Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days of Suspense: "Elwood"

One of Suspense's great strengths was to play against the expectations of their audience by casting familiar actors in roles they were decidedly unlikely to portray on the silver screen. Frequently they cast comedians in serious dramatic roles, but would also give dramatic actors an opportunity to loosen up (even satirize themselves). It's surely part of why Suspense was seen as a prestigious program among Hollywood's top actors and how they successfully attracted so many major talents during the show's Hollywood-based years.

Today's program is an example of how the show played against typecasting - "Elwood," starring Eddie Bracken, from March 6, 1947. You may download it here.

Eddie Bracken plays a young gas station attendant, frustrated by his aimless life and unfulfilled ambitions. There are murders being committed in his town and Elwood himself is quite close to the killer...

Eddie Bracken's nervous energy suited him well in the comedies he normally appeared in, but his Suspense performances are a revelation; I mean, look at his picture above - is that the face of a menacing figure? Is that chipmunk-like expression even the least bit unsettling? Yet on the radio, he's undeniably able to agitate the audience's nerves.

Tomorrow: "It's good to be home."


Mike Cheyne said...

I think Bracken does a great job in this episode, but this is not one I particularly like. There's an almost absurd level of unpleasantness at times, and I can't decide if there is supposed to be a "mystery" or not (I do like the final twist explaining the killer's motivations). There's also a ton of episodes around this time in which the ending seems the same--the killer in jail, blandly accepting his/her execution.

Michael Hoskin said...

Hi Mike! The unpleasant tone is part of what I enjoy about this episode. Bracken's performance carries it, even though it's pretty clear he's the killer.

You're definitely right about the quantity of Suspense episodes with the killer's final resignation (my favourite is Joseph Cotten in the climax of "You'll Never See Me Again", but there are many others like "Two Sharp Knives").