This groundbreaking book is the first full-length study of British horror radio from the pioneering days of recording and broadcasting right through to the digital audio cultures of our own time. The book offers an historical, critical and theoretical exploration of horror radio and audio performance examining key areas such as writing, narrative, adaptation, performance practice and reception throughout the history of that most unjustly neglected of popular art forms: radio drama and “spoken word” auditory cultures. The volume draws on extensive archival research as well as insightful interviews with significant writers and actors. The book offers detailed analysis of major radio series such as Appointment with Fear, The Man in Black, The Price of Fear and Fear on Four as well as one-off horror plays, comedy-horror and experimental uses of binaural and digital technology in producing uncanny audio.
Horror acting in the 1970s British television drama
Richard J. Hand
This chapter analyses the role of the performer and the practice of 'horror acting' in 1970s British television drama. British television drama in the 1970s had a special interest in the genre of horror. Examples of horror television included works with a supernatural theme, such as the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas series, most familiarly featuring adaptations of the short stories of M. R. James. Example also includes works by Nigel Kneale for both the BBC and ITV. Of equal significance was horror drama in a somewhat different mould, namely the generally 'real life', more Grand-Guignol terrors of Brian Clemens's Thriller. The chapter shows that Thriller and some examples of 1970s horror plays create a similar mood and function to their suspenseful drama, but target a socioeconomic place rather than a domestic space.
Although Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1818, it is clearly still a vibrant and living text today, at least in part because of its adaptability. It straddles the modern genres of horror and science fiction more successfully than any other single tale, and is firmly embedded in contemporary culture. From political cartoons to comedy routines, and from children’s programming like Scooby Doo to adult social commentary like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Frankenstein remains a durable pop-culture touchstone and a deeply human story. Beneath the immediate tale of the scientist and his creation, it is a story about bodies and flesh, about heightened emotions and passions, about shameful secrecy and paradigm-changing genius. For the foreseeable future Frankenstein will continue to frighten us, titillate us, and amuse us because it can be a mythos and iconography that can safely entertain our children, but also haunt our consciousness about where and who we are, what we have done and what the future may hold.
In considering English culture of the long nineteenth-century, we may immediately think of giants of fiction: the witty and delicate satire of Jane Austen, the Gothic achievement of Mary Shelley, and the social commentary of Charles Dickens. The following giants feature in this list as well: the panoramic narrative of George Eliot, the thrilling narratives of Robert Louis Stevenson, and the forging of a national identity in Sir Walter Scott. In terms of literary technique, writers such as Shelley, Henry James and Joseph Conrad can be seen to have appropriated conventions of popular genres with a calculated literary ambition. Post-nineteenth century, the multifarious adaptations of these works into performance media reveal an ideological dimension. Although in The Turn of the Screw James appropriates Gothic and ghost story conventions to blur and confound them, it is a story that has cast a long shadow of influence ever since, especially in cinema.
Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein and John Barrymore’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Richard J. Hand
Two great works of fiction at opposite ends of the nineteenth century continue to be paradigms of horror with the concept of 'adaptation' at their heart. They are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Both present mad scientists who experiment with adaptation in the sense of metamorphosis and transmutation. This chapter looks at the Thomas Edison Company's Frankenstein and John S. Robertson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, two intrinsically 'melodramatic' adaptations that nonetheless resonate profoundly over the subsequent legacy of popular horror culture. Film adaptations of Frankenstein would remain as the Edison studios pioneered: a monstrous adaptation reliant upon special effects for an explicit creation sequence with an actor beneath extreme make-up at its conclusion. John Barrymore was already a legendary stage actor by the time he appeared in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
A detailed analysis of BBC Radio's most famous horror radio show in the 1940s onwards. The most significant and long-running horror series in the history of British radio is Appointment with Fear (1943-55). This series was established following the phenomenal success of the CBS radio series Suspense in the US. The writer John Dickson Carr had played a central role in establishing Suspense and it was his idea to transfer the formula to the UK. Dickson Carr contributed numerous of his own Suspense scripts for Appointment with Fear, but the series also featured some excellent examples of adaptation including dramatizations of fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and others.
An exploration of the Man in Black, the legendary BBC host of Appointment with Fear and other shows. The chapter looks at the place of framed narrative and examples of hosting strategies. The writer-producer John Keir Cross is also explored.