Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Sherlock Holmes: “Murder by Moonlight” 10/29/45

This particular Sherlock Holmes story was aired while Basil Rathbone was still playing Holmes both here and in a series of movies made by Universal Pictures. The movies had updated the Great Detective to what was then modern times, so he could help with the war effort by helping to catch Nazi spies.

Those films are fun, but Holmes is never quite at home when taken out of the Victorian Era. The radio show, fortunately, kept him in his proper time.

It did give him a chance to travel a bit more than Arthur Conan Doyle did in the original stories. In “Murder by Moonlight,” Holmes and Watson are on a steamship heading for India, having been asked to investigate a case there. But there’s a crime to solve even while they’re still at sea. The two men meet the widow of an Indian raja. Surprisingly, she speaks with a Cockney accent—it turns out that she is a former music-hall performer who fell in love with a prince. She’s returning to the small nation over which she now technically rules as queen, but not everyone is happy about this.

Holmes has to prevent the lady from being murdered and uncover the identity of the would-be assassin. As was typical in the Holmes radio episodes of this period, the script accurately catches the Great Detective’s personality and intelligence and then builds a solid plot around those traits. There’s no real chance of solving the case along with Holmes this time, as the primary clue depends on an obscure bit of medical knowledge (and I have no idea if that bit of knowledge is accurate or just made up for the sake of the story). But it really doesn’t matter. The tale flows nicely and Holmes’ deductions make sense after he explains them. There’s a nifty twist at the end involving the fate of the criminal. And, besides everything else, it’s always fun to hear Rathbone’s energetic line-readings whenever he’s playing Holmes. No one, with the arguable exception of Jeremy Brett, has ever played that part better.

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