Dick Barton and the Li-Chang Adventure (Radio Collection) Audio CD – Audiobook, 5 Apr 2012
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About the Author
The original idea for Dick Barton came from Norman Collins, Head of the Light Programme. In January 1946, he sent a memo to an assistant asking him to investigate the possibility of a daily 'cloak-and-dagger soap opera'. Matters quickly progressed and soon the fictional hero of the serial had a name - Bill Barton (later changed to Dick). Barton's history was very thoroughly researched. It was decided that he had been born on Tuesday 10 December 1912 at 5pm. The BBC went so far as to ascertain from the Town Clerk of High Wycombe and the Air Ministry exactly what the weather conditions were at the time of Barton's birth! At the time the series started, Barton was thirty-five years old. He had enjoyed a 'good' war and, in November 1945, was wondering whether he could face going back to the dutiful daily grind of the pre-war years. Having established their hero, the BBC needed to find an actor to play Barton. Noel Johnson fitted the bill perfectly: not only did he look exactly how the producers imagined Barton to be, but he was a good actor who learnt scripts accurately and quickly. However, the early days of Britain s first daily serial were inauspicious. Within two weeks, the "Daily Worker" had condemned the programme as being so bad as to be almost beyond criticism . But the listeners proved the critics wrong and soon some fifteen million were tuning in to hear the adventures of Dick Barton and his pals Snowey and Jock. Although the series had been originally conceived as a fast moving cartoon strip aimed mainly at adults, the BBC soon realised that children were abandoning their homework in their thousands in order to tune in, and it was decided that all references to alcohol or girlfriends should be cut out of the script. It was still considered too exciting for some, however, as this headline from the time shows: Dick Barton Too Thrilling for Girls? Headmistress says Yes ! The newly cleaned-up Barton went on to enjoy hundreds of adventures that enthralled listeners for six years. Noel Johnson left the series in 1949, largely due to money disputes, and was replaced by ex-boxer Duncan Carse. In the final year Gordon Davies played the hero. The series was written by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb. They later went on to write "The Archers," which was to displace Dick Barton on the Light Programme, much to many people s dismay Terry Wogan has said he has never been able to enjoy the goings-on in Ambridge because they took Dick Barton away from him!"
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Top Customer Reviews
A lurid Limehouse yarn filled with scorpions, planes dropping pound notes on remote farms in Yorkshire and deadly stage magic tricks like the bullet through heart illusion that isn't an illusion, The Li-Chang Adventure is easily one of the most enjoyable of the Dick Barton adventures, partially because by now even the writers are aware of how clichéd it is and are embracing the absurdity with the odd wink to the audience. Even Barton complains about the over-exotic nature of the case - "All we got to do is find Dr Fu Manchu and there we are" - while his loyal police detective cohort Inspector Burke thinks "The whole setup so far is more like a comedy thriller than a straightforward case." Mind you, it's a while before Burke gets in on this adventure, with Barton briefly having to work with a detective who shamefully doesn't worship the ground he walks on, though naturally - like all those lesser mortals who ignore Barton's advice - the pompous fool doesn't make it to the next episode. Along the way Barton's old comrade in arms from his Paris adventure Inspector Zero gets in on the action as the plot crosses the channel and a new mastermind emerges from the shadow of the villainous Chinese stage magician Li-Chang and who has elaborate plans of his own to dispose of our hero. But, as we all know, it's impossible to kill Dick Barton...Read more ›
Though this is called "The Li-Chang Adventure", a more appropriate title might have been "The Counterfeiters" or "The Forgers", because the sinister Oriental Li-Chang is allied to a French villain called Max Latour. The story is as much about Latour as is it about Li-Chang.
Their presence leads to some dodgy Chinese and French accents from the mostly Antipodean cast - though none of these are as bad as their attempts at the Yorkshire dialect! Maybe I'm just particularly sensitive to the latter, because I'm originally from t' North.
Despite such unfortunate enunciation, this adventure is surprisingly free of offensive regional and racial stereotypes. It is true that at one point Dick (Douglas Kelly) recites a line from the less PC version of the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians", but no one ever says that all Orientals look the same, and Dick has friends as well as enemies among the French and Chinese characters.
Due to the lengthy, serial nature of the story, which was intended to be heard one episode per day, it's probably best to listen to just one or two instalments at a time, otherwise the plot can become repetitive. For example, two consecutive cliffhangers feature attacks from the air.Read more ›
I do like the scraps Dick gets into and how he quickly solves his predicament.
A good chap to have around at anytime with a brain that thinks so quick to resolve bad situations.
The bad guy here is an evil "oriental" and the casual racism of the time comes through with phrases like "my little yellow friend here". In the second half of the story a second bad guy, French this time, is introduced. The accents are suitably laughable, with some of Li-Chang's henchmen turning into Bluebottle from the Goon Show when excited and one of the French characters veering into Welsh on occasion. Barton is always good value as a solid, upstanding and very British hero who is impossible to kill (although for plotline purposes he does seem to get knocked unconscious quite regularly).
The recording (4CDs) is good value, and with each episode lasting only around 12 minutes the next cliff-hanger is never far away, although some are very contrived. The recording quality is surprisingly good, although the first few episodes suffer from a persistent clicking, almost like a scratched vinyl record.
There is one point (no spoilers) where I suspect two episodes have been spliced into one, but I have no solid evidence beyond there being 19 episodes to the adventure (others have had 20) and a sudden "how did they get there?" feeling.
Overall, good escapist fun with a few minor niggles.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bought this as a gift. It went down a storm. Now gets listened to by the recipient in the house, in the car on long journeys, in the laptop. Very enjoyable.Published on 22 May 2014 by Josie
If only all drama had this brevity. Over time I'm coming to the conclusion that most of anything serialised really has to justify being longer than about fifteen minutes. Read morePublished on 2 May 2013 by Stuart Burns
Another classic adventure unearthed sees Barton up against Li-Chang and Max Latour. It's fun. There have been some suggestions of things being un-pc but you have to take the... Read morePublished on 16 April 2013 by David Belson
My wife and I enjoyed this as we had heard The Paris Adventure and we filled our journey down the M6 with an interest that did not detach from drivingPublished on 16 Jan. 2013 by W. J. Bramley
Dick is being his usual self; assertive, dramatic, fast thinking, leaving his pals in the dark as they never quite get there as quickly as Dick. Read morePublished on 24 Nov. 2012 by The Kinniburgh Kid
This is great if, like me, you're old and can remember sitting by the radio and listening to radio theatre. Read morePublished on 6 Aug. 2012 by Wilz
Very old-fashioned, to the point that the lack of political correctness was fairly cringe making at times. Read morePublished on 5 Aug. 2012 by J. S. Hardman
I am far to young to have listened to Dick Barton on the radio, but I have always loved radio plays, ever since one night stuck at a ferry terminal when the ferry crew had gone on... Read morePublished on 23 July 2012 by William