Thursday, June 28, 2007

OTR: More Classic Science Fiction

I’m finally getting around to finishing my overview of the 10-CD compilation of radio shows put out by Radio Spirit & the Smithsonian Institute.

Lux Radio Theatre presents an adaptation of George Pal’s 1953 classic film: “War of the Worlds” with Dana Andrews in the Gene Barry role. While based on the H.G. Wells novel the program is a straight re-enactment of the Pal movie. They even have the same opening narration by voiceover great Paul Frees. Between the Pal film, and listening to the Mercury Theatre broadcast by Orson Welles I’ve almost forgotten how the original novel presented the same material. I think it’s time to go back and read the classic, in the same way that I re-read Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN a couple of years ago.

There’s an adaptation of “The Seventh Victim” by Robert Sheckley, which was turned into an Italian film by Elio Petri,“The Tenth Victim.” This 1965 movie, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen completely, featured Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress. In a future where war has been banned, how do folks with 'killer instincts' get their kicks?

A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber is an eerie end of the world story. It does something a bit different with a fate similar to that confronted by the characters in Wyllis Cooper’s “Adam and the Darkest Day.” The classic TWILIGHT ZONE also played with the idea of climate change in Rod Serling's "The Midnight Sun."

In “Junkyard” by Clifford D. Simak, the captain of a spaceship must figure out what to do if you land on a planet and forget how to get off again? For some reason this reminded me of some early episodes of the original Star Trek series, especially when they put crewmembers in danger while the senior staff stands around discussing things.

”Finally, “Mr. Costello, Hero” by Theodore Sturgeon is a cautionary story about paranoia and how easily people will turn over control of their lives if they feel threatened. I find it especially prophetic now in the age of the Patriot Act. “They” don’t have to have done anything but you can’t trust “them” not to be planning something.

In listening to many of these shows it is fascinating how many actors turn up over and over again. The recognizable voice of Bill Conrad pops up in at least four of the shows in this set, and Parley Baer has a role in “War of the Worlds” as a forest ranger.

Fair warning! I’ll have more OTR stuff to review in the next few weeks.
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