Original image: The Knowles Gallery
Starring: Santos Ortega
Originally aired: 13 March 1960
Plot synopsis: A pair of American honeymooners gets mixed up in an attempted assassination of a dictator.
Favourite line: 'We hold this spot for two hours, just to see a real old-style dictator in the flesh, and some wise guy says no pictures!'
Review: Politics comes to Suspense in a story centred on a dictatorship in an unnamed Latin American country. However, it isn't a very strong episode, though nor is it terrible. The two American tourists who find themselves embroiled in the plot's political machinations come across as pretty naive, and just asking for trouble by filing a complaint with the very police who took their camera from them (confiscated because they may have inadvertently taken a picture of the would-be assassins of 'El Supremo'). There's a modest amount of excitement in finding out whether the honeymooning couple can escape their police captors with their lives, though in truth, not much. Furthermore, it's not a spoiler to reveal that, despite the episode's title, no revolution actually occurs in the story.
Rating: * *
Starring: Lurene Tuttle
Originally aired: 13 November 1947
Plot synopsis: A detective investigating a murder at a theatre encounters a ventriloquist with a very unusual, and beautiful, female dummy. Based on the outline of a short story by Ray Bradbury, later published as 'And So Died Riabouchinska' in The Saint Detective Magazine, in June/July 1953; and in his short-story collection The Machineries of Joy, in 1964.
Favourite line: 'It was a scene so incongruous, so impossible, so completely beyond the veil of sanity and reason that Krovitch recoiled even as he watched. If ever in the time of the world the forces that manipulate men struggled one side against the other, this was the time.'
Review: It's interesting to note that this episode was based not on a published story, but on merely an outline of one, the printed version not appearing until some years later. Furthermore, although the published short story is generally considered a relatively minor work in Ray Bradbury's body of writings, this radio play is terrific. There are numerous thrillers and horror stories about ventriloquists (among the best being the film Magic, the final segment of the anthology film Dead of Night, and The Twilight Zone episode 'The Dummy') and this offers another example of why such tales can be so effective: there is just something extremely creepy about the whole idea of inanimate objects being seemingly brought to life by someone apparently giving them a voice, especially dolls that have been fashioned to look human. Bradbury is best known as a writer of fantasy, horror and science fiction, but this episode doesn't really fit into any of these genre categories, as this is not one of those ventriloquist's dummy tales with a clearly supernatural angle. However, nor does it seem quite adequate to describe it as a detective story, even though this is initially what it appears to be, as it is more about exploring the bizarre relationship between the ventriloquist and his dummy than the solving of a murder. Indeed, the episode seems to defy categorization: it goes beyond straight realism into the realms of twisted psychology, but without becoming out-and-out fantasy. Regardless, the strange, unsettling atmosphere that is created by the interactions between the ventriloquist and his doll is both powerful and unnerving. In particular, it is thanks to the fact that the dummy is female - which is rare in such stories - that there is a peculiar, sexual subtext to the pair's relationship, which makes the tale even more disquieting. All told, something of a neglected classic among Suspense episodes. (For anyone interested in hearing another Suspense story about a ventriloquist, try the quite different, but also very good, Flesh Peddler.)
Rating: * * * * *
[Other adaptations: Radio - Ray Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre (1997); TV - Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956), The Ray Bradbury Theater (1988)]
A Ring for Marya
Starring: Cornel Wilde
Originally aired: 28 December 1950
Plot synopsis: A man persuades his wife to burn down his business so that he can receive a fire insurance payout, but once she has, matters soon spiral out of control.
Favourite line: 'She kissed me before she went, and then I sat there on the couch and rubbed away at my mouth. She always smelled like laundry water, I thought … She had never appealed to me as the kind of woman I should have. If I hadn't been so frightened by America when I first arrived, I would never have married her at all.'
Review: Cornel Wilde gives a memorable performance in this episode as a thoroughly self-centred and obnoxious character. The way in which he manipulates his wife to carry out an act of arson demonstrates his true nature early on, and it isn't revealing too much to say that none of his subsequent actions do anything to redeem him. The script and plot are both solidly crafted - though there's nothing truly exceptional about the story - but it's the characters that stand out, and which make this an entertaining and enjoyable episode. It's interesting to note as well that Wilde stars in another episode about deliberate fire-starting and insurance fraud, The Flame, though there he plays a very different character. (For those interested in the themes of arson and pyromania, a further Suspense story worth listening to is The Night Reveals.)
Rating: * * *
Run, Sheep, Run
Starring: Cathy and Elliott Lewis
Originally aired: 13 July 1954
Plot synopsis: After a driver is involved in a collision on a foggy night, his discovery that the object he hit was a man forces him to go on the run with a female hitchhiker he has just picked up, to escape being charged with murder.
Favourite line: 'I don't know too much about things like this, so I can't explain, not exactly, what it feels like to kill a man.'
Review: Good performances by the cast can't rescue what is a decidedly so-so episode. Most listeners will probably guess what the ‘twist’ is long before it arrives, and it is a slow, drawn-out process getting to it. Frankly, it's hard to believe that the protagonist isn't suspicious much earlier of the woman he picks up, who clearly has femme fatale written all over her. The final disappointment of this episode is that - and I hope this doesn't constitute a spoiler - there are no sheep in it at all, running or otherwise ...
Rating: * *