Skip to main content

Classic Radio Better Than Classic Cinema?

It's Alfred Hitchcock day on TCM, a special Sundays With Hitch programming feature during September. One of the films airing today is the classic Spellbound, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. Alas, it's not a very enjoyable experience. Allow me to explain why that is.

As mentioned before on this blog, I grew up listening to the radio at bedtime. At first it consisted of Larry King (back when he did overnights), and then switched to old-time radio shows from the '30s, '40s and '50s. I would purchase the programs on cassette, and drift to sleep with the sounds of Arch Oboler, Suspense!, The Shadow and others in my ears.

One of the shows I listened to most was Screen Directors Playhouse. It aired on NBC Radio from 1949-51, and consisted of dramatizations of popular movies. Indeed, this is where I was introduced to such cinema classics as Call Northside 777, The Killers, The Spiral Staircase, Lifeboat, Shadow of a Doubt, The Uninvited and, finally, Spellbound (this time starring Joseph Cotten and Mercedes McCambridge).

Eventually, I managed to see most of the aforementioned films and, pretty much with every one of them, I though that the radio versions were better. This mostly had to do with time. In most cases, episodes of Screen Directors Playhouse were 30 minutes. Compare that to the typical runtime of a movie from that era -- 90 minutes -- and you're left with the cinematic versions featuring a lot of padding.

It's also true that radio is indeed the theater of the mind. As long as it is presented well (and these old programs often were), then you can create some spectacular landscapes within your head of what is occurring within each story. In the case of Spellbound, I felt like the dream sequences experienced by the Ballantyne character were better executed in my head than on the screen.

Of course, none of this is to say that classic films -- especially the ones mentioned in this post -- are bad. I love watching older movies. But I do think that their radio counterparts rather upended them when it comes to showing how much can be accomplished with perhaps a bit more brevity of script. The question therefore is: Did radio ruin certain movies for me? The answer? Perhaps, perhaps.


Popular posts from this blog


Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....

1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night

It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …


"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…