Jan 23, 2011

Posted in Liner Notes, What's New

‘A TEST FOR MURDER’

NOTES ON THE PROGRAMS:

‘A Test for Murder’

Recorded at: HT Recording Studio, Dennis, Cape Cod

Play’s location: The Provincetown Art Museum, Commercial Street Provincetown.

First broadcast:         ?

Trivia:         ‘A Test for Murder’ was the fourth Capt. Underhill audio production but chronologically actually the second mystery to feature the famous detective.  It was originally written as a short story.

Cast in order:

Announcer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bob Nolan

Doctor Alexander Scofield . . . . Wally O’Hara

Captain Waverly Underhill . . . . Dave Ellsworth

Trudy Landsburger . . . . . . . . . Eva Broderson

Miss Beverly Sampson . . . . . . . Laine Davis

Mrs.Celia Hanshoffer . . . . . . . Mary B. Jones

Officer Ray Greenwood . . . . . Kevin Groppe

Jason Hirsh . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Bill Dame

Mr. Keifer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fred Morey

Mrs. Florence Rigby . . . . . . . . Carol McManus

Alfred Turk, Junior . . . . . . . . . Neil McGarry

Author’s Notes and Recollections:

This tidy little mystery is one of my favorites from the ‘early era’.  It begins with Underhill running into Scofield at an art opening and appearing to perform the same kind of impressive Sherlock Holmes-style explanation –divination really– of why he knew he would be seeing the Good Doctor there.  Naïve Scofield at first believes him.  Then, after Underhill explains the real reason he knew and debunks such feats of ‘off-the-cuff’ forensics, a murder occurs in the upstairs gallery and Underhill, leaping into action, proves himself wrong on his own thesis as he improvises his own off-the-cuff investigation by quickly devising and administering a pop-quiz that exposes the killer.

At the time the short story was written that the script was based on, I had been steeping myself in the mysteries of Richard Levinson and William Link.    For those not aware, Levinson and Link were a potent and prolific mystery writing duo, –referred to as the Rolls and Royce of Mystery Writers.  The two writers had been friends since childhood and had collaborated in creating and scripting some of the most famous TV detectives, most notably the brilliant Columbo series.  I am particularly fond of two of their made-for-television specials, ‘Rehearsal for Murder’ (1982) and my favorite, ‘Murder by Natural Causes’ (1979) which features Hal Holbrook, Katherine Ross, and Richard Anderson in a cleverly constructed plot that piles twist upon twist.  Any aspiring mystery writer would do well to scrutinize how that show was constructed.

The Provincetown Art Museum on Commercial Street was a good choice for the setting of this mystery.  No imaginary changes were necessary except for the addition of a spiral staircase.  The museum has grown considerably since then to include an art school and expanded galleries.

The cast members were all composed of actors from previous shows and were recorded ensemble at John Todd’s studio in Dennis with the exception of Carol McManus who, I recall, was bed-ridden at the time with a sore back.  However, we were happy to bring the microphone to her to record her few lines of dialogue playing the scrappy Florence Rigby. Wally and Dave sparkle in this one.  I also enjoy Eva Broderson’s Trudy Landsburger.  Neil McGarry, after having just played the compassionate psychiatrist in The Hypnotist, plays the villain in this one; while Kevin Groppe, the chilling psychopath from Caller on Line One, plays the late-arriving Officer Greenwood.   Thus exemplifying one of the handier aspects of Radio Theater, how easily you can shuffle actors about into different roles.

The way the show ends, with Underhill solving the case but not taking credit, becomes one of his standard traits, as it is more or less a standard trait for all Sherlock Holmes style detectives, betokening their false modesty I suppose.   Underhill walking off with the girl and earning Scofield’s envy or censure is another standard trait, somewhat more original to Underhill.   It more or less began with this episode.

The sound effects are minimal but supportive.  Mark’s music is understated but nice.

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