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Thrillers which are radio plays


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I can't seem to find any threads here about radio plays, so I'll start one about radio play thrillers. Here are some favourites of mine which I have heard a number of times (and again recently):

From Suspense: Till Death Do Us Part by John Dickson Carr, starring Peter Lorre. Here, an evil math prof explains to his wife what exactly he has in store for her.

From Suspense: The Devil's Saint by John Dickson Carr, starring Peter Lorre. A young man wants to marry a woman he's just met, but first he has to "get past" her eccentric and creepy uncle by following certain instructions which he has for the young man.

From Suspense: Will You Make a Bet With Death? by John Dickson Carr. A man is on a slow boat ride at a carnival with a woman, and he is explaining to her a bet which he made with his nasty stepfather...a bet about death.

From Suspense: Want Ad, starring Robert Cummings. Brilliant inverted whodunit about a crook who gets exactly what's coming to him. Of all the inverted whodunits I've seen, or read, or heard on radio, this one I think has the best ending. Highly recommended.

From Suspense: The Doctor Prescribed Death, starring Bela Lugosi. A doctor has an unusual psychological theory: someone who is suicidal can be convinced to murder someone else, and he decides to find someone suicidal to "convert", so to speak.

From Suspense: The Fountain Plays, by Dorothy Sayers, starring Edmund Gwenn. A terrific story about blackmail and skeletons in the closet of a rich British homeowner. One of her best, for sure.

From Campbell's Playhouse: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie. Orson Welles plays both Poirot and Doctor Sheppard. Edna May Oliver plays the doctor's sister. I really like Orson Welles' introduction: he has some kind words to say about murder mysteries!

From The Weird Circle: A Terrible Night. Here's an example of what can happen to those who get lost in the Canadian wilderness... haha. Be aware!

From Inner Sanctum: The Voice on the Wire. A widow on an island is being terrorized by mysterious phone calls where the same person keeps telling her that she only has a few hours to live.

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Oh yes, I like that radio play, too.

After the movie Sorry Wrong Number was released, the movie script was shortened and adapted for radio. Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster star in the radio play as well. I think it's part of Lux Radio. (I can't remember.)

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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I just listened to the Suspense radio play "In a Lonely Place," starring Robert Montgomery as Dix Steele. It was originally broadcast March 6, 1948 -- seventy years ago. It was amazing. Robert Montgomery's performance was especially noteworthy.

I read the book of the same name by Dorothy Hughes. It was fascinating to see how the radio play adapted the book's plot. Even with cuts from the plot, the radio play remained truer to the book than the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, which is also fantastic.

All three are amazing.

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Thanks for the heads up on this play! I've seen the film so many times but I didn't realize that there was a radio play. Next time I choose a radio play from the Suspense series, it's going to be In a Lonely Place, for sure!

I should track down the book, too. Mystery novels and short stories are fun to read.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Suspense, The Whistler, The Inner Sanctum, Lights-out, Murder By Experts, and The Molle Mystery Theater from the post-war '40's are my favorite classic radio shows. I love to listen to them on my vintage radios with the lights low. These particular shows are so loaded with what I call "Radio Noir" that it's impossible to pick particular episodes. I should add the "Lux Radio Theater" too because they presented many, many classic noir movies rewritten for radio with all or most of the original cast. It's absolutely true that using your imagination as you listen to these shows is a unique experience and in some ways even better than seeing it on the screen. 

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19 hours ago, kjrwe said:

I'll need to check out some of those series. For example, I've never heard of Murder by Experts.

I actually just came across that one and found every episode to be riveting. I've used this site for years now. It has an amazing archive of radio shows: https://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio

Here is Murder By Experts : https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Murder_By_Experts_Singles

It's true "radio noir"! Enjoy.


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  • 6 months later...

Yeah I know those Ellery Queen 'Five Minute Mysteries' or whatever they're called. I kinda wish I didn't. They're really corny! Just my reaction, I can see how some might like them, but not me.

Anyway back to topic. Thrillers which are radio plays. I can tell you that the authoress of 'Sorry Wrong Number' also wrote 'The Hitch-hiker'. Very finely done, too. No, I do not speak of the noir movie of that same name, there's another 'Hitch-hiker' which is supernatural in theme.

Where can you hear it? It's available on the Mercury Theater, 'Mercury on the Air' Series. Very well done, as are all the installments of that famous production.

Welles does another really good one-off called 'Passenger to Bali' or something. That's as many 'thrillers' that I can recall off-the-top-of-my-head. The rest of the Mercury series is devoted to classics (Dracula, Dickens, Dumas, etc).

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Maybe these notes of mine should go under 'horror' ...but oh well.

Radio horror! Let's rattle off some. Far better than any audiobook can match. These are not just recited, spoken-word stuff. They have vivid sound effects and top actors of the day. They're a free and convenient alternative to music. I can name several which had me curled into a fetal position, shaking in revulsion; they're generally available from www.archive.org.

First, seek out this title. 'The Thing on the FourbleBoard'.

Listen to it without any distractions, preferably in the dark with maybe just the glow of a light from the kitchen for illumination. This is how it caught me, one evening. I wound up rolling out of my seat with my hands held over my ears. It is that shocking and hideous. Never heard anything so creepy.

'Three Skeleton Key'. Starring Vincent Price. Sea yarn. I won't spoil it for you with details.

'Leinengen vs the Ants'. This is an early audio version of the story later adapted into a big-screen full-color Hest-Fest. The great Bill Conrad (who later had a small role in that flick, 'The Naked Jungle') here plays the lead.

Vincent Price in 'Blood Bath'.  Takes place in the Amazon; airs on a series called 'Escape'.

Finally: a gripping shocker called 'A Box of Mute Fate'. There's two versions, I  recommend the one from 1957 starring Jack Kelly.

Honorable mention: A nifty tale which is sorta Ray Bradbury style: 'The Second Door'.

There's audio too, for two of Bradbury's actual classic short stories, 'The Veldt' and 'Zero Hour'.

Link to some of these shows:


There's also many versions of Edgar Allen Poe. Vincent Price stars in 'Usher', 'Pendulum', 'Amontillado'; etc. If you want to hear Poe audio, it's there.

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There's two separate versions of Charles Dickens' superb ghost story, 'The Signal - Man', available on the www.

This very singular yarn is a good candidate for best all-around ghost story ever written; certainly one of the top twenty classics. It's vivid and disturbing. Tragic, penetrating, and powerful.

Both audio versions are deft. One is an all-male version; more faithful to characters in the original story; and seems longer; more detailed. The actors are not particularly distinguished; but they are given more to say. There is more time allotted by the director for their dialogue to evolve, and the pace is slower.

The latter version feels fore-shortened, but has heightened dramatic values and better sound effects. Sarah Churchill (daughter of Winston) takes over the role of the visitor. The young actress is spirited, and the female element itself adds something lively. But in the main role, is the very skilled voice of English actor Ben Wright. Royal Academy-trained Wright is always a treat.

I'm providing details like this because the story itself is so extraordinary. If you've never read it, this is an easy way to get acquainted with an uncanny tale. It really gets under your skin. For its simple, solid, construction alone--true narrative mastery.

Charles Dickens himself (late in his career) was involved in a harrowing train disaster in which many people died. He barely escaped with his own life and the entire incident had an enervating effect on him in general. It turned his mind towards the supernatural; and yielded stories like "The Signal-Man'.


version 1 (all male)


version 2


I advise listening to #2 (Sarah Churchill) first. She succumbed to alcoholism late in life, apparently.


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