Friday, June 17, 2011

The Shadow: One Dead and Two to Go

Lamont Cranston/The Shadow: Bret Morrison
Margo Lane: Grace Mathews

Villains: Gangsters/Women

Sponsor:Blue Coal

Keeping with my notion of just reviewing these in the order they appear in my iTunes playlist. I'm not sure where in the timeline this program is (or many of the ones I have, for that matter.) The sponsor of this particular episode is Blue Coal, who was a long time sponsor of The Shadow as most of the programs I have are sponsored by Blue Coal.

Since this is the first one I'm doing, let me get into my thoughts on Blue Coal. First of all, I had no idea how much of this stuff people used. Most of the episodes begin and end with an appeal to call your local Blue Coal dealer and ask for your trial ton. That's right. Ton. Trial. Unless it's a wartime episode, then they assure us that even with rationing there is plenty of coal for everyone as long as everyone only takes what they need.

The second thing that I've learned is that heating your home with coal is a serious pain in the ass. So much so that they had to employ another fictional character, John Barcley (a sort of "Hank Hill" of coal) to explain how to get the most out of your coal. Sometimes that advice is to install some sort of automated system (the beginning of the show includes a pitch for an auto-stoker) and sometimes the far more complicated instructions on how to stack your coal that involves opening and closing a bunch of things and a great deal of raking. This one involved making some sort of pile and...well, I didn't understand it really.

So, the old school detective show format of either introducing the victim or introducing the criminals mid-crime goes back at least this far as we eavesdrop on our criminals in the midst of stealing one-hundred thousand dollars.

Naturally, this goes awry and in the escape our apparent villain Petey is left behind to take the rap. In order to convince him to do so the leader of the 'gang' that pulled this heist off brings in Petey's wife and tries to tell her that keeping Petey from "singing louder than an amateur soprano" is in everyone's best interest.

Which, of course, it's not. In the world of The Shadow, there is no honor among thieves. People who take the rap end up with the rap and usually have to work that out themselves. In all honesty, revenge for the double cross does more to eliminate criminals than The Shadow does. Most of the time he's just there to rub that shit in at the end.

As one would expect, Petey's wife is a looker. Which of course means that she becomes part of the post-heist prize.

Lamont and Margo enter the picture when Cranston has drug the intrepid Ms. Lane to yet another court case where Petey's lawyer enters a Guilty plea despite the judge's warning that it carries a 20 year sentence.

There is a note here about the different tones of the various Shadow programs. This one contains a reference to the long suffering Commissioner Weston but no Weston himself (more on him later), and there is no off topic banter. At some point in the series Margo and Lamont are given some sort of life outside of crime fighting, whether it's Cranston rich guy lifestyle or Lane's society woman activities. But here, it's just Cranston dragging Margo to a case. He does this a lot, it provides a fair chance for exposition, why we should know the lawyer or the defendant or something, though this time Cranston is only bringing Lane up to speed on what we know is going to happen. We already know that Petey is going to plead guilty and even that the gang is going to double cross him.

This late entry of Lamont and Margo is an indication of how little The Shadow is involved in this story. We don't hear from them again until after Petey makes his escape (while being wounded). He goes to visit the lawyer a second time because he has "an idea he'll The Shadow."

That is our most common introduction to The Shadow. Lamont wants to go talk to someone, often some they've talked to before, Margo expresses that the person won't talk or whatever, and Lamont insists they'll do it...for The Shadow.

Which I've always thought was kind of a dick move. She knows he's The Shadow, does she keep forgetting? Well, no, because sometimes she serves up the line herself, so I guess it's really just a cute little game they like to play with each other. Or maybe later in the series she's just making fun of his melodrama.

This episode has not one, but two of my favorite trope from The Shadow, the guy who dies right before giving The Shadow the key piece of information he needs to know. Usually the person is shot in the process. Apparently, if you're going to do crime in this city, keep an eye out for people who look like they're talking to themselves, they're probably giving you up to The Shadow.

And because of that timely death The Shadow continues to be a spectator in the drama as Petey seems to be going on his killing revenge spree. In fact, in this narrative we know way more than The Shadow does, who only pops in now and then to be too late to save one of Petey's victims.

Meanwhile, it seems that Mrs. Petey's loyalty has been bought over by the mob boss with a diamond necklace. The mob boss and the wheel man have their traditional showdown as they realize that they are the last two left from the heist splitting the $100k and decide that now would be a good time to split the money, before anything else happens.

Which of course does before the money is split in The Shadow's second attempt to get someone to confess only to have them shot mid-sentence. When I sort out a way to host audio here, I think I'm going to compile these events, they're kind of awesome.

We work our way to the end of the story and The Shadow is still trailing behind it as the cross and double cross begins to unfold. The mob boss shows up with the $100k to take Mrs. Petey away only to find out where everyone's loyalties lie.

I'm wrestling with 'spoilering' these endings since it's not likely the two or three people that might read these will listen to the actual show if they can find it. I'm going to err on the side of caution for the moment even though this particular ending says a lot about attitudes towards women in The Shadow radio programs.

What I will say is that The Shadow prevents almost nothing in the end as well, showing up only to foul up the last act of villainy in order to leave a witness so someone will face murder charges.

It seems weird, but the arbitrary nature of the selection has meant that the first one I did was the least Shadow episode of The Shadow possible. This isn't as uncommon as you would think in mobster episodes, generally I like to imagine that it's the hardworking radio script writers who have their gangster scripts running around wedging The Shadow into their stories when that's the job they get.

The Shadow's biggest dick-move comes from his first 'appearance' when he interviews the shady lawyer. Most of the time the mobsters know who The Shadow is, a conceit to the notion that if there is an invisible man who keeps getting mobsters busted, that might get around. However, if they know who the Shadow is we don't get the exposition for the new listener that he's invisible. That's usually handled by the person either blurting out the exposition ("The invisible crime fighter who works on the side of the law!?!") or we get to see their plan to take care of The Shadow should they ever met him.

In this case it's the latter. How it comes about, however, is why it's the dick move. After The Shadow gives his trademark laugh introduction the lawyer is momentarily stunned, after which The Shadow asks, "Aren't you going to ask me to sit down?" What? Of course he does, even offers The Shadow a drink before hurling the decanter at the chair...which of course The Shadow isn't sitting in. For once, The Shadow's laughter is motivated, but now it's motivated by this little trick he pulled on this dude for no other reason than to just fuck with him for a minute.

Bet he wishes he had that minute back when the guy gets shot right before giving him the name he was looking for...

The denouement is fairly pointless since, unlike Lamont and Margo, we've been there for the entire story, so it just sums up what happened for people who might have tuned out at some point in the program.

So, there it is, my first haphazard run at reviewing/commenting on The Shadow radio program.

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