Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 Days of Suspense: "Short Order"

I enjoy old-time radio horror shows such as Inner Sanctum Mysteries and the Mysterious Traveler, but I think I've always sensed they were not made of the same caliber as Suspense. For one thing, those programs were too eager to pile on atmosphere and deliver "shocking" developments every 5 minutes. By comparison, Suspense would occasionally take a slow-burn approach to tension and demonstrated how to get it done without relying on flying bullets or falling corpses.

Such a program is "Short Order" from August 16, 1945. It features Joseph Kearns as the owner of a diner who must contend with a disfigured customer whose presence is depressing his business. This is all that's required for the bulk of the program - the tension between the owner and the customer as the former tries to save his business from ruin. Then, just as the twist ending seems to have been revealed... it explodes into a terrifying climax. You may download it from here.

Joseph Kearns' voice was frequently heard on Suspense in supporting roles, narrative roles or to shill products for the sponsors. In my opinion, he gave his finest performance in this outing. In all, he was a talented radio performer in both drama & comedy.

Tomorrow: "Such a desolate place to run out of gas..."


Mike Cheyne said...

This is such a great episode...I think what works, as you point out, is that a lesser show would have been content to simply end it on the somewhat obvious "twist" that the whole thing was a con, whereas this episode goes...much further.

Michael Hoskin said...

Hello Mike! Yes, the ending is so great, I listened to it again just last week. There are episodes of Suspense which fall apart at the ending. There are other episodes with such muddled mysteries that you aren't quite sure how events connected to each other. But "Short Order" has you hang on every word from such a simple premise and such logical developments. And more than that, a shocking climax!