Radio / CBS Radio Mystery Theater

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In The '50s, the old time Radio Dramas gradually died out, with Television taking over. The era (in the USA) is generally considered to have ended with the last network radio dramas Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar on September 30, 1962.

However, this didn't prevent there from being nostalgia years later, which led to a brief revival of radio drama in The '70s. The longest-lasting series of this revival was the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which aired from 1974 to 1982. It was created by Himan Brown, radio veteran from shows such as Inner Sanctum Mystery and The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, and narrated by E. G. Marshall for most of its run, with Tammy Grimes in the last year. Brown narrated a brief rebroadcast in 1998. Of course there is now nostalgia for this series as well.

The series was a one hour program, with commercials between three acts. It had a variety of genres, though it leaned towards suspense and horror. A total of 1,399 episodes were produced. The series hasn't been released officially in any form, but it was widely recorded by fans and there are no Missing Episodes. Needless to say, it remains a popular choice for unofficial distribution in digital format. You can listen to most episodes online here.

This series is an example of:


Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Otto Kramer in "Tattooed for Murder" is an especially vicious piece of work. He kept his two daughters prisoner in his home all their lives, disowns his eldest daughter as a "freak" when she escapes to join a traveling carnival as a tattooed woman, is hinted to have amorous feelings towards said daughter, and beats his emotionally wrecked younger daughter with a walking stick to assert his "authority."
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Expected, given the type of anthology this show is. Notable examples include:
    • A very twisted example occurs in "The Deadly Hour," where Martin Jerome finds his wife cheating on him, resulting in what Marshall calls a "mutilation of the soul." Martin is so devastated that he doesn't speak to anybody for 25 years, spending two-week vacations alone in a remote cave by the sea. Then he comes to the cave to find a young couple already inside. Martin is enraged that they have invaded his "refuge" and remind him of his unfaithful wife and her man, so he seals them in for more than a week and listens in as they gradually lose their minds. He only lets them out after one is about to eat the other. Martin succeeds not only in utterly destroying their relationship, but in putting the young man, George, into the same catatonia he was once in.
  • Bedlam House: "Ward Six," adapted from the Chekhov short story.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Tattooed for Murder" — Katherine frees her younger sister from the clutches of their abusive father, but is hinted to have sacrificed her soul/morality by allowing him to die.
  • Buried Alive: The main plot of "The Deadly Hour."
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In "The Ghost at the Gate," the ghost of Charles Emery tries to carry on the affair he had in life with his wife Alice's best friend, Connie. It is established that the ghost needs constant assurances of love from both women to have the ability to visit the world of the living. So when Alice learns from Connie about the affair, the two banish the ghost by refusing to "love" him.
  • Door Closes Ending: Opened and ended with the creaking door.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: "Tattooed for Murder" ends with the tattooed lady in a carnival freak show withholding medicine from her Asshole Victim father and allowing him to die. The story ends with a depressing moral that living in an environment of hatred like the father's household can rub off on the victim.
  • Pet the Dog: The ghost of Real Life female pirate Anne Bonny helps a scared little girl navigate a boat away from dangerous rocks.
  • Public Domain Character: Necessary because the show was very low budget.
  • Two Decades Behind: In this case for The Fifties.
  • Sadist: Martin Jerome in "The Deadly Hour." Let's just say being cuckolded royally screwed him up. When he discovers that two young lovers are inside the remote cave he occupies during his "vacations," and finds himself repulsed as they express love for each other, he seals them inside with rocks and leaves them to die. After more than a week, he comes back just so he can hear them gradually go mad from hunger and desperation. Then he taunts them by leaving them a box of matches simply reading, "I am here." He only lets them out when the young man is on the verge eating his girlfriend. After being released from the hospital, the young man – now completely shattered from the ordeal – is taken in by Martin and enters what sounds like a bizarre co-dependent relationship with him. JEEZUS.
  • Signing Off Catch Phrase: "Pleasant dreams!" [SFX: CREAKING MAUSOLEUM DOOR SLOWLY CLOSING]
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: Scriptwriter Ian Martin's attempts to emulate '70s youth slang. ("Don't let her give you no run-around, Dad!" "I think bein' around here's gonna be kicks!" "I dig a man who's far out!")
  • Your Cheating Heart: The eponymous "Ghost at the Gate" had an arrangement in life where he remained married to his wife while carrying on an affair with her best friend. After he dies and starts visiting his widow as a ghost, he suggests that the friend move back in with her to supposedly keep her company, when in fact he's trying to carry on the affair. It doesn't end well for him when the women figure this out.

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