Party like it’s 1939! On New Year’s Day of that year, the CBS radio network aired an episode of The Shadow brilliantly entitled “The Man Who Murdered Time.” That episode has become an annual holiday treat for me. I’ve embedded it below, courtesy of the Radio Shows Old Time Youtube channel. You may need to turn the volume up a bit, as the sound quality isn’t always the best.
The titular Man Who Murdered Time is a terminally ill mad scientist named Dr. Willard. He knows he’ll die by midnight with outstanding debts and a festering grudge, so Willard does what any one in his position would do. He invents a time machine to avoid the new year. I particularly appreciate the fact that Willard makes an effort to explain the mechanics of his machine. This is no easy task in entertainment of that era.
I also really enjoy how Lamont Cranston employs his mental abilities in the course of the story, both as The Shadow and in his civilian guise. The Shadow and Willard represent an awesome clash of science fiction tropes.
Additionally, listeners get social commentary common in vintage radio shows. Lamont Cranston and his lady love Margot Lane realize that a homeless man — many homeless worldwide — will freeze and starve as the same day repeats for eternity.
Shippers will also enjoy Lamont and Margot’s dynamic over the course of the episode. Bill Johnstone and Agnes Moorehead have great chemistry.
The main event, however, is the confrontation between Dr. Willard and The Shadow. Johnstone doesn’t disappoint. While he was never as chilling as his predecessor Orson Welles in the role, Johnstone brought urbane inexorability to his version of Cranston that remains equally entertaining.
In and around all this, listeners get wonderful vintage commercials with their own pop culture value, as well as some wonderful organ music. It’s worth listening all the way to the end for the final sting as The Shadow delivers his final signature lines.
“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows.”