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Posts Tagged ‘neil munro’

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 #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 #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 #9: “The Body Snatchers”

Graham Haley

This is one of my favorite adaptations. It's creepy, it's shocking and it's one of the show's best period pieces.

This episode features Graham Haley (photo left), who appears in many episodes, but who also penned two of the series' more interesting adaptations: "The Room" and "Mkara", both originally written by South African radio drama personality, Michael McCabe. (Haley might be better known to the geek crowd as the voice of Pyro in the 1990s animated X-Men series.)

McEnaney's adaptation is very true to the original Stevenson story, with a couple of exceptions. The episode tells Fettes' tale of the original events, but leaves off the prologue where Fettes has an unpleasant encounter with MacFarlane decades later at an inn, which triggers Fettes' telling of the tale to one of his friends. Also different is a scene added by McEnaney which introduces the character of Jane Galbraith, the barmaid whose suspiciously-fresh body is later brought to the school by Burke and Hare.


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The Body Snatchers

Air Date: 8/29/1980
Writer(s): Frank W. McEnaney (based on the short story The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Neil Munro, Graham Haley, Robert Christie, Richard Donat, Sean Mulcahy, Wendy Thatcher, Michael Wincott, Eric House
Commercial Synopsis: An adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic by Frank W . McEnaney, set in Edinburgh, 1828, where the infamous Burke and Hare are providing suspiciously fresh corpses to the local medical school.  (NPR)


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

Nightfall #7: “Future Fear”

"Future Fear" cassette design from Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio

This third outing by John Graham is the first of a couple NIGHTFALL episodes with a theme of devices that seem to receive signals from the future and the consequences experienced by those who decide to misuse them.

This is also the earliest episode in the series, chronologically, to be featured as a cover title in the Durkin-Hayes Paperback Audio release of NIGHTFALL in the 1990s (image left). These tapes are no longer made, but you can often find them for sale cheaply on eBay.

The episode was also one of four featured on the only CD set to be officially released by the CBC, Nightfall, Volume 1. CBC no longer sells this set, but it can be found occasionally for sale on-line.

"Future Fear" is an episodes you see on a lot of people's list of favorites because it's one of those tales that defines NIGHTFALL's style.


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Future Fear

Air Date: 8/15/1980
Writer(s): John Graham
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Frank Perry, Aileen Seaton, Neil Munro, Jeannie Elias, John Stocker, Elva Mai Hoover
Commercial Synopsis: A couple sees limitless opportunities for wealth and happiness when their television begins to show them the future. Their anticipation shortly turns to sickening horror and a terrible resolve when the visions of the future turn hideous and bloody.  (DHPA)


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

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