The Digger — Torin Thatcher

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Tonight, Tuesday, October 27th, 2009, Tangent Online presents the third in its week long “Halloween Week 2009” Old Time Radio horror presentations. If you hate rats, especially swarming, hungry, rats, and you’re trapped with no escape and they’re coming for you, what do you do? In “The Digger” one man’s internal demons might be worse than being trapped with starving rats. Which is the more horrible? You be the judge.

“The Digger” was episode #668 of the long-running classic radio thriller/chiller/macabre series Suspense (1942-1962). The driving force behind Suspense was William Spier, whose formula of focusing on the human element was integral to the series’ unprecedented success, and drew many of Hollywood’s biggest names to perform for him, and the show. In fact, Spier’s visionary influence led some to proclaim him “the [Alfred] Hitchcock of the airwaves.”

“The Digger” aired on October 9, 1956. The scene is a once-isolated African village, now grown to a makeshift, semi-commercialized town, built around a mine set deep in the steamy jungle during the time of English colonial occupation, and coincident with a time of local tribal unrest, an unwillingness on the part of the natives to further aid the mining company. A down-and-out “digger,” one of the best but who has fallen on hard times following a disastrous mine cave-in resulting in many deaths–for which he has been (justly or unjustly) blamed–and who has now become a poor, out of work drunkard living with a young native woman who nevertheless loves him–is persuaded to “unretire,” to guide a new crew into the same mine following a recent report of possible riches. Without revealing too much in the way of details, this harrowing story is worthy of an original Twilight Zone episode, as the “digger” of the title is confronted with the ghosts of his past, and how he must run from, or confront them.

What gives this episode a special, nostalgic appeal for me is that the lead role of “The Digger” is played by none other than Torin Thatcher, he who portrayed so evilly, yet brilliantly, the role of the bald-headed Sokurah the Magician in the timeless 1958 fantasy film The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Voyage began filming in Spain on August 12, 1957, was completed on March 7, 1958, and was released in New York City on December 23, 1958. The film also marks one of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen’s most unforgettable triumphs, and Torin Thatcher’s equally unforgettable performance is one of the many highlights of the film.

Torin Thatcher was born in Bombay (now returned to its original name of Mumbai–the Brits had renamed it Bombay), India, on January 15, 1905 and died on March 4, 1981 in Thousand Oaks, California.

Herewith, Torin Thatcher’s conscience-tortured performance in “The Digger,” where, as in Vincent Price’s starring role in “Three Skeleton Key” (heard elsewhere here) he must deal with the real-world nightmare of…RATS! A perfectly, how shall I put it…harmless audio alternative for mom and dad’s little rug-rats to otherwise spend their Halloween evening listening to in innocent bliss, if they aren’t allowed out, or are too young for the horrors of trick-or-treating. I suggest setting large mouse traps around their beds after they listen to this one, and mom and dad have calmly–but especially with mom’s trusting smile–explained to them that rats will eat anythingespecially noisy young children’s fingers and toes. They won’t be getting up. Which, with any luck, will leave the rest of the evening for mom and dad to play trick or treat.

Play Time: 29:29