Friday, November 22, 2013

Old Time Radio Review: Quiet, Please: The Thing on the Fourble Board

I recently listened to "The Thing on the Fourble Board," an episode of Quiet, Please from 1948 that some people have praised very highly as an excellent episode of that show and a fabulous bit of horror. Now, I'm a bit of a fan of old time radio, and I think it's worth a listen to. Have you listened to it? Great, because I'm going to spoil the plot and twist if you haven't.

The show starts with a direct address from an ex-roughneck (oil-field worker) Porky. He calls his wife "Mike" to come over, but she doesn't, so Porky tells a story from his old oil-field days--a story of terror. The story involves a core sample of million-year-old rock--which has a fancy ring and a finger in it. And that finger turns out to be--invisible! Once the mud is rubbed off, that is.

Now, all this time, the geologist who came out to do the examination is worried that there's something up on the derrick floor. This is called a "fourble board," and Porky explains why in another example of how he fills in information about oil-production work in between the horrific story. It's info-dumpy, but it makes total sense since Porky is telling us this story and responding to our questions or confusions (in a way that isn't that unusual in some shows).

So, after the geologist is--natch--horrifically murdered; and then after another death and the closing of this well; the roughneck comes back to the derrick and throws paint on the invisible creature that's clearly killing these guys. The creature has a horrible body but a very cute girl's face, so the ex-roughneck does the only logical thing: he "marries" it. And all this time, while he's been telling the story, we haven't been at a bar or party--we're tied to a chair or held at gunpoint, waiting for "Mike" to come eat us.

Now, that final twist that puts us in a different position is pretty effective as a moment of horror; as is the approach of "Mike," who has an awful, baby-ish but barely human voice.

But it also seems somewhat odd and a little silly in its way. For instance, he meets a monster with a girl's face and falls in love with it, which is both inter-species-weird and vaguely pedophiliac. Why give her a little girl's face? There's some talk about her being lost, which gives some reason why she gets associated with youth; but that just compounds the weirdness and discomfort of this grown man luring this subterranean monster child into this strange relationship.

And while the turn from "uninvolved listener" to "presumptive sacrifice" is appropriately scary, there's no real great tie between "invisible underground monster" and "you're in the story." It works great for kids, such as in the story of the old man's toe--"And you have it!" But besides the shock, there's not much else to make it specific to this story. It could be the story of a man searching for a will--and you have it!--or the story of a serial killer--and you're next! An invisible, subterranean spider-lady-turned wife doesn't scream "you're next" to me.

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