Tag: Radio Drama

Radio Drama Review: Fort Laramie

Fort Laramie  came to radio in 1956 in the midst of both the decline of radio and the rise of the adult Western on both radio and television that began with Gunsmoke and featured such programs as The Six Shooter and Have Gun Will Travel.

The program centers around Lee Quince (Raymond Burr in the series, John Dehner in the pilot) a Captain of Cavalry assigned to B Company at Fort Laramie under the command of Major Daggett (Jack Moyles). Their job is simple: keep the peace by enforcing the treaty and avoiding a war with local Indian tribes.

The series sets a high standard for realism on every level.  It takes a look at life on an old West fort from so many different perspectives. What happens when the company payroll is delayed? How are outbreaks treated? What type of people joined the Cavalry during this time? What would life be like for a widow of a soldier or for a young wife married to an officer and unused to the rigors of the West? The series uses thorough research, mixed a solid imagination, and good human drama to create memorable scripts.

The ugly reality of war is portrayed. The series is brutally honest about the terror of falling into the hands of Indians. In one episode, a woman talks about using a gun to defend herself but saving the last bullet for herself to avoid being captured by cruel Indian tribes. At the same time, the series also shows the prejudice, neglect, and in one case, outright insane slaughter that was heaped on Native Americans. The series keeps in balance.

The cast of the show is great. This series is Raymond Burr’s only starring role over radio. Usually he played heavies, but he shines as the experienced, sly, and Indian-wise hero. He’s ably supported by Moyles, the former star of Rocky Jordan Vic Perrin as the veteran enlisted man Sergeant Gorce, and Harry Bartel as the green Lieutenant Siberts.

With such a talented cast, Director Norm Macdonnell was able to do some interesting things. For the first half of the series, Quince was constantly cutting down the inexperienced naivete  of Siberts until Daggett called Quince out and said he was going to ruin Siberts, which forced Quince to address his own bad attitude and get Siberts to feel free to relax. This was really not the type of topic you’d see discussed with two ongoing characters a series in the 1950s.

However, the show dealt with a lot of very human issues, not all of them dark and serious. There were the humorous episodes that brought lighter touch. What made them work well was that these humorous shows were not thrown in randomly. They’d often come before  a very dark and serious episode,  as if to deepen the emotional impact of the next week’s show.

Like many shows from the mid-1950s, the programs that survive are in wonderful condition, making for great listening.

The full run was done by Andrew Rhynes as a podcast over at the Old Radio Westerns and is definitely worth a listen.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

Radio Drama Review: The Thinking Machine

The period between Sherlock Holmes and the coming of iconic characters such as Hercules Poirot, Nick Charles, Philip Marlowe, and Nero Wolfe is littered with a series of mostly forgotten detectives. One of these Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen created by Jacques Futrelle. Van Dusen appeared in one novel and fifty short stories between his creation in 1905 and the tragic death of Futrelle aboard the board the Titanic in 1912.  Colonial Radio Theatre has brought Van Dusen back to life in its new series, The Thinking Machine.

In the early 20th Century were viewed primarily as puzzles and the two mysteries in the first volume of stories released by Colonial falls firmly into this category and they’re quite good puzzles: The Problems of Dressing Room A” deals with an impossible disappearance from an actress from backstage during a performance in attire that could hardly be worn on the street. The second, “The Phantom Motor” deals with a motor car that impossibly disappears when passing between two police officers across a road known as, “The Trap.”

Professor Van Dusen (Lincoln Clark) is a genius (which he’ll gladly let you know) but he is not a detective. His process for solving mysteries is not so much deduction as thinking through the problem and finding a way to the solution. That’s one of the great highlights of the stories is how Van Dusen and newspaper reporter Hutchinson Hatch will hash out nearly all conceivable solutions with incisive and clever logic. Then Van Dusen thinks through a way to find the solution that most of the professionals have missed.

If there’s a downside to the production, it’s this: Van Dusen, like  many amateur detectives during this period,  knew they were smarter and better than you and had no qualms about letting others know it. In the early 20th century, readers were kind of tolerant of this as long as the detective  got the job done.  We live in an age where really don’t like people being better than us, and we certainly don’t like them making a point of it. Hercule Poirot has this problem to an extent but he makes up for it with a ton of charm. Van Dusen has no such endearing qualities. With Clark’s solid acting, the character could grow on listeners, but with only two mysteries in this first set, it’s kind of hard to gauge how successful he could be.

However, Clark ad the rest of the cast are solid, showcasing the high production values I’ve come to expect from Colonial Radio Theater. Overall, these are well- acted well-produced puzzle mysteries that’s worth a listen particularly if you’re curious about forgotten detectives of the early 20th cenury.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0

Disclosure note: The reviewer received a free review copy for an honest review of this production.

The Thinking Machine is available as an audible download here.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.