Radioland Murders

Despite the fact that he wrote the story that has been the standard for Science Fiction movies for over 30 years, George Lucas has always been criticized for his inability to write good dialogue.  Additionally, it seems that ventures not involving Star Wars or Indiana Jones end up being utter failures (i.e. Howard the Duck).  In `994, Lucas took another chance on a non-SW/IJ story, Radioland Murders.

When it came out in the theaters, it did not last long enough for me to see it.  Critics hated it and audiences didn’t get it.  As with Howard the Duck, everyone blamed Lucas, despite the fact that 4 people wrote the screenplay and someone else directed it.  I finally got to see it on video when it came out and was pleasantly surprised.  What I saw reminded me a lot of the movies my parents had made me watch growing up: predictable, simple story with madcap wackiness.

One of the first thing you notice in watching the movie is the amount of talent that signed up to participate, with stars ranging from George Burns to Ned Beatty.  Each actor is used to their strengths and there is not a weak one in the bunch.  Probably the one thing that helped the most in turning audiences off was casting a cable TV star as the lead: Brian Benben.  Benben was just coming off of a successful run in one HBO’s first original series, Dream On.  Mary Stuart Masterson was great as the fast-talking romantic interest.  The entire cast reflects a chemistry not often captured on film and it is a shame that many people missed this.

The story revolves around the first night of national broadcast for a fourth radio network.  As the broadcast begins, there are issues with unfinished scripts, Benben’s relationship with Masterson, and sponsors wanting out.  As the night progresses, the stakes are raised for the radio network that could be with a murder happening every so often.  What follows is orchestrated madness that is entertaining, but hectic.

Unfortunately, since the movie bombed, the DVD got the worst possible treatment: no surround sound, no extras; just the ability to jump to certain scenes.

My advice: this is a great date movie or Saturday afternoon veg movie.  While it is not a perfect movie, you will be missing a movie severely underrated.

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