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The Shadow Strange Puzzles (Radio Suspense) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD
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"The Shadow" had a very straightforward premise. The hero, Lamont Cranston, was a wealthy amateur criminologist, who during his travels in the Orient, acquired the hypnotic abiility to "cloud men's minds so that they cannot see him." Using his cloak of invisibility, Lamont fought crime in all its forms as The Shadow, a vigilante who was "never seen, only heard" and who "struck terror into the hearts of thieves, sharpsters, and criminals." Lamont was aided by his friend and companion, Miss Margo Lane, who acted as sidekick, confidant, secretary, girlfriend and partner. Together, they came up against such a collection of gangsters, mad scientists, spies, psychopathic killers and all-purpose villains as has rarley been seen.
As usual, I won't review each episode, but I would like to touch on some of the high points of this collection:
Tenor With a Broken Voice: The Orson Welles version of the shadow grapples with a real-life Phantom of the Opera.
He Died At Twelve: One of six newly-discovered episodes from the Welles era, this is the best one I've yet heard. Somebody is murdering the jurors who sent a vicious gangster to the gallows, but all the signs indicate that the murderer is the dead man himself.
Traffic in Death: This is not a great episode, but the premise of a mad doctor who murders people to sell their blood is a great example of just how totally evil the Shadow's opponents tend to be.
Murder in E Flat: One of the best-written and produced episodes in the whole series, this one pits Lamont against a brilliant madman who terrorizes the city into silence with explosives rigged to detonate whenever a certain noise level is reached.
Phantom Fingerprints: The brutal killer of a beloved police doctor leaves his fingerprints all over the crime scene. Problem: they belong to a man long ago executed for murder.
Death Shows the Way: An episode fraught with plot twists sees the Shadow go head-t-head with a con man, kidnappers and a thief who ain't what he appears to be.
They Killed With a Silver Hatchet: A bit overplotted, this is nonetheless a creepy, atmospheric, and extremely well-written story involving a vicious gang of Chinese immigrant-smugglers.
The Giant of Madras: Best described as "Die Hard on the Rails", Lamont and Margo, while travelling to Los Angeles on a train, find that that it has been taken over by gangsters looking a passenger who is transporting a priceless diamond.
Murder at Dead Man's Inn: This is not a perfect episode by any means, but it achieves such a terrifying sense of horror-movie atmosphere in the early going that it is well worth a listen.
In closing, I'd like to say that while I gave this collection five stars, particularly due to the fact it has two recently-discovered episodes (more than 400 of the 700+ recorded still remain missing) I must object to the price. There are websites which you can join for smallish fees that will let you download, as MP3s, hundreds or even thousands of old-time radio programs including most of those presented here, and thus get much better value for your money. Furthermore, there are also online archives which allow you to do the same for no charge at all, though sometimes the sound quality is iffy. As a collector of "The Shadow", I very nearly bought "Strange Puzzles", "Knight of Darkness" and "Unearthly Spectres" just to get the six "new" episodes they contain in total. Then I realized I could obtain them for nothing with a little Internet research. Thus I saved myself a hundred bucks. You might wish to do the same.
For those new to the game, THE SHADOW was a radio program that ran from 1937 until 1954, and featured a crime-fighting hero named Lamont Crantson, who had the power to render himself invisible. Lamont's secret was known only to his lovely friend and companion, Margo Lane, and together they matched wits with every type of hoodlum imaginable, from garden-variety gangsters to mad scientists, from psychopathic killers to foregn agents. THE SHADOW was a remarkably diverse show, combining the standard detective tale with suspense, horror, hardboiled pulp and science-fiction, and STRANGE PUZZLES does an excellent job of showcasing this diversity. The episodes feature shows from the era of Orson Welles (1937 - 1938), Bill Johnstone (1938 - 1943), and Bret Morrison (1943 - 1944, 1945 - 1954), and also features two long-lost shows from the Welles period, "He Died At 12", and "The Black Bhudda", which are being heard for the first time in 70 years.
The episodes are:
Tenor With a Broken Voice - A series of dreadful accidents strike the local opera house. But are they really accidents? The Shadow knows...
He Died At Twelve - When a vicious mobster is executed, the jurymen who convicted him begin to turn up dead, and the only suspect is...the dead man himself!
The Black Buddha - The accidental sale of a cult's sacred statue leads to a series of brutal killings only The Shadow can stop.
Traffic in Death - Patients at a sanitarium are dying mysterious deaths, and the Shadow suspects murder.
Murder in E Flat - The city is being terrorized by a series of bombings that seem to have no motive, except the bomber's dislike of loud noise...
Phantom Fingerprints - A beloved police surgeon has been brutally killed, but the fingerprints on the murder weapon belong to those of a dead man.
Mansion of Madness - The Shadow suspects a young women is being deliberately driven insane by greedy relatives.
Death Shows the Way - Kidnapping and murder mark the purchase of a priceless jewel, and everyone is a suspect...except the thief!
Murderer's Vanity - Is a respected doctor the murderer of his wife? His stepson thinks so, but The Shadow isn't sure.
The Case of the Three Frightened Policemen - Crooks and cops abound in this story of hidden identity, but who are the cops and who are the crooks only The Shadow can say.
They Killed With a Silver Hatchet - With the aid of a newspaperman, the Shadow goes up against a vicious human trafficking ring.
Makeup For Murder - Lamont investigates the mysterious deaths of homeless vagrants, which he suspects are murders.
The Shadow of Suspicion - When Lamont is framed for murder, it's up to The Shadow to prove his innocence.
The Bones of the Dragon - Chinatown is the scene of robbery, double-dealing and murder with mysterious motive.
Reflection of Death - A women is being driven mad by reflections she sees in a mirror, driving her towards suicide.
The Giant of Madras - The train Lamont and Margo are traveling on is hijacked by a gang of vicious robbers looking for a gem called The Giant of Madras.
Murder at Dead Man's Inn - Lamont and Margo are summoned to a remote inn which was once the scene of a grisly mass-murder, and discover the murdering is still going on.
Murder by a Corpse - A lunatic asylum is the perfect place for a murderer to hide between killings...unless he's being hunted by The Shadow.
Not every one of these tales is five star material, but there are no losers in the bunch and some genuine classics. "Giant of Madras" is essentially "Die Hard On A Train", "Hatchet" and "Way" are brilliantly plotted, and "Fingerprints" and "Tenor" are absolutely first-rate pieces of storytelling. In addition, the collection has some good horror episodes, like "Dead Man's Inn" and "Reflection of Death." Really, there's something here for everyone. If you're a fan of THE SHADOW, this is a must have, and if you're not, this will undoubtedly make you one.