Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Adventures by Morse “City of the Dead” 1/8/44 – 3/11/44

Carlton E. Morse was one of the jewels of radio’s Golden Age. A skilled writer, he is perhaps best known for creating and writing the serial I Love a Mystery, a blood-and-thunder adventure show in which a trio of adventures traveled the world solving mysteries, slugging it out with bad guys and rescuing beautiful girls. (He also created and wrote the popular soap opera One Man's Family.)

I Love a Mystery was a great show. Morse had a perfect sense of just how much information to pass on to his listeners in each episode, gradually building up tension and suspense throughout each multi-part story arc. The three protagonists were fun as well—stalwart Jack Packard; Texan and (self-proclaimed) ladies’ man Doc Long; and the very English Reggie York.

I Love a Mystery ran in the early 1940s, then had a very successful revival in 1949. Sandwiched in-between these two runs, though, was a syndicated show titled Adventures by Morse.

A half-hour show, Adventures alternated between 10-part and 3-part story arcs. The main characters were pretty much clones of Jack Packard and Doc Long. Re-named Captain Friday and Skip Turner, their personalities were exact duplicates of Jack and Doc.

But that’s okay, because they’re just as fun to hang around with. “City of the Dead” is the premiere adventure (and, in fact, doesn’t involve Skip at all). A ten-parter, it takes place in a remote cemetery, whose caretaker happens to be Captain Friday’s father. When apparently inexplicable things start happening, the old man calls in his son (a private investigator) to look into the matter.

What follows is a convoluted but ultimately satisfying yarn involving a phantom church bell that starts ringing at irregular moments; several murders; disappearing and reappearing bodies; graves mysteriously dug open and then just as mysteriously filled in; arson, kidnapping; deadly booby-traps; and a half-million dollars worth of hidden pearls. There’s an oddly dressed man who doesn’t seem to be quite human wandering around the graveyard and letting out eerie howls. Everyone involved seems to be up to something either secretive or downright nefarious, including Captain Friday’s dad.

It’s a delight to listen to from beginning to end. As is typical in Morse’s stories, all the apparently supernatural aspects of the case turn out to have “rational” explanations, but that doesn’t make the spooky parts any less spooky. By the end, Captain Friday has it all figured out, but it actually takes him the entire last episode to explain it all to everyone. The good captain knows how to milk the suspense himself, though, so his explanation is as entertaining as the events leading up to it.

Listening to a serial such as this one requires self-discipline—not because it’s hard to listen to, but because one is tempted to go straight from one episode to another. But it’s more fun to limit yourself to one episode per day; to allow yourself to experience the pleasant suspense of a good cliffhanger. Few writers did cliffhangers better than Carlton E. Morse.

Click HERE to download or listen to the first episode of the serial.

The remaining episodes can be found HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...