Posts Tagged ‘bill howell’

Nightfall #21: “The Blood Countess, Pt. 2: Blood Blue”

The Blood Countess - Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio cover(This is my blog entry about the second episode of "The Blood Countess". You may read about, and listen to, Part 1 here.)

This is our continuation of the story – based on historical records and legends – of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet), the so-called Blood Countess of Hungary. The episode was written by playwright Raymond Canale (his only one for NIGHTFALL) and featured veteran stage and screen actress Kate Reid as Countess Báthory.

The additional cast for the episode reads like a Who's Who of NIGHTFALL actors: Ruth Springford as Dorattya Semtész, Elizabeth's life-long housekeeper, who unwillingly assists in her Lady's madness. Elva Mai Hoover as Darvulia, a local witch who serves the Countess with her efforts to make contact with her dead husband's spirit. Neil Munro as Paul Báthory, Elizabeth's cousin and First Minister to the King of Hungary. And many more.

In the second half of the story, the Countess and Darvulia have been trying for several years now to contact the spirit of the deceased Count Báthory using horrific rituals involving the sacrifice of young peasant girls. But after the dramatic and terrifying failure of a particularly promising ritual, the Countess finally snaps and comes to the realization that they've been making the wrong sacrifices and that only the blood of noble girls will be enough to induce her husband's spirit to break through the veil between this life and the life beyond. Dorattya is horrified at her mistress' plan to start by sacrificing her youngest Lady-in-Waiting, a daughter of a prominent Duke. Eventually, disturbing rumors spread throughout the country, to the point where the Countess' cousin Paul, a minister to the King, visits the village to discover the truth for himself and is given orders – approved by the Royal Parliament and signed by the King – to arrest Elizabeth and everyone involved in these horrible acts. The resolution to the trial – and to the story – I will leave for you to discover.

One interesting side note to these episodes: former Head of CBC Radio, Susan Rubes, told me in a phone interview in 2004 that she felt the experiment with doing a two-part story was a failure. She didn't give me any details as to why, however, though I'd love to see the inter-office memos regarding that!

A word of warning: this episode is very disturbing. Listener discretion is advised!


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The Blood Countess, Pt. 2: Blood Blue

Air Date: 11/21/80
Writer(s): Ray Canale (based on the life and legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Kate Reid, Neil Munro, Douglas Campbell, Ruth Springford, Elva Mai Hoover, Colin Fox, John Stocker, Nicky Guadagni
Commercial Synopsis: The most horrifying vampire of all. The most depraved ritual ever. A Transylvanian countess who bathed in the blood of virgins to keep herself young. She lived… and her name was Elizabeth Bathory.  (DHPA)


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

Nightfall #20: “The Blood Countess, Pt. 1: Blood Red”

Kate ReidWell, what can I say about this episode? It's the only two-parter in the entire run of the series and boy does it take advantage of the extra length!

This is the story – based on historical records and legends – of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet), the so-called Blood Countess of Hungary. The episode was written by playwright Ray Canale (his only one for NIGHTFALL) and featured veteran stage and screen actress Kate Reid (photo left) as Countess Báthory.

Canale said to me, in a 2004 telephone interview, that he had written the story with Kate Reid in mind, but was told that it would be impossible to get her. Undaunted, he drove to her Toronto home one night and left the script on her doorstep. After reading it, she contacted Bill Howell and asked to play the part. Apparently she loved the script and the opportunity to play such an infamous character.

The cast for the episode reads like a Who's Who of NIGHTFALL actors: Alan Scarfe as the husband, Count Ferencz Báthory, whose death is the impetus for his wife's heinous crimes. Ruth Springford as Dorattya Semtész, Elizabeth's life-long housekeeper, who unwillingly assists in her Lady's madness. Elva Mai Hoover as Darvulia, a local witch who serves the Countess with her efforts to make contact with her dead husband's spirit. And many more.

In this, the first part of the story, we see the Countess' madness begin to take shape after her husband is killed in battle. She has young girls brought to the castle as servants, only to have them slaughtered and their blood used in rituals designed to break the barrier between this world and the next and allow the Countess to speak with her husband. After which, she bathes in their blood to soften her skin and retain her youth. Suspicion in the village below the castle grows as more and more young women disappear from the countryside. But the local Magistrate turns a deaf ear to the peasantry, aware of his position and his duty to the Countess.

Probably the most disturbing sequence in the story – and whether this is based on fact or legend I don't know – is a mechanical girl created by a clockmaker friend of Dorattya's. On the surface, the device seems merely like an amusement for her Highness: a life-like young woman that can stand and move her arms, as if to embrace a person. But when a servant girl thought dead is returned to the castle by the Magistrate's order, she has Dorattya demonstrate the device's true purpose…

A word of warning: this episode, while not as gruesome as "The Repossession", is still very disturbing. Listener discretion is advised!


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The Blood Countess, Pt. 1: Blood Red

Air Date: 11/14/80
Writer(s): Ray Canale (based on the life and legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Kate Reid, Ruth Springford, Elva Mai Hoover, Alan Scarfe, Robert Christie, John Stocker, Frank Perry, Hugh Webster, Mary Pirie, Nicky Guadagni
Commercial Synopsis: The most horrifying vampire of all. The most depraved ritual ever. A Transylvanian countess who bathed in the blood of virgins to keep herself young. She lived… and her name was Elizabeth Bathory.  (DHPA)


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

Nightfall #18: “Ringing the Changes”

Douglas CampbellAs this was going to be NIGHTFALL's first Halloween episode, Bill Howell wanted to do it up right. So they produced, as Luther Kranst puts it in the introduction, "a special love story, for lovers of all ages": Robert Aickman's "Ringing the Changes". Apparently, it's a cult classic among fans of the horror genre – I had never heard of it prior to encountering this production – and is pretty faithful to the original story.

Gerald and Phrynne Halstead (Banstead in the original short story) – played by the late Douglas Campbell (photo left) and Nicky Guadagni, respectively – arrive at the quiet seaside town of Holyhaven, where they have rooms reserved at the Bell Hotel. Unfortunately, everyone in the town – from the stationmaster to the manager of the hotel – seems to think they've arrived at the wrong place. Surely no one would visit Holyhaven on October 31st. It just doesn't happen. It shouldn't happen. But it has, and the Halsteads are about to find out what it is the town is so desperate to keep secret.

Incidentally, playwright Jeremy Dyson – with Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss – adapted "Ringing the Changes" into a BBC Radio Four radio play that aired exactly twenty years after Cherrie's, on Halloween, 2000.


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Ringing the Changes

Air Date: 10/31/80
Writer(s): P. Norman Cherrie (based on the short story by Robert Aickman)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Douglas Campbell, Nicky Guadagni, Ruth Springford, Sandy Webster, Graham Haley, Eric House
Commercial Synopsis: An older man with a beautiful young wife is honeymooning in a seaside town on the very night when the dead are annually raised from their graves by the ringing of the town's church bells.  (NPR)


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

Nightfall #17: “Last Visit”

Gerard Parkes

Here is yet another episode involving people lost while driving. However, the couple in this story have more to worry about than where they left the Chevette.

On their way to their daughter's to meet their new grandson, the Lundens (Nonnie Griffin and Frank Perry) are forced by the terrible Newfoundland fog to stop at the Eternity Cove Hotel and Lounge. Eternity Cove: where the mirrors and the fog play tricks on you and the population seems to be made up of just one man.

Gerard Parkes (photo left), better know to many people as Doc on the American version of the Muppet series Fraggle Rock, plays the mysterious Tom, the innkeeper. And the hitchhiker. And the RCMP desk officer.


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Last Visit

Air Date: 10/24/80
Writer(s): Ray Will
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Frank Perry, Nonnie Griffin, Gerard Parkes
Commercial Synopsis: The Newfoundland coast and a couple in a car in the fog late at night combine to create some terrifying circumstances in this bizarre play, especially when the couple meets a recurring stranger.  (NPR)


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

Nightfall #16: “Buried Alive”

Buried Alive - Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio coverThis is John Graham's fourth contribution to the series, though the best of his episodes is yet to come.

In this story, Don Franks portrays The Great Santini, a hypnotist with a daring plan to defraud his insurance company of $500,000 by faking his own death and allowing himself to be buried alive. Unfortunately for Santini, his two assistants have no intention of digging him up.

In this production, Bill Howell returns to using some of the interstitial music that made "Welcome to Homerville" so intense. He also employs some very creepy modernized organ music of the style heard in many old-time radio shows.

"Buried Alive" 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.


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Buried Alive

Air Date: 10/17/80
Writer(s): John Graham
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Paul Mills
Featuring: Don Franks, Lally Cadeau, John Stocker, Frank Perry
Commercial Synopsis: The Magnificent Santini enters a deep trance, is declared dead, the insurance company pays – and he splits the money with his wife. It's a great plan, if she digs him up after the funeral. Santini's been down there for a while and nothing's happened. Maybe she's got ideas of her own.   (DHPA)


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

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