Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Shadow Radio Program: "Death House Rescue!"

"Death House Rescue!" was the very first radio program episode for The Shadow.  It originally aired on September 26, 1937.  This is one of my favorite radio episodes of The Shadow and I've listened to it many times.

In the radio dramas, Lamont Cranston is The Shadow.  Cranston is a millionaire who fights crime as The Shadow.  Only his companion, Margo Lane, knows this.  Margo Lane is a new character and had never appeared in any of The Shadow pulp magazines.  (In The Shadow pulp magazines, The Shadow is Kent Allard who sometimes disguises himself as millionaire Lamont Cranston.)

In this story we hear about a down-on-his-luck husband, Paul Gordon.  Paul and his wife, Grace, have a sick child named Sally.  Paul is trying to find work as Sally needs medical help.  Paul ends up being duped by two hoodlums who offer to pay him for driving them around.  What Paul doesn't know is that they are going to frame him for a crime they are about to commit!

The two hoodlums, Red and Lefty, hold up a bank and kill a police officer in the process.  They jump into Paul Gordon's car and order him to drive away.  With the police in high pursuit, Red and Lefty are able to escape and leave incriminating evidence in Gordon's car.  Paul Gordon ends up being convicted and is now in the death house with his execution only hours away!

The Shadow knows Paul Gordon is innocent and is quickly on the case.  He sends Margo Lane to visit Grace Gordon to let her know The Shadow is on the case, and that he will not fail!  Margo also gives Grace $1,000 to help with her living expenses since Paul is now in jail.

Disguised as a prison guard, The Shadow visits Paul in prison and uses his powers of mental telepathy to find the clue that will prove Gordon's innocence.  He sees into Paul's mind as Paul replies the events of the crime in his head.  The Shadow sees the events as if he were watching a television broadcast of those events!  Using this power The Shadow finds the clue that will set Gordon free!  The Shadow promises Paul that he will not die in the electric chair now that he has this clue.

Now The Shadow must spring a trap for the two rats that framed Paul Gordon!  Using mental telepathy, he sends a message to Margo Lane and has her get in touch with Police Commissioner Weston.  He then calls Lefty on the phone at the local bar and reveals that there was indeed an incriminating clue left in Paul Gordon's car - Lefty has left his fingerprint on the car's review mirror!  Lefty and Red go to rub out the incriminating evidence and are met by the police.  One of the crooks is mortally wounded but confesses the truth about the crime before they die.

While all that was playing out, Paul Gordon has been moved to the room where is the electric chair.  The hour for his execution has come.  Paul is distraught as The Shadow had promised he would not die in the chair.  The Shadow did not fail as the call comes from the Governor to release Paul Gordon as he is an innocent man who was framed!

In this radio drama, The Shadow disguised himself as a prison guard.  He used his mental powers to cloud minds so as to make himself invisible.  He also used his powers of mental telepathy to read minds and send messages.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Shadow Unmasks!

From the very first Shadow story published in April of 1931, the real identity of The Shadow was unknown.  He appeared in many disguises and assumed many names and identities, but his true identity was a shadowy mystery!  But in the pages of The Shadow #131 (published on August 1, 1937) the real Shadow steps out of the shadows and reveals his true identity in the story, "The Shadow Unmasks."
Original cover of The Shadow #131

"For the first time in his long career as crime-fighter extraordinary, The Shadow thrusts aside his veil of mystery!  Not under one of his many aliases, but in his true identity, The Shadow reveals himself!  Here, in his latest battle against the underworld, is exposed the unfathomable past of that being known to all the world as The Shadow!"  These are the words that introduced the story that lead to The Shadow revealing his true identity to us.

But before I write about The Shadow's true identity, it's important to know what precipitated this grand revelation.  For many years The Shadow would operate under the guise of millionaire Lamont Cranston.  As a matter of fact, Lamont Cranston himself knew of this and gave his approval (see The Shadow Laughs).  The Shadow is using his disguise as Lamont Cranston when the real Lamont Cranston is injured in Europe and newspapers carry the story!  This creates some difficult situations for The Shadow so as to not reveal his use of the Cranston disguise!  This is the situation that leads to The Shadow's revelation of his true identity.

So now - who is The Shadow?  The Shadow is really Kent Allard!  He reveals this truth to a friend named Slade Farrow.  

Here are the words of The Shadow himself as he talked to Slade Farrow.  "I was actually a war (WWI) ace. Winning air battles seemed to come to me naturally; and I gained a preference for night flights. The enemy called me The Dark Eagle. They were glad when they shot down my plane.  But I was not shot down. I landed by design; and drilled the gas tank of my own ship. Wearing a black garb, I traveled by night, on foot, within the enemy's lines. I entered prison camps, yes; but never as a prisoner. I visited them only to release men who were held there, to guide them in their escape.  By day, I adopted disguises, and working entirely on my own, I contacted our secret agents. That was when I learned my faculty for penetrating the deepest schemes.

I became a roving secret agent, and finally located a secret air base maintained by the enemy. It seemed suicidal to visit the place and map it. They actually trapped me after I had finished. But my experience as an aviator served me. I escaped from the base itself, in one of the enemy's own planes.

The war ended. I found that aviation offered part of the life I needed; but it provided neither the action of battle, nor the keen work of the secret agent. I rejected the idea of becoming a soldier of fortune. I considered warfare an uncivilized institution except when absolute necessity required it.  I saw such necessity in the field that others had neglected. Crime was becoming rampant in America and elsewhere. Underworlds were organized, with their own hidden battle lines. Only a lone foe could pierce that cordon; once inside, he would have to move by stealth, and strike with power and suddenness. I chose that mission.  I resolved to bury my identity. I flew south and landed in Guatemala. I spent a few months among the Xincas and gained their friendship. I came home, disguised so no one could recognize me. I became The Shadow."

There we have it!  The Shadow is really WWI flying ace and spy Kent Allard, who honed his skills during the war.  After the war ended, he buried his true identity and took up the mission of crime-fighter as The Shadow!

Drawing of Kent Allard from The Shadow #15 published by Nostalgia Ventures

The Shadow Unmasks was reprinted by Nostalgia Ventures and is the only reprint of this story.  Below are the front and back of the reprint - I highly recommend it for any fan of The Shadow!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Shadow: Belmont Book Series

The last The Shadow pulp magazine published in the summer of 1949 with the Walter B. Gibson (writing as Maxwell Grant) story, "The Whispering Eyes."  There were no new Shadow stories until on September 1, 1963, Walter B. Gibson's story "Return of The Shadow" was published by Belmont Books in a paperback.

Belmont published a total of nine Shadow paperback stories.  While Walter B. Gibson wrote the first one ("Return of The Shadow"), Dennis Lynd would write the following eight stories under the pen name of Maxwell Grant.  These new stories placed The Shadow in modern times (the 1960s) and made some changes to The Shadow's skills and abilities.  There were familiar names and places in these stories (Harry Vincent, Commissioner Weston, the Cobalt Club, etc.) but The Shadow was cast as being more of a spy than a crime fighter.

Here is the list of the Belmont Shadow paperbacks including the author and publishing date:
  • Return of The Shadow, by Walter B. Gibson,  published September 1, 1963
  • The Shadow Strikes by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published October 1, 1964
  • Shadow Beware by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published January 1, 1965
  • Cry Shadow! by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published April 1, 1965
  • The Shadow's Revenge by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published October 1, 1965
  • Mark of The Shadow by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published May 1, 1966
  • Shadow-Go Mad! by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published September 1, 1966
  • The Night of The Shadow by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published November 1, 1966
  • The Shadow-Destination: Moon by Dennis Lynds (as Maxwell Grant), published March 1, 1967
I have a copy of "Mark of The Shadow" and have started reading it, but I must say it's not as well written as the Walter B. Gibson stories.  Additionally, there are some things I don't particularly like about the 'new' Shadow.  For example, Lamont Cranston is The Shadow but he has to become The Shado!.  On page 26 we read, "The power to cloud men's minds, learned so long ago from the great Chen T'a Tze, required the secret black cloak, the black slouch hat, and the fire-opal girasol ring.  The power was not in these things, it was a power of the mind, it's source was not known even to Chen T'a Tze, but it could not be used without the cloak, the dark hat, the glowing ring on the long finger of The Shadow."

I'm trying to collect the entire Belmont Shadow paperbacks, and will post overviews and reviews of them as I read through them.  While I am a big fan of the original 1930s and 40s Shadow stories, I'm interested to see a different take on the character.