The Strange Dr. Weird — “The Dark Wings of Death”

The Strange Dr. Weird aired “The Dark Wings of Death” on February 6, 1945 as its 14th episode out of 29. We have run only four earlier episodes of this show, the last being this past February. The show ran from November of 1944 through May of 1945 in short 15-minute episodes (a few minutes less without commercials), and was dubbed by some as a poor man’s Mysterious Traveler. Indeed, there are similarities between the shows, though MT had a much longer run of nine years (1943-52) and was a full half-hour program. Maurice Tarplin (photo at right, 1911-1975) was the host/narrator for both shows, and one of the writers for MT, Robert A. Arthur (photo lower right, 1909-1969), also penned the scripts for The Strange Dr. Weird. While MT‘s shows included tales of mystery and suspense along with SF and the supernatural, The Strange Dr. Weird concentrated mostly on the supernatural. Both shows opened with the narrator setting the stage with a tease for what was to follow, but where MT stories were told in conversation while on a train and ended with the narrator beginning another story only to stop when the unnamed passenger to whom the story was being told had to get off, The Strange Dr. Weird ends with a variation on the same gimmick, the narrator beginning a story just as his “guest” has to leave. As you might imagine, with actual story lengths running to around a scant 12 minutes, there’s not much room for characterization or extraneous detail, so only the essentials are conveyed–the idea or dilemma takes center stage and remains front and center. And there is always an unexpected twist at the end, providing the moral comeuppance knife in the heart for the bad guy or evil doer. Short and to the creepy point, there’s no lavish musical score or expensive production values here, the quintessential organ riffs manipulating and accentuating listener emotion at the proper moments in conjunction with the plights of the actors.

“The Dark Wings of Death” opens with a man and wife figuring out a way to murder the man’s uncle for his inheritance if the old man won’t bail out the son-in-law’s embezzling $4,000 from the company he works for before his theft is discovered. How this plot to execute a murder most foul plays out, and what part a raven that is more than it appears to be is for you to discover as you learn the secret behind “The Dark Wings of Death.”

Play Time: 14:35

{Early February of 1945 found the neighborhood gang at their favorite hangout–the corner newsstand, where they were in hog heaven when it came to the surfeit of magazines from which to choose. fantastic Adventures (1939-53) may not have featured the biggest names or most popular authors in the field on a regular basis, but it rarely failed in the realm of colorful adventure fare where the imagination reigned supreme. It managed but 5 issues in 1945. New Detective (1941-53) would go through a number of name changes over the years, and after 1953 would eventually morph–under a different title–into a men’s cheesecake magazine. But in 1945 it ran the usual gamut of crime and police procedural tales and was a player in the detective magazine genre. It was a bi-monthly in 1945. The Shadow (1931-49) was a long-running favorite, especially in conjunction with the hero’s popular radio show (1937-54). It was a monthly in 1945.]

[Left: fantastic Adventures, Jan. 1945 – Center: New Detective, Jan. 1945 – Right: The Shadow, Feb. 1945]


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