As a young boy, I was fascinated with the Danny Dunn series of books. Danny Dunn, Time Traveler. Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine. Danny Dunn, a young boy, in a fictional New England city, had a professor-friend at the local University who was always inventing devices and substances (there is an invisible paint-themed book in the series, too). One way or another Danny was left alone with the invention, and, curiously, he turns on the machines or uses the substance that is the theme of the book. Adventure ensues. It is the kind of adventure that catches a young mind (or not so young), and takes the imagination along for that adventure.
A friend (also named Alex) and myself, for a little while, have been aficionados of old time radio. Alex is a fan of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. The series originally aired from 1949 into 1962, and featured a clever story device of reading an expense report. It sounds boring, but the story unfolds from cab fares – you will learn why Johnny took a cab in the first place, to why Johnny needs to be reimbursed for a hotel.
I became hooked on old time radio by listening to the radio version of Jack Webb’s Dragnet. Webb cut his crime-drama-teeth in the film-noir, He Walked by Night, which helped kick start what would eventually be Dragnet. The Dragnet radio program aired from 1949 into 1957, with 314 episodes produced. If you are familiar with the television version of Dragnet, you will know most of the radio versions’ storylines. I hope everyone agrees that the stolen-baby-Jesus-Christmas-episode is an infuriating and all together inane episode — radio or television.
After Dragnet, I came across The Blue Beetle (terrible audio quality along with an annoying stereotypical Irish cop character), and pointed Alex at it, and through a bit of sleuthing, he came across Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police as a better series.
In that Danny Dunn sort of adventure-craft-way, Speed Gibson, is an intelligent, young teenager with a streak for adventure – and he has a pilot’s license. Speed has an uncle, Clint Barlow, who, in the first episode, is revealed to be in the secret police along with his friend, Barney Dunlap. The term secret is really only implied, as it seems that with every new person encountered, someone is blabbing about being in the secret police.
The series itself consists of two story arcs. The first story, 100 episodes in length, you follow Speed, Clint, Barney and host of others along the way, travel to Hong Kong and other parts of Far East in search of the Secret Polices’ arch nemesis, The Octopus. The second story, 78 episodes in length, you follow the gang to Africa to foil more of the Octopus’ evil plans.
As I listened to first story, I could not help but think about how the Octopus was a lot like Dr. Claw of Inspector Gadget. As the story plays out, I feel that the creators of Dr. Claw had to, at bare minimum, take inspiration from the Octopus and his gang of inept henchmen. There is little comparison on the protagonist side of Inspector Gadget, but the antagonist side, there is plenty to draw from. The Octopus, like Dr. Claw, has a huge ego, and feels that at every move, he will easily trap his enemies with an overly complicated, yet, ultimately, easy to foil trap. Upon nearly being captured by Speed and the gang, the Octopus slips away with a quip about ruing the day that Speed Gibson crossed him.
Aside from the simple plots, heavy reliance on coincidence, the use of shortwave radios, and having some of the worst “Chinese” accents of any drama, radio or television, Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police is a great serial to listen for at the office, or on a road trip. Between the introduction music, the exit music and a recap of the previous episode, you get a solid 8 to 12 minutes of new, if slow moving, adventure.
You can find Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police on archive.org for free streaming or downloading.