OLD TIME RADIO - 1 AUDIO CD - 8 mp3 - Total Playtime: 0:36:27
Drop Dead! An Exercise in Horror!
by Diode (Dr. Ether's Nephew)
By the early 60s, classic radio had pretty much disappeared from the airwaves, except for a couple of shows hanging on by a thread. Television was now the home entertainment medium of choice. Interest in what we would consider Old Time Radio, however, was far from dead: transcription discs, wire recordings and tape recordings of the old shows were traded, and treasured, by OTR fans. With the introduction of the LP record in the 50s, dramatic readings with sound effects that resembled old time radio gained some popularity. Eventually these recordings led to the release of actual radio shows on LP and the growth of interest in OTR (the LP collections were superseded by the advent of the cassette).
An anamoly from this period is the Arch Oboler LP Drop Dead!, released in 1962. It featured newly recorded vignettes done in the style of OTR—all of them written and directed by one of the pioneers of radio drama. Unfortunately, there is next to no information about the hows and whys of the recording. At the time it was produced, Oboler had been working in film for nearly 20 years as both a writer and director, having started in film work while he was still active in radio and leaving the radio field in the late 40s, so the "why" of his return to radio-style drama does present a bit of a mystery. Was his return motivated by the chance to return to his roots with a cast of radio veterans? Did the chance to experiment with better recording techniques and the (then) new possibilities of stereo pique his interest? Or, was Oboler, often ahead of his time, testing the waters to see if the burgeoning audience for OTR would embrace new radio-style dramas (albeit, delivered not by radio but via turntable)? What ever the reasons, the fact remains that Drop Dead! was released with Oboler's name featured prominently on the cover and within the liner notes on the back cover.
Drop Dead! has been the source of some confusion over the years. The album itself, as mentioned above, is a series of short pieces ranging in length from around two and half minutes to just over 8 minutes (keep in mind that Lights Out was a 30 minute program during most of its run). Contrary to what some believe, a search of radio logs shows that of the 8 selections on the LP, only two are remakes of earlier episodes written and directed by Oboler for the Lights Out program: "The Dark" and "Chicken Heart." The rest, assumedly, were newly written for the project (the album can be heard in its entirety on the KWTNL home page). "The Dark" was originally presented on 12/29/37, but all recordings of the original broadcast seem to be lost and, unlike many Lights Out episodes, it was never repeated. After listening to a number of the examples that claim to be the original broadcast, it becomes clear that they are just speeded up and distorted versions of the Drop Dead! version—the scenes in the story are exactly the same and the running times between the different versions are nearly identical. The same is true of "Chicken Heart." The program was originally broadcast 3 times: on 03/10/37, 02/23/38 and 11/24/42, yet, out of the three broadcasts, the version that crops up on the Internet is nearly identical in length to the Drop Dead! recreation and features the same scenes.
Clearly, if these lost shows were available as fragments (as many claim) something would have to appear in them that was different from the Drop Dead! remakes, whether it be the order or content of scenes or a difference in the running times, and both these shows can probably be considered lost (Note: it is possible that a portion of the original "Chicken Heart" does indeed exist, as I have a dim memory of hearing a snippet around Halloween of last year, but I have been unsuccessful in tracking it down.).
Drop Dead (1) Introduction to Horror
Drop Dead (2) I'm Hungry
Drop Dead (3) Taking Papa Home
Drop Dead (4) The Dark
Drop Dead (5) A Day at the Dentist's
Drop Dead (6) The Posse
Drop Dead (7) Chicken Heart
Drop Dead (8) The Laughing Man
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