some surprises. In most adaptations, Zorro is an action hero who romances his lady. In this adaptation, Zorro is first and foremost, a romantic figure sweeping Lolita off her feet and protecting her from Captain Ramon. The story is a bit more romantic comedy than an action tale, and the dialogue and plot isn’t exactly out of Jane Austen.

Don Diego is never revealed to be Zorro, even to the audience. Zorro’s secret identity is nearly as well-known to the public as Batman’s and Superman’s, so this is odd. It’d be like a Batman movie that never showed Batman was Bruce Wayne despite the audience knowing it. Again, I think this is an example of being loyal to the book, but it didn’t work for me.

Overall, though, this was a good time. If you’d like a Zorro tale with some adventure, political intrigue, and some cheesy romance, this is a well-acted and enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

Rating:3.75 out of 5.0

Book Review: The Case of the Crime King

The Case of the Crime King was Richard Deming’s second original Dragnet tie-in novel for the original 1951-59 TV series.

The book focuses on Lt. Joe Friday and Sergeant Frank Smith’s efforts to break up a robbery ring. The case begins with the arrest of a clever criminal who Friday and Smith catch and send to prison.

Word begins to leak out of prison that about a new statewide gang with plans to accumulate a fortune and use the money to get one big score that will leave them living like kings. Friday and Smith are sure their man is behind it, but proving it is another matter.

The stakes have never been higher in a Dragnet case file as the lives of thousands and the freedom of millions depend on Friday and Smith stopping this criminal gang’s plot.

Like in his first effort, The Case of the Courteous Killer, Deming manages to capture the spirit of Dragnet, only telling a more complex case. In many ways, the case calls to mind the 1954 Dragnet film which focused on a gang-related investigation, only there are no out-of-character moments for Friday or Smith and we get a more satisfying resolution. The criminal is genuinely clever and the narrative remains at a strong level throughout. Unlike The Case of the Courteous Killer, there’s not really a sag in the story.

Worth noting is that The Case of the Crime King acknowledged the existence of steamier sides of life and Los Angeles that the 1950’s series avoided as it includes references to prostitutes and the criminals use an adult movie theater as an alibi. Neither aspect is written about in a salacious manner, but it does signal a slight shift that would be seen in the 1960’s revival.

On October 5, 2019, a review was held in the City of Boise, in and for the County of Ada. In a moment, the results of that review:

Verdict:

I will say that while this book was a fun read, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the Case of the Courteous Killer. That case had a killer who came after Sergeant Friday and put him in peril. Here the criminals are dangerous but far more methodical. It also had less of Smith’s humor, which disappointed.

If you love Dragnet and you like mysteries of this era Dragnet: The Case of the Crime King is a worthwhile read and at $2.99 in the Kindle Store, it’s a great deal. It’s a well-written case that was probably better than most of the episodes aired during the original series’ final season.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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Film Review: Alias Boston Blackie

I noticed Alias Boston Blackie was available for free viewing on Amazon Prime, which is a treat given Sony holds the rights to the Boston Blackie series and has not done much to make the films available. While this was released in April 1942, it’s the most Christmasy detective film I’ve seen from the 1940s, so much so I debated not reviewing it until Christmas, but since it might disappear from Amazon before then, I decided to review it now.

Alias Boston Blackie find Blackie (Chester Morris) staging a Christmas Eve show for prisoners.  Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) comes along for the ride suspecting Blackie is up to no good. However, a bitter prisoner (future Academy Award nominee Larry Parks) claims he was framed. He decides to tie up a performing clown and take his place so he can get to the outside and enact vengeance on the men who framed him. Blackie needs to stop him before the prisoner gets Blackie and his sister (Adele Mara) in trouble.

What Worked:

Morris’ portrayal of Boston Blackie is the best I’ve seen.  This film avoids the worst fault of Blackie as a character as he can sometimes seem a bit “too cool for school.” Here Blackie is more grounded. The script acknowledges Blackie’s been to prison and Farraday sent him there. Blackie expresses an understandable note of annoyance at Farraday’s continued suspicion.

I also like Farraday in this one as he seems more competent and believable than in many of the radio episodes. Blackie still gets the better of Farraday several times throughout the story, but it feels less like Blackie is fighting a battle of wits with an unarmed man than it does in some later films.

Detective Matthews schtick as a bit of a dim bulb policeman works far better than it did in the later film A Close Call for Boston Blackie which I reviewed previously. He’s helped by Farraday’s competence.

There are fun antics and clever turns as Blackie has to dodge the police and find some way out of this mess. There were a couple moments when I was expecting the film to go one direction and it went somewhere else entirely, leaving me pleasantly surprised. It was both exciting and amusing.

George Stone made a decent showing here as Blackie’s sidekick Runt, delivering a few laughs, and never becoming annoying.

I like the Christmas vibe, which the film uses just right. While the movie’s not overly sentimental, it does maintain a holiday feel without overdoing it. It’s the type of detective movie you’d reach for around the holidays when you want their flavor without being drenched.

Also, we get to see the character of Arthur Manleder, who I’d only heard in the 1944 Summer radio series.  

What Doesn’t Work

Larry Park’s character is loathsome. Giving the escaped prisoner a sister who was one of the performers served a plot purpose of explaining why Blackie tries to reason with the guy so he can return the escapee without getting the sister in trouble. However, the guy’s response to Blackie’s overtures and his willingness to expose his sister to legal jeopardy to carry out this revenge plot makes me despite this character. That’s a problem as the movie’s focus eventually shifts to Blackie trying to uncover proof of the escaped would-be murderer’s innocence.

I also have to say the prisoner had his own private office as the prison’s “dramatic director” that he could access while guards were everywhere. This is one of the silliest plot ideas I’ve ever heard.

Being only sixty-seven minutes hurts this film as its more than forty minutes in when Blackie shifts from tracking down the prisoner to proving his innocence which makes for a bit of a rushed story towards the end.

Overall:

I enjoyed this quite a bit. It’s still a B-movie, but it’s a pretty well-done film despite its flaws. Chester Morris turns in a solid performance and most of the rest of the cast is on-point. It’s a fun, fast-paced film with fun comic moments. Watch it now, or wait until December and hope it’s still on Amazon to watch so you can enjoy it in all its Christmasy glory.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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