Inner Sanctum — “The Man from Yesterday”

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Inner Sanctum (1941-52) aired “The Man from Yesterday” on December 21, 1941 as its 51st episode out of approximately 527. Unfortunately, most of the shows are lost, with best guesstimates ranging from 140 to “less than 200” still in circulation. However, among these still existing shows, some are only partial episodes, with the majority being AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service) repeats. While the AFRS is to be commended for having preserved these episodes, it should be noted that it deleted the local, syndicated commercials in order not to play favorites with advertised products. It also removed the original openings and closings, running episodes under the Mystery Playhouse title with Peter Lorre as the host. Fortunately, this episode is an original in all respects, including Raymond Johnson (1911-2001, photo at right) as the original host (he would leave the show in May of 1945 to join the armed forces and was replaced by the capable Paul McGrath). Lipton Tea would not become a sponsor until the 1945 season, bringing with it the perky co-host and Lipton Tea spokesperson Mary Bennett who became famous for working in Lipton Tea commercials alongside the host’s terrible puns.

“The Man from Yesterday” begins in the jungles of Africa, where Dr. Robert Rand (with his museum party) and his wife Ruth encounter a large gorilla known as Ungagi. They trap and bring Ungagi back to the United States and to one Professor Carver, whose museum they work for. But something soon becomes apparent in Ugangi’s behavior; he is more intelligent than one might assume for a great ape and learns a trick taught him by Ruth. And the way his gaze seems to penetrate and look into the soul of those he interacts with his most unsettling. But the eerie, downright spooky thing about Ugangi is that he seems to exhibit some sort of species memory and receives messages from the distant past, distant being 10,000 years ago and a similar encounter his distant ancestor had with humans! How Ugangi reacts to these time-shrouded messages ratchets up the stakes surrounding his capture, and leads to a surprising denouement–and a revelation given to us at the very end that you’ll have to listen for carefully.

This is the 25th Inner Sanctum episode we have presented since 2009 and the first in over a year. As mentioned above, only roughly a quarter of the 527 shows still exist, some only partial episodes, others stripped of their original openings, closings, and commercials, while others are not of the best audio quality unless expensively digitized and remastered. The sound quality of this episode is not of the highest quality, alas. While eminently presentable, it is fuzzy and one can hear in the background the doppler effect as the transcription disc spins in worn grooves on the turntable, closer then farther away from the needle. So it is a tradeoff between the low audio quality and the rather outre, exotic storyline that I had to balance when deciding to run this episode or not. If nothing else, at least it presents one example of the type of varied material Inner Sanctum ran in its earlier days and at the end of its first year–and this particular episode only two weeks to the day after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific had begun. I imagine America was glued to its radios constantly, day and night, waiting breathlessly or fearfully for news of the war and our coming involvement in it. Thankfully, there was still enough regular programming to take minds off of the war for at least a little while, especially the youngsters’, who could enjoy the sort of thrills and chills shows like Inner Sanctum provided.

Play Time: 29:27

{Four days before Christmas in 1941 found the neighborhood gang bundling up and heading for the local newsstand to spend some early holiday money. Doc Savage (1933-49) was going strong in 1941, with Doc and his loyal gang traveling the globe while not fighting domestic evil, and giving his fans some exciting, action-packed adventures. It was a monthly in 1941. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) could always be counted upon for sense-of-wonder run wild, which was just the formula to capture young imaginations. While it struggled to maintain the monthly schedule it initiated in 1939, early 1941 saw it falter and end with only 8 issues. Weird Tales (1923-54), though never financially fluid, managed to retain a faithful hardcore audience for over 30 years, and with issues like the one below it is easy to see why. It was a bi-monthly in 1941.}

         [Left: Doc Savage, Dec. 1941 – Center: Thrilling Wonder, Dec. 1941 – Right: Weird Tales, Nov. 1941] 


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