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Posts Tagged ‘chris wiggins’

Nightfall #35: “Mkara”

Michael McCabeThis week we present the second of two adaptations by Graham Haley of a story by South African actor/playwright Michael McCabe (photo left).

It is 1943 and Dr. Ray Park has come to eastern Africa at the behest of his friend Sylvia to help her husband, famous hunter and naturalist Charles Woodley (Chris Wiggins), who fervently believes he is dying as the result of a curse. The curse was put on him in Tanganyika five years earlier by Mkara, the brother of a local witch doctor, after Woodley shot and killed the Great Bull of El Haza, an elephant worshiped by the regions tribes as the God of all Elephants. Woodley is convinced he is going to die and nothing will make him think otherwise, until Ray offers to take the curse upon himself.

The introductions of Luther Kranst throughout the first two seasons of NIGHTFALL range from dark and tongue-in-cheek to pithy and profound. The one for this episode is pretty typical of the rest of them, but it tends to stick with me for some reason: "Tonight's story takes us to the interior of Ethiopia, where nowadays they have bounties on virtually all wildlife…except for the human soul." Ah, Luther, I miss you.


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Mkara

Air Date: 4/3/81
Writer(s): Graham Haley (adapted from a production by Michael McCabe)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Mkara
Featuring: Chris Wiggins, Maya Anderson, Eric House, David Hendlin, Graham Haley, Henry Ramer (Narrating as Luther Kranst)
Commercial Synopsis: Mkara, an Ethiopian native, hunts down two British ivory hunters warning them of dire consequences should they harm the God of All Elephants, the Great Bull of El Haza.


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!

Nightfall #14: “The Stone Ship”

The Stone ShipAnother one of my favorite adaptations, again by the late Len Peterson: William Hope Hodgson's "The Stone Ship".

This one is a very faithful adaptation of the original short story and the cast are all first season veterans, led by Chris Wiggins.

Ghost stories are one thing. Sea stories are another. Combine them and you have Hodgson. Since hearing this episode, I have read most of his stories and they're all pretty creepy. Many of them would make excellent radio adaptations. There's just something about the loneliness of the sea – whether it be on a three-masted schooner or a steam freighter – that lends itself to tales of the unusual and supernatural.

It happens that my radio drama troupe, The Post-Meridian Radio Players, performed this story in 2007 and it remains one of our most-remembered productions. After you listen to the original, feel free to download and listen to our live production.


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The Stone Ship

Air Date: 10/3/80
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the short story by William Hope Hodgson)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Chris Wiggins, Arch McDonnell, Eric House, Graham Haley
Commercial Synopsis: Twenty days out of London, and well into the tropics, the crew of an old windjammer, the Alfred Jessop, sails in to the last resting place of a ghostly ship of solid stone. A story about the rocky graveyard of the sea and its petrifying effect on a tough old captain and crew.  (NPR)


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

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 #6: “Late Special”

Chris Wiggins

The only NIGHTFALL script by Clint Bomphray, this is the second episode to feature Chris Wiggins (photo left), prominent voice and TV actor. It's an odd role for him, really. It's not often he was cast as a dark character. Certainly not one as devious and cruel as in this play.

"Late Special" is the first of several episodes involving a car crash as a plot device. It's also the first of a number to take place in the midst of a blizzard. Canada being where it is, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. 🙂

It's been awhile since I've listened to this episode, so I don't have a whole lot to say about it just yet, aside from it being as creepy as hell with a pretty terrifying ending. I also have an e-mail interview I did with Mr. Bomphray a while back that I need to dig up and transcribe.


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Late Special

Air Date: 8/8/1980
Writer(s): Clint Bomphray
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Terry Tweed, Chris Wiggins, David Hughes, Trisha Allen, Judy Sinclair, Richard Donat, Frank Perry
Commercial Synopsis: A car crash during a late season blizzard strands a young woman in an abandoned train station, where she meets a mysterious stranger who obliges her to make a singularly existential choice.  (NPR)


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

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