Strange Dr. Weird spot ad for Harry's Dependable Shop and Adams Hats from April 19, 1945
KFWB spot ad for The Strange Dr Weird from July 29th 1945
The Strange Dr. Weird spot ad for Harry's and Adams Hats from April 12 1945
The supernatural thriller genre was highly popular throughout the mid-1930s, right on through the mid-1950s over Radio. In the larger scheme of things, The Strange Dr. Weird arrived at about the mid-range of the thrillers of the period:
The Strange Dr. Weird was quite aptly named, given the elusive, reclusive nature of it's oft-referenced Host, the very strange Dr. Weird and his mysterious, decrepit mansion conveniently overlooking a nearby graveyard. Strange Doctors weren't exactly new. Scott Bishop of Dark Fantasy fame aired a program for NBC in 1943 titled Strange Dr. Karnac, another supernatural thriller produced by Stuart Buchanan and starring James Van Dyk and Jean Evelyn. The Mysterious Traveler was also depicted as a medical doctor.
Such was the specific supernatural atmosphere the producers were aiming for with this series of Radio productions. Supernatural thrillers had long been a highly popular staple of early Radio. The distinct advantage this genre employed made it a natural for late-evening, lights-out listening--or simply to have the bejeebers scared out of its most avid weekly listeners. After all, what better way to convey a compelling, supernatural story than from the glowing dial of a radio, with the lights dimmed, someone to grab at arm's length, and something to munch on as the suspense mounted. These components were a match made in heaven during a period of Radio's History during which a war-weary nation sought some escape from the anxiety of simultaneous world conflicts.
This series remains one of The Mutual System's most captivating productions, albeit somewhat abbreviated to only one season. One can only speculate on its early demise, but given the occurence of V.E. Day during its run, it's conceivable that the nation simply breathed its first collective sigh of relief, and found other, more celebratory or optimistic genres to cling to as they awaited V.J. Day and the end of their war-weariness.
The writing for this series was clearly superb, given the wonderful duo of Arthur and Kogan, and Jock MacGregor's direction guaranteed high production values regardless of its budget or sponsorship. Add to this foundation the already well-established talent of Maurice Tarplin as the eerie Host/Narrator and you have all the elements of a top-notch supernatural series of nail-biting thrillers. The series wears very well to this day, and topical air-checks, commercials and public service announcements provide a fascinating historical perspective to the series--if you can still find the unadulterated recordings 'as broadcast.'
All in all, with its production atmospherics, true-to-genre integrity, superb narration, and wonderful scripts, The Strange Dr. Weird is as captivating today as it was during the seemingly interminable years of World War II.
|RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide, Martin Grams' Radio Dramas.
Notes on Provenances:
1. All above cited log provenances are in error in one form or another. The most helpful provenance was the log of the radioGOLDINdex. Mr. Goldin accurately cites the fact that:
"These programs were originally dated by the dates etched on the disc matrices. These dated [sic] indicated when the disc was cut, which sometimes is the date of broadcast, sometimes later. Slight conflicts with reported broadcast dates may therefore exist".
As the 1944-1945 Radio Listings of the New York Times illustrate, the first airing of Strange Dr. Weird over Mutual's WOR in the local area was on November 14, 1944--not the November 7, 1944 premiere date reported by every other publicly available log. A review of all weekly, Tuesday listings from that date forward, show an episode broadcast every Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. EWT for the subsequent 31 weeks, without exception. The actual premiere of The Strange Dr. Weird remains ambiguous as of this writing. One might expect a possible answer to be found among the papers of Robert Arthur, Jr., who, with David Kogan, wrote the scripts for The Strange Dr. Weird. We do however, have two 'anchor provenances' at 45-03-06 and 45-03-20 which, if interpolated back through the reported transcription order, would lend credence to a November 7, 1944 start date. We've therefore provisionally dated our The Strange Dr. Weird from November 7, 1944, forward, as indicated by the red encoding of the dates. We would simply caution anyone using these provisional dates to not represent them as accurate.
2. The other provenance issue of note is radioGOLDINdex's references to the 'V.E. Day tribute broadcast', Murder, One Million B.C., sponsored by Adam Hats. In reviewing the above referenced New York Times Radio listings, it's clear that one--and only one--15 minute episode of Strange Dr. Weird was broadcast over WOR on May 8, 1944--the day following the declaration of the end of hostilities in Europe. RadioGOLDINdex helpfully cites the date of this episode, but also cites another identical date for episode #27. This is not a conflict, nor is it a mistake in the radioGOLDINdex. Given the clear provenance of the largest, most historically accurate daily newspaper in WOR's broadcast area, it would appear that the episode of May 8, 1944 may very well have been the V.E. Day Tribute episode for that date, and episode #27 actually aired the immediately following Tuesday, followed by the episode #28 cited by radioGOLDINdex (again, qualified from the first radioGOLDINdex entry as to the accuracy of broadcast dates). Unfortunately, the radioGOLDINdex also inexplicably cites May 23, 1945 as the correct date for two episodes: Picture of A Killer and Revenge From the Grave, neither of which could possibly have aired on May 23, 1945 since that day and timeslot over WOR were occupied by The Answer Man, the regularly scheduled program for that day and time.
3. As to the length of the run of The Strange Dr. Weird, while there are only some twenty-nine exemplars in circulation, we have every reason to believe there were actually thirty-nine episodes recorded. We cite a run through July 31, 1945 from newspaper listings. From this we can either hypothesize that, while WOR only aired some thirty-one episodes of the canon, it may very well have continued to air in syndication for another eight episodes. Or, the remaining ten cited episodes below were simply rebroadcasts. We can't as of this writing, substantiate either hypothesis. It would, however, be intriguing to think that there might still be another ten exemplars of The Strange Dr. Weird in collectors' hands.
We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Strage Doctor Weird log, which the OTRR claims to be correct according to their 'OTTER log. We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE to protect our own further due diligence, content and intellectual property.
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