Original image: Patrick Hoesly
Authors: Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood
Originally aired: 13 April 1956
Plot synopsis: When a farm worker's mysterious power of healing, which allows him to cure both animals and people just with his hands, is revealed to the world, he soon discovers that his gift may also be a curse. Based on an unproduced film treatment from the 1930s, later published as Jacob's Hands: A Fable, in 1998.
Favourite line: 'Look at the night! The beautiful, beautiful night! A million stars, all shining for me! I own this night! I own the world!'
Review: This episode is a real curiosity, being based on a film treatment written in the 1930s by two highly noted twentieth-century writers, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood. For whatever reason, the treatment never became a film and lay unread for many decades, before being rediscovered by the actress Sharon Stone in the 1990s. It was subsequently published in book form, though remains - as of 2013 - unmade as a film. Nonetheless, the story did resurface in the 1950s in this radio version, and for my money, it's a strong adaptation. The tale is part Ray Bradbury, with its fable-like fantasy, and part John Steinbeck, with its depiction of a poverty-stricken post-war America. Moving from a farm setting to the big city (Los Angeles), the plot explores what happens when a simple, guileless man with a powerful supernatural ability encounters others with less moral or honest motives, whose interests in his talent are driven largely by self-interest. As it develops, the story thus deals with themes such as the nature of goodness, greed and exploitation. The characters might be criticized for being fairly one-dimensional (not excluding the eponymous hero, who is Forrest Gump-esque in his child-like innocence) and the plot for not being entirely believable (for example, surely the miraculous healings the protagonist performs would attract the attentions of both the government and the media?) but then, the story is meant to be a fable, not a 'realistic' drama. There are strong performances across the board - from a cast including Hans Conreid, Harry Bartell and Helen Kleeb - and it's intriguing, too, to hear Isherwood himself providing the narration.
Rating: * * * *