Monday, November 17, 2014

Quiet, Please: the list of recommendations

Part of what makes the Old-Time Radio hobby so easy to slip into is that so many of the surviving broadcasts which circulate are in terrific condition and quite pleasant on the ears. However, because those who address the largest audiences prefer the clean audio, there are all kinds of less-than-clean programs whose entire catalogs don't seem to receive air time; if you're a fanatic about Old-Time Radio, then you have to track those shows down on your own time.

I had been a fan of OTR for years (beginning with an interest in the horror & science fiction shows) when I had the pleasant surprise of discovering Quiet, Please, a program which ran from 1947-1949 and whose body of work is near-complete - albeit often in poor audio condition. Quiet, Please is not the type of program today's jockeys like to use - it's a challenging show with (naturally) a very quiet tone. There are few actors, with most of the work being done by star Ernest Chappell. There are few instruments, mainly an organ and a piano. There are even fewer sound effects (frequently the piano or organ take their place). The stories are often melancholic and demand a listener's full attention - unlike, say, a horror program such as Inner Sanctum Mysteries which has a "shocking development" every 3 minutes or so, when Quiet, Please is telling a horror story it usually builds to a single moment of horror (and many episodes aren't horror stories at all).

Quiet, Please might be better termed a "dark fantasy" series rather than horror. Wyllis Cooper's stories often feel like poetry, brought to life through Ernest Chappell's performances. Chappell, as some have observed, serves as a fantastic everyman performer, being able to disappear into his roles, sometimes by adopting accents, different pitches or verbal tics. Taken as a whole, Quiet, Please is a combination of horror, humour, fantasy, poetry and melancholy - so, basically, it's great for Edgar Allan Poe fans.

For all these reasons of audio quality and story content, I think it might be helpful to offer my suggestion of 10 great Quiet, Please episodes. It's my belief that if you are an OTR fan and you enjoy any of these shows, you will enjoy them a lot and probably seek out the rest of the series. This list is simply a handy means of getting started. All links lead to the mp3 files at archive.org

  1. "Beezer's Cellar" is a horror story about a gang of robbers who learn of an unfinished cellar and decide it would be a good place to stash their loot. However, this cellar turns out to be literally incomplete - it's not entirely part of this world.
  2. "Let the Lilies Consider" is a strange tale of weird fantasy in the vein of Algernon Blackwood. A man adores his flowers but his wife grows increasingly outraged by them, feeling truly jealous over his plants. Much as in a Blackwood story, nature proves stronger than humanity.
  3. "My Son John" is a vampire story, albiet one with a few unusual rules about vampires and told in a way that's half-horrifying, half-amusing. A man desperate to see his dead son again raises him from the dead - but now his son is a vampire who intends to feast upon the living.
  4. "Northern Lights" is a weird science fiction tale about two men whose experiments in time start bringing frozen caterpillars into their lab. Caterpillars who sing.
  5. "Presto Change-o, I'm Sure" is pretty representative of the series' take on fantasy. A young man obtains a real magic wand; although he doesn't entirely understand how to use it, he learns enough to get himself into trouble - particularly with the wand's original owner, Cagliostro.
  6. "Shadow of the Wings" is an Easter story about the angel of death seeking the life of a dying child and the child's mother attempting to fend off death, himself.
  7. "The Thing on the Fourble Board" is easily the best-known episode of the series. It's isn't to everyone's tastes, but if you like radio horror you really do owe it to yourself to hear this one. It's a freaky tale about a drilling crew who unearth something from deep beneath the surface - something like an invisible spider. And it has a voice.
  8. "Wear the Dead Man's Coat" involves two men's discovery that if you wear a dead person's clothes you can become invisible, which seems like a condition with no drawbacks - but oh, there definitely is one!
  9. "Whence Came You" is another very well-thought-of horror episode concerning an archaeologist who opens up an old tomb there's something still alive in there - possibly an irate Egyptian god!
  10. "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" is almost a parody of Quiet, Please in which a drunk pesters Wyllis Cooper in a bar, attempting to tell him stories about the weird things on the moon and how he keeps killing the same woman over and over again.

If you dig Quiet, Please then be sure to let me know which episodes are your favorites!

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