The Weird Circle
A good story is a good story, whether it was written two weeks ago, two decades ago, or even two centuries ago. And nowhere is that truer than in "The Weird Circle", a half-hour anthology series that was first aired back in 1943.
The stories offered by "The Weird Circle" were generally adapted from popular fiction - popular fiction of the 19th century, that is. And since the focus was on horror and suspense, the macabre, atmospheric, and often ironic tales of such writers as Edgar Allan Poe and Honore de Balzac were a staple of its success. Also included were such familiar chestnuts as "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens' "The Queer Client", Charlotte Bronte's novel "Jane Eyre" (also a particular favorite of Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater company), and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stories of this vintage, rooted in the Victorian attitudes and morality of the 1800s, generally made for good radio drama; they were, after all, classics, familiar to anyone with a public school education. The primarily first-person narrative of most of the stories chosen made them relatively easy to convert into script form, too: introduce a narrator, establish the scene, and then carry on with the plot. And, of course, since they were out of copyright, there were no literary rights to be paid -- a sizeable cost savings for any producer looking to budget a weekly series, then or now.
"The Weird Circle" was produced in New York City by the National Broadcasting Company, under the auspices of its Radio-Recording Division. Though best known for live programs over its Red and Blue Networks, NBC produced and recorded a great many shows for syndication to local stations, including such diverse dramatic programs as "Playhouse of Favorites", "Five Minute Mysteries", "Destiny Trails", and "Betty and Bob" (a five-a-week daily "soap opera" featuring Arlene Francis), as well as quarter-hour musical programs starring performers ranging from Carson Robison and his Buckaroos to Ferde Grofe and his Orchestra. The quality of these syndicated shows was, for the most part, consistent with NBC's regular prime-time fare and, a result, were often aired by local stations as either special features or programmed between other shows on the network at the time.
Compared with other syndicated thriller/mystery series produced at the same time, it's clear that the producers of "The Weird Circle" aimed a little higher than the norm. The budgets for the series, though no more generous than any similar series produced for the syndication market, benefitted greatly from the technical staff and state-of-the-art facilities which NBC maintained at their Rockefeller Center headquarters. The series featured no stars but, instead, drew upon the adept, adaptable, and highly professional performers who regularly appeared in supporting roles on live network broadcasts - actors like Audrey Totter, Lawson Zerbe, Chester Stratton, Walter Vaughn, Eleanor Audley, and Arnold Moss, to name just a few. And, rather than relying on contracted writers to grind out inexpensive "pulp" stories in a contemporary vein, this series relied instead upon tried and true material from well-known and well-read authors, giving "The Weird Circle" a definite touch of class.
Heard today, it's interesting to note how contemporary many of these stories still sound to modern listeners. "The Tell-Tale Heart", first published in 1843, remains one of Edgar Allan Poe's best short stories, revolving around the timeless themes of obsession, murder, and guilt. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus," dating from 1818, was one of the first novels to deal with science's perilous but often irresistible urge to play God -- as well as the dire consequences of doing so. "Murder of the Little Pig", based on a story by Emile Gaboriau, offers the tale of a detective who finds that the only witness to a crime is a dog! Lesser known stories by such well-known authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sir Walter Scott, and the oft-neglected Edward George Bulwer-Lytton would later be adapted for radio by such popular anthology series as "Suspense" and "Escape".
In this second Radio Archives collection, you'll hear twenty more broadcasts from "The Weird Circle", just as originally aired in 1944. As an extra bonus, we've uncovered the transcription disc containing the original openings and closings of the shows, allowing you to hear these programs in their original as-broadcast format for the first time in decades.
If you're familiar with some or all of the stories offered in this series, Radio Archives is sure you'll enjoy revisiting your favorites in a different form. If you've read only a few of these stories - or, better still, if you've never read any of them - we promise that you're in for a real treat.
So, bell keeper! Toll the bell, so that all may know that we are gathered again in...the Weird Circle!
#21 The 4:15 Express
Based on the story by Amelia Edwards
Sunday, January 16, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#22 A Terrible Night
Based on the story by Fitz-James O'Brien
Sunday, January 23, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#23 The Tell-Tale Heart
Based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Sunday, January 30, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#24 Niche of Doom
Based on the story "La Grande Breteche" by Honore de Balzac
Sunday, February 6, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#25 The Heart of Ethan Brand
Based on the story "Ethan Brand" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sunday, February 13, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
Based on the novel by Mary Shelley
Sunday, February 20, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#27 Feast of the Red Gauntlet
Based on a portion of the book "Redgauntlet" by Sir Walter Scott
Sunday, February 27, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#28 Murder of the Little Pig
Based on the story by Emile Gaboriau
Sunday, March 5, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#29 Spectre of Tappington
Based on a story from "The Ingoldsby Legends" by Richard Barham
Sunday, March 12, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#30 Strange Judgment
Sunday, March 19, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#31 Wuthering Heights
Based on the novel by Emily Bronte
Sunday, March 26, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#32 Curse of the Mantle
Based on the story "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sunday, April 2, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#33 The Cask of Amontillado
Based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Sunday, April 9, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#34 A Rope of Hair
Based on the story "Apparition" by Guy de Maupassant
Sunday, April 16, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
Based on the story by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Sunday, April 23, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#36 The Trial for Murder
Based on the story by Charles Elster Collins
Sunday, April 30, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#37 The Werewolf
Based on the story by Frederick Marryatt
Sunday, May 7, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#38 The Old Nurses's Story
Based on the story by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Sunday, May 14, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#39 The Middle Toe of the Right Foot
Based on the story by Ambrose Bierce
Sunday, May 28, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication
#40 The Dream Woman
Based on the story by Wilkie Collins
Sunday, September 3, 1944 - 30:00 - NBC Syndication