Sunday, March 1, 2009

In like a lion, out like a lamb

It’s the start of a brand-new month, and that can only mean one thing at the place dedicated to “preserving radio’s past for the future”: a shiny new Premier Collection and an equally new set from First Generation Radio Archives’ renowned Radio Legends series.

The Premier Collection this month is a collection of programs from a little-known anthology entitled Mystery House; a program which operated on the interesting concept of a publishing house performing mystery and suspense plays—using the individuals employed there—on radio before the listening public, allowing them to choose which presentations would later appear in published form. It sounds like an idea from a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical (“Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!”) but in execution the series plays a little like Mutual’s 1947 Crime Club, with a bit of The Adventures of Ellery Queen thrown in for good measure. Eighteen episodes of the series are included in this 10-CD set, and with the exception of “Death Passed My Window,” I wasn’t able to find any of the others in circulation—which suggests that many of these broadcasts will be heard by OTR fans for the first time. There are two extra shows included in this collection: an NBC audition program from 1944 (this might be the show for which anyone who’s heard of “Mystery House” would be familiar) that features two titans of horror, Bela Lugosi and John Carradine, and an AFRS broadcast of Mystery Playhouse that spotlights an episode of the popular comedy-mystery series Mr. and Mrs. North (a big favorite with audiences at the time of its broadcast run, but sadly underrepresented among surviving recordings today). It’s hosted by an individual who answers to “Sergeant X”—but if you listen real closely, I believe you’ll figure out who the actor is in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. (On a related note—TCM has scheduled a showing of the 1941 film based on Frances and Richard Lockridge’s sleuthing couple on April 22nd at 3:30am; it stars William Post, Jr. and Gracie Allen [in a rare solo movie appearance] so you might want to start your TiVo’s in order to capture this rare event.)

On the Radio Legends menu, Harlan, Tom and the rest of the FGRA gang are offering up an introductory volume of The Weird Circle, a critically-acclaimed syndicated anthology that dishes up more terrifying tales culled from the works of such authors as Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens…and even Emily and Charlotte Bronte! But what is so particularly interesting about this collection of shows is that because First Generation was able to locate the transcription disc containing the original openings and closings of these shows, you (lucky listener, you) will hear these programs in their original as-broadcast for the first time in decades. With such classic tales as “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Terribly Strange Bed,” “The Horla,” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (along with sixteen other favorites) at your fingertips, you are in for a real aural treat.

If you purchase the Mystery House Premier Collection or The Weird Circle Radio Legends set—or anything else from the massive First Generation catalog, FGRA will send you a freebie of one of their newest and rapidly-becoming-popular attractions: the renowned pulp reprints of tales culled from the original The Shadow magazine, which you can learn all about here. FGRA has also adopted a new method for postal shipping, a flat rate US Ground option for only $3.00 that’s a bit slower than their standard $6.00 Priority rate but that will allow you to save a bit of cash (and spend it on more FGRA product, perhaps?) in these coin-counting times. So, bell keeper! Toll the bell so that all may know that we are gathered again in…First Generation Radio Archives!

1 comment:

Grant said...

Actually, I've heard the opening/closing of THE WEIRD CIRCLE. I own an aircheck of a local station's entire WEIRD CIRCLE broadcast, complete with inserted local commercials, local station ID, and the show's opening and closing. Still very cool, though, and as happens every month, I will be buying these sets from First Generation.