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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Escape -- "A Study in Wax"

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Tired of the everyday grind?
Ever dream of a life of … romantic adventure?
Want to get away from it all?
We offer you … ESCAPE!

Escape (1947-1954) aired "A Study in Wax" on February 1, 1953. A spinoff and sister show of the highly popular radio program Suspense (1942-62), Escape produced (according to one source) 251 episodes of which 241 were unique stories, plots, or scripts. Escape concentrated on adventure tales, some with an SF/F theme, though the straight adventure tale set in exotic locales was its meat and potatoes. Escape soon established itself with an even more focused approach to action and exotic adventure, dramatizing literary classics (from such as Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Nelson Bond, Ray Bradbury, Eric Ambler, Jack London and others) while at the same time treating its audience to many brand new tales, a fair number of which have become radio classics. In fact, some of Escape's original shows were so well written and popular they were later reincarnated for episodes of Suspense. "A Study in Wax" is such an episode and aired on Suspense two-and-a-half years later on August 16, 1955.

While strangely not consistently supported by its host network CBS, who rarely gave advance notice of upcoming program titles and moved the show to different times and days willy-nilly no fewer than 18 times over its 7-year run, the show found a faithful audience, and continued to produce well-written scripts with many of the finest actors in radio.

I thought a nice wintry story would be appropriate this week, for much of the United States has been in the grip of several severe cold stretches, or heavy snow and ice storms, or a combination of all three the past two weeks. Thus, we have "A Study in Wax," which takes us to the frigid wastes of Canada and two lonely men working for a government organization as researchers housed for a lonely six months in a small cabin. One of their few pleasures is listening to their radio, which has now gone kaput. Restless and irritable, they decide to open early Christmas presents sent from family and friends back home. Hardly able to contain themselves, one has received a record player and the two men rejoice at their good fortune, for along with the record player a large number of records have also been sent. But their elation quickly fades as almost all of the records have not made the long trip well, arriving in pieces, with only two records remaining intact and playable. And when one of the men plays the records over and over and over...and over and over and over... Well, you can imagine what might follow. Cabin fever sets in. The psychological stability of the men breaks down appreciably, their base nature's assert themselves, and...but what happens next would be telling, now wouldn't it?

As usual with Suspense and Escape, the production values are high--with top-shelf sound effects and musical score--not to mention the actors' taut performances. So listen now to "A Study in Wax" with the ubiquitous voice of William Conrad in the lead role.We have showcased many a thrilling Escape episode since this feature began in 2009, and would like to thank Golden Age of Radio buff and Asimov's author Pete Wood for suggesting this one.

Play Time: 24:40

     {Sub-freezing cold wasn't about to stop the neighborhood gang from bundling up and meeting at the corner drugstore to peruse the latest SF magazines. Galaxy (1950-80) was quickly becoming a favorite with new subject matter mixed with the old SF tropes still popular with fans. It was a monthly in 1953. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (1949-present) was just coming into its own and was a welcome addition to other favorites the gang couldn't do without. It, too, was a monthly in 1953. Imagination (1950-58) was begun by Ray Palmer late in 1950 and after two issues was sold to William Hamling, who proclaimed that science fiction should first and foremost supply entertainment, and that its purpose was never to be an "educational tour de force." It became known for its low quality space opera and adventure fare which has led current historians to be rather dismissive of it, though its run of 63 issues was longer than many other magazines that began publishing at the same time, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was not totally devoid of merit, however, as it published Robert Sheckley's first story ("Final Examination") in its May 1952 issue, and would go on to publish stories by the likes of Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and John Wyndham. It was a monthly in 1953.]

[Left: Galaxy, Feb. 1953 - Center: Fantasy & Science Fiction, Feb. 1953 - Right: Imagination, Feb. 1953}     

     

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