Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Sherlock Holmes: “The Adventure of the Haunted Bagpipes”—2/17/47

Not long after Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce took on the roles of Holmes and Watson in a couple of excellent movies produced by 20th Century Fox, they took as the famous duo on radio as well. By 1947, though, Rathbone had left the show. Tom Conway (who would also play the Saint on radio, as well as having already portrayed the lesser known suave detective known as the Falcon in a series of B-movies) took over as Holmes for awhile, doing a spot-on imitation of Rathbone each week.

Holmes was well-served on radio. The writers (most notably Edith Meiser) respected the character and kept the Great Detective intact, with all the quirks and personality traits that make him so memorable. Many of the scripts were adaptations of the original stories, but Meiser and her co-writers were more than capable of turning out well-plotted original mysteries.

This particular episode takes Holmes and Watson to Edinburgh in pursuit of Holmes’ arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty. Upon arrival, though, they seem to stumble onto some supernatural goings-on: there is apparently a ghost tramping about the neighborhood while playing his bagpipes. It all relates to an old legend about a bagpiper who was carried off to Hell by the devil centuries ago.

The script succeeds in building up a really spooky atmosphere. Even when Holmes deduces the real reason behind the supposed ghost, the story remains spooky. It all involves a particularly gruesome plot, you see, that includes the evil Professor, a strain of Black Plague germs and a vengeful plot to destroy the population of Edinburgh.

It’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but then, Holmes often finds himself hip-deep in melodrama. If its not a set of haunted bagpipes, then it’ll be a giant and murderous hound, a trained snake or an assassin with a silent air gun. “The Haunted Bagpipes” is a worthy addition to Holmes’ ever-growing case files.

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