Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's Favorite OTR

Suspense: “The Waxwork” 5/1/56


William Conrad was one of OTR’s finest actors. This particular episode of Suspense is a good argument for him being THE finest actor.


The episode is based on a truly creepy short story by English writer A.M. Burrage. A journalist gets permission to spend the night in a wax museum’s Chamber of Horrors, surrounded by images of history’s most brutal murderers. Soon, his imagination begins to play tricks on him. He became half-convinced that the figures were all moving very slightly whenever he took his eyes off of them. But that, of course, can’t be true.


Or can it? What if one of the figures isn’t actually made of wax? What if a particular murderer has simply found a novel way to hide out from the police?


Then again, maybe it all is just a part of the nervous journalist’s feverish imagination. Then there’s no real danger at all. Is there?


Gee whiz, “The Waxwork” is indeed a creepy story. And the Suspense adaptation is brilliant. It pretty much consists of William Conrad reading a very-slightly edited version of the story, but he also provides individual voices for the dialogue of the various characters (the museum manager, the journalist, and… someone else). His performance is a tour-de-force, sending repeated chills down the spines of the listeners. For a man with such a distinctive voice, it's really amazing to hear how effectively Conrad gives each character an individual sound and personality. The background music is extremely effective as well.


Old-Time Radio provides us with some truly scary stuff: “Three Skeleton Key” from Escape; “The Thing on the Fourable Floor” from Quiet Please; “The Wailing Wall” from Inner Sanctum; “Behind the Locked Door” from The Mysterious Traveler. “The Waxwork” can be quite properly included in that elite group of radio’s scariest episodes.

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