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Posts Tagged ‘mary pirie’

Nightfall #33: “Angel’s Kiss”

John EvansThis week we present the last episode of the series to be written by John Graham (with assistance from George R.Robertson) and boy is it a doozy!

John Evans (Earth: Final Conflict, Warehouse 13) plays Chuck, a homophobic, womanizing salesman who works the disco scene to find his conquests. He's the stereotypical love-'em-and-leave-'em type, never wanting to settle for the same thing twice…until he meets Delores ( in an unnerving performance by Elva Mai Hoover). Then he gets a taste of his own medicine—in more ways than one.

Bill Howell once described his production style as "rock 'n roll" radio drama and "Angel's Kiss" may just be the epitome of that description, as much of the soundtrack is pure disco. There's also quite a bit of violence, including a suicide, three murders and a police shooting. In this story, the Devil—and the sound effects team—are very busy.

This is yet another episode with a veritable who's-who cast of NIGHTFALL regulars, including cameos from Mary Pirie, Colin Fox, Sandy Webster, Gerard Parkes and others.

Oh, and the little break in the 4th Wall by Delores at the end of the play is a priceless touch.

NOTE: The voice of the male form of the Devil is not credited, but my ear tells me it is probably John Stocker, with a little post-processing.

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Angel's Kiss

Air Date: 3/20/81
Writer(s): John Graham & George R. Robertson
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Eva Mai Hoover, John Evans, John Stocker, Gordon Thomson, Neil Dainard, Mary Pirie, Sandy Webster, Gerard Parkes, Budd Knapp, Ken James, Richard Donat
Commercial Synopsis: The downtown disco and singles bar scene provides an ideal locale for the Devil to bargain for souls.

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 #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 #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 #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!

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