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Radio Days (1986)


Radio Days

Radio Days is a movie without a plot, but suffers not a jot for it's meandering structure. Narrated in winsome terms by Allen, the movie is simply an affectionate collection of loosely connected stories revolving around the life of a typical Jewish family and the way radio was woven into their daily lives.

The "hero" of the movie is Joe (Seth Green), the youngest member of the family and a habitual radio listener whose life revolves around the crime busting exploits of The Masked Adventurer. His passion for the show is such that to purchase a "Masked Adventurer Secret Compartment Seth Green.Ring" he steals money from a synagogue collection for the foundation of the Jewish State, but though his exposure as thief puts him off a life of crime, it does nothing to dampen his abiding interest in radio.

One suspects the film is semi autobiographical, though the provenance of many of the stories is just as likely the fertile imagination of Allen. However, he captures the mood of the times perfectly and oblique references to real radio programmes such as the Charlie McCarthy Show and the first wartime outside broadcasts create a perfect air of realism. Most interestingly to readers of this web site, the film features a short story focusing on the events of the War of the Worlds broadcast, though Allen was born in 1935, and therefore could not possibly remember the events of that night.

Martian radio broadcast.This particular story focuses on Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest), whose dream is to get married and in fruitless pursuit of that ambition goes through a succession of hopeless dates. On this particular night she is on cloud nine because after waiting impatiently for a long time, she has at last been asked out by the very eligible Mr Manulis, but little does she suspect that the date is heading for disaster. Driving home through thick fog, the car "runs out of petrol", but the assignation comes to an abrupt end when the radio announces that a Martian invasion is under way. With Martians landing at Wilson's Glenn (note the name change from Grover's Mill), the formally self-assured Mr Manulis flees into the night, abandoning Aunt Bea to walk home alone.

The Masked Avenger broadcasts.Radio Days evokes the magic of the airwaves with effortless ease, helped no end by a stellar cast who bring real depth to their characters. Though there is no ending in the strict sense of the word, it does conclude on a melancholy note of gloom that the era has passed and the voices grow dimmer with each passing year, but this is one of those films you can watch again and again, and Allen is to be congratulated on helping so effectively to keep the voices alive for posterity.

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See also in:

Film & TV

1957
The Night America Trembled

The Night America Trembled. An extraordinary live production from the renowned Studio One televsion series that re-enacts the infamous Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938.

1975
The Night that Panicked America

The Night that Panicked America. This is the second dramatised version of The War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938, with a stand-out performance from Paul Shenar as Orson Welles.

2005
H G Wells and The War of the Worlds documentary

H G Wells and The War of the Worlds. In the wake of the Spielberg movie comes one of several new documentaries on Wells and The War of the Worlds.

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