The Man Called X — “Terror Across the Nation”

The Man Called X (1944-45, 1946, 1947-48, 1950-52) aired “Terror Across the Nation” on April 28, 1951, as the 29th episode of the 86 aired during the 1950-52 run. The only other episodes of this program we have showcased were from February of 2019, and January and September of 2020. Estimates are that there were 227 episodes from all years and that only 103 still exist, with 98 coming from the 1947-48 and 1950-52 runs. Well known and highly regarded British actor Herbert Marshall (1890-1966, photo at right) played Ken Thurston, known as the eponymous Man Called X. He was an intelligence agent for the British, much as Brian Donlevy played undercover intelligence operative Steve Mitchell for the Americans in Dangerous Assignment. Marshall would star in all but three or four episodes of what came to be known as his series, and that includes every episode from 1944 through 1952, during which time he could be seen in any number of Hollywood films, appearing in varying roles with stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Fredric March, Tony Curtis, Rex Harrison, and others too numerous to mention. Of genre interest he appeared as Inspector Charas in 1958’s classic SF film The Fly, which starred Vincent Price. Marshall lost his right leg in World War I, and wishing to do his part but unable to fight in WWII, at his own expense he traveled to numerous military hospitals in the United States and encouraged other amputees to remain positive and not think of themselves as handicapped. He would also appear often on the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) as host of the popular war-time program The Globe Theater. From his other war-time projects as well as several films in which he starred, the proceeds went to several war charities. Marshall had not only worked in film since 1927 as both character actor and leading man, but along with his role in The Man Called X would have roles in at least a half dozen other radio programs, and would work in television in his later years, including two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and a recurring role in 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64). For his achievements in all of these media Marshall received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

“Terror Across the Nation” is one of those stories proving the cyclical nature of history. It pinpoints a conflict that is with us today, a religious and ideological battle of seemingly never-ending nature that has festered for generations, during which innocent men and women and children pay the ultimate price with suffering and death from cradle to grave. Listen now as Ken Thurston, the man known only to some as X, finds himself in the middle east, attempting to find who is smuggling guns to Syria as it wars against Israel.

Play Time: 29:27

{This episode of The Man Called X aired on a Saturday evening in 1951. Fortunately, the neighborhood gang had made their weekly run to the corner newsstand earlier that day to find some of their favorite SF magazines, those with hopefully more exotic forms of adventure. Astounding (1930-present, now Analog) had been a favorite for years, so once again it was a sure buy. Like always, it was a monthly in 1951. Galaxy (1950-80), a newcomer on the SF magazine scene, was gaining new readers in leaps and bounds, not only with its emphasis on new subject matter but with new treatments of familiar SF themes. It too was a monthly in 1951. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) was the third leg of the triumvirate of much beloved SF pulps I loosely categorize as being the major science fantasy/planetary romance magazines of the time, all of which began in the 1930s and ceased publication in 1955 (the other two being Planet Stories [1939-55] and Startling Stories [1939-55]). Thrilling Wonder Stories was a bi-monthly in 1951. As for the magazines the gang chose that Saturday morning of April 28, 1951, they chose well. Look at the names on the covers to see why: H. Beam Piper, Poul Anderson, and L. Sprague de Camp.}

[Left: Astounding, April 1951 – Center: Galaxy, April 1951 – Right: Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1951]


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