Film / The Radioland Murders

The Radioland Murders is a whodunnit murder mystery produced by George Lucas and directed by Mel Smith.

It's the inaugural night for radio station WBN Chicago, and things absolutely must go as planned. The largest investor is threatening to pull his support, and a lot of others are threatening to follow suit. And what's worse, he wants half the scripts changed, even though the writers have gone on strike since they haven't been paid in weeks.

Enter Roger Henderson, the lead writer, and his wife, Penny, who is seeking to divorce him. Both are just trying to make sure everything goes well, but darnit, someone keeps killing people. And wouldn't you know it, Roger always manages to be the first on the scene of the crime. So while Penny tries to keep things from falling apart backstage, Roger has to clear his name, while running from the cops and single-handedly re-writing all of the scripts.

The Radioland Murders was in Development Hell for over 20 years before it finally got its debut, but was mostly panned and did very poorly at the box office. Which is a shame since it is absolutely hilarious.

This movie provides examples of:

  • The Cameo: Bobcat Goldthwait as one of the writers on strike, drunk off his ass and providing Kill 'em All ideas for every script. Also George Burns as an In-Universe comedian.
  • Clear My Name: Roger, during the third act.
  • Costume Porn: Plenty of the performers wear fancy outfits (for the benefit of the studio audience, even though the main audience couldn't see them).
  • Criminal Mind Games: The killer interrupts the broadcast to deliver cryptic messages related to who he's going to kill next. A couple of times the interruption forces the people on the air at the moment to improvise a way to "put it in" their show.
  • Development Hell: Development began in the 70s. It didn't debut until 1994.
  • Crashing Through the Harem: Page boy Billy Bennett accidentally runs into the women's dressing room, with lots of topless women. He is thrown out bodily.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Some of the Pimped Out Dresses have white feather trimming.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Mr. Katzenback boasts this as he fixes the gears on his rotating stage. They become his Famous Last Words.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Lt. Cross. And he's just as angry as his name makes him sound.
  • Indy Ploy: Given its writer, this comes naturally into play as Roger is able to somehow escape after being framed for the murders by the cops. However, it's subverted as Roger does this through sheer luck, though the cops believe he actually had planned it in advance.
  • Inspector Javert: Cross, regarding Roger. Roger being the first guy to arrive at (if not being right on) the murder scene (and a couple of occasions the sole witness to the murder) doesn't help his case.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In-Universe, television. It is everybody else scoffing at the idea after all the effort and even having a working camera model in The Fifties that drives the murderer to...well, murder.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Roger, leading him to try to clear his name (and being chased all over the building by the police, and still try to deliver his scripts on time). Being first on the scene (willingly or unwillingly) of every murder makes the cops suspect him.
  • Old Dark House: It fits the bill surprisingly well, despite taking place in a (mostly) well-light public skyscraper in downtown Chicago.
  • Police Are Useless: Most of the cops can fall under this, including Cross' partner who by himself could have killed himself at times due to his dumbassness.
  • Really Gets Around: Claudette Katzenback has all but forced herself on pretty much every man who works at the radio station at one time or another. Roger seems to be the only one to have refused her advances.
  • Show Within a Show: This being about a radio station in the '30s, there are many, and most of them parallel what's going on with Roger surprisingly well.
  • The Show Must Go On: And it does, even with the many on-air deaths and other random insanity going on.
  • The Windy City: Chicago during The Fifties, natch.