Original image: The Knowles Gallery
Starring: Evelyn Rudie
Originally aired: 18 May 1958
[Another version of this story, starring Isa Ashdown, aired 5 April 1955; and a further one, starring Francie Meyers, aired 3 January 1960]
Plot synopsis: A children's game called 'invasion' starts to becomes frighteningly real as the time moves inexorably to five o'clock, the designated zero hour for the 'imaginary' Martian invaders' arrival. Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, first published in Planet Stories magazine, in Fall 1947; and later in his short-story collection The Illustrated Man, in 1951.
Favourite line: 'Mom, when the invasion comes, we'll have to get rid of you and Daddy. But I'll be sure it won't hurt very much.'
Review: This story was adapted three times for Suspense, and though all are relatively similar, this second version is my preferred one, with an extremely eerie, creepy performance from Evelyn Rudie as the child whose make-believe game of alien invasion turns into terrifying reality. There is a rich tradition of science-fiction and supernatural stories about seemingly innocent children who turn out to be sources of malevolence and evil (from Henry James' The Turn of the Screw to John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos to films like The Omen), and this is another chilling example. One reason the story works so well is the mundane, suburban setting that grounds it in the everyday. Another is the gradual way in which the truth is revealed - the audience only learns what is really happening along with the increasingly anxious and alarmed mother. It's also arguable that Ray Bradbury's story in fact works better as a dramatized radio play than on the page. In written form, it seems quite a slight tale, but as a radio drama it is extremely effective - when the first adaptation was broadcast, it apparently provoked a deluge of letters to CBS because listeners found it so disturbing. Even today, the ending retains the power to shock and unnerve.
Rating: * * * * *
[Other adaptations: Radio - Dimension X (1950), Escape (1953), X Minus One (1955 and 1956), NBC Experiment in Drama (1964), Future Tense (1974), General Mills Radio Adventure Theater (1977); TV - The Ray Bradbury Theater (1992)]