"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 71
This time, I wanted to put a twist in my listening, so I tried enjoying our next radio play with a hearty midnight snack. That is, with the lights on, my eyes open and a distraction in the room. And I might have a full report on how that went, too, if my player hadn't frozen up right before the scene with the dynamite. If you don't know what I mean, here's your chance to, before the discussion . . .
We're starting to see some tropes repeating themselves. The twist at the end of "Behind the Locked Door" isn't as weird or as unexpected as what we heard in "The Thing on the Fourble Board", but they're clearly cousins of a sort. I wonder how many people listened to this Mysterious Traveler tale back in the 1950s and were reminded of the Quiet Please broadcast from a few years earlier . . .
Of course, there are notable differences, my favourite being the character of Cathy. After I heard the ending, I mentally went over all the scenes in which she appears or is mentioned, and realised that they had been setting the outcome up perfectly. When did you realise something was wrong in her relationship with Martin? For me, it was when he asks whether she will go away if he tells her the truth . . . and she, obviously lying, says yes. He instinctively doesn't trust her--and for good reason!
Does anyone else think that Cathy's revulsion at the sight of the creature was not true horror, but jealousy of a rival? While her fiance probably wouldn't break up with her for someone who could be a "star exhibit" at a "Museum of Horrors," maybe she hears something in his voice . . . or perhaps, sees something in his eyes . . . that leads her to that crazy conclusion.
This is the second story we've read in which a "monster" is shown mercy after a man realises that she is female, with the added twist of her ending up worse off when a fellow woman sees her as a threat rather than as a "sister." I don't normally do feminist readings, but these pre-1960s radio plays seem to be begging for them!
Making sex an important element of the story also lets us develop the poor professor's theory a little more. What if the creatures in the cave are not simply the descendants of the trapped pioneers, but the descendants of the pioneers and some other creatures whom they stumbled into? I think the fight over Martin lets us speculate that there are two groups living in the tunnels: one which hates humans and another which identifies with them. Of course, barring another expedition into the tunnels, we'll never know.
The ending leaves us hanging, especially since it is so sad, but that seems to be part of the format. You can only listen to the Mysterious Traveler for a short while before you have to part ways, and some ends are bound to be left loose when you do. As frustrated as I feel, I kind of like that.
What are your thoughts on Behind the Locked Door?
1. What is it about "monsters" turning out to be female that makes them more human?
2. Do you think the creatures are indeed human or part human? Or would your guess be different from the professor's?
3. If you hadn't had to get off the train, what follow-up question would you have asked the Mysterious Traveler?
Up next is an episode of Beyond Midnight, which ought to be a little different because we're leaving the United States of the 1940s for South Africa of the 1960s! Well, sort of. The show was produced in South Africa, but as far as I can tell, the writer chose to set all the stories in other, more exotic countries. Like England. And the US. =P But according to one review, "Under the Hull Tree" has some real African flavour. Download or listen to it at Relic Radio.