23 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 73

Would you like some Lipton Tea before we call the latest meeting to order? How about some Lipton Soup? =)

Inner Sanctum Mystery was not part of my first proposed lineup of Horror radio plays, but since I started this "listenalong" as a learner rather than an expert, I've been open to recommendations from anyone who knows better. So this is another post I have to thank Brandon for!



Do you know what my favourite line in this whole play is? "You're living in New York City, on top of an eighteen story building. This is 1945, not the Middle Ages." ROFL! It gives us the fun implication that there were vampires in medieval times, but also the fallacy that there are places and times that are so reasonable that "unreasonable" things could never exist in them. (Unreasonable to whom, hmmm?) We hear the same naivete in protests like, "I can't believe we still don't have women's ordination! This is the twenty-first century!!!" With nothing but that argument to oppose, no wonder Diana so easily believes that her husband might indeed be a vampire.

But do you buy it, too? I think that Diana jumps to the least likely conclusion awfully quickly--and on the flimsy basis of a bad dream. But remember that the play has less than half an hour to make its case. A full-length novel or a thirteen-episode series on TV would presumably be able to pull it off, with a reasonable explanation of why Diana has never seen Richard in the daytime (?!?!); so let's not be too hard on the terrified woman. Although this play relies much too heavily on a smarmy tone from the actor playing Richard, the script does admit, every step of the way, that it's also possible that Diana is just going crazy!

If I wanted to show off my literary credentials, I'd now compare "The Undead" to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James--a novella in which neither the governess nor the readers can be sure whether the former is haunted or just going mad. But because I'm the sort of person who'd name a blog after cheese (and later wish she had named it after nuts), I think the real comparison to be made is with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and all its sad, pale clones: an entire subgenre in which odd impressions, including weird dreams, are all it takes for a girl to be convinced that a mysterious boy she whom has become infatuated with is also a supernatural creature. Perhaps the most morally infuriating thing about these stories is that the girls end up being right. At least our latest radio play offers more ambiguity. It's also absolutely correct that sometimes the people who believe in monsters can be just as scary as the monsters themselves.

And how about that "product placement"? =D The interaction between our host and Mary the Tea Lady is fantastic. Even when they interrupt the story, they aren't jarring--no more than a fellow Inner Sanctum Mystery fan would be jarring if he shared an observation or two while you were both listening to a play. I enjoyed "The Undead" on its own merits, but I think I'd listen to another Inner Sanctum Mystery just to hear the two of them again!

What are your thoughts on The Undead?

1. What would it take for you to believe that your spouse is not quite human?
2. Which explanation do you think is more likely: Richard's wanting to turn Diana into a vampire or Richard plotting to murder Diana after first driving her insane? Or do you have a third theory?
3. Does this play seem pro-divorce to you?

Our next radio play is "The Shadow People" from The Hall of Fantasy--another series I didn't originally consider but am really looking forward to now. Enjoy the recordings on YouTube, My Old Radio, and of course Relic Radio ("The horror! The horror!")--or download it from the Internet Archive (where it's Track #8).

Image Source: Inner Sanctum Mystery opening

20 comments:

Sheila said...

Yes, it seemed very much like The Turn of the Screw to me!

Personally, I kind of side with the idea that Richard isn't a vampire. Just, you know, an evil murderer. It never says what his motive is for doing her in. Just tired of her, or what? Isn't it scary enough to be married to someone who wants to kill you? Heck, I was disturbed by the first time Richard opens his mouth -- how dismissive he is of her hysteria. Worse, she feels the need to apologize even for *asking* to go with him. What kind of unhealthy dynamic is that? Though at the time I thought that was just the culture of the day and that we're not supposed to notice it.

1. Not much, to be honest. The guy is a bit odd as it is. If you told me he was, say, from another planet, I'd likely shrug and say "That explains a lot."

2. I sided with the inspector's story. Though I did think, "Come on, guys. Just to be on the safe side, what harm could it do to cut off the corpse's head, stuff its mouth with garlic, and drive a stake through the heart? The dead don't mind."

3. Oh, I don't know. Certainly if Richard could be rid of her without killing her, that would be better all around. But would Diana then have divorced him just because the vampire in her dream had his face? I think we would all like divorce for those really awful cases while somehow making sure people don't divorce on trivialities ... and there isn't any law I know of that can assure that.

mrsdarwin said...

I liked the Host and Mary the Tea Lady too, but my mom bought Lipton when I was young, and that stuff tastes like brewed cardboard. Untruth in advertising!

I loved the 1945 line as well, and I did think she jumped to conclusions too quickly (though Richard ought to have been a bit more concerned if this was usual behavior for Diana). But who was the person who talked to her in the cocktail lounge over the jazz piano accompaniment (a nice change, I thought). Did Richard hire him? Where did he come from? Who was he?

1. It would take an almost supernatural burden of evidence for me to believe that Darwin wasn't human. I know there are people who marry murderers or drug dealers or serial cheaters without realizing it, but come now: we've been married for 12 years, I can call him at work, and I know where he is all night every night because I'm a lighter sleeper than he is. We're not a radio show or novel for which one willingly suspends disbelief; we live together all the time and there's just no space in a big family to hide your alien nature. Anyway, I can vouch that all his children are human, even this one who currently thinks it so amusing to turn his head in my pelvis and jam a little foot up between my ribs.

2. I think it's more likely that he's plotting to turn her insane, except that it's a radio show devoted to horror stories. If he was really a vampire and had bitten her and she was going to die soon anyway, why stab her? He could get an awful lot of testimony that she'd showed signs of insanity before she passed away.

3. No, but it does seem to make a good case for locking your terrace windows.

So is the next one a werewolf story? :)

mrsdarwin said...

I mean: Richard ought to have been a bit more concerned if this was UNusual behavior for Diana

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I think the play's silence with respect to Richard's motive is what makes me lean toward the vampire theory. But in that case, why would he have been armed with a dagger at the end? Some vampire ritual we don't know of? Not likely.

The stranger in the cocktail lounge is another odd element. If Richard's plan to make Diana seem crazy involved hiring an actor who'd know where she'd run to after the cemetery, then he went to some amazing lengths to do it! And in 1945--a year without WiFi tracking! ;-) I'd say the stranger could be one of his theatre friends, but Occam's razor seems to be on the side of the vampire theory here!

I asked the third question because I think that Diana's believing that her husband is a monster is a thinly veiled metaphor for people who get carried away during a bad patch in a relationship (not necessarily a marriage!) and decide that the only solution is to stake that relationship in the heart. May I confess that I did a Diana earlier this year with an old friend? =( I will spend at least a few more years (if not the rest of my life) wondering whether the "monstrous" deal breaker a) only existed in my own mind, or b) was a totally temporary inconvenience I should have weathered out. This is why I think The Undead, for all its ambiguity, comes down squarely on the side of divorce: although Diana is wrong, she's still right.

Now I wonder what canon law would say. If you marry a vampire without knowing that he is a vampire, is that still a valid marriage?

Mrs. Darwin, the next play isn't about werewolves, but I'll consider your question an official request and try to find one which is! ;-)

Darwin said...

Assuming that there are any vampires, it seems to me that it would invalidate consent if one spouse failed to reveal that he or she had no soul (isn't that the deal with vampires?).

Didn't the police officer say that Richard had set up the murder for her money? I assume that's where the penthouse apartment is coming from; stage actors don't make that much (even in 1945) unless they're huge huge, in which case it seems like hiding the vampirism would be much harder with the paparazzi riding their tales.

I feel like I might be overthinking this, though.

Darwin said...

And that's me, of course. It's been a while since I've posted as Darwin here!

--MrsD

Brandon said...

This is an Inner Sanctum episode I don't think I'd heard before. The ambiguity is nicely done here.

3. I think that Richard and Diana are newlyweds, or at least have not been married more than a couple of months. We know for sure that they've been married less than ten years, and several things require that it have been for a much shorter period than that: e.g., Diana seems genuinely surprised at the idea that Richard has been sleeping during the day for years, which certainly requires that they not be married for years. (Although what really clinches it for me is that Diana is actually afraid -- the word she uses -- of the penthouse apartment, so it seems unlikely that they've been there long.) So I think it might be less about divorce and more about the risk of that final jump into marriage. How much can you really know about the person you're going to marry? And getting married might turn you into something you don't want to be.

2. I think the knife can be explained on the vampire theory by Richard's comment that Diana was causing too much trouble alive -- he was hurrying the process so she'd stop being such a pain. The stranger in the cafe seems to me to clinch it for the vampire theory. The make-her-insane theory seems to me to be awfully Scooby-Doo-ish -- you know the thing, where the apparently unnatural gets 'explained' by some plan of trickery that is so thoroughly implausible that the only explanation for it was that the trickster was just so insane that they thought it would succeed. And I notice that the inspector also has his own version of the 1945 comment, when he solemnly assures Diana that the police department has never in its history found a single authentic vampire. The actor manages to pull it off without sounding as condescending as Richard -- but in its own way, it's an even more dogmatic expression, and seems to me to suggest that the inspector's explanation has more to do with what the inspector wants to believe than with actually having independent evidence for any of his claims (and, note, while the story he gives is quite detailed, he never points to even the slightest evidence that it is true).

1. Being a bachelor I don't have this problem; but I would imagine that in a marriage if there were any questions about who was human, it would be asked about me!

The Host and Mary the Lipton Tea Lady is one of those odd pairings that somehow just works. I think a lot of it is that, bizarrely different though they may be, their interaction really is very much like what you would expect of old friends.

love the girls said...

If vampires are living, then I don't see what the impediment would be, given that a predisposition to cannibalism doesn't invalidate a marriage.

And if vampires are dead, then the animation is supernatural and would not be any more valid than marrying a ghost or a rock.

And while I suppose it might be possible to recognize a supernatural animation, the examples that we know of such as angles appearing as men seemed to rather adept at deceiving those who they intended to deceive. And so I don's see why I would be able to see through the deception since it would likewise include all the natural acts associated with it just as the angels gave the appearance of eating.

What I do wonder about is, would the children be born without fallen nature, and if so, then while I may not be able to tell through my wife, I would be able to know via my children who definitely do have fallen nature.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Mrs. Darwin -- Your participation is why there are two Darwins on Top Commenter's widget. ;-)

I can't remember what the policeman said, and don't want to wait until I've reviewed the play to leave this comment, but if he did mention Diana's money, then Brandon's reading makes extra sense! If Richard had married her in order to take her money for himself, then he would want to kill her as soon as possible. I had also wondered about the penthouse apartment on an actor's salary, but Diana's money covers that, too.

We both may be overthinking it, but isn't it nice to see that the details of the play hold up to scrutiny? =)

Brandon -- I really love your reading! I guess I showed my "age" when I asked the third question. =) Diana's era passed into our modern world, never to be seen again, when Frank Sinatra told his daughter as he was walking her down the nave, "Don't worry, honey. If it doesn't work out, you can always get a divorce." Now we're dealing with a widespread denial--or perhaps, just invincible ignorance--that two really do become one flesh.

Anyway, I'm not married, either, but I'm sure my mother has long suspected that I'm an alien. =P

LTG -- Given that vampires are still basically human, just undead, I think any children they might be able to sire would have fallen natures as well. I also think those children would be normal humans.

The exception being the children born of human-vampire unions in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. No fallen nature for those impossible angels. =P

Sheila said...

You're right, E. The guy at the cocktail lounge can't reasonably be explained away. The husband IS a vampire.

And while I would easily believe my husband is an alien or something, it would have to be without his knowledge ... because that guy can't keep a secret for me for nothin'.

love the girls said...

Miss E. writes : "2. Which explanation do you think is more likely: Richard's wanting to turn Diana into a vampire or Richard plotting to murder Diana after first driving her insane? Or do you have a third theory?"

They're both just as likely because they're both true.

Richard's visits are intended to drive Diana insane because she would have to be insane to choose to be a vamp, and being a vamp is a chosen occupation.

And while murder is not the most common term used for helping turn someone into a vampire, it is what the act of turning is.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Sheila -- Another explanation is that Diana hallucinated the conversation with the stranger. Okay, that doesn't hold water here, either. =P But now that I've considered Brandon's interpretation, I'd like to do a "remake" of this play in which the ambiguity is heightened even more. For instance, when Diana sees Richard at the tomb, it could be because he had followed her, as a concerned husband would, and not because he was either a vampire or a murderer with a complex plot.

Oh, if your alien husband has any unmarried brothers or male cousins from the Mothership, would you please let them know I'm still single?

LTG -- Insane people don't know they're insane, so I doubt Richard intended that part of the story. And even in Diana's wildest ravings, she never considered becoming a vampire. In fact, I agree with Brandon that Richard had a dagger/knife on him because Diana was showing too many symptoms of insanity and wasn't going gently into that good night.

But perhaps you just have a problem with my wording of the question. So let me rephrase it for you . . . "Is Richard really a vampire or a just a human with an elaborate plot to kill his wife?" Remember that turning someone into a vampire may be the equivalent of murder, but not all murders turn people into vampires!

love the girls said...

Miss E.

If all Richard wants is a dead wife why not simply get her drunk and have her fall over the railing down 18 stories.

The reason Richard is reckless, (besides his being a wimp), is because he knows he's going to get what he wants regardless.

I don't know about you, but when reading of the women vampires in Dracula my thought was those women are insane in their unnatural desire to consume the flesh of children. And since vampires remain in the state they die in, it seems rather reasonable that insanity is linked to women vampires.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Well, Richard is an actor in the theatre. He probably wants Diana to die in the most dramatic way possible--and in a way that lets him still be the central character.

I started reading Dracula three times, but have never got further than the first few chapters, so while I can agree with you that any woman who wants to eat children is indeed insane, I must suspend judgment on whether Bram Stoker's characters were already that way before they turned or became that way because they turned. But I don't think that free choice is a universal requirement for vampirism. I think that what we really fear when it comes to these monsters is being turned against our will--becoming insane no matter what we do to cling to sanity.

Granted, there are some who do choose to be monsters, but I think that we who remain sensible enough to take the monsters as our warnings (the Latin root being "monstrare") know that we can be taken against our will.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

Not free choice, but the choice made by those who suffer insanity.

Which in turn is why when vampires are staked they are released from an evil, versus simply descending into hell as if hell was the inevitable deserved reward, because vampirism is chosen, but not necessarily freely chosen.

And so yes, there is the fear of being turned against one's freewill, which is the fear Diana suffers from, but nevertheless she must choose it by such act as opening a door to let the vampire in or some such.

Apparently, Richard wants Diana to be a companion vampire, but she isn't reacting in the expected manner of complete absorbed infatuation that vampires expect of the women they turn. My guess is that Richard made the error marrying Diana first and thus now has the wifely relationship that's a bit more outwardly critical.


Sheila said...

Yes, it did occur to me that stabbing one's wife and claiming she was insane is a bit needlessly complicated -- and wouldn't necessarily hold up in court, not half so well as overdosing her with sleeping pills or throwing her off the balcony.

Sheila said...

Btw, my husband's only single brother is not what I would call a Good Match, but I do have an alien brother myself! We always used to joke he was swapped out by aliens as a baby and that's why he's so weird.

If you are looking for a real alien -- a Vulcan from Star Trek, to be exact -- I can introduce you to one. I am always trying to set him up. But it's rather difficult to set up the most introverted guy I have ever met, especially from across the country. I should ask him to arrange transport from his mothership.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

LTG -- I agree that there's a sense in which everyone in a Horror story deserves what has befallen him. Including, as you've pointed out, Richard himself. =P And I'll bet Diana saw a lot of warning signs before the wedding which she chose to ignore. I'm just personally uncomfortable with doing too much "blaming the victim," so I'll leave it at that.

Sheila -- While the police officer's interpretation of Richard's actions is indeed far-fetched--or as Brandon has put it, "awfully Scooby-Doo-ish"--I also think that Richard would be right at home as the villain in a Father Brown mystery. =P Indeed, now that I think about it, he very much resembles the villain in the story which gives us this clerical analysis:

"We can direct our moral wills; but we can't generally change our instinctive tastes and ways of doing things. [Suspect A] might commit a murder, but not this murder. He would not snatch Romeo's sword from its romantic scabbard; or slay his foe on the sundial as on a kind of altar; or leave his body among the roses, or fling the sword away among the pines. If [Suspect A] killed anyone he'd do it quietly and heavily, as he’d do any other doubtful thing--take a tenth glass of port, or read a loose Greek poet. No, the romantic setting is not like [Suspect A]. It's more like [Suspect B]." (Cue dramatic music! Or perhaps, an evocative silence . . .)

While I love meeting fellow aliens, I do wonder whether the ideal match for a spacey sort is an earthling who has both feet firmly on his own beloved planet.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

When it comes to vampires I can't say that I take any of it very personally.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

LOL! I don't take monsters personally, either, but there's someone I'm trying to be friends with who doesn't know whether she can trust me or not, and I feel her critical eye on me sometimes. =P She is very opposed to "blaming the victim," even if all one is doing is pointing out that the victim showed poor judgment in making a decision that made the crime possible.