Original image: The Knowles Gallery
Sleep Is for Children
Starring: Elspeth Eric
Originally aired: 6 March 1960
Plot synopsis: With a serial killer on the loose, who has been killing women in a suburban housing development, a woman living there has to spend a night alone with her daughter - will she become the killer's latest victim?
Favourite line: 'You're crowding me, all of you newcomers! Hedging me in, bulldozing the trees down, spoiling the land with your fancy new cigar-box houses! Bankrupting us all with your taxes for schools, and roads, and such! My taxes have gone up double since you city people started flooding in here!'
Review: Not much to say about this one. It's a reasonable enough thriller, but the problem is, all the key elements of the plot are so heavily signposted at the beginning that there is very little in the way of tension. By the end of the first act, listeners already know the killer's identity, and most will likely have worked out the means that will lead to his capture, so there isn't much suspense in the remaining running time. Of some amusement, though - to me at least - is that one of the main characters is described as 'the eggman' (because his job is to deliver eggs), which left me wondering throughout whether he might be the character referenced in the famous Beatles' song 'I am the Walrus' ...
Rating: * *
Sorry, Wrong Number
Starring: Agnes Moorehead
Originally aired: 25 May 1943
[Further versions of this story aired seven more times, all starring Agnes Moorehead]
Plot synopsis: Thanks to a crossed connection on her telephone line, a woman accidentally overhears a conversation between two men plotting a murder – but who is the intended victim? Based on an original script by Lucille Fletcher.
Favourite line: 'I haven't had one bit of satisfaction out of one call I've made this evening - the whole world could be murdered for all you people care.'
Review: No less a figure than Orson Welles described this episode as 'the greatest show of all time'. However, despite being probably the most well-known story of Suspense's entire run - its status and popularity confirmed by the fact that it was reprised seven times after its first broadcast - this is not the show's best episode, sacrilegious as it may be to suggest this to some Old Time Radio fans. Yes, there is much to enjoy, especially Agnes Moorehead's intense performance as the increasingly anxious and frightened central character, together with a solid script and fine presentation. However, as with many stories that rely upon a 'surprise' revelation (which I won't reveal here), once you know what the twist is, subsequent listens reveal that the basic plot is somewhat thin, and that other aspects that usually go into making a good story (characterization etc.) are underdeveloped. Furthermore, some may find its reliance upon chance and coincidence too contrived to be truly satisfying. As such, very good certainly, but - pace Welles - this story doesn't really deserve the five-star status it is often accorded.
Rating: * * * *
[Other adaptations: Radio - Lux Radio Theater (1950); Film - Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)]
A Story of Poison
Starring: Joseph Kearns
Originally aired: 13 September 1955
[Another version of this story, starring Charles Laughton, aired 17 September 1951 - under the title Neill Cream, Doctor of Poison]
This story was produced previously by Suspense as the episode Neill Cream, Doctor of Poison, which though very similar, is overall superior thanks to the performance of Charles Laughton in the title role - see this entry for my full review.
Rating: * *
The Strange Death of Gordon Fitzroy
Starring: Chester Morris
Originally aired: 28 November 1946
Plot synopsis: An ex-convict, just out of prison, seeks revenge on the man he blames for leaving him to take all of the blame for a crime they committed together.
Favourite line: 'I shouldn't have hit him, but I couldn't stop myself when I saw that look of horror and pity that I knew I'd always see from now on when anybody saw my face. My awful, scarred, twisted, nightmare of a face.'
Review: For the first few minutes, I thought this might be a four or even five star episode, as it has a good set-up and some crisp dialogue. The protagonist is also interesting: he is not an innocent, wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit, but someone who is guilty, yet who nonetheless feels wronged by the man with whom he carried out a robbery, for betraying him to the police. Physically, too, he bears the marks of his guilt, being afflicted with a terribly scarred face as a result of a miscalculation with the explosives used to commit the felony. However, as the plot develops, it quickly becomes apparent that there isn't much more to the story than a fairly ordinary tale of revenge and retribution. In fact, by the time of the ad break in the middle, I was somewhat bored. The ending does offer a twist in the tale that is reasonably effective, but by this stage I had lost most of my enthusiasm for the story, and I was left with the feeling that overall this is merely an average, mediocre episode.
Rating: * * *
The Swift Rise of Eddie Albright
Starring: Phil Silvers
Originally aired: 3 April 1947
Plot synopsis: An elevator operator seeking to impress a manicurist tries to do so by identifying to the police a notorious gangster staying at the hotel where he works.
Favourite line: 'Well, like I say, we believe in giving prompt and courteous service. So, I wasn't going to argue with anybody - particularly anybody as big and tough as these two guys looked.'
Review: The main reason for listening to this episode is Phil Silvers in the title role. Indeed, without him, I would deduct at least a star from my rating; the story itself isn't very strong. The episode dates from before the TV series that made Silvers famous, but his distinctive style of delivery is instantly recognizable, and it his performance that makes the story enjoyable. The only other real point of interest is the character of the main gangster, who has an almost melancholic quality about him, as a criminal who has come to regret the life he has chosen to lead. For the rest, little about the plot is worthy of much notice, and although the ending is fine, it's nothing special.
Rating: * * *