Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Shadow: “Murder at Dead Man’s Inn” 5/12/48

A lot of Shadow episodes begin as if there’s some sort of supernatural element involved (usually ghosts), but then turn out have a “rational” explanation. Sometimes, the spooky bits at the beginning are done so well, that the explanation at the denouement can’t help but be a little disappointing.

A 1940 episode titled “Ghost Town,” for instance, begins with the apparently supernatural happenings around an abandoned Western town that Lamont and Margo are visiting. It all turns out to be a plot by a gang of thieves to keep people away from their hide-out. The resolution is perfectly good storytelling, but it was a lot more fun when the effectively done hauntings at the beginning of the episode were seemingly without explanation.

But “Murder at Dead Man’s Inn” remains strong the whole way through, even when the “ghost” that Lamont and Margo encounter is explained away. The spooky stuff is really, really spooky—a “dead man” with a knife through his heart is still walking around while he provides room service for several corpses stashed away in various rooms of a remote inn.

Eventually, Lamont figures out what’s really going on. It’s all a plot to uncover the location of an old pirate treasure. But the story loses none of its effectiveness even after we find out the ghost is a fake. The shift in thematic focus is done so smoothly (and the basic plot of finding a pirate treasure is so inherently fun) that the episode remains solidly entertaining from start to finish. Margo may have not have that much fun—at one point she’s held hostage with the villain threatening to hurl her out a window and off a cliff—but the rest of us have a fine old time.

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