Archive for September, 2011

Nightfall #13: “The Repossession”

Here it is, folks. This week we present that episode. The most disturbing program of the entire series: Arthur Samuels' "The Repossession".

Wow, what can I say about this story? When I first heard it, I was creeped out from the get-go. I'd never heard anything like it. And the ending! I almost lost it. I sat there, my mouth wide open, unable to believe what I was hearing. And I was cringing the entire time.

John Stocker, in one of his finest performances of the series, plays a dual role: that of Robert Stroud and the spirit of his deceased conjoined twin, Douglas. Mary Pirie, in her second NIGHTFALL appearance, plays Bob's wife, Beth. Neil Dainard plays Bob's friend Ted. And Chris Wiggins plays Dr. Brenner, the psychiatrist Bob consults when he begins hearing his dead brother's voice.

There's no doubt that the entire episode is creepy, but the final few minutes are what make "The Repossession" so horrifyingly disturbing. The sound effects sequence, combined with Stocker's screams, would make Arch Oboler proud. And if there's any truth to the stories about hundreds of letters of complaint about NIGHTFALL and affiliate stations dropping the show due to the content, this is surely the one that started it.

When I listen to the episode now, I try to take comfort in knowing how the sound effects were made. On my visit to Toronto in 2004, I was given a tour of the radio drama studio by Joe Mahoney, a producer from the time after NIGHTFALL whom I had met on-line. One of the folks I met there was Matt Wilcott , sound effects artist for many episodes of the series. He didn't work on "The Repossession", but he told me how SFX artist Bill Robinson created the principal effect for the ending: by working his hand around under the skin of a raw chicken.

Of Arthur Samuels' six scripts for NIGHTFALL, all but one have intense psychological elements. "The Repossession" is the best of these, but I would put "Child's Play" and "Reverse Image" up there next. Sadly, the one time I made contact with Mr. Samuels, he was in a retirement home and didn't feel up to an interview. I would love to have been able to hear the stories behind the stories.

This is one of 30 or so episodes that made their way into the Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio cassette series (image left) back in the 90s.

So, here it is. "The Repossession". If you choose to listen to it, don't say I didn't warn you…


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The Repossession

Air Date: 9/26/1980
Writer(s): Arthur Samuels
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: John Stocker, Mary Pirie, Chris Wiggins, Neil Dainard, Jon Granik, Maggie Morris, Amanda O'Leary, David Stein
Commercial Synopsis: In a bizarre twist on the theme of sibling rivalry, Samuels examines the potential for a psychic and symbiotic relationship between a man and the malevolent ghost of his Siamese twin brother, who died when they were separated by an operation thirty-years ago.  (NPR)


If you like what you hear, please contact the CBC Shop and encourage them to release the series!

Nightfall #12: “Wind Chill”

Elva Mai Hoover

While "Wind Chill" this is not the first episode to feature actress Elva Mai Hoover (photo left), it is certainly one of the best she appeared in. Here she portrays a young woman lost in the snow, who's befriended by a mysterious young man that invites her to wait out the night at his parents' cabin not far away.

The characters Hoover plays in her 16 NIGHTFALL appearances range from the innocent young woman ("Wind Chill", "The Undertaker") to the devious witch ("The Blood Countess") and she does them all well. I've not heard a whole lot of her work outside of NIGHTFALL (a few episodes of Johnny Chase, Vanishing Point and one of Midnight Cab), but if you want to hear a real tour de force, check out her performance in the CBC Playhouse production of "The Sisters" by Silver Donald Cameron, with music by Stan Rogers. You can find it on the CD Poetic Justice, which it shares with the NIGHTFALL episode "Harris and the Mare", in which she also appeared. The CD is no longer in print, but it's very easy to find on eBay and, IIRC, on iTunes as well.

As to the title, there is some question as to whether it's "Windchill" or "Wind Chill", as both have been used at various times. If I remember correctly from my conversation with writer David McCaughna, he believed his original title had been "Wind Chill Factor", which was apparently changed before the episode was broadcast. I settled on "Wind Chill" as that is the title listed in the CBC Radio Broadcast Log for NIGHTFALL.

This is one of 30 or so episodes that made their way into the Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio cassette series back in the 90s.


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Wind Chill

Air Date: 9/19/1980
Writer(s): David McCaughna
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Elva Mai Hoover, Robert Haley, Hadley Kay, Aileen Seaton
Commercial Synopsis: A city girl's car breaks down in the country in the dead of winter, and chilling events start to occur in the cabin of the mysterious young man who offers her a place to stay for the night.   (NPR)


If you like what you hear, please contact the CBC Shop and encourage them to release the series!

Nightfall #11: “No Admittance/No Exit”

Don Bailey

This week we present another classic episode, and one that Sarah Palin would probably love: a tale of socialized medicine gone too far! A new clinic where computers diagnose your illness and treat you according to your value to society (OMG, a death panel!).

But the more interesting thing about this episode are the writers. Don Bailey (photo left) came to be one of Canada's most respected writers, not through the usual channels you'd expect, but by way of bank robbery. Bailey was incarcerated in Collins Bay Penitentiary in the 1960s for armed robbery and it was there he turned to writing. By the time he was released, Bailey had written and published numerous poems and stories and had a community of big name authors who had supported his work waiting for him. He went on to be prolific in many areas of literature, including radio and TV script writing.

At various times Bailey teamed up with writer/actress Milo Ringham. Together they wrote this episode for Nightfall and one for Midnight Cab ("The Mystery of the Friendless Man"). There is a script rumored to be floating around for a Nightfall episode called "The Prize", but so far nothing has turned up. It isn't listed in the archive of Don Bailey's papers at the University of Toronto, though some data about it supposedly exists at Concordia University in Montréal, where there's an archive of CBC Radio documents.

Sadly there is very little information available about this partnership. In fact, there is virtually no information about Milo Ringham anywhere on the Net, except that she was member of the Toronto Free Theatre and went to the University of New Brunswick. (I have, however, recently received a note from someone who has information about her, I just haven't had time to follow it up.)

Don Bailey passed away in the early 2000's (2003 or 2004, I believe – it's hard to confirm) and Milo Ringham passed shortly afterward.

This is one of 30 or so episodes that made their way into the Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio cassette series back in the 90s.


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No Admittance/No Exit

Air Date: 9/12/1980
Writer(s): Don Bailey & Milo Ringham
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Hugh Webster, Deirdre Flannigan, Robert Christie, Robert Haley, Mary Pirie
Commercial Synopsis: Welcome to the brave new world of the Future Clinic, where computers decide patients' treatment options on the basis of their contribution to society.   (NPR)


If you like what you hear, please contact the CBC Shop and encourage them to release the series!

Nightfall #10: “The Willoughby Obsession”

George R. Robetrson

One of the classics of NIGHTFALL, "The Willoughby Obsession" is also one of my favorites. Rarely does a character come of out a NIGHTFALL experience unscathed. Often they don't come out at all, but when they do, they are almost always changed, and in this tale, one of the main characters comes out very changed!

This is the first of a couple of episodes written by actor George R. Robertson (photo left), who appears in the series for the first time a little later in the season (he's probably better known as Chief/Commissioner Henry J. Hurst in the Police Academy movies and as General Mann in the 1980s War of the Worlds TV series).

"The Willougby Obsession" is the first episode of several to deal with extra-sensory powers in a normal human being. Charles Willoughby, lawyer to the most powerful men of the underworld, has died of a sudden heart attack — died while his wife is electrocuted in the bathtub on the other side of a locked door — and reporter Paul isn't convinced the case is closed.


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The Willoughby Obsession

Air Date: 9/5/1980
Writer(s): George R. Robertson
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Neil Dainard, Budd Knapp, Alan Scarfe, John Stocker, Lynne Deragon, Terry Vollum
Commercial Synopsis: A new play by George R. Robertson about the mysterious life and death of Charles Willoughby, the famous solicitor for the kingpins of the underworld.  (NPR)


If you like what you hear, please contact the CBC Shop and encourage them to release the series!

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