Archive for March, 2012

Nightfall #34: “The Book of Hell”

Lynne DeragonWell, here it is. Another episode that I know many of you have been waiting for me to post on: Mavor Moore's "The Book of Hell".

On fans' lists of favorite episodes, this one often vies for the top spot with "Welcome to Homerville" and "The Repossession", and for good reason: it's Creep Factor builds pretty much from the beginning.

Two editors (Nonnie Griffin, Patrick Young) and the president (Budd Knapp) of a failing publishing house find themselves in over their heads when they receive a bizarre manuscript from a reclusive author…who's been dead for two years. The book appears to be a first-person account of a soul's experiences in Hell: an account which could make millions and revive the company. But there's only one problem: the book can't be printed. It can't be photocopied. It can't even be recorded.

As the widow of the now-deceased author A. J. Yanovsky, actress Lynne Deragon [photo left] (Falling Skies, Queer As Folk) manages to fully establish the mood for the rest of the episode. Her character calmly makes startling revelations in a soft, gentle voice with a Spanish accent: an effect which makes the listener all the more uneasy, especially with this particular little gem: "That book will never be published…because it is probably true."

In one scene, passages from the book are read aloud. Now I'm sure most people will have a certain expectation of what a first-person description of hell might be like, but mine certainly didn't come anywhere close to the one Moore lays out in this script. It is just chilling. And Bill Howell's choice in background music (some of which was used to the same effect in "The Willoughby Obsession") only adds to the feeling of despair.

An interesting note about this episode: Mavor Moore was not at all happy with the final production. Between an e-mail exchange we had in 2004 and my subsequent research trip to Toronto, it seems the entire script was rewritten. But it wasn't that anything was changed in terms of story. The changes were all cosmetic. The dialog seemed to have been revised to make it more "accessible" to the average listener. In Mavor Moore's archives at York University, there are copies of both the production script and his original (the production script has a snarky little caveat on the front cover: something to the effect of "Rewritten (poorly) by the hand of another." The original script might be described as more "high-brow", but I felt it was just was effective as the one that was produced.

 


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The Book of Hell

Air Date: 3/27/81
Writer(s): Mavor Moore
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Budd Knapp, Nonnie Griffin, Patrick Young, Lynne Deragon, Hugh Webster, Allen Doremus
Commercial Synopsis: A mysterious manuscript purporting to be a first-person account of what it's like in Hell has the editors of a publishing house in an uproar.


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

Nightfall #33: “Angel’s Kiss”

John EvansThis week we present the last episode of the series to be written by John Graham (with assistance from George R.Robertson) and boy is it a doozy!

John Evans (Earth: Final Conflict, Warehouse 13) plays Chuck, a homophobic, womanizing salesman who works the disco scene to find his conquests. He's the stereotypical love-'em-and-leave-'em type, never wanting to settle for the same thing twice…until he meets Delores ( in an unnerving performance by Elva Mai Hoover). Then he gets a taste of his own medicine—in more ways than one.

Bill Howell once described his production style as "rock 'n roll" radio drama and "Angel's Kiss" may just be the epitome of that description, as much of the soundtrack is pure disco. There's also quite a bit of violence, including a suicide, three murders and a police shooting. In this story, the Devil—and the sound effects team—are very busy.

This is yet another episode with a veritable who's-who cast of NIGHTFALL regulars, including cameos from Mary Pirie, Colin Fox, Sandy Webster, Gerard Parkes and others.

Oh, and the little break in the 4th Wall by Delores at the end of the play is a priceless touch.

NOTE: The voice of the male form of the Devil is not credited, but my ear tells me it is probably John Stocker, with a little post-processing.


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Angel's Kiss

Air Date: 3/20/81
Writer(s): John Graham & George R. Robertson
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Eva Mai Hoover, John Evans, John Stocker, Gordon Thomson, Neil Dainard, Mary Pirie, Sandy Webster, Gerard Parkes, Budd Knapp, Ken James, Richard Donat
Commercial Synopsis: The downtown disco and singles bar scene provides an ideal locale for the Devil to bargain for souls.


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

Nightfall #32: “The Room”

DHPA cassette sleeveThis week's episode may have the most extensive lineage of any in the series. It was adapted by NIGHTFALL actor Graham Haley from an episode of the South African radio series Beyond Midnight, which was originally written by Michael McCabe, which was, in turn, based loosely on the 1894 H.G. Wells short story, The Red Room. Phew.

Graham Haley's two adaptations of Michael McCabe's work (the other being episode #35: "Mkara") are something of a mystery. I have found very little background on them and I have yet to make contact with Mr. Haley. He's something of a TV personality these days—known for his Haley's Hints household tips series on PBS and related books and DVDs—which makes him harder to track down. I've found contradicting evidence as to where he lives these days, but it's either somewhere in California or in Toronto. I do know he's from South Africa, which makes his interest in Beyond Midnight understandable. I will keep plugging away at trying to find him.

In the story, a widow (Moya Fenwick) offers a substantial sum of money to anyone willing to spend the night in the Yellow Room—the room where her husband (Chris Wiggins) died without receiving absolution years before. Several men have made the attempt, but none succeeded. They either went mad…or died of fright. Despite this, skeptical young Ronald Todd (Haley) is determined to try.

NOTES:

  • It's interesting to note that in Henry Ramer's intro to the episode, he refers to it as being an adaptation of "a Michael McCabe short story". It makes me wonder if it was just simpler to say that or if it was for legal reasons? I suppose it's possible McCabe did originally write it as a short story, but the dialog is nearly identical to the Beyond Midnight episode.
  • This is one of three episodes where Henry Ramer actually appears in the episode itself, in this instance as narrator.
  • The cast list reads like a NIGHTFALL who's who. Everyone involved has appeared in the series before.

Beyond Midnight is a series well worth tracking down. Only about half of the 1968-1970 series can be found on-line as recordings, but they are comparable to NIGHTFALL in style and quality. If you're interested in hearing the original Beyond Midnight episode, "The Yellow Room", you need look no further than here:

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The Room

Air Date: 3/6/1981
Writer(s): Graham Haley (adapted from the Beyond Midnight episode "The Yellow Room" by Michael McCabe, and inspired by the H.G. Wells short story The Red Room)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Graham Haley, Moya Fenwick, Colin Fox, Chris Wiggins, John Stocker, Henry Ramer (Narrating as Luther Kranst)
Commercial Synopsis: Since Amanda Watts' husband Alfred died in the Chanceford mansion without the last rites twenty-two years ago, seven men have stayed in the Yellow Room alone overnight. All went mad – or died. Nevertheless, for an offer of 1000 English pounds, down-on-his-luck Ronald Todd is willing to give it a try.


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

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