In 1939, WBN, a fourth radio network, is about to take to America's airwaves. As if the confusion of the premiere night wasn't enough, Penny Henderson, the owner's secretary, must deal with...
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In 1939, WBN, a fourth radio network, is about to take to America's airwaves. As if the confusion of the premiere night wasn't enough, Penny Henderson, the owner's secretary, must deal with an unhappy sponsor, an overbearing boss and a soon-to-be ex-husband who desperately wants her back. As the broadcast begins, a mysterious voice breaks the broadcast and suddenly members of the cast turn up dead. It's up to her husband Roger, to find out whodunit as the police chase him through the halls of WBN. Written by
Penny's (Mary Stuart Masterson's) costume throughout the film, once she removes the jacket from the opening scenes, is a copy of the costume Katharine Hepburn wore in the final scene of Woman of the Year (1942), complete with falling shoulder straps on the jumper. See more »
At the end of the film the camera pans up to the top of the building, showing the damaged WBN logo. However, the holes where the letters came out of the wall are missing. See more »
Unfairly and almost universally trashed, this is a charming and atmospheric imagining of a hectic night in the life of a Chicago radio station whose ambition it is to go national. The sponsors are a tough sell, nothing is going as planned, and everything is pure chaos, compounded by a mounting tally of murder victims.
"Radioland Murders" is one of the noisiest and busiest live-action movies I've seen, literally wall-to-wall in every frame with rapid-fire slapstick and pratfalls, and it does not quite work as a comedy, but even as a comedy, it's breezy and pleasant in the face of its frenzied pace -- not unlike an old Warner Bros. cartoon of the Merrie Melodies variety. Better, though, it works as a nostalgic notion of old-time radio. The staggering gaps in logic and plot are meant to be ignored, as this is fantasy; it embraces the idea of radio in its heyday as the missing link between paperback adventures and television, requiring the listener's imagination to do half the work, while television requires none of it. The movie amounts to what could likely be a 9-year old listener's visual projection of what he's hearing on the radio.
It's technically dazzling, too, with the lens darting into rooms, out of windows and around the action becoming its own frenetic participant, and there's some breathtaking shots of the exterior of the station, often accentuating its height and distance from the city street far below. Brian Benben and Mary Stuart Masterson might strike the same one or two chords throughout the movie, but they're likable, as is this movie. And Scott Michael Campbell is very funny as Billy the pageboy, a kind of wide-eyed Quentin Tarantino of the radio age; fast-talking (everyone in the film is fast-talking, actually) and easily distracted (the look on his face as he accidentally barges into the ladies' dressing room and becomes mesmerized by the sight of the topless actresses is priceless), his entire grammar and understanding of life is derived from the radio shows of which he has encyclopedic knowledge.
Finally, "Radioland Murders" closes with some wistfully ironic thoughts (the movie is mostly free of contemporary irony, with the exception of this and an unsuccessful line about warning labels on cigarette packs) about television (best summed up by three uniformed cops hypnotized by a cathode ray tube) and the immortality of radio. A movie more about myth than story, "Radioland Murders" is written in the scattershot style of the radio programs depicted. It might merely be a sanitized and moderate entertainment (particularly when viewed against something like "The Hudsucker Proxy"), but it's affectionate, features lively music, looks great, and is completely innocent.
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