A masked crime fighter with a trusty sidekick, no superpowers, often mistakenly hounded by the police, by day he’s a respectable socialite and he’s got a cool-ass fast ride. Nope, not THAT one, we’re talking about the Green Hornet, who pre-dated that bat chap by two years, I believe*.
The Green Hornet began in 1938 on WXYZ, the same Detroit radio station that had launched the Lone Ranger back in 1933, to eventual staggering success. Hmm, this Lone Ranger fella, he was a masked crime fighter with a trusty ‘exotic’ sidekick and a cool-ass fast ride too, wasn’t he?
Anyway, originality aside, I found a triple LP box set snappily called The Murray Hill Radio Theatre Presents The Green Hornet** from 1976. It’s 6 30-minute episodes of Mr Hornet’s adventures from the late 30’s early 40’s, they were originally produced by some radio theatre or other, the name escapes me. You can tell the pre-1941 episodes from the post-1941 ones because Green Hornet’s faithful sidekick and chauffeur Kato changes nationality from Japanese to Filipino.
The Green hornet is Britt Reid^, by day the publisher of The Daily Sentinel and by night a wanted man/crime-fighter armed with a gas gun and a real bitch magnet of a car called Black Beauty, hidden away behind a false wall in an underground garage.
They’re an interesting bunch these six mysteries, none of which are particularly mysterious it has to be said – we’re painting in primary colours here, the villains very handily expound their various plots and motivations for you the listener, shortly before being foiled by the Hornet, who arrives one step ahead of the forces of law. Interestingly there are also no references at all to the war in any of these episodes, not even a passing one, they were clearly a chunk of escapism. They are also refreshingly free of some of the xenophobic tropes prevalent in popular culture at the time too, give or take the odd unconvincingly European count, in these episodes at least it was never just the evil Chinaman on opium whodunit.
The Green Hornet is good, fairly unsophisticated fun and I’m enough of a spoken word drama geek to be in my element here. They’ve even left in the spaces for the commercial breaks and radio introductions for all the syndicated stations. It’s all pretty well acted, even the hugely stereotypical Irish reporter Ackford is palatable. In fact The Green Hornet as well as being a fun way to pass some time, evokes a cosy nostalgia for a more certain, less visceral, age. Besides who can resist an episode called ‘Charity Takes It On the Chin’? Or maybe, as a masked crime fighter myself with a trusty sidekick, posing as a socialite by day with a cool-ass nocturnal ride, I just relate very heavily to this material.
PS – This all reminds me of the ‘Adventures Of Herbert ‘Daring’ Dashwood’ serial in Fallout 3. Which in turn reminds me just how excited I am about Fallout 4 being released.
*I’m not claiming any sort of injustice here by the way, The Green hornet was preceded by The Shadow, a year before in 1937. The Shadow being, of course, a masked crime fighting vigilante who posed as a wealthy young man-about-town when he wasn’t vigilanteing for all he’s worth. Hmmm.
**which for the sake of the frayed ends of my sanity I’ll refer to as The Green Hornet from here on in.
^Lone Ranger was John Reid when he wasn’t Hi-Hoing Silver.