Posts Tagged ‘hugh webster’

Nightfall #34: “The Book of Hell”

Lynne DeragonWell, here it is. Another episode that I know many of you have been waiting for me to post on: Mavor Moore's "The Book of Hell".

On fans' lists of favorite episodes, this one often vies for the top spot with "Welcome to Homerville" and "The Repossession", and for good reason: it's Creep Factor builds pretty much from the beginning.

Two editors (Nonnie Griffin, Patrick Young) and the president (Budd Knapp) of a failing publishing house find themselves in over their heads when they receive a bizarre manuscript from a reclusive author…who's been dead for two years. The book appears to be a first-person account of a soul's experiences in Hell: an account which could make millions and revive the company. But there's only one problem: the book can't be printed. It can't be photocopied. It can't even be recorded.

As the widow of the now-deceased author A. J. Yanovsky, actress Lynne Deragon [photo left] (Falling Skies, Queer As Folk) manages to fully establish the mood for the rest of the episode. Her character calmly makes startling revelations in a soft, gentle voice with a Spanish accent: an effect which makes the listener all the more uneasy, especially with this particular little gem: "That book will never be published…because it is probably true."

In one scene, passages from the book are read aloud. Now I'm sure most people will have a certain expectation of what a first-person description of hell might be like, but mine certainly didn't come anywhere close to the one Moore lays out in this script. It is just chilling. And Bill Howell's choice in background music (some of which was used to the same effect in "The Willoughby Obsession") only adds to the feeling of despair.

An interesting note about this episode: Mavor Moore was not at all happy with the final production. Between an e-mail exchange we had in 2004 and my subsequent research trip to Toronto, it seems the entire script was rewritten. But it wasn't that anything was changed in terms of story. The changes were all cosmetic. The dialog seemed to have been revised to make it more "accessible" to the average listener. In Mavor Moore's archives at York University, there are copies of both the production script and his original (the production script has a snarky little caveat on the front cover: something to the effect of "Rewritten (poorly) by the hand of another." The original script might be described as more "high-brow", but I felt it was just was effective as the one that was produced.


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The Book of Hell

Air Date: 3/27/81
Writer(s): Mavor Moore
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Budd Knapp, Nonnie Griffin, Patrick Young, Lynne Deragon, Hugh Webster, Allen Doremus
Commercial Synopsis: A mysterious manuscript purporting to be a first-person account of what it's like in Hell has the editors of a publishing house in an uproar.

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 #19: “The Devil’s Backbone”

Silver Donald CameronIt makes sense that pretty much every NIGHTFALL episode that takes place in or around Halifax, Nova Scotia has to do with the sea, and for those who find the sea a bit frightening, this story won't help at all.

"The Devil's Backbone" – one of the earliest episodes I can remember listening to – was penned by prolific and highly-respected Canadian author Silver Donald Cameron (photo left). Mr. Cameron was one of my earliest contacts. A very pleasant person, he was quite happy to indulge my questions and I was quite happy to listen to his answers. I have an e-mail interview with him from 2003 that I hope to write up for the full-length entry on this episode. Cameron has written much about the Maritimes, the sea and environmental issues. One of his most prestigious plays was The Sisters, written for CBC Playhouse, with music by the late Stan Rogers.

Paul Mills – this was the third of the three plays he produced for the series – had an interesting story about the post-production on this episode. It seems that he and sound effects artist Bill Robinson created all the underwater effects using a barrel of water, a couple of vuvuzelas and some condoms. As I recall (I have a recorded phone interview with Paul that I need to transcribe), sports horns (not exactly vuvuzelas, I gather, but the principle is the same) were recorded underwater to produce the cries of the monster, as well as to provide bubble effects for the scuba divers. The condoms, as I understand it, were used to protect the microphones while submerged, as well as providing a resonating surface for the horns. I am so looking forward to having an excuse to reproducer this effect myself some day.

The cast features four now-recurring NIGHTFALL actors: Neil Dainard, Neil Munro, Linda Sorenson and Hugh Webster.

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The Devil's Backbone

Air Date: 11/7/80
Writer(s): Silver Donald Cameron
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Paul Mills
Featuring: Neil Munro, Linda Sorenson, Neil Dainard, Hugh Webster
Commercial Synopsis: Beneath the fog and the gray-blue waves lies a field of gold ingots-guarded by something huge, dark and deadly. A few people are willing to risk it.  (DHPA)

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!

November 2022
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