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Posts Tagged ‘colin fox’

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 #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!

Nightfall #24: “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Max Ferguson (1954)This episode holds a very special place in my heart: it was the first episode of NIGHTFALL I ever heard.

Back in 2002, I was starting to develop ideas for a horror anthology series to be produced by what would eventually become The Post-Meridian Radio Players. I was looking at examples of past shows and an on-line friend asked me if I'd ever heard of NIGHTFALL. I hadn't. So he sent me an mp3 of this episode and, at the end of 30 minutes, a nearly decade-long obsession was born.

Prior to starting my research on NIGHTFALL, I had no idea who Max Ferguson (photo left) was. All I knew was that he had written three of the creepiest episodes of the series (the other two being "Dark Side of the Mind" and "Breaking Point"). On-line searches began to turn up all sorts of information on him, but not as a writer. Apparently Max was one of the most famous (if not the most famous) radio personalities in all of Canadian history. His radio career spanned 52 years – all of it with the CBC. His repertoire consisted of dozens of character voices, the most famous of which was the old ranch hand, Rawhide. He hosted a number of shows over the years, always managing to find new satirical uses for his vocal cast.  (A page with links to a number of his hilarious sketches from the CBC Archives can be found here.)

During a 2004 phone interview, I learned how he had landed the job of writing for NIGHTFALL

Max apparently retired from CBC several times, but somehow always managed to come back. In 1980, during one of these retirement periods, CBC Head of Radio Drama, Susan Rubes, suggested he try his hand at writing. And that's how we got "Where Do We Go From Here?". (Max told me that wasn't the original title. Apparently Bill Howell had changed it. He believed his original title had been "Perchance to Dream".)

The story is narrated from the real-time point-of-view of the main character, Neville Edwards (voiced by Neil Munro, in one of his best NIGHTFALL performances), who has just been in a terrible rollover accident, though he is still very much alive. However, to the witnesses on the scene; to the ambulance attendants; to the doctors and nurses at the hospital; even to his co-workers, Neville Edwards is dead. Throughout all this, he remains in a controlled panic. He firmly believes someone will realize the truth and then he'll be saved. It's only when he's laying on the mortician's slab that his veneer truly begins to crack.

How does it turn out? Is he saved at the eleventh hour by a mortician's observant eye? You'll have to listen to find out!

(This episode is sometimes mistakenly referred to as "Living Corpse". It is believed this came about due to the circulation of recordings made from the 1983/84 CBC Enterprises audio cassette release, which lacked the Luther Kranst/Henry Ramer intro and close. This theory has not been corroborated by any official source, however.)


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Where Do We Go From Here?

Air Date: 12/12/1980
Writer(s): Max Ferguson
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Neil Munro, Colin Fox , Michael Wincott, Arch McDonnell, Grant Roll, David Calderisi, Mary Pirie, John Stocker, Corinne Langston, Gordon Thomson
Commercial Synopsis: We learn more than we wanted to know about morticians and their scruples after a not-quite fatal car crash.


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

Nightfall #22: “Deadly Developments”

Gordon ThomsonAh, another one of my favorite episodes! It joins the ranks of several other episodes about "cursed objects" and was the first to be written by a woman.

John Stocker and Gordon Thomson (photo left) – starring together on NIGHTFALL for the first time since "How Did You Get My Name?" (#8) – respectively play professional photographer André Phillipe and his assistant, Steve Balfourt, who are preparing a photo shoot for the cover of an upcoming horror novel. During the session, André decides to try out his newly-acquired Von Hensdorf, an extremely rare camera made in pre-war Germany, known for the stark quality of its photos. Very quickly, the shoot turns into a terrifying experience for the three women sent by the modeling agency, who are overwhelmed by the sense of a malevolent presence in the studio. The next day, two police officers arrive at the studio and begin asking questions about three separate incidents that occurred the afternoon before. At roughly the same time, André realizes, that the Von Hensdorf photos were being developed…

The playwright on this episode is something of a mystery. Arlene Ezrin is one of the few writers I haven't been able to track down or to account for as deceased. The only Arlene Ezrin I can find any reference to on-line is the wife of Canadian music producer Bob Ezrin (known for his work with such talents as Alice Cooper, Kiss and Pink Floyd), but so little is to be found about her as to be non-existent. They did, however, live in Toronto, so it's quite possible this is the same person.

Historical Note: The original CBC Radio broadcast of this episode (as well as the version you are listening to here) has an opening scene in Paul Gemmel's pawn shop, in which André purchases the Von Hensdorf camera. However, the oft-circulated copy of this episode is from its run on NPR Playhouse  in 1981, which did not include the scene. Correspondence between the producer of NPR Playhouse and Bill Howell indicates that, due to time constraints, episodes had to be limited to 29 minutes or less in length, so it is likely that Bill Howell excised the scene from the version he sent to NPR to keep it under time. This is only a theory, though, and has not been confirmed.


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Deadly Developments

Air Date: 11/28/8
Writer(s): Arlene Ezrin
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: John Stocker, Gordon Thomson, Budd Knapp, Sandy Webster, Linda Sorenson, Elva Mai Hoover, Nicky Guadagni, Colin Fox, Arch McDonnell
Commercial Synopsis: The discovery of a mysterious old German camera starts a bizarre series of events in this contemporary story focusing on the world of fashion photography.


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

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!

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