“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Rod Serling / Audiobook published 2010-12-09 by Falcon Picture Group „
The Rip Van Winkle Caper is a 2009 radio adaption of a fondly remembered sixties black and white Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Serling. A small group of thieves have stolen $1 million worth of gold bullion from a train heading from Fort Knox to Los Angeles. Their leader, chemist/physicist and criminal mastermind professor Farwell, has devised what he believes to be a brilliant plan for them to remain free and enjoy the money. In an old cave deep in the desert he reveals suspended animation pods he has invented and tells his fellow bullion nabbers they are going to climb into the pods and sleep for a hundred years. 'The piece de resistance now. The real combination. Ultimate ingenuity. It is one thing, gentlemen, to stop a train on its way from Fort Knox to Los Angeles and steal its cargo. It's another thing to stay free to spend it, and spend it we shall.' Farwell explains that when they awake one hundred years in the future the robbery will be long forgotten and they will be presumed long since dead. They will be completely free to do as they want and in possession of a huge quantity of gold that will surely be worth even more than it is today. Farwell is convinced that nothing can possibly go wrong with this ingenious scheme but his real problems are in fact only just beginning...
I absolutely love the central premise of The Rip Van Winkle Caper - group of criminals do a big heist and go into suspended animation for a hundred years to escape detection! - and the television episode is one of my favourites. This adaption is pretty good too although it's hard to beat Oscar Beregi and Simon Oakland as Farwell and Decruz respectively in the television original. The two central characters are played instead here by Tim Kazurinsky and Stacey Keach and although I have no idea who Kazurinsky is he's generally fine and throws himself into the spirit of things. The general premise of The Rip Van Winkle Caper is that the thieves turn on each other when they wake up in the future. There truly is no honour amongst thieves, especially when $1 million of gold bullion is concerned. It ends up as a two hander with Farwell and Decruz trekking across an apparently endless lonely desert road lugging their gold bullion (or what they can carry anyway) looking for a town or any sign of life. Farwell is older and drinks his water much faster than Decruz in the searing heat so Decruz, as the only one with any water left in his canteen, ends up with complete power over him, making Farwell hand over one of his gold bars each time he wants a sip of water.
This is 43 minutes long in total and because it devolves into a bickering two hander does work quite well as an audio piece. It's not a new story to have a gang of thieves turning on one another after a big robbery but it is quite novel I suppose to have them awaken a hundred years in the future as part of their scheme. Atmospheric and subdued music is used sparingly and effectively once our rascals reach the future and a big part of the intrigue of the story is that (of course) because their suspended animation pods were in a cave in the desert in the middle of nowhere that's where they wake up. There is no sign of any new developments or cities when they emerge from their slumber and the long trek across the sun scorched road doesn't seem to ever chance upon a car. What is the world like now? Has there been a nuclear war even? The superb twist from the television series remains intact and still works well enough as the final line supplies the ironic Rod Serling coda rather than a vital visual image.
That thing that you lose of course though are the opening scenes of the thieves in the cave with their suspended animation pods. It's fun to imagine them I suppose but I think the episode derived a lot of its appeal from these enjoyably daft retro science fiction moments. The dialogue is still nice though. 'You know what you're doing. I've explained it very precisely to you. All four of us will be placed in a state of suspended animation, and when we wake up, that's when we'll take our gold and enjoy it. I don't know exactly. I can only surmise. I would say that, I would say approximately one hundred years from today's date. One hundred years, gentlemen, and we shall walk the earth again, as rich men, however, as extremely rich men.' On an anorak trivia note, the crack in the glass that does for one of our bullion snafflers while he sleeps was later recycled by Rod Serling in his screenplay for the film Planet of the Apes.
The Rip Van Winkle Caper is another good addition to this radio series. Obviously you have to watch the television episodes first but these make fairly entertaining audio capers. A few modifications and different actors enables them to be an affectionate riff on the original series and do their own thing while still capturing the spirit of the source material and remaining essentially faithful to the central core of the stories they are based on. The confrontational dialogue and long trek of the two characters here makes for a good audio piece and without quite so many visual cues from the television episode to worry about you don't feel as if you miss too much. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of an audio cd collection or download it for £1.19.