The Strange Dr. Weird -- "Murder, One Million B.C."

Saturday, 08 December 2018 16:00 Dave Truesdale

"Good evening. Come in, won't you? Why, what's the matter? You seem a bit nervous."

The Strange Dr. Weird aired "Murder, One Million B.C." on May 8, 1945 as its 27th episode out of 29. It ran from November of 1944 through May of 1945 in short 15-minute episodes (a few minutes less without commercials), and was dubbed by some as a poor man's Mysterious Traveler. Indeed, there are similarities between the shows, though MT had a much longer run of nine years (1943-52) and was a full half-hour program. Maurice Tarplin (photo at right, 1911-1975) was the host/narrator for both shows, and one of the writers for MT, Robert A. Arthur (photo lower right, 1909-1969), also penned the scripts for The Strange Dr. Weird. While MT's shows included tales of mystery and suspense along with SF and the supernatural, The Strange Dr. Weird concentrated mostly on the supernatural. Both shows opened with the narrator setting the stage with a tease for what was to follow, but where MT stories were told in conversation while on a train and ended with the narrator beginning another story only to stop when the unnamed passenger to whom the story was being told had to get off, The Strange Dr. Weird ends with a variation on the same gimmick, the narrator beginning a story just as his "guest" has to leave. As you might imagine, with actual story lengths running to around a scant 12 minutes, there's not much room for characterization or extraneous detail, so only the essentials are conveyed--the idea or dilemma takes center stage and remains front and center. And there is always an unexpected twist at the end, providing the moral comeuppance knife in the heart for the bad guy or evil doer. Short and to the creepy point, there's no lavish musical score or expensive production values here, the quintessential organ riffs manipulating and accentuating listener emotion at the proper moments in conjunction with the plights of the actors.

"Murder, One Million B.C." seems dated now, in the year 2018, but though not entirely new or unique in 1945 was still able to illustrate one reason for some to travel in time. For open young minds of the period who might have come across the concept expressed here for the first time as they gathered around the family radio, it might have had just the perfect impact for a 15-minute radio play, one where the marvels of travelling back into the mists of time, to one million years B. C. no less, was shown to be not quite the harmless, wonderful adventure they had imagined it to be.

"Perhaps you'll drop in on me again soon?
I'm always home. Just look for the house on
the other side of the cemetery...the house of Dr. Weird!"

Play Time: 13:38

{Early May of 1945 saw the neighborhood gang gathering down the street and then heading to the close by newsstand, across the parking lot and now next to the just-opened Piggly Wiggly grocery store, which they would visit after getting their pulp SF fix. Astounding SF (1930-present, now Analog) was never to be missed, and little did they realize at the time but the cover story to this issue would become a classic of the genre. ASF was a monthly in 1945. Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939-53) reprinted classic SF and Fantasy stories published in various non-genre or adventure magazines before there was an "SF" genre and filled a much-needed niche. It was a quarterly in 1945. The Shadow (1931-49) was still attracting young readers in 1945 and his strong, plot-driven adventures remained on a monthly schedule throughout 1945, while the paper shortage due to the war reduced the schedules of many other magazines, or spelled their total doom.}

     [Left: Astounding, May 1945 - Center: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1945 - Right: The Shadow, May 1945]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.