Nightfall #29: “They Bite”

David CalderisiThe fifth and final NIGHTFALL script by the late Len Peterson, this week's entry is an adaptation of the 1943 Anthony Boucher short story, "They Bite".

Peterson's ability to adapt a story has always impressed me. There's creating a true-to-the-original script like "The Stone Ship", or taking a story with little or no detail, such as "The Tell-tale Heart", and weaving times and settings and characters into it until it feels like it came from Poe's own hand. And then there's "They Bite", where Peterson made a number of changes to the details of the story and even to some of the motivations of the characters, yet the essential framework and key aspects are mostly still intact.

The story — moved to the current day — revolves around the character of Hugh Blair (played by Robert Haley), a former Vietnam war hero with an interest in paleontology who went a little nuts and had to be sent home to recover. The story is narrated in places by Blair's Army Air Corp tail-gunner, Corey, from Vietnam (excellently portrayed by NIGHTFALL veteran John Stocker), who invites Blair to visit him in "nowhere Nevada" to see the unusual collections of fossil remains out in the desert. What he finds, though, are more than just the remains of some stegosaur. He also finds his former Army commander, Colonel Morgan (David Calderisi, photo left). The man who drove Blair until he cracked.

Blair also finds something else. Something that lives and feeds in the desert, but is only ever seen out of the corner of the eye. Something that shouldn't be alive today, but is.

Also appearing in this episode are Ken James as Set 'em Up Sid and Mavor Moore as Old Jake. (Moore will play an even more important role in NIGHTFALL history as the writer of "The Book of Hell", one of the most popular episodes of the show, which is coming up in a couple of months!)

NOTE: This recording came from the episode's first run on NPR Playhouse in February of 1981.


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They Bite

Air Date: 1/16/81
Writer(s): Len Peterson (adapted from the short story by Anthony Boucher)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: John Stocker, Robert Haley, David Calderisi, Ken James, Mavor Moore
Commercial Synopsis: "Something moved, something little and thin and brown as the earth. Too large for a rabbit, much too small for a man." Paleontologist and Vietnam veteran Hugh Blair is pitted against predatory desert shadows.


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

Nightfall #28: “A Short Wave Goodbye”

Maxine MillerThis week we feature the second episode penned by George R. Robertson (the first being “The Willoughby Obsession”). It is also the second episode where an electronic device receives signals from the future, much to someone’s lament – though, in this case, it’s hard to tell who laments it most.

After a fight with his long-suffering wife, Harriet, in which his prized short-wave radio set is damaged, suburban accountant Harvey John Beasley discovers that he can now pick up transmissions from the near future. After placing a few successful bets with his friend Philip’s bookmaker (though the term “friend” may be subjective, considering what Harriet and Phillip are doing together in their spare time), Harvey goes one further and tries to warn a local mob boss that’s he’s about to be the victim of a hit. Unfortunately, the mobster is gunned down anyway, proving to Harvey that the future cannot be changed – at least, not in the broad scheme of things. Things take an interesting turn when Harriet and Phillip learn of Harvey’s sudden wealth and, aiming to have it for themselves, seek out ways to do Harvey in. Once Harvey figures out their plan, however, things escalate into a covert war of assassination: of his wife and her lover’s traps versus Harvey’s knowledge of future disasters. The result, as it often is, is that someone wins the battle, but someone else loses the war. Which is which and who is who, though, might be a toss-up.

NIGHTFALL regular Arch McDonnell stars as Harvey, Maxine Miller (photo left) as Harriet, and Budd Knapp as is Harvey’s friend, Phillip. John Stocker appears as the Newscaster and Elva Mai Hoover plays the receptionist.


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A Short Wave Goodbye

Air Date: 1/9/81
Writer(s): George R. Robertson
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Arch McDonnell, Maxine Miller, Budd Knapp, John Stocker, Elva Mai Hoover
Commercial Synopsis: A ham radio enthusiast accidentally discovers how to pick up transmissions from the future, and notices that they are becoming increasingly closer to the present.


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

Nightfall #27: “Guest of Honor”

Nicky GuadagniThis week we feature another excellent adaptation by Len Peterson: the Peter S. Beagle short story, Come, Lady Death (dramatized under the title "Guest of Honor").

In this tale, Moya Fenwick portrays the elderly Lady Flora Neville, a woman renowned for her elaborate parties and balls. After decades of such events, Lady Neville has become bored. Guests such as King George and the Archbishop of Canterbury—even the famous composer George Fredrick Handle—no longer thrill her. Now she longs to invite the one guest that would rouse even her own jaded nature: Death himself.

Despite their initial reactions, her close friends agree that such an eminent guest as Death attending one of her balls would be the talk of London for years to come. Indeed, even the Lady herself comments that "those who were not invited will be publicly shamed!" They are all further intrigued when Death sends a letter agreeing to attend.

However, when Death does arrive at the ball, he is not what any of them expected. For just after midnight, the doors open and in walks…Lady Death.

The episode features Nicky Guadagni (photo left) as the Guest of Honor, as well as series regulars Graham Haley, Eric House, Mary Pirie and Neil Dainard. And, in honor of her birthday this year, I am pleased to single out Lynne Deragon in the role of the Contessa della Candini.

(NOTE: Some sources cite the title of this episode as "The Guest of Honor")


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Guest of Honor

Air Date: 1/2/81
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the 1963 Peter S. Beagle short story "Come, Lady Death")
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Moya Fenwick, Graham Haley, Nicky Guadagni, Tony van Bridge, Lynne Deragon, Mary Pirie, Neil Dainard, Eric House
Commercial Synopsis: In England, circa 1765, Lady Neville decides to invite the Ultimate Guest–Lady Death–to her Grand Ball.


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

Nightfall #26: “The Appetite of Mr. Lucraft”

Sir Walter Besant (r) & James Rice (l)This week we present the second of 1980's two Christmas episodes and one of my favorite adaptations and period pieces: P. Norman Cherrie's "The Appetite of Mr. Lucraft".

Based on the 1875 short story "The Case of Mr Lucraft" by James Rice and Sir Walter Besant (photo left, respectively), it tells the tale of a poor, down-on-his-luck actor by the name of Lucraft, who is on the point of starvation when he is treated to a magnificent feast by the reclusive gentleman, Ebeneezer Grumbelow. Upon finishing the repast, Mr. Grumbelow makes the bizarre offer to buy Mr. Lucraft's appetite. Thinking him to be extremely eccentric, Lucraft accepts the deal (and the huge sum of money). However,  he soon comes to realize the true terms of the arrangement when he begins to experience the effects of everything his host eats and drinks.

It's a fun episode and very reminiscent in style to "But Oh! What Happened to Hutchings!" from the third season. Series regulars Graham Haley, Douglas Campbell, Nicky Guadagni and Robert Christie star.

(NOTE: This ends the run of recordings I obtained over XM Radio. I will try to continue providing you with the best recordings I can, but they won't all sound as good as these have.)


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The Appetite of Mr. Lucraft

Air Date: 12/26/80
Writer(s): P. Norman Cherrie (based on the 1875 short story The Case of Mr Lucraft by Sir Walter Besant & James Rice)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Graham Haley, Douglas Campbell, Nicky Guadagni, Leslie Yo, Abbot Anderson, Robert Christie, John Peters, Maureen Fitzgerald
Commercial Synopsis: As a special holiday treat for listeners who are watching their waistlines, a story about a mysterious and corporeal stranger who agrees to purchase Mr. Lucraft's appetite. Gluttons should avoid this one at all costs.


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

Nightfall #25: “On Christmas Day in the Morning”

Sandy WebsterThe 1980 Holiday season brought us not one, but two Christmas episodes!

This week's is a fun little story that, at first, seems pretty unlikely as a NIGHTFALL episode. It's one everyone can listen to: no severed limbs, no creepy ghosts, no self-destructive split personalities, and no historical vampire royalty. Just a good ol' mystery. Oddly enough, though, it was penned by the same duo that brought you episode #3, "Welcome to Homerville". Hard to imagine this story coming from Don Dickinson and Allan Guttman!

It is an adaptation of one of British author Margery Allingham's popular Campion mysteries, originally written in 1952. For the purposes of making it a one-off story, the writers replaced Arthur Campion with a retired provincial judge and set it in rural Ontario during the Second World War.

The story deals with the death of the local mail carrier, who seems to have been the victim of a hit and run, on Christmas morning. Things look bad for the mayor's son and his girlfriend, except in order to pin the crime on them, they would have to explain how the carrier managed to deliver mail to a reclusive old woman after he was dead.

The episode features the wonderful voice of Sandy Webster (photo left) as the judge, as well as series regulars Colin Fox, Arch McDonnell and Robert Haley. Michael Wincott and Elva Mai Hoover play the teenage suspects.

(NOTE: There's a slight dropout in the recording at 28:00, but it's only momentary. Nothing significant to the story is lost.)


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On Christmas Day in the Morning

Air Date: 12/19/80
Writer(s): Don Dickinson & Allan Guttman  (based on the short story by Margery Allingham)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Sandy Webster, Colin Fox, Arch McDonnell, Sandra Scott, Robert Haley, Elva Mai Hoover, Michael Wincott, John Stocker
Commercial Synopsis: The sudden death of the local mail carrier on Christmas morning presents a newly-retired judge with a bizarre mystery: how could the carrier have delivered mail to an elderly woman after he was dead?


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

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