Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days of Suspense: "Four Hours to Kill"

It's my custom to celebrate the month of October with a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. Although the old-time radio series Suspense delved into the supernatural occasionally, it would be a little off-base to call it a horror series - but as my favourite radio program in the genres of mystery/thriller/horror, I can't think of another program I'd rather spotlight! Thus, for 31 days I'll count backwards through my favourite 31 episodes of Suspense, culminating with my favourite episode on Halloween.

Suspense lasted from 1942-1962 and underwent huge chances over those two decades. I've stated before on the blog that I find the early programs by John Dickson Carr to be stuffy, poorly-paced and unevocative of radio's strengths. However, the program quickly fell under the control of writer-producer William Spier and he set the standard for the series which his successors would imitate.

Today's spotlight falls upon an episode from the able hands of William Spier: "Four Hours to Kill," which originally aired January 12, 1950 with star Robert Taylor. You may download the episode from here.

In this program, Taylor portrays a man who murders his brother, then realizes his brother's phone had been off the hook during the assault - a woman on the other end of the line overheard their scuffle. Now, Taylor must discover the woman's identity so he can trace her down and kill her!

Cleverly, the episode places the audience on the same side as the killer, following his desperate ploys to determine the woman's identity, despite the fact that, strictly speaking, he ought to be punished for his first murder rather than encouraged to commit a second one, right?

Suspense's crew of regular performers, musicians and technicians were a key part of the show's high quality, especially compared to other mystery-thriller shows of the time. This episode includes familiar voices such as Cathy Lewis, who seemed to portray every second woman on the show.

Never one to let a well-received script languish, Spier often reused Suspense scripts elsewhere; in this instance, he was actually reusing a script from the series Philip Morris Playhouse which he'd produced the year prior on May 13, 1949. You can compare broadcasts by listening to the Philip Morris version here. Notably, Cathy Lewis played in both versions.

Tomorrow: "I like nice things. Valuable things."

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