Saturday, February 26, 2011

My review: Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police

This morning makes the first time I have listened to every episode of a serial all the way through - 178 episodes, total: the 1937 juvenile series, Speed Gibson and the International Secret Police.

Howard McNear as Clint Barlow
Speed Gibson (who some say is played by Elliott Lewis - while others say it is unknown who played the part) is a 15 year-old boy who is smart, strong and loves adventure.  His uncle, Clint Barlow (played by Howard McNear in a non-sniveling voice) is a member of the Secret Police - a law enforcement agency that is involved in trying to render useless a character known as the "Octopus" and his ruthless gang of Asian henchmen.  Barlow is a master at disguises and a great believer in the use of make-up - and he and the Secret Police use it often to secrete themselves in the Asian and Arabian populations.

After young Speed konks a member of the Octopus' gang, his uncle swears him into the Secret Police. And though he's only 15, he's a very capable member of the force.  Speed will prove time and time again to be a very valuable addition to the crime-busting organization, despite the fears some have about skills and wisdom of a 15 year-old.

Also helping the Secret Police is Barney Dunlap (veteran radio actor John Gibson) - who is prone to saying, "Suffering wangdoodles!' - unfortunately, this get old after about 10 episodes.  Still, Gibson plays the same part he's played his entire life - the outside wheel that doesn't quite roll straight.

Dunlap and Barlow are both expert pilots and airplanes are used for a lot of the scenes in the radio show.

Gale Gordon in the early 1930's
The Octopus, played by Gale Gordon, is not just out to avoid the Secret Police but to do away with them forever. The Octopus is an investor of sophisticated weaponry and some other-worldy psychological machines and he will stop at nothing in his quest to rule the world.  Violence, kidnapping, smuggling and murder are all on his evil agenda.

There are two different parts of the series.  The first 100 episodes are really pretty good and deal with Speed Gibson in the Pacific -- as I have stated before, I'd put those right behind the Adventures of Superman as far as juvenile radio shows are concerned - but the next 79 episodes pale in comparison. The Secret Police are in the jungles of Africa and I don't know, it's just not the same.

For one thing, John Gibson is missing for an extended period of time (explained in the show that his character was ill in the hospital.)  He does show up again about halfway through the second series, but there is constant changeover in characters taking his place. It's sort of confusing.

Also, the Octopus is not on the show as much in the second series.

Still, a fun show, although after finishing the series now, I would rank it much lower than I have it in my original Top 75 list. Originally I had it at #30 - I'm honestly thinking now that it should go to about #55 or #56 - I'll have a revised list sometime in the future.


  1. I have never listened to this show. I was interested in what you had to say about. Frankly, I thought it had to do with outer space action. Shows you what I knew about this show. So enjoyed your review and at least now I have an idea what it is about. Also interested who were the main players in the series.

  2. Thanks for reading.

    I knew you'd be interested in John Gibson being on the show - every time I heard his voice I think of you and Casey, Crime Photographer.

    Also, "Speed" may or not be Elliott Lewis. There are plenty of sources that say he is and plenty that say he isn't. As far as OTR rumors, I have found this to be the most complex question yet to be answered.

    It doesn't sound like Elliott Lewis - the show was in 1937, making Lewis 20 years old when the series began...(born in 1917.)

    But see here here and here and a bunch more...

    This website says Lewis was on the show but as "Splinter" - but that's absolutely wrong as it is obvious that Splinters is actually Hanley Stafford - 100% sure about that.

    The definitive source (On the Air) doesn't say (online.)

  3. Yes, I like John Gibson on Casey. I like the Blue Note segment. The Blue Note allows the characters to be human and blue collar.


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