Download Link: The Creeper
Airdate: May 29, 1938
Main Characters/Actors: The Shadow/Lamont Cranston (Orson Wells), Margot Lane (Margot Stevenson)
In “The Creeper”, Orson Welles is only in his early twenties as he voices the Shadow/Lamont. Before the end of the year, he’ll leave the role for bigger things. I think though, that without him taking up the Shadow before anyone else could step into his shows, he set the stage for the rest of the series and made it possible for the character to take the world by storm.
“The Creeper” is one of those episodes of The Shadow radioplay that I have always liked even as it stressed me out. Orson Welles has a lot to do with this.
I don’t know what it is about that man, but I would pay money for audio of him reading the phone book. His voice is one of my top ten voices and when I realized that Audible had the Shadow radio series up for super freaking cheap, clearly I had to buy all of them.
Because you know… my impulse shopping urges are helpless in the face of… The Shadow.
Now, dork knight moment aside, I think that Orson wells is at his best when he’s busy scaring the shit out of people. The menace that his voice takes on as he takes on the Shadow’s persona and busies himself with punishing criminals is incredibly inspiring. Seriously, it’s no surprise that the Shadow was one of the main inspirations behind Batman’s creation.
“The Creeper” opens with a young woman being kidnapped from her home by a menacing figure who tells her that no one will ever find her and that she won’t be lonely because she’ll have company where he’s taking her. The young woman happens to be Edith Day, one of Margot Lane’s close friends, and that relationship is part of what brings her to the Shadow’s attention.
The other thing that catches the Shadow’s eye is that Edith’s disappearance is far from the first.
Several young and wealthy women have gone missing in the Mayfair district in recent weeks, vanishing without a trace. Additionally, the wealthy residents of the neighborhood have been plagued by a wave of crime that includes murders and a rash of robberies.
One super awesome (and super small) part of this episode was where you had people – wealthy and workers alike – leaving the district. Instead of telling us that the population was decreasing in that area, we got to hear the stressed and frustrated voices of people who lived and worked in the Mayfair district claim that the recent wave of unsolved crimes makes the area too unsafe to live in.
I like the little things like that because they give some life to a medium that can occasionally get bogged down by narrator overload.
There’s also this super hilarious moment where Lamont asks Margot to meet him and she’s super taken aback by his presence in the public library (where he’s doing research) that she just can’t wrap her head around it. Seriously, her opening to him is like “what on earth are you doing here in the public library,” in the most shocked tone ever.
I guess wealthy men who moonlight as punchy vigilantes don’t tend to hang out at libraries unless one’s getting named after them.
But Lamont is in full research mode and it is glorious. He finds out something about the way that the town was built that changes the direction of his inquiries and that links the murders, burglaries, and the abductions.
When Lamont mentions that the thief isn’t taking anything that a normal burglar would be expected to take (like you know… money or jewelry) and is instead stuff like furniture or paintings. Heck, he’s also taken a crap-ton of food.
“The Creeper” stresses me out because it’s basically a story about a creeper kidnapping people and keeping them locked up for his entertainment for as long as two months in one case. It’s like… absolutely akin to something you’d see in an episode of Criminal Minds but you know… in the forties. (The titular creeper is an actual creeper, by the way. He keeps bringing up the women he’s captured and calls them fine and is just cringeworthy. Trust me, by the time he gets his comeuppance you’ll want to fight him too.
But I’m not the only one getting stressed out by this episode.
Honestly, Margot is so stressed out for most of this episode that I find myself worrying on her behalf a bit more than usual. For all that I know that the episode will end with The Shadow punishing criminals and Margot will be fine for another day, there’s a moment right before the commercial break that made me bolt up from my bed from fright. Seriously, after everything she went through I feel like Margot deserves a break and trip to the spa after this episode.
On Lamont’s dime of course.
One of the things that I have always hated about The Shadow as a series is the way that the series tends to rely on ableism. So far in this little series, we’re two for two with villains who have mental health issues that the narrative uses to explain their violence.
I’m listening to these episodes several decades after they were first aired and so I know that I can’t change anything about the way that mental health is portrayed in the series. That doesn’t stop me from being annoyed.
Probably because that’s my default state.
Clearly, when I get my time machine, the thing I’ll do after punching Lovecraft is force the staff writers who created the character’s adventures to rethink the way they handle mental illness. And then I’ll go back and punch Lovecraft some more.
Aside from a few cringey moments, “The Creeper” is an episode of The Shadow that I always find myself awarding points to because it’s just so dang entertaining. Hopefully, y’all feel the same.
Next time, we’ll be listening to the two-parter episode “Drug Ring/The Opium Gang” of the 1940s Blue Beetle series starring Frank Lovejoy as the first Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett.