Escape – Snake Doctor

Escape’s “Snake Doctor” was based on a short story by American author Irvin S. Cobb about jealousy, superstition, and water moccasins. “Snake Doctor” was published in 1923 and can be found in The Works of Irvin S. Cobb: Snake Doctor and Other Stories. It is also available online at

The story is set in Cashier Creek, somewhere in the backwoods of the American South. It centers on a reclusive man known as the “Snake Doctor,” who makes his living selling snake oil and capturing the local cottonmouth water moccasins for collectors. He appears to live among the snakes without fear or injury, and for that, most people in the community eye him with suspicion. (He is also said to be a miser who hides a great stash of money in his home.) The only person who is kind to him is Kizzie Morner, the wife of his neighbor. When she risks the wrath of her abusive husband to help the “Snake Doctor” when he is ill, her husband’s jealousy becomes murderous.

Escape chose not to adapt the story exactly, but mostly. They added in the character of the son, Finnie.

“Snake Doctor” was adapted for radio by Fred Howard, who also appeared in this episode. William N. Robson produced and directed. William Conrad played Jafe Morner. Paul Frees played Finnie. Also appearing were Ruth Barret, Barton Yarborough, and Louis Van Rooten. This episode aired on February 8, 1948.

Escape aired this story again on August 18, 1949. Norman MacDonnell produced and directed. William Conrad and Paul Frees again played Jafe and Finnie. Also appearing were: Ira Grossell, Bill Lalli, Ruth Barrett, Wilms Herbert, and Edgar Barrier.


Escape – Red Wine

In Escape’s “Red Wine,” a detective travels to a rubber plantation on the coast of Borneo to find a killer. This episode is based on the 1930 short story by Lawrence G. Blochman, but Escape threw in a seductive island girl and, of course, a deadly snake to fill some time. Otherwise, they kept the main elements of the story intact.

Detective Paul Vernier has traveled from San Francisco to Borneo to extradite Jerome Steeks, a man wanted for the murder of his wealthy wife. Vernier arrives in the jungle outpost of Tamjong Samor on a tip that Steeks is hiding there, but he soon realizes that arresting him won’t be easy. There are 3 Americans working on the local rubber plantation, but none of them fit the description of the man he is looking for.

Vernier knows that one of them is the killer. So, he leads the three men into a trap to reveal which one is really Jerome Steeks, a man of sophisticated taste and culture.

“Red Wine” was adapted for radio by Morton Lewis and Les Crutchfield. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed. Jeff Chandler played Vernier and Berry Kroeger played Herr Koert. Also appearing were David Ellis, Lou Krugman, Jack Kruschen, and Lorette Filbrandt. This episode aired on February 26, 1949.

Esc 490226 Red wine

“Red Wine” was presented again on August 11, 1949. Richard Sanville directed. Willard Waterman played Paul Vernier. Also appearing were Robert Boon, Marian Richman, Lawrence Dobkin, Vic Perrin, Wilms Herbert, and Clarke Gordon.

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I think I should have saved this episode for Halloween 🙂

Escape-Leiningen Versus the Ants

“Leiningen vs. the Ants”, a short story by Carl Stephenson published in Esquire magazine in 1938, was presented by Escape, Suspense, Mystery in the Air, and Lux Radio Theater. The story depicts the battle between the owner of a plantation in the Brazilian jungle and an attacking army of soldier ants.

You may already be familiar with this story from the movie version. In 1954 “Leiningen vs. the Ants” became The Naked Jungle starring Charleton Heston. In the film Leiningen has a love interest, a mail order bride played by the seductive Eleanor Parker. Leiningen spends the first half of the film grumbling because the new bride he ordered isn’t a virgin – and he is. Then, in the second half, the ants come marching along to provide tension for the love story. William Conrad, who had previously played Leiningen on Escape, stars as the district commissioner. The movie went in a different direction but the radio versions stayed true to the original work.

The adaptation of this story for radio by Robert Ryf aired three times on Escape and twice on Suspense. For Escape, William Conrad played Leiningen on January 14, 1948 and May 23,1948. Tudor Owen played the role for Escape on August 4, 1949. William Conrad starred as Leiningen for Suspense on August 25, 1957. Luis Van Rooten played the role for Suspense on November 29, 1959.

Of the five different presentations of this same radio play, here are:

Tudor Owen as Leiningen:

William Conrad as Leiningen:
Suspense.08.25.1957.Leiningen vs the Ants.mp3

“Leiningen vs. the Ants” was also the inspiration for an episode called “Trumbo’s World” on the ABC television show MacGyver.


Escape – The Second Class Passenger

Escape’s “The Second Class Passenger” was adapted and expanded from the short story by Perceval Gibbon. The original tale is available online at Open Library and in The Second Class Passenger and Other Stories (1913).

As the episode opens, Mr. Dawson is on a cruise that has stopped for the day in Mozambique. He and Miss Patterson are in town for lunch, along with a couple of the other gentlemen from the ship. On their return, Miss Patterson realizes that she left her souvenir back at the restaurant. Mr. Dawson doesn’t want to retrieve it, but to save face in front of the other gents, he agrees to go.

After he picks up her souvenir, he gets caught in a terrible rainstorm. When he asks for shelter from one of the local residents, he soon becomes tangled in a web of intrigue. With the help of a mysterious woman, he faces one danger after another…but will he get back to his ship?

“The Second Class Passenger” was adapted for radio, produced, and directed by William N. Robson. Harry Bartell played Dawson. Jeannette Nolan played the woman. Also appearing were William Conrad and Cathy Lewis. This episode aired on January 7, 1948.

Escape presented this story a second time on July 28, 1949. Parley Baer played Dawson. Also appearing were Georgia Ellis, Paul Dubov, Ben Wright, Vivi Janiss, John Dehner, Edgar Barrier, and Nestor Paiva.

William N. Robson later presented this story on Suspense on January 20, 1957. Character actor and “Disney Legend” Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh, starred as Mr. Dawson. This was his only appearance on Suspense. Also appearing were William Conrad and Hans Conried.


Escape – Action

Escape’s “Action” was adapted from the 1928 short story by Charles Edward Montague about a suicidal mountain climber.

Christopher Bell, a man with a creeping numbness on one side of his body, believes that the only future ahead of him is one as an invalid. With nothing left to gain by living, he travels to Zinal, Switzerland, where he plans to end his troubles on a mountain cliff.

As he begins his ascent up the Schallijoch Glacier, a pick axe suddenly comes tumbling down from above. Annoyed at first, he soon realizes there are two people above him who need help. He springs into action, and in doing so, changes his life.

“Action” was adapted for Escape by Les Crutchfield and produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell. To their credit, this is one of those instances where Escape’s adaptation could be considered more enjoyable than the original story. Joseph Kearns played Christopher Bell, Louis Van Rooten played Dr. Gollen, and Joan Banks played Mrs. Gollen. Also appearing were Erik Rolf, Marta Mitrovich, Jeff Corey, Ray Lawrence, and Berry Kroeger. This episode aired on April 4, 1948.

Escape presented this story a second time on July 21, 1949 with the same cast.


Escape – The Fourth Man

Escape presented several episodes based on short stories by John Russell, and among these, “The Fourth Man” was the most popular.

“The Fourth Man” is the story of three French convicts who have just escaped from a prison in Noumea, New Caledonia. The leader of the group, Dr. Dubosc, has made all of the arrangements. First they will be ferried out to sea in a raft and then, when they are safely away from the coast, they will be met by a ship.

At the helm of the raft is a Kanak tribesman who was given the job of taking them out to meet the ship. As the three Frenchmen wait on the raft under the blazing sun, their water supply dwindles and they become increasingly hostile. What they can’t understand is why the Kanak who is steering their raft is not troubled by the elements or the lack of water. As “civilized” men they consider themselves to be superior to the Kanak in every way, but their actions prove otherwise.

The full text of “The Fourth Man” (1917) is available online at Gaslight and The script of the 1947 Escape broadcast is available online from the Generic Radio Workshop.

Escape first presented the radio adaptation of “The Fourth Man” by screenwriter Irving Ravetch on August 18, 1947. This episode was produced/directed by William N. Robson and featured Paul Frees, Joseph Kearns, and Nestor Paiva. William Johnstone was the narrator.

The second presentation aired on April 25, 1948. This episode was produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell and featured Berry Kroeger, Joseph Kearns, and Jay Novello. Eric Rolf was the narrator.


Oh did I screw up! I attached the wrong episode. Here’s the correct episode.

Escape – The Great Impersonation

Escape’s “The Great Impersonation” was adapted from the popular novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim, which was first published in 1920. The original work is available online through Google Books, but there are also numerous copies of inexpensive older editions of this book on the market. The Great Impersonation was adapted for the screen in 1921, 1935, and 1942.

Escape’s presentation of this story is different from the book, not only because they shortened it, but because the time period was changed. The book is set during the years before World War I, but in Escape’s version it is set before the start of World War II.

Great Impersonation The episode opens in Africa in 1939, as Dr. Schmidt and the Baron Leopold von Ragastein are arguing about a man who has suddenly appeared in their camp, Sir Everard Dominey. Baron von Ragastein explains that he went to school with Dominey in England years ago and knows him well. There is an incredible similarity in their appearance, but Dominey is well known to be a drunk. Von Ragastein explains that he can help the German cause by impersonating Dominey and taking his place in English society. Dr. Schmidt agrees to the plan.

A month later, Von Ragastein arrives in England as Sir Everard Dominey. He presents himself as a changed man who has made a fortune in Africa and is now ready to return to his place in society. In order to do so, he has to contend with the numerous problems that the drunken Dominey left behind on his estate and in his personal life.

Can Von Ragastein convince everyone that he is really Dominey? Will he be successful in his plans to help the German cause?

“The Great Impersonation” was adapted for radio by Walter Newman. Norman MacDonnell produced and directed. Ben Wright starred as Von Ragastein/Dominey. Also appearing were Jeanne Bates, John Dehner, Gabrielle Windsor, Theodore von Eltz, Edgar Barrier, Ann Morrison, Parley Baer, and Ramsay Hill. This episode aired on April 23, 1949.


Escape – The General Died at Dawn

Escape’s “The General Died at Dawn” was adapted from the 1936 novel of the same name by Charles G. Booth. The central character of this story, Gerald O’Hare, was inspired by a man named Morris “Two Gun” Cohen (1887-1970), who was a gun runner for Chinese warlords in the early 1930’s and lived an all-around colorful life. In 1936, this story was also released as a film starring Gary Cooper that was nominated for several Academy Awards. Booth cowrote the film’s script with Clifford Odets, but the plot differs from that of the novel.

Escape tried to present The General Died at Dawn as it was written, but it was condensed down, down, down, to a manageable size. They dropped the dramatic beginning, dumped two of the younger characters, and though they kept the female lead, Mrs. Mallory, she is reduced to a standard love interest. This atmospheric novel is just too long to fit into a half hour radio format.

As the episode opens, Gerald O’Hare is an adventurer in Shanghai with nothing to his name. He wants to leave China altogether, so he goes to the office of an old acquaintance named Ramsgate to collect a debt. While he is there, a beautiful woman enters and, mistaking O’Hare for Ramsgate, she asks for his help. It is then, that O’Hare becomes involved in a dangerous undertaking to retrieve the stolen funds of the feared outlaw, General Yang.

“The General Died at Dawn” was adapted for radio by Walter Newman with editorial supervision by John Dunkel. Walter Newman produced and directed. William Conrad starred as Gerald O’Hare. Also appearing were Estelle Dodge, Lawrence Dobkin, Ben Wright, John Dehner, Jack Kruschen, and Peter Prouse. This episode aired on April 16, 1949.


490409 – E066 When The Man Comes, Follow Him

“When the Man Comes, Follow Him” is the story of what happens when gangsters from the city decide to search for the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona.

Mr. Heineman is a blind man who controls a syndicate. Pascal is his right-hand man… and his eyes. As the episode opens, Mr. Heineman recieves an unexpected visit from his brother, Mark. Most of the year, Mark prospects in the Arizona desert, but now, suddenly, he has arrived at his brother’s apartment in San Francisco.

When Pascal opens the door, Mark stumbles in dazed, wounded, and mumbling about a “treasure of kings.” He also has a map that he wants his brother to have. His only words of guidance to his brother about what it all means are “When the man comes, follow him…”

“When the Man Comes, Follow Him” was written by Ralph Bates and adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed. Paul Dubov starred as Pascal. Herb Butterfield played Mr. Heineman. Also appearing were Harry Bartell, Jeff Corey, Junius Matthews, and Barney Phillips. This episode aired on April 9, 1949.


480829 – e051 Diamond As Big As The Ritz

Escape – A Diamond as Big as the Ritz

“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was first published in The Smart Set magazine (June, 1922) and later in Fitzgerald’s short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age (1922). The text of “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is available online at Wikisource and it may help to read it first in order to appreciate Escape’s adaptation of this unusual story.

John Unger, a young man from Hades, Mississippi, is a student at St. Midas School, an exclusive and wealthy boarding school near Boston. He often spends his school vacations at his friend’s homes, so when his school-mate, Percy Washington, invited him to his family’s home “out west” for the summer, John agreed. On the train to Montana, Percy tells him that his father is “by far the richest man in the world” and that he owns “a diamond bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

John assumes Percy is exaggerating, but when he arrives at the remote mountain home of the Washington family, he realizes that it is all true. He also discovers that the family will do anything necessary, no matter how ruthless, to keep their home and the diamond secret.

Escape presented this story three different times.

“A Diamond as Big as the Ritz” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield and produced/directed by William N. Robson. Jack Edwards, Jr., Denny Merrill, and Linda Mason appeared. This episode aired on July 21, 1947.

This story was presented again on August 29, 1948. Sam Edwards, Peggy Webber, Dan Merrill, John Dehner, and Don Diamond appeared.

This story was presented a third time on March 27, 1949. Sam Edwards starred. Also appearing were Nina Clowden, Hugh Thomas, John Dehner, and Jack Kruschen.

Esc 470721 Diamond as Big as the Ritz
Esc 480829 Diamond Big As The Ritz
Esc 490327 Diamond Big as the Ritz


Escape 490402 Confidential Agent

Escape’s “Confidential Agent” was adapted from the 1939 novel The Confidential Agent: An Entertainment by Graham Greene. In this instance, they chose not to adapt the book as it was written, and so changed the story and characters that there is little resemblance between the radio version and the source work. The question is…why? The novel (which Greene wrote with the help of benzedrine) is the sort of desperate, gritty story that Escape normally didn’t shy away from.

Was it because Greene’s novel about a middle-aged, traumatized, war-weary, beaten-down agent who is relentlessly pursued by enemies and police–was just too depressing? Probably. Escape, instead, chose to punch up the excitement by making the agent younger, the story less perilous, and the romance standardized.

Escape’s adaptation was written by a man named Kendall Foster Crossen (1910-1981). Crossen was a prolific radio script writer, pulp fiction writer and an editor of Detective Fiction Weekly. He wrote more than twenty novels featuring Milo March, an insurance investigator.

So, Escape’s “Confidential Agent” is really a radio play by Kendall Foster Crossen within the basic framework of Greene’s novel.

Confidential Agent was also made into a movie in 1945 by Warner Brothers. You can find a review of both the novel and the movie over at

As the episode opens, a boat has just arrived in Dover harbor. David, a secret government agent, has come to England on a mission to obtain industrial diamonds. He is suspicious of everyone, but when fellow passenger Rose Cullen offers him a ride from Dover Harbor to London, he accepts. Is she one of them? Will the two of them make it to London without trouble? If they can, will David be successful in his mission?

“Confidential Agent” was adapted for radio by Ken Crossen with editorial supervision by John Dunkel. Norman MacDonnell produced and directed. Berry Kroeger starred as D. Also appearing were Edgar Barrier, Constance Cavendish, Herb Butterfield, Parley Baer, Olive Deering, Ben Wright, Wilms Herbert and Alec Harford. This episode aired on April 2, 1949.


Escape – The Adaptive Ultimate

Escape’s “The Adaptive Ultimate” was taken from the short story of the same name by science fiction author Stanley G. Weinbaum. The story was first published in the November 1935 issue of Amazing, and the author was credited under the name of John Jessel. Escape changed a few things about the story, but it was essentially presented as it was written.

“The Adaptive Ultimate” was also dramatized on the television program Studio One under the name “Kyra Zelas.” In 1957, it was turned into a film titled She Devil.

As the episode opens, Dr. Scott is attempting to convince Dr. Bach that he has a theory about human adaptability than he can prove. He has a serum that he tested on insects and animals, but now he wants to try it on a human being. To do that, he needs help. Dr. Bach reluctantly agrees that if he comes across a hopeless case, who consents to the experimental treatment, he will allow it.

It isn’t long before Dr. Scott gets his chance. Dr. Bach calls him in to help a young woman named Kyra Zelas, who is dying of tuberculosis. They administer the serum, and she soon gets well.

Not only does Kyra recover, but she begins to adapt to her new life…rapidly.

“Adaptive Ultimate” was adapted for radio by Chet Spurgeon and Herb Futrand. The producer and director was Norman MacDonnell. Edgar Barrier played Dr. Bach and Stacy Harris played Dr. Scott. Also appearing were Elsie Holmes, Frank Gerstle, Lawrence Dobkin, Tom Charlesworth, and Ann Morrison. This episode aired on March 26, 1949.


Escape – The Country of the Blind

In Escape’s “The Country of the Blind,” a mountaineer, lost in the snowy Ecuadorian mountains, finds a valley, cut-off from the rest of civilization and inhabited only by the blind. The radio play was based on the famous short story by H.G. Wells, which was first published in 1904 and then later given a revised ending in 1939. The short story is available online from Wikisource but not the later revised version. Escape’s version has a different ending altogether, as well as a modified introduction, but otherwise their radio play stayed true to the original work.

As the episode opens, a mining engineer named Ibarra tells the tale of an expedition into the Andes Mountains that ended in tragedy when one of the guides, Juan Nunez, slipped and fell over a precipice. Ibarra then explains that he was stunned when, a year afterwards, Nunez suddenly reappeared! When Ibarra asked him where he had been, Nunez told him the incredible story of his journey into a fabled land inhabited only by the blind.

“The Country of the Blind” was adapted for Escape by John Dunkel and produced/directed by William N. Robson. William Conrad played Ibarra and Paul Frees played Nunez. This episode aired on November 26, 1947.

It was presented again on June 20, 1948. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed and Paul Frees again played Nunez. Berry Kroeger played Ibarra.

Escape presented this radio play for the last time on March 20, 1949. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed. Edmund O’Brien starred and Berry Kroeger again played Ibarra. Years after Escape went off the air, William N. Robson recycled Dunkel’s script, with a few modifications, on Suspense on October 27, 1957. Raymond Burr starred.

The second presentation of “The Country of the Blind” on Suspense was on December 13, 1959. Paul Roberts produced/directed and Bernard Grant played Nunez.


Escape – Finger of Doom – Suspense

Escape only presented two episodes based on Cornell Woolrich stories, the horror-voodoo classic “Papa Benjamin” and the thriller “Finger of Doom.” Although Escape was an adventure series, the show was adept at handling Woolrich’s noir material on radio. “Finger of Doom” was first published in Detective Fiction Weekly (June 22,1940).

As the episode opens, somewhere in New York City, we meet Kenny and Steffie. They are engaged, and their wedding is only thirteen days away. On this night, Kenny is picking Steffie up from work. They are on their way for an evening on the town, but first, Steffie has to run an errand. Her boss has asked her to drop off a package, and she convinces Kenny that it will just be a brief interruption in their plans. When they arrive at an old brownstone, Steffie goes upstairs to drop off the package but never returns. Kenny waits but then realizes that something has gone horribly wrong.

“Finger of Doom” was adapted for radio by John Brussell and produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell. Harry Bartell played Kenny and Ed Begley played Gilman. Also appearing were Joy Terry, Edgar Barrier, Louise Arthur, Peter Prauss, and Kay Miller. This episode aired on March 19, 1949.

Suspense had presented an adaptation of “Finger of Doom” under the title “I Won’t Take a Minute” five years earlier. Their adaptation is a little different but just as good overall. Lee Bowman starred as Kenny. Also appearing were Cathy Lewis, Wally Maher, and William Johnstone. This episode aired on December 6, 1945.