17 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 78

Today we are back in the golden arms of the Golden Age. As soon as all the vintage sounds came rushing at me through the speakers, I settled back and felt at home. So at home that I didn't even mind that this episode turned out to be not technically Horror, but Mystery. I hope everyone else is okay with that, too.

I did feel a bit of a chill in the beginning, when John had everyone in the family worried about his dreams. It was such an odd coincidence that he should dream of dying at midnight, at midnight, and that the morning after he'd get a threatening phone call hinting that he would die at midnight. That his wife Clara was also so jittery added to the atmosphere. As someone who pays attention to her own dreams, and kind of wishes that others would too (Ha!), I was properly hooked.

It soon became evident, however, that human rather than supernatural forces were at play. Whom did you suspect of wanting to kill John? I confess that I thought it was Dwight. My suspicions were raised when he wanted to take the phone away when the (supposedly) double-dealing hit man called; but having listened to the play again, I wonder if I mistrusted him because we've heard something like his initial dismissive reaction to John's dream in this "listenalong" before. When you are in a Horror story, the people who say that monsters don't exist or that intuitions should be ignored are some of your worst enemies.

But in this case, the characters are not in a Horror story. I'm guessing that the original audience for The Whistler would have known that from the outset.

With no substantial horror elements on my hands, I find myself intrigued by the references to World War II. There are some nice "vintage" details, like the Prentisses not having a maid because the latter left to work in a factory for the "war effort," but I wonder whether the story itself was inspired by the times. Was the economy of the day, which would have been linked to the war, a source of despair for many? Would audiences have recognised John as a contemporary "type"?

What are your thoughts on Death Comes at Midnight?

1) Did you find the mystery satisfying?
2) What is your favourite supernatural story from wartime?
3) Have you ever had a dream that seemed to be a premonition of something?

I did extra research to make sure that our next play would be a Horror story: "The Mask of Medusa", starring Peter Lorre, from the show Mystery in the Air. Listen to it on My Old Radio, on Relic Radio, on Vimeo, or on YouTube.


love the girls said...

The mystery to me is why the father would go through such an elaborate scheme to bilk the insurance company.

No doubt the insurance company would do their best to prove suicide so as to avoid payment, but why not something much more difficult to prove such as carelessly walking in front of a moving bus while talking to someone? I mean why not other than it wouldn't make for a good radio drama?

What I find the most interesting is that Dwight is set up to be suspected as a criminal wanting a man's money. But the father who likewise wants to kill the same person for money is looked at as a victim.

Brandon said...

I'll have more to say a bit later, but I did want to note that this was a fairly atypical Whistler story. You usually know who the criminal is immediately, and they usually don't end that well for everyone involved (the reason one listens to The Whistler is not to find out who did it, but how they got what was coming to them). While it's usually not a horror story in the strict sense, I was expecting something much closer to one --particularly with the opening set-up; that is, I was expecting at least horror in the limited psychological sense of someone going mad or someone's past coming back to haunt them in creepy ways. But we got a very different story here. I suppose, though, that if we're looking at the horror genre, it makes sense to look at pseudo-horror, the use of horror elements in a non-horror story.

Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- The plan seems to have been not just to make sure his family got the insurance money but also to pin the crime on Milton Reeves. Of course, that bit wasn't necessary, just spiteful.

The dreams were over-the-top, though. I think he could have pulled everything off even without faking the nightmares. And there goes the only real Horror element in the whole play . . . =(

Brandon -- Of all the Whistler episodes to pick, then . . . I guess my usual Mystery Box luck failed me this time. LOL! But thanks for clearing up one thing I hadn't known, which was that the original audience would have been a little bit surprised, too. =)

love the girls said...

Miss E,

Not only was it spiteful, but so absurdly stupid that I wanted to shoot the father myself for the same reason that we step on injured bugs.

Brandon said...

Listening to it again, one of the peculiarities of the story as a Whistler story is that The Whistler narrates the story in third person -- in the series, one way you can usually tell who the criminal in the story is, even before you know their crime, is that The Whistler narrates the story in second person, addressing them. The whole point of the series is that The Whistler knows your secrets, and is mockingly telling you the story of how you got your comeuppance. But here he's addressing us and narrating the whole thing in third person, which makes it very odd; it's hard not to hear it as if he judges the people involved as no seriously culpable -- if he did judge anyone as culpable, he would be mocking them directly.

(1) I thought the resolution of the mystery was rather disappointing. It's not a bad story, but it manages to be both a little bland and a little implausible. Ironically, I think a lot of it is that the beginning is very, very good, whereas the resolution just seems thrown together in order to have a resolution.

(3) Quite often; they seem to run in the family, actually. As far as I know, I'm the family member who has had the most, although if so that's somewhat ironic since I'm the one who doesn't think they're actually premonitions. In my case, I will have weird, vague dreams, and then later, when something like the event happens, get a very intense feeling deja-vu, which I experience quite a bit. I recently moved, and had two cases of it in the search for a new place -- one deja-vu experience in the first place I looked, one in the place I actually ended up getting, both linked to the same dream years before, when I moved into my previous apartment. In the dream I was (I think) climbing lots of stairs and then looked out a window at a path outside, and then went up some more stairs; behind me their was a noise and someone said, "I was looking at the elephant." The first place I looked at was very vertical -- you went straight from the front door up two flights of stairs; and behind the backyard when I looked out the back window and get the deja-vu experience, I could see a path a lot like that one. And in the place I eventually got, the stairway wraps around some display shelves; and the people showing the place had a lot of African art on the display shelves. When I was going up the stairs, the real estate agent behind me slipped and stumbled, and said, laughing at herself, "I was looking at the elephant." Deja-vu again. And there was indeed a wicker elephant on the display shelf.

Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- ROFL! I know the feeling. =P

Brandon -- Hmmmmm. That is an odd way to diverge from the usual format. Until you explained it, I didn't understand what made the Whistler the unique narrator all the other OTR fans seemed to be saying he was. I'd like to try another episode when I'm done with this series, just to see the difference. Do you have any recommendations?

I agree that the beginning of Death Comes at Midnight was great . . . but having listened to it again, I think that it starts to fall apart as early as John's refusing to name anyone who might have a grudge against him. It's kind of admirable, yes, but it's not plausible behaviour from someone who is worried about his own death. And the resolution is very . . . Nancy Drew-ish. =P

Thanks for sharing that story! Did the dreams tip the balance when it came to choosing between the two places you looked at? =)

My dreams are usually set in places I have been in the past, so I've never felt like I've peered into the future. Then again, I recently had a very vivid dream in a Dutch colonial house style house that is like no place I've lived in before.

Brandon said...

"Finale" is probably a good example of typical Whistler.

As a matter of fact, the elephant probably did influence my decision on the second place....