22 November 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 79

As you can see, I have managed to pry myself away from my Latin dance mix long enough to write a post on our penultimate Horror radio play. It is a third which features an actor who also left his mark on Hollywood: Peter Lorre.

I'm not crazy about the use of images in the following recording, but you can always close your eyes when you listen, as I did . . .

Remind me again exactly how we know that the gorgons have snakes for hair. Did Apollo brag about it or something? Because presumably every other eyewitness was turned to stone . . . or to wax!

I think that we all have a natural fear of total paralysis--a state which is probably the closest we get to physical death while still remaining fully aware of everything. The added indignity of being surrounded by people who don't know that you are conscious is kin to that more familiar horror of being thought dead and then buried alive. I can't decide which of the two is the lesser evil. No one wants to wake up six feet under, but at least those last moments are fleeting compared to an I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream scenario.

The Mask of Medusa seems to have all its work cut out for it . . . but then heads in a very different direction. The first big surprise comes from Medusa herself--and the scariest moment in the entire play is when the murderers who have all gathered around their "collector" (an honourary member of their band, I suppose) hear that they are not alone. Another excellent touch is Zweig's desperate cry that there is more to the mask than they know. Even if he is only lying, to buy time, the possibility hangs over everyone's new freedom like a dark curse. But then the narrator makes the mistake of looking at the mask again himself . . .

"Well, well, well . . . Here were are, back again, all of us, the finest criminal minds in the world . . ." ROFL!!! Lorre nails the delivery, of course. But I needed to listen to the play a second time before I heard how funny it actually is . . . and realised that the horror does not lie in the fate of the murderers, but in the fate of "poor Albert"! How would you like to be surrounded by unsavoury characters who think you are an imbecile and probably fantasise about the different ways they could murder you? That they can't actually do it seems pathetic consolation.

What are your thoughts on The Mask of Medusa?

1) Do you ever imagine that objects in your home are fully conscious and think awful thoughts about you?
2) In all honesty and self-awareness, would you be able to get away from Medusa or would you peek?
3) Just for fun, how did you react to the narrator referring to himself and the other characters as "The Walking Dead"? =P

And now we are almost done . . . Remember when I invited you to open this Old Time Radio mystery box with me and said that I knew the first play and the thirteenth play, but not the ones in between? Well, the time has finally come for the thirteenth play.

It is not technically Horror, but I think that anything which scares listeners not just into jumping out of their seats but also into preparing for the end of the world deserves an honourable mention. Of course I mean the famous Mercury Theatre on the Air adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Download it from the Internet Archive or a Mercury Theatre on the Air fan page, or TuneIn, Wellesnet, and the ever-reliable YouTube.

Let's make Meeting 80 the best one yet! =D


love the girls said...

I really like the use of suspended animation.

Being turned into stone is more akin to punishment of turning back to sin, i.e. Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt, where as the more proper effect of seeing Medusa's head should be an increase of the natural effect of seeing a snake.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think the idea of men turning to stone at the sight of Medusa must be taken in context with the rest of the myth. Her ability to do this was not a power as much as a punishment. Perhaps there would have also been dire consequences for turning back to look at Lot's wife.

Brandon said...

I think Athena gave Perseus a mirror-shield, so Perseus could see her without being turned to stone.

Monologues are hard to do, although Lorre pulled this one off fairly well -- he has just the right amount of both contempt and frustration (and irony, too) to make it plausible.

I think it's made particularly creepy by the fact that they can project their thoughts. Poor Ilse!

Enbrethiliel said...


I remember Athena's role in the original myth, too. And I really like that Perseus returned the favour by presenting Medusa's head to Athena for her own shield. =)

Now that you mention it, their ability to project their thoughts is the second creepiest part. Objects in our homes possibly thinking nasty thoughts about us is bad enough. But also projecting their thoughts to us? Horrors!

love the girls said...

The story would have been far better without the thought projection which only occurred because the author couldn't figure another way out of the corner he painted himself into.

The error was in not prolonging the real selling and point of the story by drawing out what made the museum different and horrifying.

mrsdarwin said...

Alas, I have been unable to listen for weeks since a) we had to move the computer away from the most convenient spot for listening privately, and b) I've been stuck laying down with my phone for company, which can't seem to match the sound quality of the desktop, but I want to say that I've been following and enjoying all the discussion of the shows. And fortunately, I've already heard War of the Worlds, so maybe I'll finally be able to join in the comments again!

Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- I agree that the thought projection was clumsy. It would be creepier if someone who had been frozen managed to escape and to tell the tale . . . but I'm not sure how to paint my way out of Medusa's corner, either! =P So I can't write an alternative story.

And I wonder whether the selling point of the story was sacrificed to the selling point of Mystery in the Air, which is Peter Lorre's acting talent. I think that he would upstage the Horror in any case! Of course, I'd have to listen to more episodes, to be sure.

Mrs. Darwin -- I've been having my own trouble getting my blog in order these days. It was easier to slack off because comments have been down: a little ennui goes a long way! Now that people are talking to me again, however, I need to work on my response time. Believe it or not, the tab with this comment window has been open for about four hours, waiting for me to find a quiet moment in which to finish replying to you and LTG! I could really use a pre-Christmas break like what you have in the US. (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!) Thanks for reading, even when I'm not doing much writing. I suppose I should also warn you that I may have to do some of my legendary backdating for Mercury Theatre on the Air! ;-)