Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills." I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show. It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour. I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.
"One Hundred in the Dark"
Air date: September 30, 1942
Starring Eric Dressler and Alice Frost
>>Episodes here<<A group of men in a writer’s club discuss the mystery story and how it is more compelling in the creation than in the resolution, unlike other kinds of stories. One man argues that knowing “whodunit” ruins the interest in the mystery for the listener. He tells a story about a society woman, Rita, who holds a dinner party, and she discovers that the sapphire ring on her dresser has gone missing. She assembles her party at dinner and tells everyone, also saying that she will turn out the lights and count to one hundred and if the guilty person puts the ring on the table, everything will be fine and she won’t press charges. Otherwise the police will be called and no one can leave. The lights are turned down and Rita counts to one hundred. The lights are turned on and the ring is returned.
That is the end. There is no revelation of who took the ring. Maybe. It does make you think! I found this episode very interesting atmospherically. Rita counts from one to one hundred completely and during all that time, the suspense keeps ratcheting up. And there is literally nothing going on. A few gasps and a few outraged outbursts only. It’s a marvelous story construction and gives ample evidence that knowing the solution of the mystery is less fun than knowing just the mystery. The magic of not knowing. It’s not something we are used to nowadays when so much can be easily known or explained.
I have to say the wrap-up at the end was hilariously horrifying. I'm glad I don't live in the 40s! The man telling the story- Kenny (I think?) asks of his friends these questions about what sort of person took the ring:
Kenny: “Was it a woman who lacked the necessary courage to continue? Or was it a man who repented his first impulse? Is a man or is a woman the greater natural criminal?"
(WHAT? A woman can repent, and a man can lack courage!!)
Man #1: “Well that’s simple Kenny, a woman took it of course.”
Man #2: “On the contrary it was a man, for the second action was more difficult than the first.”
(Are you kidding me??)
Some jerk: “A man certainly, the restoration of the ring was a logical decision.”
Kenny: “You see? Personally I incline to a woman for the reason that the weaker feminine nature is strangely susceptible to the domination of her own sex.”
Oh to commit a stunningly complex heist in front of these men! They wouldn't even suspect me!