Friday, October 10, 2014

31 Days of Suspense: "The Waxwork"

The stable of professional radio performers who turned up again and again in the 1940s & 50s were a tremendous asset to Suspense, a large part of how the series endured twenty years so gracefully. Not every performer was fantastic - personally, I can't bear to listen to Larry Thor's monotone for very long - but the majority of them brought colour and personality to their parts.

William Conrad was definitely one of the best; of course, he also had a film career and a bona fide leading role as Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, but in his many parts on Suspense (sometimes as cops, other times as robbers), he could bring savage, thundering tones to villains or invest police officials with wearied, laconic voices.

Conrad's tour de force on Suspense had to be the May 1, 1956 broadcast of "The Waxwork," wherein Conrad provides all of the voices heard! It's an appropriate choice, as the story is that of a reporter who shuts himself inside a wax museum by night to inspire his writing efforts. Unfortunately, in the quiet museum full of lifelike characters, one's imagination can run wild. You can download the episode from here.

"The Waxwork" had earlier been produced as a Suspense episode on March 20, 1947 with Claude Rains starring, but unfortunately the episode appears to have been lost to the ravages of time. Suspense adapted it a third time on March 1, 1959 with Herbert Marshall in the role and the story (by A.M. Burrage) was also adapted to television's Alfred Hitchcock Presents that same year. However, the television version by its very nature couldn't serve as a one-man show and while I like the episode quite a bit, I think Conrad's Suspense version is the superior product.

Tomorrow: "The unlit cigarette turned to garbage in my mouth. I spit it out and stamped it to pieces on the cement floor."

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