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
Having spent three decades working in radio, I was encouraged by friends to pick this up on DVD. My impression is that the Lucas folks attempted to cram 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag. The potential is obviously present with a cast of extremely talented actors and even some of the folks who were a big part of radio history (George Burns and Rosemary Clooney), but someone (the Director? Producers? The Studio?) decided to increase the pace to the point where it feels like watching Spielberg's "1941" in fast-forward.
There is a stable full of interesting characters whom we never really get to know. Harvey Korman and Bobcat Goldthwait's characters obviously had some serious issues - but what was their story? The same with Brion James, Ned Beatty, and Jeffrey Tambor. Michael McKean's homage to Spike Jones was a joy, but too short, and there were too many missed opportunities to show what actually went on in radio broadcasts performed in front of a live audience. Sound effects played a major role, which was hinted at but never fully glorified in Christopher Lloyd's role. I would bet there is probably another whole movie sitting on the cutting room floor.
On the plus side, however, at least SOMEONE made the effort to capture the feel of major broadcast radio from it's heyday, and the look as well as the overall mood is fairly authentic. I appreciate that this is not a documentary, and the story itself is pure fantasy, but this film left me wanting more - like someone had torn half the pages out of a book. Perhaps, someday, the Lucas folks will release some kind of "director's cut" edition with restored scenes and a feature on the Golden Era of radio. Most people under the age of 50 have no idea of the remarkable entertainment that was available over the airwaves during this era - but for fans of the medium, and for those who have worked in it, this is a gem that will bring a smile.
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