Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Luke Slaughter of Tombstone: “Tracks Out of Tombstone” 3/3/58

Luke Slaughter aired near the end of radio’s Golden Age and was only around for a few months, but it managed to tell its share of good stories in the short time it had.

The show was directed by William N. Robson, who had helmed quality shows like Escape and The Man Behind a Gun. He knew as well as anyone else how to best use the medium of radio to spin an entertaining yarn. He certainly spun a nice one this time.

There’s really nothing about Luke Slaughter that makes it stand out from other shows in the genre. The title character is a Civil War vet turned cattleman. He’s pretty much a standard tough-guy Western hero, with an equally standard old-timer sidekick named Wichita.

But the scripts, sound effects, acting and production values were all top notch. In this episode, Luke arrives in Tombstone to sell his herd. He has a run-in with the town’s thuggish sheriff not long before the money he got for his herd is stolen. He and Wichita have to team up with the sheriff to track down the guy who apparently committed the crime. But Luke notices something about the tracks they found that makes him suspect their quarry is innocent and increase his suspicions about the sheriff…

This is an example of what makes radio so cool. Talented actors, directors and technicians can take a pretty standard story in a genre that was already old-hat, and breathe life into it anyways. Add this to radio’s inherent strength in forcing those us listening to fully engage our imaginations. It all adds up to a remarkable storytelling experience.

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