Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big Audio Wednesday - Lights Out in Studio B

Lights Out will forever be associated with the inventive work of Arch Oboler, but Oboler was not the original writer on the show. Wyllis Cooper originated the show and established the basic format which Oboler then tuned to great effect.

One trick that Cooper loved to use was to break the fourth wall and have his characters acknowledge their existence or the existence of the audience, a trick that he continued to use in his follow-up series, Quiet Please. A closely-related trick used several times on Lights Out was to present a "behind the scenes" story: the episode "Murder in the Script Department" was about two secretaries locked in the offices at night while typing up one of Oboler's scripts, and "The Author and the Thing" featured Oboler dreaming up a monster for his final episode, that of course comes to life on him.

But before those episodes came this Cooper classic, "The Coffin in Studio 'B'," about tragic happenings during rehearsals for an episode of Lights Out. The show has the feel of a real rehearsal. The ending is telegraphed pretty early, but on Lights Out especially, the twist wasn't the point. The point was to listen to extended scenes of people dying in frantic, painful ways. Lights Out was the forerunner of today's torture porn movies like "Saw" and "Hostel," but with occasional humor and wit (ETA: although not so much in this episode--the death scene is relatively brief--still, my point remains: the endings were usually clearly telegraphed, and half the fun was getting to the ending you knew was coming).

So turn your lights out and enjoy this look behind the scenes of horror radio in the 30's as Lights Out presents "The Coffin in Studio 'B' " (this is a 1946 rebroadcast of a show originally done in the 30's). Click the widget to listen.

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