1949 - 1951
Above image courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992
After World War II, a spate of books, articles and movies explored (some would say, exploited) the darker, psychological side of man's minds. The effects of combat and post traumatic stress were timely themes, but obscure mental conditions made better copy, especially dramatic ones like schizophrenia and paranoia. The common theme was that the mind is capable of anything, and even modern scientists don't really understand how it works. It can turn brave men into trembling cowards, or shy women into knife wielding psychopaths. Of course, radio dramas were already exploiting similar types of plot devices to create shocking endings for horror shows like Inner Sanctum, Dark Fantasy, Mysterious Traveler, and the like. Listeners quickly learned that their otherwise trustworthy narrator could be secretly crazy, and was not accurately remembering the details of the story that they were telling us, thereby concealing their guilt. For that matter, the narrator could already be deceased-- it might all be in their mind (even when the brain was already dead). Since radio is imagined instead of shown, it can really take advantage of these types of stories. So it was only a matter of time before someone devoted an entire series to psychological dramas. Obsession did just that.
Jealousy, hatred, loneliness, revenge-- any emotion that could be carried too far was fair game. Everyone's favorite plot gimmick-- amnesia-- was also a topic for the show. These various mental issues were interwoven with some life or death situation, with murder being the usual consequence. Mix them all together with some fancy sounding medical mumbo-jumbo (shaken, not stirred), and you get sophisticated sounding narrations like this:
"Avarice. Greed. These are the slow poisons that saturate the most brilliant mind, until it becomes blank and spongy, a cavern of foul and noxious thoughts, hidden away from the light of the sun. A secret place where no longer live the clean structure of love or honor or decency. As the twisting roots of destruction dig deeper and stronger, interlocking like the fibers of some malignant cancer..."
Now you don't have to be a brain surgeon to know that everything inside the skull is "hidden away from the light of the sun." But whoever wrote the introductions certainly had a flare for making the mind seem like an especially dark and sinister place. A person can obsess about anything, and some of those things can even be good (like loving someone, or helping society), but positive obsessions need not apply to this series. The only good obsession here is one that helps the ratings, and that needs violence and/or suspense.
You get a lot of both with Obsession. To be fair, many of the storylines threaten violence, but wind up avoiding it and have happy endings instead. E.g., a wife thinks her husband is a murderer, but by the end, discovers she was terribly wrong. Or a man prone to violence plans on killing his rival by guiding his plane into a mountain, but changes his mind and saves the plane instead-- only to discover his wife was on board. Contrived? Very. Entertaining? Well, that depends on your taste. I find the melodramatic acting and forced medical metaphors humorous. Others might just find them stupid. You should hear a few and make up your own mind (even if it is a cavern of foul and noxious thoughts).
One thing I suspect everyone will agree on though, is that Obsession has one of the most haunting musical themes, which ranks right up there with the Bernard Herrmann theme to Suspense. At the very least, listen to several starting narrations with this theme playing beneath them. You'll probably find the ornate language and eerie background music surprisingly addictive!
The Standard Intro:
An Opening Narration:
Host: "Abject misery of loneliness has no circumference. Is bounded by no rivers or seas. It is the well of darkness, wherein, on the shading of a friendly light can lift the soul to peer over the crags of a storm ridden coast. As you shall see in the story of 'The North Wind' starring Jane Wyatt.
SFX: Dramatic music drops under narration.
Host: "Along the Northern regions of a New England wind swept coast, time and tide have carved from the stone of the tall and menacing crags, an unpretentious fishing village that shall be known as Cape Shark. Here men live by the grace of the elements and the yield of the sea. This is the land of the North Wind. And a land region alone that is the perfect culture for a growth in the mind known as... obsession!"
Hear it now, FREE!
"North Wind" (Courtesy of OTR.cat) - A woman finds love with a tough fisherman, but did he murder a rival in a jealous rage?
"The Hangman" - (Courtesty TennesseeBillsOtr.com) A poor painter marries and discovers his "loaded" wife is actually broke herself. He conceives of a plan to make money after all.
"Napoleon Bonaparte" - A young German attempts to assassinate the French conqueror, and makes the ruler realize he needs an heir.
"Clinging Hate" - A pilot with a quick temper finds a wife who compliments his temperament, but when his brother is killed in an accident, it makes him thirst for revenge at any cost.
Hear dozens of free episodes here. (Courtesy of TennesseeBillsOtr.com)
Read the titles (and some guest stars) to nearly 80 different episodes courtesy of the OTRR radio logs.
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