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.


Escape – A Shipment of Mute Fate

Escape loved stories that involved deadly snakes, and “A Shipment of Mute Fate” was one of their favorites. This radioplay was broadcast four times, each with a different cast. In this story, a South American Bushmaster is accidentally let loose on a passenger ship traveling from Caracas, Venezuela to New York City. The passengers panic and the crew desperately tries to find the killer snake, but in the end, a mother’s love saves everyone from danger. Depending on how sensitive you are, this story may have you in tears.

The Latin name of the South American Bushmaster is Lachesis Muta (also Lachesis Mutus), which translates to “mute fate.” Lachesis was the name of the Greek fate who assigned the length of a man’s life and Muta was the Roman goddess of silence. The designation of muteness is in reference to the snake’s tail, which rattles like a rattlesnake but makes no noise.

“A Shipment of Mute Fate” was written by Martin Storm and appeared in an Esquire anthology of short stories in 1940. It was later adapted for Escape by Les Crutchfield. Of their four presentations of this episode, here is the third. It aired on March 13, 1949, and stars John Lund, Barry Kroeger, and Lois Corbett.


490312 – 059 He Who Rides The Tiger

Escape – He Who Rides the Tiger

Escape’s “He Who Rides the Tiger” is based on the 1948 novel The Nightwalkers by James Norman, which is set in post-World War II China. The title of The Nightwalkers refers to foreigners who were not in China during the war, and who do not understand the subsequent changes. Their lack of memories of wartime events prevent them from understanding the consciousness of new China. Escape’s adaptation includes a number changes to the story, some for the better.

The Nightwalkers As the episode opens, David Armour wakes from a fevered dream of disconnected images. He is in a mission hospital, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He explains to the doctor that he is an archaeologist, and that he is in China to help protect national treasures from the advancing Japanese armies. The doctor informs him that he arrived at their hospital two months ago sick with fever and wearing a Japanese uniform. The last thing David remembers is having lunch…in 1941. Somehow, he has lost his memories of the last eight years.

David also has a visitor named Quinto, who is very interested in his problems and his missing years. Quinto explains that there is no record of David during the war years. What was he doing? Working for the Japanese? David doesn’t believe it.

So, what does Quinto want from David? Four missing T’ang bronzes. They are national treasures but they were hidden away during the war. Now, they appear to be lost. Quinto believes that David knows where those bronze treasures are. Does he?

“He Who Rides the Tiger” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield and Norman MacDonnell produced and directed. William Conrad starred as David Armour. Berry Kroeger played Gimiendo Quinto. Also appearing were Maria Palmer, Jack Kruschen, Ben Wright, and Edgar Barrier. This episode aired on March 12, 1949.


Escape – Conquerer’s Isle

Escape’s “Conquerer’s Isle” begins with a burst of organ music and then draws us into the story of a lost Navy bomber crew in the South China Sea during WWII. Their plane is damaged, lost in a typhoon, and then forced to make an emergency landing on a small uncharted island.

Not long after they land the three Navy flyers are greeted by one of the island’s residents, Dr. Grove, who takes them to a mysterious elevator. They don’t want to accompany him, but he insists. Dr. Grove then leads them down into a wondrous underground city that belongs to a civilization of advanced human beings. Their community is one of advanced learning and evolved understanding. It is populated by humans who have been drawn to the island by telepathy. They are “the next stage” of evolution and their underground realm is where they study, build, and prepare for the day when their numbers are large enough to take over the Earth. At that point, they will become the “friendly guardians” of the rest of humanity. The Navy flyers trapped in this world are now their pets.

“Conquerer’s Isle” was written by Nelson Bond and adapted for radio by John Dunkel. It was produced and directed by Norman McDonald. Dr. Grove was played by Bill Johnstone. Lieutenant Brady was played by David Ellis and Dr. Gorham was played by Ted von Eltz. Special music was arranged and played by Ivan Ditmars. This episode aired on March 5, 1949.


I included Escape because of television, I believe it never had a sponser. Once again, great show, but too late for radio.
490212 – e055 Lost Special

How can a train disappear on an open track between two stations eight miles apart? That is the mystery at the center of the short story “The Lost Special” (1908) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Escape’s version of the “The Lost Special” makes a few changes to the story, but it is a well-executed radio adaptation. If you are interested in reading the orginal work, it is available online as a Gaslight e-text.

The story begins at the railway station in Liverpool where a man named Monsieur Caratel, recently arrived from Central America and on his way to France, has asked to hire a special train to London. The station agent, Mr. Bland, makes the arrangements and soon Caratel and his bodyguard are on their way.

Reports from the railway stations along the route indicate that everything is running smoothly, but somewhere between the stations at Kenyon Junction and Barton Moss, the train disappears.

Inspector Collins, an agent from Scotland Yard, is called in by Mr. Bland to determine what happened to the missing train and why.

“The Lost Special” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield with editorial supervision by John Dunkel. Norman MacDonnell produced/ directed and Ben Wright starred as Inspector Collins. Also appearing were Parley Baer, John Dehner, Edgar Barrier, Lawrence Dobkin, and Paul Frees. This episode aired on February 12, 1949.


I included Escape because of television, I believe it never had a sponsor. Once again, great show, but too late for radio.

490219 – E056 Orient Express

Escape’s “Orient Express” was loosely adapted from the 1932 novel Stamboul Train by Graham Greene. (The book was later retitled Orient Express when it was released in the United States.) Stamboul Train was also adapted into a film called Orient Express in 1939.

There is little resemblance between Greene’s novel and the plot of Escape’s episode. So much so, that using the title and the author’s name seems misleading. Most of Escape’s adaptations for radio are to be admired, but that isn’t the case with this episode. They left out ALL of the good stuff, and then made a story out of some other stuff.

It might have had something to do with the novel being too long for a half hour drama, or that most of it is too adult for a family show.

The episode begins in 1932, with businessman Gregory Myatt boarding the Orient Express in Ostend, Belgium. Shortly after his journey begins, he encounters a strange man in his compartment. That is his first warning that something isn’t right, but there is more intrigue to come as they travel towards Istanbul.

Escape’s “Orient Express” is a cute romp on a train, but if you get the chance, read the book.

“The Orient Express” was adapted by television writer Sheldon Stark and screenwriter Walter Newman. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed. William Conrad played Gregory Myatt. Also appearing were Edgar Barrier, Hans Conried, Gloria Grant, Harry Bartell, Ann Morrison, Jack Kruschen, and John Dehner.


I included Escape because of television, I believe it never had a sponser. Once again, great show, but too late for radio.

490226 – E057 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.

“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.


I included Escape because of television, I believe it never had a sponsor. Once again, great show, but too late for radio.

480919 – E054 Man Who Could Work Miracles

Escape’s “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” is a charming adaptation of the short story by H.G. Wells. If you are interested in reading the original work, published in 1898, it is available at Wikisource.

Mr. George McWhirter Fotheringay, a reasonable man, was busy having a respectable argument with the other patrons at the Long Dragon Bar when his troubles began. They were arguing about the existence of miracles, and Mr. Fotheringay had stated that such things just weren’t possible because they were contrary to the laws of nature. In the course of arguing of his position, however, he caused a miracle!

After being thrown out of the Long Dragon for being a trouble-maker, Mr. Fotheringay realizes that he has suddenly gained the power to work miracles of all kinds. After turning his walking stick into a rose bush and then sending the local constable to Hades (…and then repeatedly to San Francisco), Mr. Fotheringay decides to get some help. He then visits the local reverend, Mr. Maydig, for advice about his unusual dilemma. That night, the two of them set out to use Mr. Fotheringay’s amazing powers to solve all of the town’s problems, but end up causing a world of trouble instead.

“The Man Who Could Work Miracles” was adapted for Escape by Les Crutchfield with editorial supervision by John Dunkel. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed and Ben Wright starred as George Fotheringay. John Dehner played Mr. Maydig. Also appearing were Wilms Herbert, Jeff Corey, Eleanor Audley, and Constance Cavendish. This episode aired on September 19, 1948.

Escape presented this story again, with some improvements in the sound effects, on December 31, 1950. Norman MacDonnell produced/directed. Ben Wright again starred as George Fotheringay. Also appearing were John Dehner, Lou Krugman, Eileen Erskine and Wilms Herbert.


Escape – A Dream of Armageddon

Escape’s “A Dream of Armageddon” is based on the 1901 short story by H.G. Wells. (The original work is available online at Wikisource.) Escape made a few alterations to the story by skipping the original beginning, by changing the setting from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century, and by changing the nationalities from English to American. Otherwise, they kept the rest of the story intact.

As the episode opens, a man describes a vivid dream in which he finds himself living a completely different life. In his dream, he wakes to a new life in Capri, hundreds of years into the future. He is with a woman he loves, but there is a cloud over their happiness. In order to be together, he had to leave his position as a world leader, and now, without him, world politics seems to be steadily moving towards war.

When the man wakes up in his own time, he is back in his own drab life. Was it really a dream? Days pass and eventually his dream of the future picks up again and turns into a nightmare.

“A Dream of Armageddon” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield and was produced and directed by Norman MacDonnell. Featured in the cast were Stacy Harris and Betty Lou Gerson. Also appearing were Charlotte Lawrence, Jack Kruschen, Erik Rolf, and John Dehner. This episode aired on September 5, 1948.

escape 480905 A Dream of Armageddon


Escape – A Diamond as Big as the Ritz from 480829

“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