Friday, November 9, 2018

Thurston, the Magician: The 1932-1933 Radio Program

A 1916 three-sheet color litho featuring magician Howard Thurston, assisted by imps and shows his assistant levitating, sold for $22,800 at a Magic Memorabilia Sale held August 25th by Potter & Potter Auctions in Chicago, Illinois. The price includes a 20 percent buyer’s premium, proving that the popularity of stage illusionist Howard Thurston continues to this day. 

Even more fascinating was the recent discovery of 58 radio scripts for the 1932-1933 radio program, Thurston, the Magician. Broadcast twice weekly, the complete run of radio scripts includes such intriguing titles as “The Magic House,” “The Magic Carpet,” and “The Affair at Paint Rock Pass.” Among this recent discovery is a complete cast list for each and every broadcast, music cue sheets, dozens of newspaper clippings pertaining to the radio program and the revelation that the program aired from November 3, 1932 to May 19, 1933. Prior published reference guides claim the program went off the air on May 25, 1933, but careful scrutiny after this discovery verifies May 19 as the correct date.

Collectors of radio programs who are familiar with the Blackstone, the Magic Detective program may find these Thurston programs a change of pace. Thurston solves mysteries but a few of the stories provided social commentary such as the broadcast of February 3, 1933, which concerned a war hero in Walter Reed hospital who was stricken with shell shock. Also discovered through these radio scripts was the fact that the program originated out of Chicago and broadcast coast-to-coast.

To date not a single radio broadcast of Thurston, the Magician is known to exist in recorded form. By the time you read this article, all 58 radio scripts have been scanned into pdf and with today’s resources efforts are being made to unearth as much as we can about this program for future publication, complete with episode guide and plot summaries, further preserving the legacy of Thurston.

Friday, November 2, 2018

WEIRD TALES: The Radio Program

First published in March of 1923, Weird Tales magazine will soon be reaching a milestone: 100 years of publication. The horror magazine responsible for introducing hundreds of thousands of people to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and Robert E. Howard (the latter of whom contributed a number of Conan the Barbarian stories). If you have a handful of horror/fantasy/science-fiction anthologies on your bookshelf, you can check out the copyright page and no doubt find a number of stories originated from the pages of Weird Tales.

The magazine is regarded by historians of fantasy and science-fiction as a legend in the field, with Robert Weinberg, author of a history of the magazine, considering it "the most important and influential of all fantasy magazine." Robert attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention for a number of years and one could easily ask him a question about the magazine and be certain for a prompt and accurate answer.

Tribute was paid to Weird Tales magazine at the 2015 Pulpiest Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and as an attendee at that event I found myself mesmerized by the history of the magazine as it was presented on stage during a slide show and a panel of authorities discussing the magazine's influence.

Both the publishing and editorial status has been a tad sketchy in the past two decades and the magazine's future remains uncertain. But there can be no doubt that in 2023 the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show will pay tribute to the magazine, including a special limited edition convention program guide with historical essays about the writers who contributed and the editors involved.

Practically every major writer in the literary field contributed some of their finest work including Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown and Theodore Sturgeon. Back issues today can fetch hundreds of dollars in the collecting market, depending on the condition, and an on-going effort to scan each and every issue into digital PDF files is nearing completion. 

What few are aware of is the short-lived radio program from the 1930s that, like The Shadow and Nick Carter, Master Detective, was dramatized from the pages of the magazine. Yes, there was a radio program titled Weird Tales and the program featured adaptations of short stories from the pages of the magazine. Until recently not a single recording was known to exist. Thanks to collector Randy Riddle, a disc was found and transferred to digital format.

Just in time for Halloween you can click the link below and enjoy his blog entry, the Weird Tales recording, and numerous other radio recordings available to listen to for free on his blog. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween, Hollywood Style

Once again, it's time for our annual Halloween photo shoot!

Anita Page

Dusty Anderson

Gale Robbins

Janet Leigh

Ann Rutherford

Betty Grable

Nancy Carroll

Anne Gwynne

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre

Fans of The Outer Limits can rejoice -- the long-lost "Ghost of Sierra de Cobre" is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Joseph Stefano, the man responsible for television's The Outer Limits, was contracted to produce two spooky television pilots in early 1964; The Unknown and The Haunted. The Unknown was never sold but re-edited with a different ending and telecast as the final episode of the first season of The Outer Limits, titled "The Form of Things Unknown." The Haunted was never re-edited into an episode of The Outer Limits but a lengthier cut with a different ending was released theatrically as "The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre," only overseas in other countries. For the American television audience and theater goers, the pilot/movie was never seen for decades.

The story concerns a young woman, fearful of being buried alive, who installs a phone in her crypt. Should she be prematurely buried, she can phone for help. A few days after her untimely death (and as a result of her phobia her death was verified 110% before burial), the phone suddenly rings and paranormal investigator Nelson Orion (played by the late Martin Landau) is brought in to probe the case. Diane Baker and Judith Anderson play supporting roles. Robert Stevens started directing the pilot, but became ill and was replaced by producer Stefano. 

Hunt Stromberg at CBS previewed the pilot and reportedly cried. He said it was the most beautiful film he ever saw. The Haunted was slated to compete against NBC's Bonanza but Jim Aubrey was fired as head of CBS and his replacement wiped the slate of all shows originated by Aubrey and Stromberg except for The Wild, Wild West. As a result, The Haunted was shelved and never seen. (Numerous websites claim the film was too scary and the network scrapped the pilot as a result, which is inaccurate. The "too-scary-for-TV" theory has been credited towards other unaired pilots so this is not an uncommon myth.)

Other than a brief write-up in David J. Schow's magnificent Outer Limits Companion, I never knew this pilot existed until a few years ago when UCLA hosted a one-time screening from their archives. Supposedly a film festival in Japan screens the film annually due to popular demand. And here on the East Coast at the annual Cinevent Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio, someone promoted a late-night screening of this unaired television pilot. The festival, which draws in hundreds -- if not thousands -- of attendees, often screens rare films courtesy of 16mm collectors. Sadly, there were not many people in the audience by the witching hour and I was one of the few. I always felt there would have been more in the audience had the television pilot been promoted better. The collector who brought the 16mm print for screening was strangely insistent of not promoting in advance what the "unaired horror TV pilot" was, so many decided not to attend the screening and instead hit the pillow early. I cannot blame them -- at least half a dozen people knew I was going to stay up late and watch the mystery film and they asked me to brief them in the morning so they would know just exactly what it was being screened the night before. For myself, I was glad I took the shot in the dark and stayed up late to watch the film. (I suspect the collector was the same person who bought The Haunted 16mm print sold on eBay a few years ago for $90, but nothing to base this on except for the fact that the film is an extreme rarity.) 

The above story proves that some 16mm collectors can be a tad eccentric, but in this case the film is no longer a Holy Grail among collectors, thanks to Kino Lorber. With a street date of October 30, The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, thanks to a brand new 2K Restoration. The commercial release includes both the movie version and the television pilot (advertised as an "alternate cut"), with audio commentary by film historian Eric Grayson and the ultimate of Outer Limits authorities, David J. Schow.

Kino-Lorber's recent Outer Limits DVD releases are superior to
the prior DVD releases with new print transfers and bonus extras.
Also recommended.

There was a rumor circulating on the internet a few weeks ago that the DVD and Blu-Ray release was cancelled due to a behind-the-scenes rights dispute, but this is apparently inaccurate -- I received my copy in the mail yesterday. The film is worth all the hype and I can state for certain that this is indeed worth the price (which is less than $13 on DVD if you shop around or visit Kino-Lobber's website).

If you are curious to know which should be watched first, start with The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre first, then watch The HauntedGhost was the feature film version, 20 minutes longer in length and contains scenes and characters not found in The Haunted, and a completely different ending.