Tag: Golden Age article

Book Review: Enter the Saint

Enter the Saint is the first short story collection featuring Simon Templar after he appeared in the novel Meet the Tiger.

The book collects three stories:

“The Man Who Was Clever” sees the Saint trying to take down a drug smuggler and blackmailer. It’s a good crime-busting yarn that allows the Saint to show his pure unadulterated nerve and ability to bait a trap.

“The Policeman with Wings” has the Saint investigating the curious case of a wealthy man who disappeared from his house after being escorted away by a mysterious policeman. This leads an elaborate and somewhat high-handed set up to uncover the true motives of the kidnappers and prevent them from harming the kidnapped man’s niece and heir.

Finally, there’s “The Lawless Lady” which finds the Saint in the background as one of his men. Dicky Tremaine goes undercover with a gang planning a big jewel heist at sea, and finds himself falling for female leader of the gang. Meanwhile, another member appears to be playing to eliminate him. The Saint does make his presence known at the end, but this is an unusual story to say the least.

The stories this book are enjoyable crime tales for the most part. It’s clear that Leslie Charteris is still developing the nature of the Saint. However, this book features most of what makes the Saint work.  You have dashing escapes, the Saint’s absolute audacity and laughing in the face of danger, and you have three good rogues who are worthy adversaries. The third story is a little strange, but it’s still entertaining.

Probably, the book’s biggest shortcoming is giving the Saint an entire organization of agents in support of him. I can see why this was done. Other popular literary figures of the era such as Doc Savage, the Shadow, and Nick Carter had their men to support him. Besides that it supported Charteris’s attempt to brand the Saint the Robin Hood of Modern Crime. After all, what’s Robin Hood without his merry men?

Yet, the Saint is really best when working with one assistant or two at most. In effect, in most of these stories, that’s what he’s doing. We really don’t get to focus on the Saint’s band, and eventually, they’d be discarded as surplus.

If you enjoy some good crime stories from the Golden Age of fiction, you could do far worse than this book. Despite its flaws, the book showcases the talent and style that would make Leslie Charteris a literary fixture for decades to come.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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A Look at Our Miss Brooks

Our Miss Brooks is the most popular and beloved of the post-War sitcoms, airing from 1948-57. It was on television from 1952-56 and came to theaters. The television version lacks an official DVD release, so only a few public domain episodes are easily available. We’ll be focusing on the radio version.

The series began in 1948, focusing on Connie Brooks, an underpaid English teacher at Madison High School who was a boarder in the House of Miss Davis. The series covers Brooks’  troubles with an authoritarian principal and trying to win the man she’s in love with, bashful biologist Philip Boynton.

Originally, Shirley Booth was chosen to star and a pilot was recorded featuring her, but she wasn’t a good fit. Eve Arden won the starring role and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the part. She had a great sense of comedic timing and near perfect delivery, always generating a laugh at the right time. In addition to her relationship frustrations, Miss Brooks was beset by financial problems. And, again, Principal Osgood Conklin’s  constant demands went above and beyond any reasonable interpretation of her job description.

Conklin was played by Gale Gordon and his character makes the series what it is. Conklin is an authoritarian and a bit of an egotist. He strictly enforces all rules, including ones he himself ignores. A character like this could become obnoxious, yet Gordon makes him fun. He has signature lines, such as the most incredulous of, “Oh you do…” to someone whose opinion he thinks is preposterous. He also has a classic delayed reaction where he goes on calmly for several seconds before realizing what someone said and responding.

Conklin was humanized a bit. He often suffered from Miss Brooks’ accident-prone nature. By the end of most episodes, Conklin has got his comeuppance, which makes for good catharsis.

Mr. Boynton was played from 1948-53 by Jeff Chandler and thereafter by the Robert Rockwell, who played the role on television. Boynton is a biology teacher and tone-deaf to romance. He likes Miss Brooks but doesn’t express it even though they date quite a bit. He’s cheap and rarely pays for anything with Miss Brooks. His idea of a hot date is a trip to the zoo. He’s obsessed with his biology animals and will often demur on more exciting opportunities.

Miss Brook’s landlady Mrs. Davis (Jane Morgan) serves as a warm, supportive figure who is hilariously absentminded. Walter Denton (Richard Crenna) is a squeaky-voiced teenager who lavishes Miss Brooks with praise and frequently drives her to school. He’s also a representative of the students and often locks horns with Mr. Conklin.

Harriet Conklin (Gloria McMillan) rounds out the regulars as Conklin’s daughter and Walter’s girlfriend. She was level-headed, intelligent, and kind. Major recurring characters included Miss Enright (Mary Jane Croft), a fellow English teacher who was a rival for Mr, Boynton’s affections. Most of her episodes featured an entertaining verbal catfight between her and Miss Brooks. Stretch Snodgrass (Leonard Smith) was a stereotypical “dumb jock” but a well-realized one, always managing to create laughs through his malapropisms and his inability to keep anything straight. Gerald Mohr played at least two different French Teachers in order to be stereotypically French and romantic.

The stories are standard sitcom fare that relies on the characters and the cast’s chemistry in order to make the plots work. The stories reflect the culture of the times and the expectation of teachers to maintain a high moral standard. Mr. Conklin would sometimes take this to excess and raise concerns about Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton’s “fraternization.” However, they’d been dating for at least five years and still addressed each other as Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton even away from work. They were far above most people’s standards. The series reflects a more innocent time in entertainment.

The show does have its weaknesses. Many episodes require Miss Brooks and company to convince people of an outrageous whopper of a lie. The problem is the lies are so outlandish and the deception has such low consequence for the truth coming out, the show comes off as dumb rather than funny.

In addition, the series doesn’t have the heart of many other productions from the same era. Unlike The Life of Riley or The Great Gildersleeve, characters in Our Miss Brooks, never have any regrets about their actions, nor do they have heartwarming moments. The story remains a comedy all the way through each episode. While comedies should focus mostly on the funny, the lack of any emotional moments or regrets makes the characters more shallow and harder to relate to.

Still, despite its issues, the series works due to its funny situations and Arden and Gordon’s unerring timing and delivery. It is one of radio’s true classic sitcoms.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

180 Episodes of Our Miss Brooks are available here.

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Graphic Novel Review: Jazz Age Chronicles, Volume 1

This black and white comic book collection features two stories set in the 1920s. Both feature Private Detective Ace Mifflin, a Boston-based Private Detective. He has many of the same vices as Sam Spade, but isn’t quite as good as Spade. Though he is good enough to get the job done in most cases.

In the first case, “The Case of the Beguiling Baroness,” Mifflin is hired to keep tabs on a baroness. A secret society is interested in her because of her dabbling in the black arts. When she dies, it’s just the start of the case. This one’s an intriguing mystery and a bit of a genre mash-up between a traditional private detective story and the strange tales featured in the Doc Savage and the Shadow pulp magazines. This one works okay, but Mifflin’s role in this is a bit confused. He’s out of his element, and the hero is supposed to be Clifton Jennings, who hired him. This one could have worked better.

The second case is, “Vote Early, Vote Often.” Mifflin gets in trouble, gets his license suspended, and runs into a whole lot of political corruption. All as he tries to help a friend get free of a murder charge. It’s a good noirish story with a neat mystery to unravel. Mifflin works far better in this story and he is in his element. Of the two tales in the book, I preferred this one more.

Overall, this is a decent graphic novel collection and a nice read if you’re a fan of 1920s’ detective and pulp fiction stories.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Four by L’Amour


As I’ve mentioned before, Random House adapted several stories by the great Western Author Louie L’Amour to audio. Most of these are available as single releases, but some are available as collections, particularly those who have the same lead character. However, this collection of four audio dramas only has the irresistible rhyming title with four different heroes (all but one a one-shot character.)

In “No Man’s Man,” Gunslinger Lou Morgan is hired to get rid of a suitor to a woman he was madly in love with. However, he arrives to violence and so many complications.

I like this story. Even though it’s in the Old West, it reminds me of a classic hard-boiled detective novel: There’s a lying client, dangerous hoods, a mysterious woman who captures our hard-bitten hero’s heart. It has great action and a solid story.

In “Get Out of Town,” fourteen-year-old Tom Fairchild is the man of the house at his farm after his father dies and he goes to town to findhelp. He chooses to hire an ex-convict, Riley, against the advice older men in town. Tom’s an interesting character and this is a coming of age story for him. In the course of the hour audio drama, we see how he changes, in his relationship to Riley especially, as there’s a romantic spark between Riley and Tom’s mother. The story’s ending isn’t quite what you expect, particularly if you’re looking for big western action, but it’s still good drama.

In “McQueen of the Tumbling K”, Ward McQueen, the foreman of a ranch, sees a wounded man fleeing through the Tumbling’s K spread. In town, he learns a gambler is setting up a town and making advances towards the female owner of the ranch. In the middle of this, McQueen is waylaid and left for dead.

This story’s not horrible, but it’s the weakest story of the collection. The villain is painfully obvious, but McQueen is also too strong a hero. Once his physical survival is assured, there’s  not much of a question of the outcome. Everyone in town knows him and no one knows the villainous gambler. The earlier stories worked because you had established lone strangers in Morgan and Riley facing off against local bad guys without any locals having a reason to back them up. Here it’s reversed and doesn’t work as well.

Finally, we have “Booty for a Badman,” featuring one of L’Amour’s well known Sackett characters, Tell Sackett. Tell has had little luck as a miner, which makes him the logical choice to transport the other miners’ gold. Every miner who has left the camp as a known success ended up dead. If they send out someone who everyone knows has a failing mine, he shouldn’t get stopped–in theory.

Carrying $40,000 worth of gold is a risky proposition and it becomes even riskier when Tell encounters an Army wife who has had a breakdown and runaway as she can’t take the strain of living in the West.

This is a good story with a great sense of drama as well as a strong action scene. While we only get to spend an hour with Tell, we get a strong idea of his character. The resolution was one I could have seen coming a mile away, but it’s still a fun story.

Overall, while I liked some stories more than others, this is a nice sampling of stories from one of the most beloved best-selling authors of all time.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

 

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A Look at the Alan Young Show

Baby Boomers will remember Alan Young as a mild-mannered Wilbur Post on Mr. Ed. Generation X and Millennials are more likely to have encountered his work as Scrooge McDuck in Duck Tales and as Jack Allen on Adventures in Odyssey.

Before all that, he was a young comedian who held a spot on radio, first as a 1944 Summer replacement over NBC, then with an ongoing series over ABC from 1944-46, and then back to NBC from 1946-47, and returning again to NBC for six months 1949.

What was the series? Was it any good? I’ll offer my answers based on the existing episodes. We don’t have any surviving episodes from the 1944 Summer Run or the 1949 series. We do have more than 20 episodes from 1944-46 run, and we have the entire 1946-47 series and that’s what this review will be about.

Concept

The concept of this series is fluid. Consistently, Alan Young plays Alan Young, a young man living in Van Nuys, California. Throughout much of the series, he’s trying to win the favor of his girlfriend Betty’s father. The week after he finally seemed to succeed, both Betty and her father were written out of the series. While some episodes of the second season of the ABC run reference Alan running a sign painting business, there are relatively few references to his work, or what Betty’s father did for that matter, which is quite odd.

The plots are superficial, the continuity inconsistent, with characters occasionally behaving in ways and saying things that make no sense to justify a joke. Like many other programs, it has characters whose performances center on one joke: the department store salesman who will mirror what a customer says even at the point of reversing himself, a newspaperman who is frantically busy and confused. Most of more significant characters have multiple catchphrases which are delivered often for comedic effect.

In many ways, the show resembles the Mel Blanc Show (which I reviewed several years back.) Both are somewhat born loser characters, and Mel Blanc also had a girlfriend named Betty who had a father who didn’t like him. Blanc’s show also copied so many of the tropes of Young, but not nearly as effectively. It’s disappointingly bad given the voice talent on it, but it serves as a helpful comparison in showing how Young’s show was different.

The Alan Young show benefited from better written stories. Alan could win some and he could lose some, and the endings of the episodes were usually wonderfully zany and surprising in how things turned out.

The Performances

While Alan Young’s character could feel a bit like a loser, I don’t think the character ever felt pathetic. Young played his character with a great sense of charm, charisma, and good humor. His delivery got laughs for jokes that probably wouldn’t have worked otherwise. His performance was likable, and did a good job running up and down the comedic scale of emotions. He was twenty-five when he got his own sitcom and brought a lot of youthful energy that you just didn’t hear from the middle-aged leads on most other programs.

The supporting players were mostly okay. Again, we get a lot of one note characters who provide the same sort of material week after week. The only character I thought was probably a waste of time was Lulabell. Lulabell shows interest in Alan during the post-Betty shows but never becomes his girl. She’s a Southern Belle meant to deliver Southern stereotypes and say a version of, “ya’ll” and allow Alan a chance to mock her for it. It’s probably the most tedious part of the series.

The characterization of Betty as well as Alan’s later girlfriends is weak. Essentially, they want kissed, they want to get married, and they want Alan to act in ways that are attractive to them and get offended when he doesn’t. That’s pretty much the whole part.

Other than that, all the characters were okay.I laughed at some more than others, but most were well-conceived and worked. Plus, the show rotated the characters and the writers had a good sense of how not to overplay a joke and they rotated many of these characters on and off the program so they didn’t get tiresome. My favorite of these side characters is Mr. Busby, the newspaper editor. He’s just an incredibly manic character and I always laugh during his scenes.

However, the best thing about the Alan Young show is the show’s primary antagonist, Hubert Updike III, played by Jim Backus. Updike is the insanely rich scion of a family with extreme amounts of wealth which Updike boasts about, such as claiming to own entire states, among other constant exaggerations. Updike has an exalted opinion of himself as the most beautiful creature on Earth, and is constantly trying to foil Alan’s plans. Initially, this is because Updike is Alan’s rival for Betty’s affection, but he continues this after Betty’s disappearance. Add to Updike’s other qualities a tendency towards childish petulance when he doesn’t get his way, and you’ve got the makings of comedy gold with the right man in the role.

Backus is definitely the right man. His delivery and timing is superb. The most wonderful part of nearly every episode is the times that Hubert Updike’s on. He was a superb foil for Young, playing beautifully off him. No one has more catchphrases than Backus and somehow he managed to make most of them funny every time he said them, and Young borrows a few of the lines and gets plenty of laughs himself.

It’s worth noting the co-writer of the series was Sherwood Schwartz, who created Gilligan’s Island. Not coincidentally, Backus was cast to play the millionaire, Thurston Howell III. In many ways, what you get to hear on the Alan Show is a younger, more over the top version of Thurston Howell.

Other Factors

It was a post-War program from the era when it wasn’t enough to give you a sitcom, you also got a number or two from the orchestra in most episodes. These are enjoyable,were popular hits, and are mostly well-performed with just a slip up or two in the process to keep things interests. The commercials don’t stand out, but they’re not annoying either.

Overall

Is this one of the great old time radio comedies? No. It’s too formulaic and other than Hubert Updike, there’s not a whole lot outstanding about the series, but it’s also not a comedic dud like the Harold Perry or Mel Blanc programs. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Mr. Young or of Gilligan’s Island, it’s worth a listen. It’s also not a bad choice if you just want to listen to a comedy program. There are better programs, but there are far worst things you could listen to both golden age and modern entertainment.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

Episodes of the Alan Young show can be found at the OTRR Library 

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A Look at Jago and Litefoot, Part Five (Series 12-13, Final)

See Parts OneTwo, and Three, and Part Four

Last year, we did a series examining the career of the Amazing Jago and Litefoot radio series starring Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter up through Series 11. I planned to write a follow up in October with the release of Series 14. However, Mr. Baxter passed away on July 16th at the age of 84. All recorded Jago and Litefoot episodes have already been released.

This article will look at the final releases featuring these two great characters.

Series 12 was released in October of last year and saw a return to the typical series quality after a shaky Series 11. This series has a tight story arch that ties each story together in a way we haven’t seen and it all focuses on Ellie and ties back into Series 1 where Jago killed Ellie’s brother after he’d been transformed into a monster and Series 2 where Ellie had been turned into a vampire prior to Professor Litefoot curing her.

In the first story, “Picture This,” Ellie’s vampire tendencies are back and she breaks into the mysterious Scarlet gallery to steal a painting. Jago & Litefoot are called in to investigate and they find themselves deep in the mystery of the gallery which is filled with mystical pictures. This is a solid start that both sets up the plot for the series while also having a spooky standalone story with an above average role for Sergeant Quick.

In “Flickermen,” Jago and Litefoot investigate a series of disappearances and get their first look at the emerging world of motion pictures. This is another solid outing, with some creepy moments but also a good share of humor. Unlike many other recent box sets, this story continues to explore the over-arching plot of Ellie’s vampirism. There’s also a good bit of humor and an interesting conclusion that makes the story work.

In, “The School of Blood,” Professor Litefoot goes undercover at a girl’s school based on a hint and discovers a large number of mysterious deaths have occurred. There are clear hints of ongoing vampire activity as the girls all seem to be hiding mysterious wounds. The story manages to mix in humor with a very sinister feel to the school, and features an action-packed climax which sets the stage for the final act.

The series concludes with, “Warm Blood.” It’s the final showdown as Jago and Litefoot suspect the truth about Ellie while she plans to lead them towards their doom. The story starts off slow and has some questionable moments in it but really picks up in the final third as Jago and Litefoot find themselves in the most perilous part of their career and they have to confront Ellie. Jago is haunted with and forced to confront what he did back in Series One and asked to make the same choice again. It’s a very solid conclusion with a non-cliffhanger ending which fits the more tighter connection between the stories we’ve seen in Series 12. Overall, satisfying, though there were a few plot holes.

2017 marked the 40th Anniversary of Jago and Litefoot’s appearance in the Talons of Weng-Chiang on television and would be marked by some additional appearances outside their own series.

This began in January with their appearance in the Fourth Doctor Adventures in, “The Beast of Kravenos.”

The Beast of Kravenos brings Jago and Litefoot back to the Fourth Doctor Adventures, this time along Lalla Ward’s second incarnation of Romana and the result is…pleasantly okay.

Compared to the infernal investigators first appearance in the Fourth Doctor Adventures, Justice of Jalxar, this story of Jago, Litefoot, the Doctor, and Quick all hunting for the perpetrator behind a series of burglars, is unremarkable. The best thing to say for this story is it doesn’t get in the way of the characters, who are at all likable and fun to listen to. This isn’t unlike a classic First Doctor Television story where the story is weak but the characters are fun to be around. So overall, the characters make this worth listening to. It’s too bad the writer couldn’t have come up with something better for them to do.

Jago and Litefoot made an appearance in the Doctor Who Short Trips range in March and April of this year. The Short Trip range typically involve an actor or actress who played a Doctor Who companion reading a short, self-contained audiobook featuring the Doctor they starred opposite of.

The Jago and Litefoot Revival Act was entirely different from anything else done in the range. The story was in two parts (Part One and Part Two), both Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter read framing scenes together with Lisa Bowerman appearing as Ellie at the end of the second part, and the story features two Doctor actors they never appeared with on TV.

Litefoot is joined by Jago in telling a story before the meeting of a scientific society in which the two were separated by hundreds of miles, with Litefoot travelling to Minos as both were in the dulldrums after months of nothing unusual happening. The story features a Jago and Litefoot adventure that involves the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, Writer Jonathan Barnes has a good sense of both Jago and Litefoot and the new series Doctors.

The story has a solid plot, but the real fun is exploring the nature of a friendship between our two protagonists and the Doctor that’s lasted so long. Trevor Baxter did a good job in the scenes with Litefoot and the Tenth Doctor who was nearing the end of his life in this story. Overall, this is a bit of an aberration, but an enjoyable 40th Anniversary story nonetheless.

In April, the 13th Series of Jago of Litefoot was released.


The series kicks off with “The Stuff of Nightmares,” Jago, Litefoot, and Ellie are all having frighteningly realistic terrifying dreams while a Time Agent stalks London in search of the fate of Magnus Kreel.

The story has some moments reminiscent of other Jago and Litefoot tales. Bizarre dreams have been visited before, back in Series 6. But this is a different sort of dream and here the attempts at psychoanalysis of dreams is played for laughs even though there’s a measure of truth in it. This series does begin by hearkening back to the original Talons story, which was done in Series 5 but not nearly as effectively as in this episode.

The dreams contribute to a sense of mystery that kept me guessing and the solution to the mystery is surprising while still managing to be believably understandable for a clever Victorian gentleman to wrap his mind around.

In the Chapel of Night, Jago and Litefoot think they’ve returned home from their last adventure only to discover, while it may look like home, it’s not their London at all. Ellie doesn’t know them, having never seen the Professor before. Quick has a distant professional relationship with Litefoot but doesn’t know Jago at all.

Once you get past, the parallel reality part of the story, it becomes a well-done boiler plate episode of Jago and Litefoot with the Chapel of Night taking people who are about to commit suicide off the street and using them for their own purposes. It’s a solid story with some suspenseful moments, but just a typical tale for the infernal investigators.

The third story, “How the Other Half Lives” is a wonderful tale that finds Jago and Litefoot down on their luck as they have no place in a London where their counterparts are alive. Yet, Jago and Litefoot find their alternate Earth counterparts may need them. Alternate Jago is down on his luck and married, but he has a desperate plan and he thinks Litefoot can help when he meets him but what plan does he have that involves a gun and could be helped by a pathologist?

Then there’s Alternate Litefoot who finds himself mysteriously bed-ridden and kept company by his Chinese curios. Alternate Litefoot is about to be victimized by his at-home nurse and her rat catcher boyfriend who plan to loot her home.

Overall, there’s a lot of humor, great chemistry, and a nice bit of dynamic between the Jagos and Litefoots. The differences between them are slight and more experiential than anything else. It’s quite a bit smarter than past attempts at alternate Jago & Litefoots. The story also continues to be another great hearkening back to Talons of Weng-Chiang in both main plot threads.

The final story is “Too Much Reality.” It’s a good conclusion to the box set that finds Jago and Litefoot teaming up with the alternate universe Jago and Litefoot, as well as a team of infernal investigators who emerged instead of them, Luke Betterman and Aubrey. David Warner’s Betterman is believable and has just a bit more authority than the main universe Betterman and his performance is a real highlight of this episode. The story moves on well and avoids spending too much time on the villain.

The story is not without flaws. Having both Jagos and both Litefoots in this story is problematic because they share too many scenes and there’s no vocal differentiation. The story seems to be aiming for the idea that if Jago and Litefoot meet in any universe, they’ll be drawn together into adventure. That’s an okay idea, but not when it creates this much crowding in the story. Personally, I’d have preferred to really have a strong contrast between Jago and Litefoot and Betterman and Aubrey. The actual contribution to the plot by the alternates doesn’t amount to much.

Regardless, the story was a fun listen. It’s unfortunate it does end on a cliffhanger to set up a series 14 that won’t happen. But the listener is free to imagine Jago and Litefoot went on to have many more adventures not chronicled on audio. That’s what I’ll do.

Overall, this is a nice set that succeeds at its goals. In Series 5, they tried to offer a follow up to Talons and it didn’t work. Here, I think they got it just right, celebrating the story with a great homage that still manages to tell a fun and fairly original story. It’s probably their strongest release since Series 10 and overall is a fine representative of one of the best audio dramas ever made.

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The Rathbone-Bruce Countdown, Part Four

After four weeks, we get to the cream of this crop of these fantastic films. (For previous films, (see Part One , Part Two, and Part Three.

3) Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943):

The third of a mini-series within the films focusing on World War II sees Holmes and Watson off for Washington, seeking to recover microfilm vital to the war effort. The film is more a spy thriller than a traditional detective story, but Rathbone makes it work.

The film features another solid performance from Rathbone. In this one, Holmes is matched up against sophisticated and ruthless Nazi spies who will do anything to capture the microfilm. This is one of the best types of Holmes films, with the villains and Holmes racing against time towards a solution.

The tension is heightened by clever camera work surrounding the object of the quest, which is a matchbook containing the missing microfilm. The producers rarely let the matchbook out of our sight. We see it passed from hand to hand, even follow it on a tray at a party. It was a very clever and fun device.

2) Sherlock Holmes: The Voice of Terror (1942)

The Voice of Terror brought Holmes and Watson off the radio and back on to motion picture screens and relaunched the series at Universal, and set the series back into the modern times of World War II Great Britain, placing our heroes in the mix of one of the greatest fights in history. This movie has a ripped from the headlines feel as Holmes seeks out a man whose diabolical broadcast were designed to destroy the morale of the beleaguered British public by disclosing classified war information over the radio.

The cinematography was inexpensive but well-done. If you get the restored version from UCLA, the barroom scene where Holmes seeks help in weeding out the Voice of Terror is extremely well-shot. The solution to the case is unexpected and the film packs an emotional wallop. The spirit of World War II comes through in the film. The Voice of Terror is a film about sacrifice, courage, and the indomitable spirit that refused to blink in the face of Nazi Germany.

Of course, there are many people who question the decision to have movies where Sherlock Holmes fights in World War II. However, we must remember that at the time the movie was released, survival of Great Britain was an open question, and the movie has the sense of that. What this means is that the stakes of the film are high and the film had a sense of this larger story going on in the real world. It would be odd for Holmes not to be involved in these sort of cases.

World War II brought many changes to the lives of fictional detectives. Not only Sherlock Holmes, but other detectives such as Nero Wolfe and Charlie Chan lent their skills to the war effort. World War II was when people from all walks of life were having their lives shaken up. Holmes was no different..

And what would Arthur Conan Doyle think of his hero becoming a Nazi buster? The last line of the film provides a clue. Holmes tells Watson, “But there’s an East wind coming all the same. Such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less. And a greener, better, stronger land will be in the sunshine when the wind is clearer.” The quote was actually a line Doyle wrote for Holmes in “His Last Bow,” which was set during World War I. I have no doubt that this film is one Doyle would approve of.

1) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is not just the very best of the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, but the best Holmes film I’ve yet seen. The movie begins with Professor Moriarty (played superbly by George Zucco) being acquitted of a crime and Holmes pledging to bring him to the gallows. Moriarty responds by planning an ostentatious crime and plans to keep Holmes distracted by giving him a puzzle so fascinating that it’ll keep Holmes occupied while Moriarty pulls off the crime of the century.

While Hound of the Baskervilles introduced us to Rathbone as Holmes, he really begins to own the role in this performance. The dynamic between Holmes and Moriarty has never been better. The crimes are clever and well-executed. The film represents the ultimate in the Holmes-Moriarty battle of wits and the battle is not limited to wits only. The confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty at the end of the movie is well-shot and well-scored, making for an exciting and well-paced end to the adventure.

The movie also has the some nice little touches including a fun musical interlude. In addition, unlike later Holmes films which were shot on a limited budget due to wartime restrictions, this film is a beautifully shot period piece.

Thus, while many great and good Holmes would follow, if I had to pick only one Sherlock Holmes film to take on a desert island, this would be the one.