October 2016


THE CLAW MONSTERS. Republic Pictures, 1966. Phyllis Coates, Myron Healey, Arthur Space, John Day, Mike Ragan, Morris Buchanan. Director: Franklin Adreon.

   After D-Day on Mars, reviewed here, I spent some time with The Claw Monsters, which on the other hand is pretty awful. It’s the trimmed down feature version of the serial Panther Girl of the Kongo, which was made in 1955 when everyone had pretty much lost interest, and it shows.

   Phyllis Coates — future Lois Lane — is the Panther girl (mostly, that is; a lot of footage of her swinging through the trees was lifted from the Nyoka serial) and not being much for Stunt Work she leaves most of the fighting to Myron Healey and the requisite two bad guys working for the Mad Scientist.

   The Claw Monsters are just little crayfish photographed on cheap miniature sets, and there isn’t even much back-projection to integrate them with the actors; someone just looks off camera, screams, and we cut to a shot of the crayfish ambling around in some completely irrelevant direction inside what looks to be a dime-store Turtle Tank.

   Also, the fights are pretty routine, and the protagonists on both sides are incredibly poor marksmen; time and again they shoot at each other from about ten feet away and miss until one of them runs out of bullets, knocks the gun out of his opponent’s hand and etc., etc. There’s also a lot of really embarrassing dialogue — from the good guys — about how ignorant and superstitious the Natives are.

William F. Deeck

VICTOR MacCLURE – Death on the Set. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1935. First published in the UK by Harrap, hardcover, 1934. Film: Twickenham, UK, 1935, released in the US as Murder on the Set.

   Following the final takes of More Than Coronets at the Titan Productions studio in England, Cayley Morden, the producer — or what I would consider the director — is found shot to death in his office. Not only was Morden a well-hated man, despite his immense talent, but he apparently was leading a double life. A number of the actors on the set had obvious or not so obvious motives for doing away with Morden, and their alibis aren’t very persuasive.

   Investigating the crime is MacClure’s series character, Chief-Inspector Detective — well, that’s what the author says his title is — Archibald Burford, who has intelligence, money and a talented scalp. A good investigation that’s up there, I would say, with the cases of plain of Inspector French.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 1991/2, “Murder on Screen.”

Bibliographic Note:   Murder on the Set was the fifth of seven appearances in England for Inspector Archie Burford between 1930 and 1937. Three of them, including this one, were later published in the US.

BRETT HALLIDAY – Murder in Haste. Torquil/Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1961. Dell 5970, paperback, 1962. Reprinted several times.

   If my count is correct, this is the third of twenty-three Mike Shayne novels that were ghost-written by author Robert Terrall under the Brett Halliday byline, and to me, it’s far from the best in the series. It’s easy to speculate in retrospect, but I never had the sense that the author had more than a surface feeling for the characters, that it may have been too early.

   The well-known antagonism between Shayne and Miami Beach’s Chief of Detectives Peter Painter is emphasized over and over, for example, and that Shayne’s fondness for drinking cognac, is demonstrated more times than I’d care to count.

   Nor is the story any great shakes, though it does redeem itself in a semi-satisfactory way by the time Shayne wraps it up at the end. The telling is far too complicated, for one thing, with at least two different threads of the plot going at the same time, and one of those not very interesting:

   (1) The wife of a murdered bank employee is contacted by the wife of the man convicted of the killing, asking her to retract her testimony against her husband. The former is willing, but would like Shayne to investigate further. (2) A convention of union delegates is in town — one of those organization with all kinds of crooked behavior going on at the top. (3) Peter Painter, who seems to have been holding his cards close to his vest, has disappeared. Unfortunately no one seems to know what game he was even playing.

   OK, so maybe that’s three. Number two didn’t interest me at all, and I never cared all that much about Peter Painter. Neither does Mike Shayne, but he figures he has to save the guy if he can.

   There’s a lot of mostly meaningless action going on in th early going, mostly to give the impression that something is going on, when it isn’t. There are also way too many characters involved, and one unfortunate continuity goof that slowed me down to a crawl for a while. The ending, when it comes, is a decent one, as I previously mentioned, but as you can probably tell, my recommendation for this one is no better than so-so.


STAN CUTLER – The Face on the Cutting Room Floor. Goodman & Bradley #2. E. P. Dutton, hardcover, 1992. Signet, paperback, 1993.

   The unlikely detecting pair of middle-aged Hollywood PI Rayford Goodman and gay ghostwriter Mark Bradley made their debut in Best Performance by a Patsy to considerable good press.

   In the second outing, Goodman is “requested” by the local Mafia boss to guard a good friend who is recovering from plastic surgery at an exclusive hotel, while Bradley is ghosting an autobiography of an Oscar-wining director. They turn out to be the same person, and our lovable pair are reunited amid murder and gangland mayhem.

   To be honest, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The characters are amiable enough, and Cutler is a decent writer, but I remained relatively unimpressed with it all. I found the overall plot not very engrossing (though there was a realistic subplot with Goodman and his lady), and I didn’t like the alternating first-person narratives, which were distracting to me. I’m glad I read this from the library rather than buying it.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.

Bibliographic Note:   There followed two additional entries in the series: Shot on Location (Dutton, 1993) and Rough Cut (Dutton, 1994).

by Michael Shonk

   Welcome to part two of a three part series on horror and suspense for Halloween. Part One can be found here.

   Horror is at its most terrifying when it exists in our own imagination. This is why the genre works so well in radio. Few radio series did not attempt a scary story or an episode with a horror theme. From BABY SNOOKS to PHILIP MARLOWE, the comedic or the typical whodunit, all took advantage of the success of horror in radio.

   A good example is this episode from my favorite radio series ADVENTURES OF SAM SPADE (reviewed here ).

“The Fairly Bright Caper.” (CBS, October 31, 1948) Written by Bob Tallman and Gil Doud. Directed and Produced by William Spier. Cast: Howard Duff as Sam Spade and Lorene Tuttle as Effie.

   Sam is hired for a Halloween high society engagement party that is spoiled by murder. What does the Witch really know?

   It is radio’s version of Sam Spade, so jokes are as common as clues and the character of the witch gave it a perfect Halloween feel.

   The most common form of the horror radio series was the anthology. Many of these series are still fondly remembered today, shows such as INNER SANCTUM, LIGHTS OUTS and SUSPENSE. So of course I will ignore them and turn to some forgotten ones.

   MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER aired on Mutual Network between 1943 and 1952. Each week you the listener would board a train only to have the Mysterious Traveler approach you and tell you a story.

   The series was created, written, produced and directed by the team of Bob Arthur and David Kogan. Arthur and Kogan won the Edgar award for this series as the best radio drama in 1953.

   Mysterious Traveler was also adapted for comic books and a Mysterious Traveler magazine that featured short stories for the radio show as well as stories from such writers as John Dickson Carr, Craig Rice, Dorothy L. Sayers, Brett Halliday, Ray Bradbury, and Lawrence Blochman. The magazine lasted five issues and was edited by Bob Arthur.

“Locomotive Ghost.” (Mutual Network, July 6,1947) Written, directed, and produced by Bob Arthur and David Kogan. Voice of Mysterious Traveler: Maurice Tarplin.

   To steal a large payroll carried by train two robbers destroy the train. They get away with the money but can they escape the Judgment Special?

   While fictional characters hosted many of the radio anthologies, other anthologies used an announcer or the writer/producer or a famous star to introduce the story. The host star often acted in the episodes.

   MYSTERY IN THE AIR featured the talents of Peter Lorre as each week the series would adapt some of literature’s best horror stories such as Edgar Allen Poe’s THE BLACK CAT, Alexander Pushkin’s QUEEN OF SPADES and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. The sadly neglected series was on NBC as a summer replacement (July – September 1947) for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW.

“The Horla.” (NBC, August 21, 1947) Based on short story by Guy de Maupassant. Cast: Peter Lorre, Peggy Webber and Lorene Tuttle. Announcer: Henry (Harry) Morgan.

   Lorre plays a man who slowly becomes convinced an invisible monster is stalking him.

HALL OF FANTASY (KALL, Salt Lake City, 1946-47; WGN 1949; Mutual 1952)

   Richard Thorne was the creative force behind HALL OF FANTASY. The series began in 1946 on Salt Lake Utah station KALL and produced by Thorne and Carl Greyson. The series ended in 1947. In 1949 Thorne (with Greyson in some accounts) revived the series for WGN and by 1952 HALL OF FANTASY was airing nation-wide on Mutual Network.

“The Judge’s House.” (April 6, 1947) Based on story by Bram Stoker, adapted by Bob Olson. Directed by Richard Thorne. Produced by Thorne and Carl Greyson.

   A young student comes to a small town to find a quiet place to study. Despite the locals warnings he rents a house where an evil judge had lived fifty years ago.

   While it is common belief that original dramas for radio died when TV took over, that is not totally true. Shows such as SUSPENSE and YOURS TRULY JOHNNY DOLLAR hung on until 1962.

   CBS tried to bring back radio with CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER (1974-82). While many talented artists from radio’s glory days contributed to the series, the writing was never able to recapture the magic of old type radio. Perhaps the focus was misplaced in trying to recreate the magic of the past instead of bring radio up to the present.

   Radio drama continues today at the BBC. Canada has shown success with radio series such as JOHNNY CHASE: SECRET AGENT (1978-81), THE MYSTERY PROJECT (1992-2004), and the anthology series NIGHTFALL (1980-1983).

   Created by Bill Howell the series NIGHTFALL remains best known for its scary episodes such as “Porch Light” (not on Youtube), but tried nearly every genre in fiction, even adapting a folk song by Stan Rogers for an episode.

NIGHTFALL (CBC, 1980-1983)

“Fatal Eggs.” (April 17, 1981) Written by Arthur Samuels. Based on a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. Produced by Bill Howell. Cast: Douglas Campbell, Neil Dainard and David Calderisi.

   Russian scientists develop a red ray that can grow animals in size. But things go bad when the communist bureaucrats take over the project.



ON THE AIR: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning (Oxford University Press, 1998)


The Digital Deli http://www.digitaldeliftp.com

Old-Time Radio catalog http://www.otrcat.com

Radio Horror Hosts http://www.radiohorrorhosts.com

OTR Plot Spot http://www.otrplotspot.com/mainMenu.html

THE NIGHTFALL PROJECT http://www.thenightfallproject.org

From Wikipedia: “Genya Ravan, aka Goldie (born Genyusha Zelkovicz; April 19, 1940) is an American rock singer and producer. She was lead singer for The Escorts, Goldie & the Gingerbreads, and Ten Wheel Drive.” This duet with iconic rock singer-songwriter Lou Reed is from her 1978 album Urban Desire:

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

BODYGUARD. RKO Radio Pictures, 1948. Lawrence Tierney, Priscilla Lane, Phillip Reed, June Clayworth, Elisabeth Risdon, Steve Brodie, Frank Fenton. Director: Richard Fleischer.

   Bodyguard, a zippy gem of a crime film based on a story co-written by Robert Altman in his first screen credit and starring the always rugged Lawrence Tierney, opens with a sequence of on location shots of iconic landmarks in Los Angeles: City Hall, Union Station, and the Downtown Theater District. This sets the tone for what is to come: a thoroughly enjoyable film noir set against the sun baked, palm tree lined streets of Southern California.

   With some great on-location photography, the sixty-two minute film transports the viewer through the world of police officialdom, the rich elite of Pasadena, then off to Hollywood and spots in between. Much like Armored Car Robbery, another gem also directed by Richard Fleischer (which I reviewed here back in 2014), Bodyguard makes the most of its urban setting, allowing it to be as much a presence in the movie as the one and only Lawrence Tierney.

   The plot, one based on a framework that film noir aficionados will surely recognize, has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. After Mike Carter (Tierney), a rough around the edges Los Angeles police detective working homicide, is terminated for insubordination, he turns to his two true loves: his fiancée, Doris (Priscilla Lane) and baseball.

   For it’s at the ballpark that a man, clearly seeking him out, offers him an opportunity to serve as the bodyguard for the executive of a meatpacking empire. After initially refusing, Carter takes up the offer. The cash is good and it doesn’t seem like such a difficult task. Little does he know that the first night on the job he will wake up in his car next to the body of his former supervisor — the guy who fired him, no less!

   But who framed him? And what’s the relationship between his former boss and the meatpacking empire magnate? That’s what Carter and Doris attempt to find out.

   In nearly every way, Bodyguard is successful in what it aspires to: namely, a compelling, if not particularly philosophically rich story, with a coterie of suspects and questionable motivations. It may not be the best-known RKO crime film, but it’s a very good one nonetheless. Truth be told, I enjoyed this one more than some “classic” films noir that I thought never quite lived up to their reputations. Recommended.

William F. Deeck

WEED DICKINSON – Dead Man Talks Too Much. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1937.

   “If you have a taste for the hard-boiled, after the manner of Dashiell Hammett or Jonathan Latimer, here is a first-class mystery with no punches pulled.” So says the publisher. The Hammett claim is a wild exaggeration, and there’s a mere soupçon of Latimer here, mainly in Circus Ed Haley’s drinking.

   Haley, publicity director for Amalgamated Pictures, seeking the missing — and slipping — movie star Maronne Martinez, discovers the body of the untalented and degenerate Donald Durline with Maronne’s dagger in its back. Immediately Hadley calls upon the spitball-shooting Burt Calhoun, New York private eye temporarily in Los Angeles.

   Dickinson’s only mystery once again proves that even a major publisher could go wrong in its choice of what to publish. The setting is all that is of interest here.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 1991/2, “Murder on Screen.”

Bio-Bibliographical Notes:   Besides this one-shot novel, (Ashley) Weed Dickinson (c.1890-1954), a long-time newspaperman, also wrote two stories for the detective pulp magazines:

       Five Men Take a Bath. Detective Fiction Weekly, Sep 2 1933.
       Dead Man Overboard. New Detective Magazine, May 1935.

   His wife was Nell Martin (1890–1961), who, according to Wikipedia, was a published writer under the pen name Columbia Boyer and her full name, Nell Columbia Boyer Martin. Her “Maisie” short stories were published in Top Notch Magazine in 1927-1928 and later inspired a movie and radio series starring Ann Sothern. She was at one time the lover of the mystery writer Dashiell Hammett and he dedicated his 1931 novel The Glass Key to her.

ARENA. Empire Pictures, 1989. Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, Claudia Christian, Marc Alaimo, Shari Shattuck, Armin Shimerman. Music by Richard Band. Director: Peter Manoogian.

   Here’s a movie that in some circles is thought of as a classic — the definition thereby of a cult classic? — that I had never heard of before, nor most of the players in it, but which nonetheless I found myself enjoying very much.

   Plotwise, it would be easy to describe the movie as part of the Rocky series in which the hero (Paul Satterfield) finds himself stranded on a world where the main attraction is a battle arena in which aliens from all over the galaxy take on all comers, and it is has been 50 years since an earthling has been the champion. Is Steve Armstrong the one to break such a long losing streak?

   This short synopsis may be all you need to know, either in terms of how the story line goes from there, or whether you decide(or not) that this a movie worth looking out for. To me the fight scenes, as always in fight movies, are something to endure, but even though the movie had a small budget, I thought the aliens were the best I’ve seen since the cantina on Mos Eisley, and what’s more, there were more of them.

   The players, except for Hamilton Camp, were all new names to me, although I did recognize Claudia Christian’s face from her later long recurring role on Babylon 5. As it turns out, however, that many of them have had long careers in projects such as this, both in the movies and on TV. They all know what they are doing, and what’s more, they do it with gusto. One scene toward the end, and in particular, is a real knockout.

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