Posts Tagged ‘classic episodes’

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 #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 #11: “No Admittance/No Exit”

Don Bailey

This week we present another classic episode, and one that Sarah Palin would probably love: a tale of socialized medicine gone too far! A new clinic where computers diagnose your illness and treat you according to your value to society (OMG, a death panel!).

But the more interesting thing about this episode are the writers. Don Bailey (photo left) came to be one of Canada's most respected writers, not through the usual channels you'd expect, but by way of bank robbery. Bailey was incarcerated in Collins Bay Penitentiary in the 1960s for armed robbery and it was there he turned to writing. By the time he was released, Bailey had written and published numerous poems and stories and had a community of big name authors who had supported his work waiting for him. He went on to be prolific in many areas of literature, including radio and TV script writing.

At various times Bailey teamed up with writer/actress Milo Ringham. Together they wrote this episode for Nightfall and one for Midnight Cab ("The Mystery of the Friendless Man"). There is a script rumored to be floating around for a Nightfall episode called "The Prize", but so far nothing has turned up. It isn't listed in the archive of Don Bailey's papers at the University of Toronto, though some data about it supposedly exists at Concordia University in Montréal, where there's an archive of CBC Radio documents.

Sadly there is very little information available about this partnership. In fact, there is virtually no information about Milo Ringham anywhere on the Net, except that she was member of the Toronto Free Theatre and went to the University of New Brunswick. (I have, however, recently received a note from someone who has information about her, I just haven't had time to follow it up.)

Don Bailey passed away in the early 2000's (2003 or 2004, I believe – it's hard to confirm) and Milo Ringham passed shortly afterward.

This is one of 30 or so episodes that made their way into the Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio cassette series back in the 90s.


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No Admittance/No Exit

Air Date: 9/12/1980
Writer(s): Don Bailey & Milo Ringham
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Hugh Webster, Deirdre Flannigan, Robert Christie, Robert Haley, Mary Pirie
Commercial Synopsis: Welcome to the brave new world of the Future Clinic, where computers decide patients' treatment options on the basis of their contribution to society.   (NPR)


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

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