A Reader Who Listened In ...
Hearing from Greenbriar readers is fun and informative on any occasion, but every so often, one will come forth with a lollapalooza that calls for GPS getting out an extra. Such was the case with today's e-mail from Lou Barbarelli, who shares a Horror Of Dracula memory we'd all wish to claim. As was reported in Part Two of Greenbriar's HoD posting (from 2/8/2011), a live radio telecast from station WOR in
Your website mentions this broadcast, stating that you wish you had a tape of it. I know of no recording in existence, but I heard the live broadcast in 1958 (I was 15) and remember a lot of it. For one thing, Nebel actually broadcast from the premiere, bringing some his "regulars" along, and you could hear the entire movie as it played to the opening night audience. An amazing broadcast. The broadcast was, to my knowledge, the first and only time a complete movie was ever broadcast live on radio. Nebel took some of his regular guests with him to the theater and they helped describe, by whispering into the microphone, the action taking place between the moments of dialogue. The effect was that the broadcasters were right in the audience, but they may have had a box seat or something. You could hear the shocked reaction of the entire audience when stakes were driven into the hearts of the various "undead" characters.
By prearrangement with the producers of the film, the broadcasters were silent during the last five minutes, so that radio audiences couldn't figure out the ending. That tactic pissed off some listeners, including me, because we weren't warned in advance that Nebel and his people would conceal the ending from us after we had listened for 80 minutes. You could still hear what was going on onscreen during those final five minutes, but it was all bombastic music, heavy breathing, smashing, etc. Frustrating but tantalizing!
After the film, Nebel and his colleagues interviewed several people in the audience. Their reactions to the film were uniformly positive. One of the people interviewed was famed columnist Sheila Graham who talked about attributes of the film that were unique at the time, (but that would reshape every horror film made thereafter). Among other things, she pointed out that the film was sensual as well as gory and that Dracula was a "very handsome man."
Another member of the audience was a high school English teacher who said that, if the movie hadn't been so terrifying, she would have loved to bring her students to a showing, because the actors spoke their lines with "perfect diction." She described the effect as "almost Shakespearean."
Unfortunately, I don't clearly remember the interview with Peter Cushing afterwards. I do remember something about a tall man standing off to one side in the shadows of the theater startling the departing theatergoers who noticed him lurking there. I believe that man was Christopher Lee, but I wouldn't swear to it. After all, it's been 54 years or so. After all that time, however, Sir Christopher is still lurking in the shadows-- thrilling us.
More Horror Of Dracula at Greenbriar Archives: Part One, Two, and Three, plus The Diary Of Jonathon Harker.