Download the two parts of Death from Rio from Fitzrovia Radio
Listen to Silly Snowman Radio
Listen to Boris Karloff in The Tell-Tale Heart
Fitzrovia Radio, 2008/ The Blue Network, 1941 - Silly Snowman Radio, 2012
Before they started writing material of their own, Fitzrovia Radio drew on classic radio scripts from the 1930s and 1940s. Death from Rio, the third in their series of podcasts, tells the story of Martin, a pianist who believed he is being haunted by vampires. They haunt him to such an extent that he is no longer able to play the work of his favourite composer Beethoven. Eventually he finds a means to expel them by fire. However this proves nothing more than an illusion; the vampires return to taunt him and ultimately drive him to madness and suicide.
The company have a great deal of fun with the material, introducing some deliberate innuendoes (Martin admits that he has been "tossing" in bed, and later on admits that he has "trouble with that passage.") His wife meanwhile talks of being affected by "nothing but the wind" - unlike Martin, who thinks that the sound of the wind has been produced by the vampires. The two-part story is broken up by mock-commercials for London Ceylon Tea which apparently has a miraculously restorative effect for those fortunate enough to taste it.
Death from Rio contains its fair share of laughs, even though I have to admit that it seemed a little truncated. I'd have welcomed a little more character-development - the idea of the mad pianist is always a good basis for a horror (or mock-horror) story (remember The Seventh Veil).
Originally broadcast in March 1941, the Blue Network's Tell-Tale Heart could best be described as a loose adaptation of the Poe story. Like Martin in Death from Rio, Simon (Boris Karloff) is a musician who can no longer play; he has become stone deaf. He is miraculously cured by Dr. Adair; six months later he returns home and encounters another one of Adair's ex-patients, Oliver (Everett Sloane) who has also been cured of an affliction. Simon and Oliver head off to an old mill, apparently bosom buddies. However Simon soon discovers that Oliver's intentions are less than noble, so he resolves to kill Oliver and hide his corpse under the floorboards. As with most mysteries, however, things do not quite turn out according to plan.
Karloff has great fun with the role of Simon; he begins by speaking calmly, in his best received pronunciation, as he describes how Dr. Adair cured him. As his life spins out of control, so his tones change; he runs his words together and shrieks loudly as he tries to absolve himself of responsibility for what he has done. In the end he is pronounced insane. At the end of the broadcast, Karloff steps out of his role and thanks everyone, including his fellow actors, for such an enjoyable piece.
As with the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, The Tell-Tale Heart intersperses the drama with advertisements introduced by the narrator Raymond. Once we have found out about the restorative effect of Csrter's Little Liver Pills, Raymond continues Poe's story through direct address to the listeners.
These old-time radio programmes are regularly broadcast on Silly Snowman Radio, offering a fascinating opportunity for comparison between past and present. Fitzrovia Radio really have done their homework; they understand how programmes like The Tell-Tale Heart worked, and have made every effort to recreate the unique ambience for contemporary audiences.