Halloween Radio Theater - "The War of the Worlds"

Since I will be smack in the middle of Cambridge tonight, doing the adult equivalent of trick-or-treating -- that is, I'll be at Club Oberon, drinking and watching Cirque of the Dead -- and unable to do my musing in real-time, I shall leave you with this, the original Orson Welles radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds", first broadcast on Halloween night, 1938:

MP3 download version
Streaming version (YouTube)
The script for the 1938 adaptation
The original novel by H. G. Wells [HTML | epub | mobi | print]
Wikipedia article

Although there wasn't really widespread chaos and panic as the legend would have you believe, the framing device of a newscast breaking in on what would have sounded just like an ordinary music program was novel at the time. Epistolary novels like Dracula were well-known, but using metatextual devices in radio was not. Audio dramas were traditionally presented to the audience like plays in a theater, a neat little story that stayed wrapped up in the "set" it was in, and didn't take any swings at the fourth wall. (Comedy, not so much -- Jack Benny and George Burns addressed the audience fairly often, but it was used strictly for humor.) It evidently hadn't occurred to anyone that, unlike plays, the same format was routinely used to deliver real-world factual information to listeners, and that association could be taken advantage of when creating dramatic tension. The end effect was not unlike the Blair Witch Project to modern audiences -- freaky as hell, because of the "realistic" recording.

Everybody have a safe and scary Halloween, and don't forget: Candy clearance sales start tomorrow.

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