Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries -The Flickering Torch Mystery (1977)

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries

The Flickering Torch Mystery
This episode of the Hardy Boys, "The Flickering Torch Mystery," is most notable for it's guest star, Rick Nelson, who plays a famous rock 'n roller named "Tony Eagle," that's basically a fictionalized version of himself.

Ricky Nelson Rocks Bayport
In the show, the Boys' father Fenton Hardy is working as head of security for the concerts that Rick Nelson's character is giving while he is in town.  What Fenton Hardy, "World Famous Detective," is doing working security is never explained.  It later turns out that Nelson's life is in danger, and he suspects his manager is embezzling money from him.  Either one of those would have provided a reason for Fenton Hardy to be involved with this case in a way that made sense.   He could have been "posing" as rock concert security man while secretly working for Neslon investigating the case.  That would have made sense, I don't know why they didn't do that.

Fenton Hardy:  "You and I are BOTH cool, in our own ways.  Right Ricky?"  Ricky Neslon: "Uh..."
Meanwhile, the Hardy Boys have a case of their own, tracking down a missing person.  In a coincidence that is so unlikely that it is just, frankly, STUPID, it turns out that the two jobs are connected, as the missing man turns out to be Rick Nelson's sound engineer.  You think the boys would have looked into what the missing man did for a living, and discovered that he worked for the same man their dad was working for.  That seems like it would be part of the most basic background check you would conduct while looking for a missing person.  Instead it is made out to be a "shocking" twist.

The Hardy Boys fly an airplane upside down.  I was going to say that there is no way they are really upside down, because their hair is perfectly in place.  But then again, Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy did use A LOT of HAIRSPRAY...
Another odd aspect of this episode is the title, ""The Flickering Torch Mystery."  There are a lot of elements that come into play in this case.  It involves airplane stunts, dangerous sound frequencies, fingerprints, a torn piece of a note, a wrecked car, a burning building, embezzled money, and a missing person.  One thing it does not include: "a flickering torch."

Well, someone "torched" this building, does that count?
In the original book from 1943, the Boys investigate the theft of some experimental silkworms from a scientific research center, work on a farm during their summer vacation, and get mixed up in a case of their father's involving a gang that uses a flickering torch as a signal.  The book was completely rewritten in 1971, with the title being the only thing the two books have in common.  Now it is a story about mysterious airplane crashes, smuggled uranium, and the Boys form a rock group and perform at a club called "The Flickering Torch."

Older and newer versions of the book.
For the television version, it seems like they went with a VERY LOOSE adaptation of the 1971 book, keeping some of the airplane and rock music elements, and for some reason, the title, which now makes no sense.  The problems with the script could have been ironed out very easily with a quick rewrite.  It's almost like the show accidentally filmed an early draft of the script, and then didn't realize it until it was too late.

A Clue is Discovered
Aside from the problems with the script, there is another aspect of the episode that is fairly unsettling, although the show's producer's can't be blamed for it.  The episode ends with an attempt to (SPOILER ALERT) kill Rick Nelson and his band in a private airplane crash.  Eight years later, this is how Rick Nelson and his band members died in REAL LIFE.  Creepy.  I guess I shouldn't complain about the contrived coincidences in the script, if this is the kind of coincidence that happens in the real world.

Radar Screen
Overall, I didn't enjoy this one as much as last week's episode, mostly because of my issues with the script.  But, it was still a reasonably fun way to spend 45 minutes, and I'm looking forward to next week's episode, where teen idol Shaun Cassidy makes his singing debut on the series.  That sounds like it will be a lot of cheesy 1970s fun.

Rating: 3 Robots (out of 5)

Ricky Nelson - Believe What You Say

More screencaps after the jump...

Guest Stars Rick Nelson

Mr. Hip

Blood Red Mob

Sex Crazed Groupies


Airplane Controls

The Radar Tower

Airport Fire Department

"We'll always have Paris."

Binocular Car Wreck Action

Tire Tracks

The Fuzz


A Tense Conversation

The Clue is Deciphered

Fire Danger!


  1. Hi,

    Watched this show - good review about it - helped me understand the show even more. Keep up the good work - hope to see reviews about seasons 2 and 3 sometime in the near future!