Original image: The Knowles Gallery
Starring: Orson Welles and Geraldine Fitzgerald
Originally aired: 7 October 1943
[Another version of this story, starring Alice Frost and Eric Dressler, aired 29 July 1942; and a further one, starring Lilli Palmer and Raymond E. Lewis, aired 26 December 1946]
Plot synopsis: A wealthy woman becomes increasingly suspicious of her new husband, whose past is shrouded in mystery – has she unwittingly married a fortune-hunting murderer? Based on a short story by Agatha Christie, first published in The Grand Magazine, in November 1924; and later in her short-story collection The Listerdale Mystery, in 1934.
Favourite line: 'Standing beside her was a man as determined as he was insane!'
Review: I am not a great fan of Agatha Christie, and I would not call this a great story, but it is a solid episode nonetheless, which holds the interest throughout. There is no especially memorable dialogue, and for most of its length nothing very exciting happens - but the central conceit is intriguing, and Christie's story supplies a strong conclusion, which resonates thanks to its carefully crafted ambiguity. Both Welles and Fitzgerald also give fine performances. The similarly themed Hitchcock film Suspicion is probably a better take on the same idea overall, though its ending is less effective than the one this Suspense episode dares to offer.
Rating: * * *
[Other adaptations: Radio - BBC Radio (2002); Play - Love from a Stranger (1936); TV movie - Love from a Stranger (1938), Love from a Stranger (1947); Film - Love from a Stranger (1937), Love from a Stranger (1947)]
Starring: Eva Lagallienne
Originally aired: 26 June 1947
Plot synopsis: A wheelchair-bound woman with a phobia of metal has to deal with both a burglar and a suitor interested only in her money, without ever touching the substance that terrifies her.
Favourite line: 'You ought to be ashamed, a great big man with a gun robbing a helpless lady in a wheelchair ... Besides that, you're very rude - take your hat off in the house.'
Review: The phobia at the heart of this story, metallaphobia, is a rare and unusual one, which makes this episode at the very least different to the standard sort of thriller. Eva Lagallienne gives a good performance as the snobby, waspish lead who suffers from this phobia, and when a kleptomaniac sister and a scheming servant are also added into the mix, the result is an enjoyably melodramatic - if fairly daft - episode. There's not much to the plot beyond its various eccentric elements, but they are enough to make this an entertaining story.
Rating: * * *
Starring: Claire Trevor
Originally aired: 16 May 1946
Plot synopsis: An escapee from a hospital for the criminally insane turns up at the home of his brother and the latter's wife, with events soon leading to murder.
Favourite line: 'Criminal insanity in one's immediate family is pleasant neither to reflect on nor to discuss.'
Review: A by-the-numbers thriller that feels like someone has taken elements from various other (better) episodes, mixed them all together, and hoped that somehow the story would work. Well, it doesn't. This episode is full of tired clichés – including a character who has escaped from an institution for the criminally insane, blah blah blah - many implausibilities, and some quite confused and unclear plotting. It's also stiffly written, with dialogue that frequently rings false - I've quoted a line above as my 'favourite' to give an indication of how far from the way real people speak the characters in this story talk. Even the title is weak, being bland and insipid, and one which could be used for almost any crime/mystery tale.
Starring: Jack Benny
Originally aired: 2 February 1953
Plot synopsis: In the year 2053, the inhabitants of Mars prepare for the arrival of the first spaceship from Earth, by getting ready to implement their 'Plan X'.
Favourite line: 'She did like me. Even just for a while. That's something, isn't it?'
Review: Although Suspense presented quite a number of episodes with fantastical elements - especially supernatural ones - it didn't produce that many outright science-fiction stories, which makes this one relatively unusual. Regardless, it's a pretty good episode, even if it does feel like it belongs to a different series (Dimenson X or X Minus One, say). I was reminded in particular of the Martian stories of Ray Bradbury (such as those adapted for other OTR series, including The Martian Chronicles, Mars Is Heaven and Dwellers in Silence), since many of these also focus on encounters between human explorers and Martians, with some even adopting, as this episode does, the Martian perspective. I also detected shades of another Bradbury story, Zero Hour, in the way the episode builds tension by establishing early on that the climax will occur at an appointed time, together with the sinister involvement of children in the plot. In any case, the episode is definitely enjoyable, with a fun performance by Jack Benny in the lead role, and some interesting touches - such as its explanation of the flying saucer mania of the 1950s, and having the humans of its imagined future speak Esperanto. However, the story also has a couple of problems. First, the tone feels somewhat misjudged in relation to the subject matter. The episode take a broadly humorous approach to the story - most notably in the characterization of the protagonist (played by Benny, who was, of course, a comedian) - yet the plot itself is actually fairly serious. In many respects, it might have worked better simply played straight. Second, the ending is quite odd. The episode deserves credit for not going for the clichéd or obvious - such as having the Martians repel the human 'invaders' with a secret super weapon - but the conclusion it does opt for doesn't make a great deal of sense. So, a good episode, but series like X Minus One produced many better science-fiction stories, both humorous and serious.
Rating: * * *