Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brave New World (CBSW)

"A dram is better than a damn!" And "ending is better than mending." These are lessons that we have learned well in the 21st century, though perhaps we don't uses the same phrases and we didn't learn it from "our Ford." Self-medication is so popular that makers of prescription drugs find it worthwhile to advertise on mainstream television and many of our most useful devices are cheaper to replace than to fix.

Brave New World is an incredible, under-appreciated book. The opening chapters alone are worth reading, as Huxley swiftly delineates a horrific dystopia. The remaining two-thirds of the book are given over to exploring the premise of clashing value systems, one hyperbolically artificial and the other intensely romantic. Though written in 1931, the book is far from dated. 

William Froug adapted the novel for these two premier episodes of the CBS Radio Workshop. The first voices we hear are host William Conrad, perhaps the most recognizable voice in 1950's radio drama, and Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World himself. Quite an impressive start to a really fascinating, if uneven, series of shows.

CBS Radio Workshop #1-2
Brave New World, Parts 1 & 2
27 Jan & 3 Feb 1956
Aldous Huxley (author, narrator), William Conrad (announcer, performer), William Froug (adaptor, producer, director), Joseph Kearns, Billy Idelson, Herb Butterfield, Parley Baer, Lurene Tuttle, Doris Singleton, Vic Perrin, Gloria Henry, Charlotte Lawrence, Sam Edwards, Jack Kruschen, Byron Kane, Bernard Herrmann (composer, conductor), Hugh Douglas (announcer)

1st edition cover, 1932

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Scarlet Plague (ESCP)

I was at one time a professor at the great university in San Francisco. A man who believed in reason, in intellect, and who abhorred the instincts of animal nature. But that was before the madness of the scarlet plague. This morning I killed a sheep with my bare hands, tore a haunch from my prey, and ate it raw.

That's a somewhat shortened quote from the opening segment of this radio drama, loosely based on Jack London's book The Scarlet Plague. Great production, great voice talents, and a great theme somehow come together to tell a fairly mediocre story here. If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, this is well worth a listen. It is quite horrifying, up to a point. But the ending feels abrupt and contrived.

Escape #209
The Scarlet Plague
8 Apr 1954
Barney Phillips, Eleanor Tanin, George Walsh (announcer), Jack London (author), John Dehner, John Larch, Leith Stevens (composer, conductor), Les Crutchfield (writer), Norman Macdonnell (producer, director), Parley Baer, Sam Edwards, Vic Perrin, Virginia Gregg.

Cover of the 1st edition

The Abominable Snowman (ESCP)

A trio of hunters and their sherpa go hunting the abominable snowman.

This is a good, if somewhat straightforward little "as advertised" adventure story.

Escape #200
The Abominable Snowman
13 Sep 1953
William Conrad, Hy Averback, Antony Ellis (writer, director), Tony Barrett, Edgar Barrier, Jack Kruschen, Leith Stevens (composer, conductor)

From Popular Science, December 1951

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ticket to Tangier (LIME)

Out of money in Paris, Harry accepts a mysterious all-expenses-paid trip to Tangiers, where a lucrative but risky proposition awaits him.

Ticket to Tangier
Lives of Harry Lime #4
24 Aug 1951
Orson Welles, Anton Karas (zither), Harry Alan Towers (producer), Tig Roe (director)

Postcard from Tangiers, 1955

Clay Pigeon (LIME)

One of Harry's antagonists, Governor James Hadley, is desperate and offers Harry $15,000 to make a blackmailer go away.

Lives of Harry Lime #3
Clay Pigeon
17 Aug 1951
Orson Welles, Anton Karas (zither), Harry Alan Towers (producer), Tig Roe (director)

When you need a zither guy, just call Anton "Toni" Karas

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Chesapeake Fraud Matter (YTJD)

A man washed overboard five years ago in Baltimore, yet one of the drowned man's old acquaintances spots a dead ringer for the deceased in Denver. Is it the same person? If so, then why does the man deny it, and why don't his fingerprints match?

Another fantastic Johnny Dollar. Truly these shows are among the best in vintage radio drama. John Dehner's voice brings a second powerhouse set of pipes to this series and Jeanne Bates truly ignites your sympathy with her performance.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar #243-247
The Chesapeake Fraud Matter, parts 1-5
17-21 Oct 1955
D. J. Thompson, Bob Bailey, Forrest Lewis, Hy Averback (announcer), Jack Johnstone (director), Jeanne Bates, John Dawson (writer), John Dehner, Paul Dubov, Roy Rowan (announcer), Tony Barrett, Will Wright

Jack Johnstone

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cops and Robbers (CBSW)

A fictional crime is solved on the air by unscripted policemen.

As with many of the CBS Radio Workshop shows, this is a kind of experiment for radio. Stanley Niss made up a crime, then gave the actors a script to follow ... as far as they could. Then he set real-life cops to question them and get to the bottom of the crime.

In the beginning the cops sound like they are reading something to me. Possibly some facts off a sheet. But then it starts to feel more natural. Some of the things they say are both funny and scary. Notice how they get the couple to feel guilty about shacking up.

CBS Radio Workshop #8
Cops and Robbers
19 Mar 1956
John Sylvester, Larry Haines, Elspeth Eric, Ken Lynch, Stanley Niss (narrator, writer, conceiver, director), Paul Roberts (producer), Art Hannes (announcer)

1956 Ford Safety Patrol

I Was the Duke (CBSW)

A somewhat shocking interview with a man in his 20's who has already spent more than 10 years in various correctional facilities. Contains expletives.

This is gripping vintage radio. The narration is a bit heavy-handed but gives us some insight into the prevailing opinions of 1950's citizens without a criminal record. Unsurprisingly, not a lot has changed.

CBS Radio Workshop #46
I Was the Duke
9 Dec 1956
William N. Robson (producer), William Caneely (narrator)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Bitter Bitten (BX13)

Dan is called by a panicky hotel owner who has a cobra loose in his building!

Cool premise, and a fun listen, but not much of a mystery. (That pretty much describes the whole series, in my experience.)

Box Thirteen #48
The Bitter Bitten
17 July 1949
Alan Ladd, Richard Sanville (director), Robert Light (writer), Rudy Schrager (composer, conductor), Sylvia Picker, Vern Carstensen (production supervisor)

The Dead Man Walks (BX13)

A worried daughter confides in Dan that her ex-con father, who was trying to go straight, got a call from old contacts and then disappeared. He left behind a note that read "S. Thomas, 9:45." The title of the story is hinted at by Dan in the opening lines when he says: "I found him dead, then learned he was alive. Sure, it sounds impossible, but that was it."

This is Box 13 at its best, which isn't saying a whole lot. The show featured at least one great voice talent each episode, the smooth pipes of Alan Ladd, but the plots were generally more little adventures than mysteries. You just kind of get swept along in them. Pleasant, but not challenging or surprising listening.

Box Thirteen #43
The Dead Man Walks
12 Jun 1949
Alan Ladd, Edmond MacDonald, Richard Sanville (director), Rudy Schrager (composer, conductor), Russell Hughes (writer), Sylvia Picker, Vern Carstensen (production supervisor), William Conrad

Sylvia Picker