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!

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September 2011
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