Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Radio Adventures Of Doc Savage!

The Radio Archives collection of The Adventures of Doc Savage is an eight-disk collection, and features two Doc Savage stories adapted for serial radio performance in the 1980's on public radio. The two stories adapted were The Thousand-Headed Man and Fear Cay. First up is the seven-episode saga of Fear Cay proved ideal listening for hurtling down the highways. 

Fear Cay was featured in the eleventh issue of the original Doc Savage run and offers up a cracking tale featuring Doc and all his five aides along with Pat Savage his cousin. These six find themselves confronting a gang of vicious thugs who are trying to get hold of a mysterious prize on a lost island in the Caribbean. There is also a strange old geezer who claims to be 131 years old, and who gets around quite quickly for someone of such age. There's plenty for all the aides to do with Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny, and Long Tom all getting some decent exposure. The action is spread around well, despite the pacing being rather relentless.

The producers of this program drew pacing inspiration from the classic Republic serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel and it really works. There are some great fights and some ferocious gun play. The characterizations are crisp, and I had very little difficulty telling the players apart, despite there being a large cast of folks to keep track. The plot is classic Doc, with a battle raging in the streets of NYC before shifting to an exotic locale. There is weird mystery and plenty of raw pulp beats to suit any Doc fan.

I frankly didn't expect these to be as good as they are. Many of these later radio shows can be a bit bloodless, clear copies of an art form that once thrived but now is all but gone. This seems to be more than a mere copy, but a true revival done by real pros who are adept at the business of crafting radio drama. The quality made me very eager to dive into the second adaptation. 

That second adaptation is of one of Doc Savage's most famous stories for a host of reasons. This story is an exceedingly popular one, and it was chosen by Murray partially because it was also the story singled out by movie producers back in the 1960's for a proposed Doc Savage movie starring Chuck Conners. The project did not develop ultimately but did result in a Gold Key comics adaptation. I took a look at that comic here.

The story from 1937 pits Doc and his assistants against a gang of thugs seeking a mysterious treasure in far-off Asia. There they find a hidden ancient cult which seeks to keep its secrets with the sacrificial deaths of any who happen along. It's a whopping good story, with lots of chances for action and many opportunities for Doc to show off his physical skills.

The radio adaptation is pretty close to the original but does alter the last part of the story somewhat by adding Renny as a partner to Doc as he uncovers the mysteries of some distinctive temples. In the novel Doc prowls alone, but it was decided that giving Doc someone to converse with would make the discoveries seem more natural to the listener and less artificial. It works quite well for me as Renny is a favorite of mine and gets too little attention in the adventures. This adaptation is a bit shorter than "Fear Cay" and I think that helps the pacing a bit. There is no sense that the story lags even a little bit. If you haven't sampled these, I highly recommend them. They are first rate entertainments. There is also a disk with interviews of the creators of the radio dramas about how they came to be made. 

The was once upon a time a Doc Savage radio show way back when Doc was just getting started. It was produced in fifteen minutes episodes. They were broadcast across the nation in the piecemeal way that radio operated in at the time. Sadly, the recordings are lost, but the scripts have been preserved. They were gathered and published several years ago by Moonstone in Doc Savage - The Lost Radio Scripts of Lester Dent. The folks who did the radio show in the 80's briefly considered using some of these, but they found the length insufficient for their needs and I think the creators were anxious to adapt their favorite stories. These stories are curiosities in script form and better than not having them at all for Doc fans. 

For the record both this book and the cover of the radio plays feature artwork by Bob Larkin. Great stuff indeed!

 Rip Off


  1. Loved the Doc Savage novels when the Bantam pb's came out with the Bama covers. Wait, is that a strange, trilling sound I hear?

    1. It's the sound of adventure is what! I was a bit of a straggler when it came to Doc Savage, with only a few of the paperbacks to my name. Loved the Marvel comics, but still didn't plug in until years later. Now I can boast I've read all the originals and more than a few of the later ones by Murray and others. I've still a few to do and that seems a task for sooner than later.

    2. I'm a huge Doc fan and my buddy is a fan of the old radio shows. I'd forgotten Radio Archives had these. Gift idea generated but please do not tell him.