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WOSTER: Movies OK, but radio fired the imagination

We hosted our Brookings granddaughter for the holiday weekend -- driving through a localized little snowstorm between Highmore and Wessington to pick her up -- and one of the things we did for fun was watch a movie called "The Green Hornet."

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite the Britt Reid and Kato who showed up in the movie. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the film. It's always fun to have the granddaughter around sharing some low-key time in the family room. When she was just an infant, only a few weeks old, she came to visit and slept in a bassinette by the easy chair near the fireplace. That was when we had an old cocker spaniel named Dodger, who used to run around and whimper frantically whenever the infant would make a noise. The two grew to be friends as close as, well, the Green Hornet and Kato.

Besides the company of a granddaughter, I had a good time with the film because there was a ton of action. Some of it was far-fetched (so what's new in the modern-day world of film-making, huh?), but it was pretty harmless stuff, and, besides, the film had a happy ending.

As I grow older and older, I find that I have a stronger yearning for happy endings in my movies. Real life offers all the question-mark endings, all the tragic conclusions, all the unsettled final scenes I'll ever need. If I feel the need to bring myself further down than life sometimes drags me, I can always read a short story by Edgar Allen Poe or a poem by Emily Dickinson. If I'm watching a movie, I would much prefer to see the villain in handcuffs and the hero and heroine strolling off, hand-in-hand, before the final credits.

Anyway, back to "The Green Hornet." I say I wasn't quite expecting the movie I saw because I used to listen to a radio show by the same title back when I was just a little guy. The weekly radio series probably went off the air by the time I was 8 or 10 years old. (I'd Google it and see if Wikipedia has any information to offer, but I'm writing this on a day when Wikipedia has gone dark in some sort of protest, so I'm on my own.)

Anyway, I remember lying on the floor with one ear close to the speaker on the big old console radio-phonograph and listening to "The Green Hornet" in the evening. The music that opened the program each week (again, I'm going from a 60-year-old memory here, not Wikipedia) was "Flight of the Bumblebee." That's a marvelous piece of music, but in the context of a crime drama on old radio, it had a menacing quality far more intense than most of the overly graphic horror movies do today.

Old radio fired the imagination. A show called "The Whistler" opened with a soft whistle and the sound of footsteps. That was all I needed to conjure up a whole mindful of villains, demons and ghouls. And when the announcer talked menacingly about the presence that knew all people's deepest secrets, his voice and the laugh that followed sent shivers down my spine.

"The Green Hornet" wasn't as frightening as "The Whistler," but it would do.

Each week, the Green Hornet and Kato would fight a bunch of criminals at night and act like a couple of normal guys during the day. In that, they were kind of like the characters in the movie we watched. I don't recall Britt Reid on the radio being quite the goofball he was portrayed as in the movie. And I didn't get any sense, just by listening to the dialogue and the canned or contrived background sounds, that the Hornet and Kato had any personal issues the way the movie characters did.

They took on the bad guys, though, and before the final scene had played out, they saved the city or whatever they were saving that week.

Next time the granddaughter visits, maybe I'll Google up some old radio programs and she can experience the Green Hornet I knew.