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Posts Tagged ‘len peterson’

Nightfall #29: “They Bite”

David CalderisiThe fifth and final NIGHTFALL script by the late Len Peterson, this week's entry is an adaptation of the 1943 Anthony Boucher short story, "They Bite".

Peterson's ability to adapt a story has always impressed me. There's creating a true-to-the-original script like "The Stone Ship", or taking a story with little or no detail, such as "The Tell-tale Heart", and weaving times and settings and characters into it until it feels like it came from Poe's own hand. And then there's "They Bite", where Peterson made a number of changes to the details of the story and even to some of the motivations of the characters, yet the essential framework and key aspects are mostly still intact.

The story — moved to the current day — revolves around the character of Hugh Blair (played by Robert Haley), a former Vietnam war hero with an interest in paleontology who went a little nuts and had to be sent home to recover. The story is narrated in places by Blair's Army Air Corp tail-gunner, Corey, from Vietnam (excellently portrayed by NIGHTFALL veteran John Stocker), who invites Blair to visit him in "nowhere Nevada" to see the unusual collections of fossil remains out in the desert. What he finds, though, are more than just the remains of some stegosaur. He also finds his former Army commander, Colonel Morgan (David Calderisi, photo left). The man who drove Blair until he cracked.

Blair also finds something else. Something that lives and feeds in the desert, but is only ever seen out of the corner of the eye. Something that shouldn't be alive today, but is.

Also appearing in this episode are Ken James as Set 'em Up Sid and Mavor Moore as Old Jake. (Moore will play an even more important role in NIGHTFALL history as the writer of "The Book of Hell", one of the most popular episodes of the show, which is coming up in a couple of months!)

NOTE: This recording came from the episode's first run on NPR Playhouse in February of 1981.


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They Bite

Air Date: 1/16/81
Writer(s): Len Peterson (adapted from the short story by Anthony Boucher)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: John Stocker, Robert Haley, David Calderisi, Ken James, Mavor Moore
Commercial Synopsis: "Something moved, something little and thin and brown as the earth. Too large for a rabbit, much too small for a man." Paleontologist and Vietnam veteran Hugh Blair is pitted against predatory desert shadows.


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

Nightfall #27: “Guest of Honor”

Nicky GuadagniThis week we feature another excellent adaptation by Len Peterson: the Peter S. Beagle short story, Come, Lady Death (dramatized under the title "Guest of Honor").

In this tale, Moya Fenwick portrays the elderly Lady Flora Neville, a woman renowned for her elaborate parties and balls. After decades of such events, Lady Neville has become bored. Guests such as King George and the Archbishop of Canterbury—even the famous composer George Fredrick Handle—no longer thrill her. Now she longs to invite the one guest that would rouse even her own jaded nature: Death himself.

Despite their initial reactions, her close friends agree that such an eminent guest as Death attending one of her balls would be the talk of London for years to come. Indeed, even the Lady herself comments that "those who were not invited will be publicly shamed!" They are all further intrigued when Death sends a letter agreeing to attend.

However, when Death does arrive at the ball, he is not what any of them expected. For just after midnight, the doors open and in walks…Lady Death.

The episode features Nicky Guadagni (photo left) as the Guest of Honor, as well as series regulars Graham Haley, Eric House, Mary Pirie and Neil Dainard. And, in honor of her birthday this year, I am pleased to single out Lynne Deragon in the role of the Contessa della Candini.

(NOTE: Some sources cite the title of this episode as "The Guest of Honor")


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Guest of Honor

Air Date: 1/2/81
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the 1963 Peter S. Beagle short story "Come, Lady Death")
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Moya Fenwick, Graham Haley, Nicky Guadagni, Tony van Bridge, Lynne Deragon, Mary Pirie, Neil Dainard, Eric House
Commercial Synopsis: In England, circa 1765, Lady Neville decides to invite the Ultimate Guest–Lady Death–to her Grand Ball.


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 #5: “The Telltale Heart”

Richard MonetteThe second adaptation of the series, this one also by Len Peterson (from his 1965 script for CBC Mystery Theatre), is one of the all-time classic horror stories: Poe's Telltale Heart, featuring actor Richard Monette (photo left).

The original story is quite short and gives no real details. No names. No locations. Just the thoughts of the killer as he is driven to his crime by the Old Man's blue eye, and his attempt to cover it up.

Peterson takes those few details and weaves an expanded story that Poe himself might have written. Set circa the 1840s (in the last years of Poe's lifetime), we are told the story of how Old Man Weatherby, a widowed New England farmer, hires the wandering Alfred Bane to help him around the stead. Bane and the Old Man get along well and Bane certainly comes to love him, though Weatherby's social beliefs prevent him from doing more that treating him as a greatly-appreciated hired hand. But this isn't what comes to bother Bane. No, what comes between them is the Old Man's eye. A wandering orb with a blue film over it. Bane becomes obsessed with this eye and, believing that it it a sign of evil that has possessed his employer, decides to kill him in order to save him from it's evil influence.

From there, the we follow Poe's original story of murdering the Old Man by suffocating him with his mattress, then dismembering the body and placing the pieces between the slats under the floorboards. Only when confronted by two local police officers who inform Bane that Weatherby's eye was like it was because he had lost sight in it several years earlier, does the guilt of his crime come to haunt him in the form of hearing the Old Man's beating heart coming from under the floor, driving him so mad that he freely confesses his crime to the lawmen.

I had never read the original story and this was my first exposure to it in any form other than the very basic premise. So when I actually read the story after hearing this episode, I was surprised at how little detail there was. Because of that, Peterson's adaptation feels more like the definitive story because its setting and characters just seem to me like elements Poe would have used.

(This was the third Len Peterson NIGHTFALL script my radio drama troupe, The Post-Meridian Radio Players, performed live.)


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The Telltale Heart

Air Date: 8/01/1980
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Richard Monette, Frank Perry, Sean Mulcahy, Sandy Webster
Commercial Synopsis: There's more than poetic justice when a New England farmer mistakenly hires a psychotic killer out of the goodness of his heart.  (NPR)


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

Nightfall #2: “The Monkey’s Paw”

Len PetersonOf NIGHTFALL's 100 episodes, almost 1/3 were adaptations of both popular and obscure short stories. This week's offering is arguably the best of these, penned by one of Canada's foremost playwrights, the late Len Peterson (photo left). It's the definitive example of the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

This was the first of five adaptations written for NIGHTFALL by Mr. Peterson (not including the elusive "Dreamy", which wasn't a NIGHTFALL episode at all, but which included many of the show's regulars and aired in its time slot). I had a chance to meet and interview Mr. Peterson in 2004 and I hope to write up that interview at a future date. (I'm also pleased to say that this was one of the first NIGHTFALL plays my radio drama troupe, The Post-Meridian Radio Players, performed live).

So now, sit back and enjoy the first of NIGHTFALL's  many adaptations.


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The Monkey's Paw

Air Date: 7/11/1980
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the short story by W.W. Jacobs)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Ruth Springford, Eric House, Chris Wiggins, Michael Wincott, Graham Haley
Commercial Synopsis: A British Army Sergeant-Major returns from years of service in India with more than just the usual military yarns.  (NPR)


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

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