Jun 9, 2010

Posted in Liner Notes, What's New

‘THE HYPNOTIST’

‘The Hypnotist’

Recorded at: Rosemead Recording Studio, Cotuit, Cape Cod

Play’s location: The Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts

First  broadcast: (?)

Trivia:

This high-tech radio thriller is told as though through the mind of a woman in a coma.  Few of the play’s fairly large cast actually ever met face to face during production, as the show was constructed meticulously from the ground up line by line.  Especially when listened to through earphones ‘The Hypnotist’ offers one of the most thrilling climax scenes ever recorded.

Cast:

Dr. Allan Reed, the Hypnotist . . . . . . . . . . .Neil McGarry

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

Gail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Wendy Iwanski

Karen Jefferies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Debby Oney

Killer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bill Dame (*)

Nurse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Carol McManus

Doctor Reuben . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Kevin Groppe

Professor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Bob Nolan

Detective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jack Brady (*)

Nurse #2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kristie Weimar (*)

Karen’s Mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary B. Jones (*)

Officer Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sean Herlihy

Doctor Morgan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jeff Camish

(*) First appearance in a CCRMT program

AUTHOR’S NOTES AND RECOLLECTIONS:

With three Captain Underhill programs now under our belts, one thriller and one spoof, it seemed like an auspicious time to try our hands at another suspense thriller.

The story idea came about because  I was still steeping myself in all things Charles Dickens.  I had read in one of his biographies about his interest in hypnotism and his attempts to use it to cure a female acquaintance of her mental problems (much to the consternation of Dickens’ wife).   Other influences may have derived from years before, when Annie and I had taken various yoga and meditation courses, including a centering workshop with Roberta Miller in Boulder, Colorado as well as a course called Silva Mind Control in Minneapolis (Which, by the way, I credit with having imparted some valuable mental techniques that came in very handy as a mystery writer).  I began to ponder –and still wonder about—whether techniques of hypnotism could be applied to person in a comatose state, attempting to place them in an hypnotic trance and then lift them up to consciousness, more or less by the same technique the hypnotist uses when he ends an hypnotic trance, e.g.  counting to three, and snapping his fingers.  Whether this notion has any medical soundness or not, it was at least sound enough to use as the basis for a radio thriller.

Because the nature of the story required a jumbling up of time and events, we elected to shift production from John Todd’s HT Recording Studio, in Dennis, to Mark Birmingham’s home studio in Cotuit.  Mark’s studio contained not only a Synclavier –a music synthesizer with a programmable keyboard, a God-like machine at the time equivalent to the Ark of the Covenant–, he also had an F-1 digital recorder, which, with batteries, weighed about 800 pounds and had to be lugged around in a foam-lined, aluminum suitcase you could use to smuggle alligators.  We also used a floppy hard-drive, back in the days when floppies were truly floppy.  However, archaic as it all sounds now, the sound quality was exceptional and enabled us to achieve the highest quality results.

Neil McGarry then

Neil McGarry then

The most important role in the story is that of the title character, the compassionate psychiatrist and hypnotist, Dr. Allan Reed.  Neil McGarry proved perfect actor for the part.  Neil had trod our stage for the first time in the previous production, ‘The Case of the Murdered Miser’ but had managed to fly in under the radar for that one.  However, in this role, he really stood out and proved himself to have the perfect voice and acting ability to play the part of the sensitive, heroic, leading man, (a perfect face as well, though that is neither here nor there in radio.  Slap a pencil-thin mustache on him and he could have stood his own against any 1930s matinee movie idol.)   Neil’s warm baritone voice had just the right quality for whispering his spellbinding exhortations into the ear of his patient, –and into the listener’s ear as well.

In fact, during the making of this show, I recall having some misgivings, mostly derived from a story I recall reading in a comic book in 1962, out of my cousin, Bill Radcliffe’s collection.  The story tells the tale of a thief, who is also a hypnotist, and who comes up with a clever scheme to rob patrons at a movie house by showing a movie trailer of himself conducting an hypnosis session.  The idea being that he could put them all into a trance, steal their money and jewels and then plant a post-hypnotic suggestion to make them forget what had happened.  (Spoiler alert:  the hypnotist/thief and his cohorts make the mistake of watching the trailer as well, thus are hypnotized too and their scheme backfires).

NEIL McGARRY now

NEIL McGARRY now

I began to wonder if the recorded scenes of Neil’s hypnosis sessions might cause some of our listeners to actually become hypnotized, picturing drivers at the wheels of their cars in zombie-like trances driving off the road, snapping off trees and telephone poles.   Although a number of listeners have reported to us that listening to our shows have caused them to drive past their exits on the highway, I am relived to report that in the 20+ years since the program aired, ‘The Hypnotist’ has not been responsible for a single highway accident –or if it has they have all been fatalities.

One further minor recollection: About this time, I had sent a couple of our first shows to the program director of WGBH in Boston.  Her response was, that while she found them entertaining, she didn’t think they were educational enough to be broadcast on public radio.   Spurred by this, I added to ‘The Hypnotist’ script, the part of the pontificating professor, played by Bob Nolan, whose voice drifts through the mind of the comatose victim, uttering cryptic philosophical epigrams, the idea being thereby to lend the show a more ‘educational’, higher-brow patina.  It may have worked.  WGBH aired the show the year it came out.

Two other newcomer actors I thought did an excellent job:

One was Mary B. Jones who played the coma victim’s nagging mother (as if she was born to the role).  The other was Bill Dame, a friend of Neil’s, whom Neil brought into the production to play the part of the psychopath.  Bill’s performance sounds particular creepy and menacing, but don’t think it was type-casting.  Bill is a gentle soul and not actually wicked in any way, except perhaps his sense of humor.  He always had us breaking up on the set.

Portrait of Bob Nolan

Portrait of Bob Nolan

One last recollection, and it’s a favorite one of mine to be sure.  The climatic scene occurs when the killer shows up at the hospital disguised as a doctor in order to do in his victim whom he failed to finish off before.  Dr. Reed interrupts the killer before he can carry out his murder, and then the Good Doctor attempts one last desperate time to lift her out of her coma by insisting and compelling her to imagine herself in an elevator on its way up. (This is largely copied from a self-hypnosis technique taught in Silva Mind Control).  Neil McGarry’s performance at this juncture is electrifying but the real kicker comes with Mark’s added music which underscores the scene and turns it into a stupendous climax.

I remember leaving his studio at 11 pm that night and returning the next morning at 7 to find out that he had pulled an all-nighter.   Without preamble Mark sat me down in his swivel chair and said, “Listen to this.”  I was bowled over.  You will be too.

  1. Mark Silvestri says:

    My favorite line is toward the end, when the killer tells the coma patient……we’re going to play doctor……dark humor at it’s best;).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.