CBS brings you ....SUSPENSE!
March 12, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Suspense was a thriller-style radio drama that ran on CBS from 1942 to 1962 and is widely considered to be one of the greatest Old Time Radio (or "Golden Age Of Radio") series and model for "The Twilight Zone". In addition to theme music by Bernard Herrmann and scripts by leading mystery authors of the day, Suspense also featured a stunning roll call of big-name Hollywood stars, often playing against type or in more lurid material then the movie studios would allow. While nearly all 947 episodes are available online (exhaustively comprehensive previously) the sheer number of episodes can be daunting. Old Time Radio Review is halfway through the series with a convenient rating system to finding the best - why not enjoy these Youtube versions of a few episodes starring Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Robert Taylor, Orson Wells, Agnes Moorehead (again), Cary Grant, and more
posted by The Whelk (31 comments total) 95 users marked this as a favorite

I can't wait to dive into some of this. Thanks!
posted by Palindromedary at 2:07 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

A bunch of these were turned into short stories. I read four of them in a volume when I was a kid, but the only one that stuck with me was the story about the guy kidnapped and put in a totally dark room. There was a mouse, a mousehole , and a lot of internal dialogue.
posted by clvrmnky at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2015

Oh this is amazing. I remember the first time I ever heard "Sorry, Wrong Number" and how much it blew me away. Time to listen again, and excited to know that there are others that are considered better!
posted by tittergrrl at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you... Escape!"

Which rocked as well.
posted by Kinbote at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I mostly made this post as an excuse to post that Judy Garland episode cause holy crap Garland acting in a non musical comedy mode and crushing it.
posted by The Whelk at 2:30 PM on March 12, 2015

Wait, is this the show where one of the stories ends with "...AND THEN I WALKED RIGHT THROUGH THE WALL!"?
posted by I-baLL at 2:40 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge John Dickson Carr fan, but the one area of his career I haven't so far explored is his work on Suspense.

Thanks for this, The Whelk!
posted by pinacotheca at 2:40 PM on March 12, 2015

Escape and Suspense! is another useful guide to the best of...well, Escape and Suspense.

(The editor claims that the most single-most popular episode he's ever covered is "Three Skeleton Key." The same script was produced multiple times on both shows, usually starring Vincent Price.)
posted by Iridic at 3:26 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Whee! Oh, I am so happy to see this.

*dives down the rabbit hole*
posted by blurker at 3:30 PM on March 12, 2015

This post is making me thirsty for some Roma Wine.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Great memories! When I was a kid local radio station CKNW had the "Owl Prowl" show on at night and at least once a week there was Suspense or Escape or The Whistler, etc. With my Clairtone Mini HiFi transistor radio under my pillow, it was time to nod off (or not depending on the story!) to the sounds of mystery.
posted by Zedcaster at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Funny Iridc, we listened to Three Skeleton Key on the Monday morning commute :)

One of my favourite Suspense episodes is The Yellow Wallpaper starring Agnes Moorehead. I can't decide if it's production was a subversive act or if someone thought that it was another story about a hysterical housewife.
posted by Calzephyr at 3:53 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

( it's the Again link, and yes it's so good)
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I love Suspense. "Sorry, Wrong Number" is so good, even if I suspect it is less shocking now than then. Quiet, Please is another great old time radio anthology series. "The Thing on the Fourble Board" is justifiably the best known episode, but it's really good overall.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:05 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Follow-up post brought to you by ROMA WINES.

Okay, there's a Cornell Woolrich story acted by Lucille Ball here. It's like finding a Dennis Lehane story acted by Amy Poehler. My mind is blown.

posted by Palindromedary at 4:28 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I used to listen to some of these while shelving in the library before we opened and man, Agnes Moorehead in The Yellow Wallpaper is one of the most disturbing things I've ever heard.

(And yes, Quiet, Please! So great!)
posted by darchildre at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whenever anyone doubts the power of radio drama, I play them Three Skeleton Key with Vincent Price. Then wait for them to unclench.

Incidentally, for a while the announcer of Suspense was Paul Frees, the single greatest voice talent who ever lived.
posted by QuietDesperation at 5:12 PM on March 12, 2015

Three Skeleton Key
posted by The Whelk at 5:27 PM on March 12, 2015

I listened to a lot of these episodes for the post and now I'm seized with a desire to buy Roma Wines, and war bonds.
posted by The Whelk at 6:00 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid in the 70s, my bedtime was 10pm. Every night at 10:07 on the dot I would turn on the radio and hear a creaky door followed by "Come in. Welcome. I'm E. G. Marshall. Won't you join me once again for a tale of mystery and suspense?" What followed was either a crime drama, sci fi story or classic suspense story from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe.

CBS Radio Mystery Theater aired over a thousand shows and they are all available for streaming or download. Some are really good. Some are cheesy as heck. But as a 12 year-old listening to these on an ear phone plugged into my clock radio when I should be going to sleep was pretty exciting. Sometimes I would fall asleep during the show. Other times I'd be so freaked out, I couldn't fall asleep for a long time afterwards. I'd have to fake sleeping when my folks came to check on me at 11pm on their way to bed.
posted by MCTDavid at 6:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Awesome! I used to have a tiny collection of these on tape. My first introduction to Lucille Ball!
posted by bxyldy at 7:55 PM on March 12, 2015

a desire to buy Roma Wines, and war bonds.

If you listen up through the sponsor change in the fifties, you'll find yourself hankering after long-lasting, reliable spark plugs. (YOU'RE ALWAYS RIGHT...WITH AUTOLITE.)
posted by Iridic at 8:08 PM on March 12, 2015

the ads are so hypnotic and repetitive, it's like Manchurian Candidate style reprogramming - yes yes I would like a glass of Roma wine, yess it is made for all the world yes, roma wine roma wine roma wine
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 PM on March 12, 2015

Peter Lorre, "Nobody Loves Me."
You're welcome.
posted by Camofrog at 9:12 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ronald Colman, August Heat, perfect for a sultry summer evening, or the middle of an ice storm.
posted by marguerite at 6:46 AM on March 13, 2015

Oh, and another of my OTR favorites is Night Beat, with Frank Lovejoy as Chicago Star reporter Randy Stone. I like the show's take on the gritty romance of old-time newspapering, the snappy dialogue and Chandler-esque turns of phrase* Stone drops while he searches through Chicago "for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness."

*"His fingers clutched the gun like a child clutches her favorite doll."

*"It was early morning when I walked into the county morgue and there was that same familiar ammonia smell stinging my nostrils, the usual gleaming tile, and the empty feeling you get when the cold swipe of the morgue hits you across the face like the tail end of a nightmare."

(Comment self-plagiarized from another site as I don't have time to transcribe new Night Beat quotes this morning...)
posted by marguerite at 7:18 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

New Suspense episodes are being made.
posted by JanetLand at 7:33 AM on March 13, 2015

Oh, and of the old ones, I recommend The Man Who Thought He Was Edward G. Robinson, starring . . . well, you can probably guess.
posted by JanetLand at 7:37 AM on March 13, 2015

Suspense! And CBS Radio Mystery Theatre were awesome programs which I was hooked on. Thanks!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2015

I think about "Mission Completed" (Episode 341 at the Archive) starring James Stewart pretty frequently and it's been a number of years since I first listened to it. Highly recommended.
posted by mwachs at 6:25 PM on March 13, 2015

I am a huge fan of old time radio and listen to a lot.
So when I needed some, I came back here, clicked on the link and HOLY CRAP WHO DID THAT TO THE WEBSITE?
Does the new formatting of bother anyone else?
It used to be simple, text based and not flashy. The streaming episodes were in an inset scrolling list.
Now trying to figure which episode to listen to is an exercise in getting a screaming headache.
The entire website is like that.
Luckily it's in Beta and you can revert to the old style, but if the rest of the intertubes are an example, it will only be a matter of time before the old formatting disappears.

But that has nothing to do with the content. I love Suspense. Thank you!
posted by Seamus at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2015

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