Escape — “The Man With the Steel Teeth” by John Dehner

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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 “The Man With the Steel Teeth” on March 15, 1953 as its 174th episode. 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. 

While strangely not consistently supported by its host network CBS, which 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.

Much to my surprise, “The Man With the Steel Teeth” was written by John Dehner (1912-1992, photo top right). I was well aware of Dehner’s many radio appearances, both as the star of a few shows, and character in many other shows, and then his long career in television. But I had no idea he also wrote for radio, this episode of Escape being a prime example. For those curious as to John Dehner’s real life exploits and a thumbnail history of his radio credits, I direct your attention to our September 28, 2019 episode of Have Gun–Will Travel, titled “Strange Vendetta,” starring Dehner as radio’s Paladin. “The Man With the Steel Teeth” begins in Moscow, with an innocent man being imprisoned without a trial and then subjected to repeatedly harsh questioning about a crime of which he has no knowledge. One day, he notices his cell door has been left unlocked and though suspicious he cannot turn down his opportunity to escape. Things get most interesting after his escape, and while all seems to be going well, Dehner includes a clever twist to the denouement I doubt you’ll see coming and which makes for an intelligent and satisfying conclusion. I think you’ll like it.

Play Time: 29:31

    {The Ides of March–the day this episode aired in 1953–was a Sunday. The following day after school found the neighborhood gang meeting at the nearby newsstand hoping to pick up those magazines they needed to complete their forever growing list of titles. fantastic (1952-1980) was a new magazine they found to their liking, though some of the author names were new to them. It was a bi-monthly in 1953. fantastic Adventures (1939-1953) had been a long time favorite, but little did they know that this would be its final issue. It would be absorbed into the aforementioned fantastic with that magazine’s May/June issue. fantastic Adventures was a monthly for its three 1953 issues. Other Worlds (1949-1953) was publisher Ray Palmer’s fiction counterpart to his non-fiction UFO magazine Fate. Palmer would publish/edit a number of (for the most part) relatively short-lived magazines during the 1940s and ’50s, flagging sales or over-extending his finances leading to severe financial hardship or outright bankruptcies, at which time he would either sell the magazines to someone else or begin new titles. Other Worlds was a casualty of this seeming pattern. It was a monthly in 1953 and its final issue would have a cover date of July, at which time Palmer would launch Science Stories and Universe Science Fiction.}

[Left: fantastic, March/April 1953 – Center: fantastic Adventures, March 1953 – Right: Other Worlds, March 1953]


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