Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Money, Money, Money (LOUT)

Two friends, hard-working immigrants, are discussing the evils of money when one of them discovers he has won a fortune. The other becomes jealous and violent, but he discovers there is a price to pay for his treachery.

Lights Out #9
Money, Money, Money
5 Aug 1936
Arch Oboler (writer, host), Frank Martin (commercial spokesman)

Arch Obler

State Executioner (LOUT)

The hangman for King George reminisces about his 777 executions, including one that may have been a mistake.

The rapid fire delivery seems a bit off-putting, but the script is fascinating.

Lights Out #41
State Executioner
17 Mar 1937
Arch Oboler (writer, host), Frank Martin (commercial spokesman)

Tasma Skyraider 1939

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pussy Cats (GUNS)

A surly man and his talkative female companion brutally gun down a group as they enter Kitty's saloon. Matt harshly extracts information from one of the dying victims in order to chase down the pair of shootists.

This one is like an old west Bonnie and Clyde. The story is straightforward but emotionally brutal.

Gunsmoke #48
Pussy Cats
21 Mar 1953
William Conrad, Parley Baer, Georgia Ellis, Jack Kruschen, Tom Tully, Lawrence Dobkin, John Dehner, Michael Ann Barrett, Howard McNear, Antony Ellis (writer)

Crosley D-25-GN 1953

Shakespeare (GUNS)

A crazed Shakespearean actor commits murder during a Kansas heat wave.

It's funny how these old Gunsmoke episodes can boil down to a one-line summary. It's also kind of unfortunate to reduce them so glibly, because they are gritty, gut-wrenching tales of the "old west" and they probably deserve more.

Gunsmoke #18
23 Aug 1952
Antony Ellis (performer, writer), Antony Ellis (performer, writer), Hans Conried, Howard McNear, Mary Lansing, Parley Baer, Roy Rowan (announcer), William Conrad

William Conrad

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nightfall (DIMX)

Isaac Asimov's Nightfall was first published in Astounding Science Fiction (Sep. 1941). It has been anthologized countless times, adapted into a novel by Robert Silverberg (1990), voted best science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America (1968), and was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Nightfall is about a planet that has experienced constant sunlight for thousands of years and is about to be thrown into darkness by an eclipse. As such, I would call it "hard SF." The story is far from perfect/believable, but it definitely poses some interesting questions.

According to Asimov's autobiography, Campbell asked Asimov to write the story after discussing with him a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!

Campbell's opinion was: "I think men would go mad."

Dimension X #50
29 Sep 1951
Cameron Prud'Homme, Isaac Asimov (author), Lyle Sudrow, Ernest Kinoy (adaptor), John McGovern, Norman Rose (host), Albert Buhrman (music), William Welch (producer), Fred Weihe (director), Bill Rippe (announcer), Staats Cotsworth, Joseph Boland

Kaleidoscope (DIMX)

This is a fairly bleak story about astronauts floating around in space after their ship explodes ... waiting for their oxygen to run out. It seems particularly timely listen to me, since the movie Gravity was just released a month or so ago. Great stuff. My friend had this to say about the show:

I found Kaleidoscope to be very moving. It's basically a very human story and barely sci-fi at all, which is fine. This one definitely seems like it would be enhanced by listening in the dark! It's a great set up, and the last line ... is poignant.

The story appeared in The Illustrated Man (1951).

Dimension X #48
15 Sep 1951
Joan Alexander, Leon Janney, Norman Rose (host), George Lefferts (adaptor), William Welch (producer), Fred Weihe (director), Bill Rippe (announcer), Ray Bradbury (author), Joe DeSantis, Edgar Stehli

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Great Torino (BX13)

The female assistant of "The Great Torino" asks Dan to keep her safe from her employer. Despite Dan's watchful eye, things go very wrong.

Box Thirteen #10
The Great Torino
24 Oct 1948
Alan Ladd, Richard Sanville (director), Rudy Schrager (composer, conductor), Russell Hughes (writer), Sylvia Picker, Vern Carstensen (production supervisor)

Alan Ladd

Death is No Joke (BX13)

A rich man's family and long-lost heir stay together in a house where someone is playing threatening practical jokes.

The twist in this one hinges on a lesser-known definition of the word "gauche." I always took this word to mean "socially-awkward" or "crass," but it also means "left-handed."

Box Thirteen #40
Death Is No Joke
22 May 1949
Alan Ladd, Oran Blackstone (writer), Richard Sanville (director), Rudy Schrager (composer, conductor), Sylvia Picker, Vern Carstensen (production supervisor), Joseph Kearns

Fada 845 "Cloud" 1946

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cold Equations (XMIN)

A young woman stows away aboard a ship that is dropping off crucial medicine on a remote planet. She must face the consequences of her actions when presented with the cold reality of fuel calculations.

This is the kind of story you rarely encounter anymore. I don't want to say anything that would lessen the story's impact, so just listen!

The Cold Equation appeared in the August 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

X Minus One #15
Cold Equations
25 Aug 1955
Bill Rippe (announcer), Bob Hastings, Court Benson, George Lefferts (writer), Jack Arthur, Jay Meredith, Kenneth MacGregor (studio director), Milo Boulton, Tom Godwin (author), Walter Kinsella, William Welch (producer)

Astounding Science Fiction, Aug. '54

Leiningen vs. the Ants (ESCP)

A man with an unflagging resolve faces down an onrushing horde of army ants after all others have fled.

This story was first published in the December 1938 edition of Esquire. It is a translation, probably by Stephenson himself, of Leiningens Kampf mit den Ameisen, which was originally published in German in 1937. The story inspired the movie The Naked Jungle, starring Charlton Heston.

Escape #23
Leiningen vs. The Ants
17 Nov 1948
Carl Stephenson (author), William N. Robson (producer), Robert Ryf (adaptor), William Conrad, Cy Feuer (music conceiver), Lou Merrill, Norman Macdonnell (director), Eddie Dunstedter (organist), Don Diamond, Lou Krugman

Casting the Runes (ESCP)

A medieval scholar unfavorably reviews the paper of an occult-minded colleague. Retribution comes in the form of an ancient curse!

This is one of James' best, and it appeared in his collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904).

Escape #15
Casting the Runes
19 Nov 1947
Montague Rhodes James (author), Irving Ravetch (adaptor), John McIntire, William N. Robson (director)

Montague Rhodes James

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Seventh Victim (XMIN)

In the future, warfare has been averted by creating a cathartic, public outlet for violence. People who feel the need to kill are issued a license to target a specific victim, with the understanding that the killer will, in turn, serve as a potential victim after their allotted hunt is over.

This short story first appeared in Galaxy in 1953. It served as the inspiration for an Italian film, The 10th Victim, or La Decima Vittima, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress. In 1966, Sheckley novelized the film and then later wrote a few sequels, Victim Prime (1987) and Hunter Victim (1988). The movie is entertaining; highly stylized and futuristic, if a bit goofy, and its novelization is also worthwhile. If you ever wondered where the idea for those machine-gun bras came from in Austin Powers, look no further.

X Minus One #91
The Seventh Victim
6 Mar 1957
Arthur Hughes, Frank Maxwell, Ian Martin, Irv West, Lawson Zerbe, Robert Sheckley (author), Teri Keane, Fred Collins (announcer), Ernest Kinoy (adaptor), Kenneth MacGregor (director), William Welch (producer)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life (LXRT)

A good man, beaten down by circumstances, thinks of ending it all when he is given the gift of seeing his true impact on the world.

If you loved the movie, this faithful adaptation will bring back the warm fuzzies. I've seen it produced live at a small theater in San Diego, the Cygnet Theater in Old Town. It's so wonderful to see these old radio shows live and watch the foley work. If you ever get the chance...

Lux Radio Theater #562
It's a Wonderful Life
10 Mar 1947
Sponsored by Lux, Spry, Edwin Maxwell, Janet Scott, Noreen Gammill, Cliff Clark, Norma Jean Nilsson, Leo Cleary, Charlie Forsyth (sound effects), Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Victor Moore, William Keighley (host), John Milton Kennedy (announcer), Louis Silvers (music director), William Johnstone, John McIntire, Philip Van Doren (author), Fred MacKaye (director), Sanford Barnett (adaptor), Frank Capra (screenwriter), Frances Goodrich (screenwriter), Albert Hackett (screenwriter), Jo Swerling (screenwriter), Susan Blanchard (intermission guest), Norman Field, Franklyn Parker, Ann Carter, Charles Seel, Doris Singleton (commercial spokesman: as "Libby"), Edward Marr.

The Wizard of Oz (LXRT)

Dorothy, a girl from Kansas, is transported into a fantasy world where she quickly runs afoul of an evil witch and must seek the help of a powerful wizard to return home.

This adaptation, sponsored by Lux soap, is a fair reproduction of the movie, but it unfortunately illustrates how much of the success of the film relied on its visuals. In other words, it's a lot more fun to watch The Wizard of Oz than to listen to it.

Also, this production comes 11 years after the movie. Some of the voices haven't aged well and others are weaker replacements. On the plus side, I always love hearing the audience reactions during these Lux shows.

Lux Radio Theater #726
The Wizard of Oz
25 Dec 1950
William Keighley (host), John Milton Kennedy (announcer), Rudy Schrager (music director), Herb Vigran, Edwin Max, Herb Butterfield, Betty Lou Gerson, Noreen Gammill, William Johnstone, Ruth Perrott, Gil Stratton, Charles Smith, Charles Woolf, Jay Novello, Marion Richman, Edward Marr, Norman Field, David Light (as a dog), Georgia Stark (chorus), Betty Rome (chorus), Barbara Van Brunt (chorus), Cornelia Glover (chorus), Arnold Markusson (chorus), Burton Dole, Eloise Rawitzer (choral soloist), Roy Zobel (choral soloist), Harry Stanton (choral soloist), Ernest Newton (choral soloist), Gloria Wood (choral soloist), Dorothy Lovett (commercial spokesman: as "Libby"), Paula Stone (intermission guest: MGM Radio writer/producer), Noel Langley (screenwriter), Florence Ryerson (screenwriter), Edgar Allen Wolfe (screenwriter), L. Frank Baum (author), Earl Ebi (director), Sanford Barnett (adaptor), Charlie Forsyth (sound effects), Hans Conried, Judy Garland.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Slaughtered Santas (NANW)

Santas who work a particularly busy corner for the Salvation Army are being taken out, one by one. The first is run over by a car, the second shot in the doorway of his own home! The third hires Mr. Wolfe to save him from a similar fate.

The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe #10
The Slaughtered Santas
22 Dec 1950
Sydney Greenstreet, Lawrence Dobkin, Howard McNear, Jeanne Bates, Herb Butterfield, William Johnstone, Don Stanley (announcer), Rex Stout (creator)

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Dog's Life (CBSW)

Anthony ("Tony") Schwartz (1923 – 2008) was an American sound archivist, sound designer, pioneering media theorist, and advertising creator. Tony is perhaps best known for creating a controversial television ad for the 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson campaign, which depicted a girl picking the petals off of daisies and counting. The counting becomes a countdown, followed by a nuclear explosion. The ad was considered an important factor in Johnson's victory over Goldwater.

In this soundscape by Tony, we have a much lighter subject. Tony's ever-present portable tape recorder accompanies him as he decides to adopt a dog. He quickly discovers that not only is owning a dog more complicated that it would first appear, but he is surrounded by a plethora of conflicting opinions on how a dog should be trained, groomed, etc.

I recall reading somewhere that Tony had a phobia that largely kept him holed up in his apartment. He taught at least one college class remotely, a relatively unheard of thing in that time.

CBS Radio Workshop #61
A Dog's Life
31 Mar 1957
Tony Schwartz, Ralph Bell (narrator), Dick Noel (announcer)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Time and Time Again (DIMX)

Time and Time Again is a powerful little story about a soldier who is injured in WWIII, during a raid on Buffalo NY. As his failing body is discovered on the battlefield, his conscious mind is jolted into the past to inhabit his 13 year old self. Upon revealing his knowledge of the future to his father, they plot to change the course of future events and prevent the war.

Time and Time Again (1947) was H. Beam Piper's first published story. Piper is most famous, at least in science fiction circles, as the author of Little Fuzzy. In Little Fuzzy, a prospector on a planet being stripped of resources finds a species of mininscule, furry, intelligent humanoids.

Piper worked on the railroad as a night watchman and ended his career prematurely with suicide in 1964. He shut off all the utilities to his apartment, put painter's drop-cloths over the walls and floor, and took his own life with a handgun from his collection. In his suicide note, he gave an explanation that "I don't like to leave messes when I go away, but if I could have cleaned up any of this mess, I wouldn't be going away."

Some of this horrible frustration is captured in the story itself.

Dimension X #39
Time and Time Again
12 July 1951
William Welch (producer), Edward King (director), Lionel Ricou (announcer), Peter Capell, Joe DeSantis, Fred Weihe (director, transcriber), Karl Weber, Norman Rose (host), H. Beam Piper (author), Ernest Kinoy (adaptor), David Anderson, Joseph Curtin

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Parade (DIMX)

A man named Luchar walks into an ad agency with a million dollars, claiming to be a Martian. The ad guy thinks it's a gag and launches a "suspense campaign." First they announce "The Martians are Coming!" and then "June 1st is Martian Day." The culminating event is a parade down 5th avenue that goes shockingly awry, to everyone (except the listener's) surprise.

Though the plot of this one is fairly transparent, it is ingenious, creepy, and an indictment of our self-victimizing addiction to sensationalism. You know what is coming and it is fun being "on the inside" of the joke, at least until things get ugly.

Oh, I should add that this show get's a nomination for "worst fake kid voice" ever to appear in a radio drama! Thankfully, it's brief.

This fantastic picture by William Klein depicts a spaceman balloon at the Macy's Parade in1954.

Dimension X #21
The Parade
25 Aug 1950
Sponsored by Wheaties. George Lefferts (writer), Joseph Curtin, Berry Kroeger, Alexander Scourby, John McGovern, Agnes Young, Norman Rose (host), Van Woodward (producer), Edward King (director), Bob Warren (announcer), Jack Grimes, Joseph Julian, Edwin Jerome.

The Outer Limit (DIMX)

A pilot of an experimental rocket plane is launched into the upper atmosphere with only enough fuel for a ten minute flight. He disappears, and then unexpectedly reappears ten hours later, with a story of alien contact and a dire warning for humanity.

There were a number of these cautionary tales regarding the dangers of atomic weapons throughout the cold war. Some pretty successful films (Red Dawn, Wargames, etc.) were still making use of this theme into the 80's. Though cold war themes are now a bit dated, the story is still engaging.

Outer Limit was first published in The Saturday Evening Post on December 24, 1949. Kinoy's script was re-used many times by shows like X Minus One, Suspense, Escape, and Beyond Tomorrow.

Dimension X #1
The Outer Limit
8 April 1950
Albert Buhrman (music), Edward King (director), Ernest Kinoy (adaptor), Graham Doar (author), Joe DeSantis, Joseph Julian, Norman Rose (host), Sam Monroe (sound design), Van Woodward (producer), Bob Warren (announcer), Fred Collins (announcer)

The X-1 experimental rocket plane used by Chuck Yeager to break the sound barrier for the first time in Oct. 1947! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Scarlet Pimpernel (LXRT)

A daring Englishman plays the fop in public to keep the evil French from discovering his true identity as the "superhero" who rescues innocent French nobles from the gallows of the revolution.

This is a great story, and a great old movie, but squeezing it into a 60 minute radio show doesn't help it any. I enjoyed listening to it, but I had the benefit of knowing the story backwards and forwards.

The guest trotted out during the intermission is Madame Hilda Grenier, former royal dresser to Queen Mary. One of her prized possessions is a pair of stockings owned by Marie Antoinette, and you'll never believe which soap she chose to wash those precious stockings in!

Lux Radio Theater #197
The Scarlet Pimpernel
12 Dec 1938
Sponsored by Lux soap. Lou Merrill, Louis Silvers (music director), Melville Ruick (announcer), Keith Kenneth, Ramsay Hill, George Pembrook (doubles), Gerald Cornell, Geraldine Peck (doubles), Hilda Grenier (intermission guest), Ethel Sykes, John Toti, Leslie Howard, Olivia De Havilland, Betty Sutter, Cecil B. DeMille, Coral Colebrook, Dave Roberts, Denis Green, Eric Snowden (doubles), Reginald Sheffield (doubles), Vernon Steele, Walter Kingsford, Robert Sherwood (screenwriter), Arthur Wimperis (screenwriter), Sam Berman (screenwriter), Lajos Biro (screenwriter), Baroness Orczy (author, stage adaptor), Montagu Barstow (stage adaptor), Carolyn Newell, Ross Forrester, Frank Nelson (performer, program opening announcer), Marilyn Stuart (commercial spokesman), Betty Jean Hainey (commercial spokesman), Jane Morgan (commercial spokesman), Frank Woodruff (director), George Wells (adaptor), Charlie Forsyth (sound effects), Eric Burtis (commercial spokesman)

Baronness Orczy, 1920

Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon from The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How Love Came to Professor Guildea (ESCP)

A man who is skeptical of religion and the paranormal, and who abhors the thought of deep emotional ties, becomes the target of an ardent spirit.

How Love Came to Professor Guildea is an excellent tale of weird horror! So little actually "happens" in this story, and yet it really manages to fascinate and horrify the listener.

The use of the parrot (voiced by the incomparable Paul Frees) as a plot device is illustrative of a theme one often sees in ghost stories: animals that are particularly sensitive to the supernatural. If you have ever watched your dog or cat perk up over a noise that you can't hear or stare at a closed door, this device will ring particularly true for you.

Hitchens' story first appeared in Tongues of Conscience (1900), a collection of five horror stories. How Love Came to Professor Guildea is often anthologized in horror collections, but I don't believe any of the other stories from that volume are well-known.

Escape #29
How Love Came to Professor Guildea
28 Feb 1948\
Robert Smythe Hitchens (author), James Lee (additional writing credit), Luis Van Rooten, Parley Baer, Paul Frees (as a parrot), Harry Bartell, Les Crutchfield (adaptor), William N. Robson (producer), Norman Macdonnell (director), Cy Feuer (music conceiver), Richard Aurandt (organist)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Miracle on 34th Street (LXRT)

You know the story, at least I hope you do. A well-adjusted lawyer-bachelor lives a few doors down from an intelligent woman who is focused on her career as an event director for Macy's and on raising her daughter with a realistic view of the world. The woman hires a Santa for the department store and he turns out to be the real deal. The modern "eyes opened" world can't deal with a man who thinks (knows) he is really Santa, and Saint Nick ends up in court with the lawyer as his legal representation. Thus two battles are joined, one to rescue Santa from the psych-ward and one to kindle romance (literal and figurative) in the heart of the woman and her daughter.

One thing I have always liked about this story: there is no clear singular protagonist. Most would say it's the lawyer, I guess, but I feel like the story is divided pretty equally between the event director, the lawyer, and Santa.

LRT used the script previously on December 22, 1947 and subsequently on December 21, 1954.

Lux Radio Theater #647
Miracle on 34th Street
20 Dec 1948\
William Keighley (host), Edmund Gwenn, Joseph Kearns, Willard Waterman, Marlene Ames, William Johnstone, Herb Butterfield, Norman Field, Gil Stratton, Cliff Clark, Lawrence Dobkin, Louise Fitch, John McGovern, Sara Berner, Edward Marr, Herb Vigran, June Whitley, Jeanine Roos, George Seaton (screenwriter), Valentine Davies (author), Helena Sorrell (20th Century Fox diction coach: Intermission guest), Charlie Forsyth (sound effects), Fred MacKaye (director), Sanford Barnett (adaptor), Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, John Milton Kennedy (announcer)

Comanche (HGWT)

Paladin rides into the Montana territory to chase down a deserter from the 7th Cavalry. It doesn't matter that the deserter left to rescue the woman he loved from a forced marriage, does it? Does it?

The script was used on the Have Gun, Will Travel television show previously, on May 23, 1959.

Have Gun Will Travel #33
5 July 1959
John Dehner, Ben Wright, Virginia Gregg, Sam Edwards, Vic Perrin, Jack Moyles (doubles), Irving Wallace (writer), Herb Meadow (creator), Sam Rolfe (creator), Norman Macdonnell (producer, director), Tom Hanley (adaptor, sound effects), Barbara Eiler, Hugh Douglas (announcer), Bill James (sound effects)

John Dehner

Death of a Young Gunfighter (HGWT)

Paladin willingly involves himself in a blood war as a hired gun, but ends up being paid by the least likely party. And a young gunfighter must come to grips with what it means to give up killing.

The script was used on the Have Gun, Will Travel television show on March 14, 1959 (the day before the story was heard on the radio).

Have Gun Will Travel #17
Death of a Young Gunfighter
13 March 1959
Barney Phillips, Ben Wright, Clarke Gordon, Harry Bartell, Hugh Douglas (announcer), John Dehner, Julian Fink (writer), Lawrence Dobkin (doubles), Lillian Buyeff, Marian Clark (adaptor), Norman Macdonnell (producer, director), Virginia Gregg, Bill James (sound effects), Tom Hanley (sound effects), Sponsored by Fitch Shampoo, Fram Filters, Kentucky Club Tobacco

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Green Hills of Earth (DIMX)

Robert Heinlein tried for years to get a story into The Saturday Evening Post and it was with this story, The Green Hills of Earth, that he finally succeeded in 1947. The Post accepted several more Heinlein stories in quick succession following this one.

"This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the spaceways ..." The story begins to the strumming and mournful whistle of its titular character, a "jet-man" (engineer), troubador, jokester, drunkard, and vagabond. Tom Glazer crafted the music, which is the standout element in the production. I find myself humming the tunes for hours or even days after listening to the show and wishing that they weren't just snippets of fictitious songs.

The main character, though a bit trite, is well-developed, and the 30 minute production manages to paint the last years of the spaceman's life with an epic brush. I suppose there are a few people out there who will listen to this one and snicker, or finish the show with a resounding "So what?" Not me. Damn my romantic soul, but I actually got a lump in my throat at one point.

The title of the story refers to a particular song created by Rhysling, which he modifies and adapts throughout his travels. Heinlein stole the title of the song from Shambleau, a great little short story by C. L. Moore. In Shambleau, Moore writes that Northwest Smith hums The Green Hills of Earth to himself as he walks through a Martian city, just before he encounters an alien girl who is being chased out of town by a mob.

The radio show is preceded by a Christmas message from the President Harry Truman beseeching Americans to pray for the troops in Korea.

Dimension X #32
The Green Hills of Earth
24 Dec 1950
Robert Heinlein (author), ? (adaptation), ? (voice talents), Harry Truman, Tom Glazer (music), William Welch (producer), Norman Rose (host), Edward King (director), Bob Warren (announcer), Bob Denton (announcer for President Truman)

Overland Express (GUNS)

John Meston, one of the regular writers for Gunsmoke, fits an incredible amount of story in this 30 minute show. Marshal Dillon and Chester are taking an escaped killer back to Dodge for trial, but having lost their horses it seems they are fated to take an unusually troublesome stagecoach ride. The script was subsequently used on the television series on May 31, 1958.

At the break, CBS News announces it will be using UNIVAC to help predict the election results!

Gunsmoke #28
Overland Express
31 Oct 1952
John Meston (script), Clancey Cassell (announcer), James Nusser, Junius Matthews, Lawrence Dobkin, Lou Krugman, Parley Baer (Chester), Ralph Moody, Vic Perrin, William Conrad (Marshal Dillon)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

There Will Come Soft Rains & Zero Hour (DIMX)

This episode of Dimension X is unique in that it featured not one but two short stories, switching at the break. Both are amazing and both are by the incomparable Ray Bradbury. If you grew up in the 80's at the tail end of the cold war, you might have been asked to read There Will Come Soft Rains in school. Or you may have encountered it as a chapter in The Martian Chronicles. It is a poetic story about a robotic house living on after its occupants have been fried in a nuclear strike. My favorite of the pair, though, is the genuinely creepy Zero Hour, in which invading aliens use children as a 5th column.

Modern audiences may not catch the relationship between these stories, but the unspoken link is Communism. Zero Hour is most likely a thinly-veiled reference to the supposed increasing and pervasive influence of Communism in America. Soft Rains is basically a bleak look at life after Russia and America duke it out with nukes.

Dimension X #11
There Will Come Soft Rains & Zero Hour
17 June 1950
Ray Bradbury (author), George Lefferts (adaptation), Agnes Young, Butch Cavell, Denise Alexander, Norman Rose (host), Peter Lazer, Rita Lynn, Roger De Koven, William Griffis, Van Woodward (producer), Edward King (director), Bob Warren (announcer), Albert Buhrman (music), Don Abbott (engineer)

Almost Human (DIMX)

"Have you ever heard of the new science called cybernetics?" This is how the Dimension X narrator introduces Almost Human, by Robert Bloch. The story revolves around a woman who is serving in the home of a scientist. The scientist has just created an artifical human - a robot. An "undesirable" character from the woman's past, called Duke, shows up and disrupts her new life. He forces himself into the home and takes over the education of the robot, which is called Junior. Of course, Duke's idea of education is very different from the scientist's! When Duke arrives, Junior is tonelessly singing Mary had a Little Lamb. Not long after, Junior innocently informs Lola, "I know how to kill people, Lola. Would you like me to kill you?"

One of the most simultaneously funny and creepy moments in the drama is when the robot is left alone with Lola. Simply reading the lines to yourself won't do them justice, but I will reproduce them here anyway. Prior to leaving on a quick errand, Duke tells Lola not to show any fear around the robot. Soon after he takes off, the sound of the robots clunking footsteps are heard:

Thump - thump - thump. "Lola, oil me." [in a robotic monotone]
"Can't you wait until Duke gets back? He always oils you."
"I want YOU to oil me, Lola."
"Alright." tink-tonk tink-tonk [sound of an old-style oil can being plied].
"I LIKE you to oil me, Lola."


Modern listeners may be especially sensitive to how this show portrays Lola. She is utterly powerless and must beg to get anything she needs or wants. Some of this is the typical one-dimensional, weak women characters one often gets in 1950's drama. Some of it is the truth about how powerless society made women in 1950's America. In many ways, their wishes just didn't count. Either way, Lola is dominated by two men, one benign and one malicious, and a robot, which one might call "benignly malicious."

A scan of the original story can be found here.

Dimension X #6
Almost Human
13 May 1950
Robert Bloch writing as Tarleton Fisk (author), George Lefferts (adaptation), Santos Ortega, Joan Allison, Jack Grimes, Guy Repp, Nat Pollen, Joseph Julian, Lin Cook

Universe (DIMX, XMIN)

The characters in Universe live aboard a massive "generation ship" (25 kilometers in diameter) built to colonize a distant planet. At some point in the past a mutiny disrupted ship operations and the ongoing feud devolved into a civil war. Generations later everyone has forgotten the mission and that the ship is even a ship; it has become their "universe." The ship's creator has posthumously been elevated to the status of a god and his followers control the decks that house the main drive. Their enemies, the mutants, control the upper decks where the navigation controls are. The story's protagonist, Hugh Hoyland, is a skeptic searching for more satisfying answers to the nature of his world.

Universe originally appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in May of 1941. Heinlein wrote a sequel, Common Sense, which appeared in Astounding in October of the same year. Pictured below is the 1951 paperback novelization by Dell. The two stories were later published together as Orphans of the Sky(1963).

Universe was first broadcast on Dimension X #31. It was repeated as episode 42. Most vintage radio collections of Dimension X include episode #42, but every one I have heard to date has been a fake. One tell-tale sign is a hiccup during the end credits where the plea to fans to keep the series going heard in episode 31 has been edited out.

Universe was remade for episode #4 of X Minus One. The audio is a little clearer in the latter episode, but it's hard to say which is "best." I suppose I like the Dimension X version a little better.

Dimension X #31
26 November 1950
Robert Heinlein (author), George Lefferts (adaptation), Donald Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour, Ian Martin

X Minus One #4
15 May 1955
NBC net origination, AFRTS rebroadcast. Abby Lewis, Donald Buka, Edgar Stehli, Fred Collins (announcer), Ian Martin, Jason Johnson, John Seymore, Peter Capell, Robert Heinlein (author), William Griffis, George Lefferts (adaptor), William Welch (producer), Fred Weihe (director).