Don’t look now, but old radio serials are suddenly hotter than any Wii game or iPhone app. These days, visionary director Michel Gondry is hard at work with Seth Rogen bringing back “The Green Hornet,” Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp are gaining momentum on “The Lone Ranger,” and the two worlds are making plans to meet. Well, kinda.
Flashback to January 31, 1936, when a new program entitled “The Green Hornet” premiered on Detroit radio station WXYZ. Envisioned as a worlds-away spinoff to the immensely popular show “The Lone Ranger,” masked crimefighter Britt Reid was explained to be the son of LR’s comic-relief nephew Dan. Although their connection faded as Green Hornet became more closely linked with Batman in their '60s TV shows, it returned as recently as the late-'80s when a “Hornet” comic book series published by NOW Comics had a portrait of The Lone Ranger hanging on Reid’s wall, a sly reference to their familial ties.
Nevertheless, history -- and legal complications -- have virtually erased the link between “Green Hornet” and “Lone Ranger,” as the properties have fallen into different hands throughout the decades. And although Bruckheimer and Gondry are making their films at two different studios, the “Hornet” director told us that he plans to keep their link alive.
“Yeah, yeah, I know that,” Michel told me recently when I brought up the famed great-uncle of the character Rogen is preparing to play. “I’m all for making such references.”
Gondry, whose visual supremacy is on display in his new DVD, “More Videos,” has been researching the Hornet folklore intensely over the past few weeks. And although he doesn’t have the rights to depict The Lone Ranger, he recently came up with a way around the problem.
“I’ve suggested that in a cemetery [scene] we would see the horse of the Lone Ranger,” Gondry explained, saying that we’ll see a headstone marking the grave of the masked ranger’s white horse Silver.
“I think there is a right situation to deal with it,” added Gondry, who recently revealed similar fan-pleasing plans to give a cameo to '60s “Hornet” star Van Williams. But will messrs. Bruckheimer and Depp return the favor by injecting a “Hornet” reference into their film? As the old radio serials used to say: Tune in next week…
Do you appreciate “winks” to the audience like Gondry is contemplating here, or do some filmmakers get bogged down too much with such things?