"...designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half-hour of high adventure..."
For nearly twenty years, Suspense - "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" — was the jewel in the crown of CBS dramatic anthology shows. It featured the biggest stars, the best scripts, and the crème de la crème of producers and directors; a prestige program that was not only hugely popular but often critically acclaimed. With a pedigree like that, clearly no other radio program could come close to matching its quality.
Except that one show did...and with a limited budget, few glamorous stars, and so much schizophrenic scheduling that, during its seven-year run, it was shifted around into no less than eighteen different time slots. Radio enthusiasts often think of it as the sister show to "Suspense" — but, given the secondary status it was granted in its own time, it would be more apt to describe it as its "step-sister."
We offer you...Escape.
Escape never received the lavish attention afforded to Suspense but, from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954, it managed to transcend its mostly network-sustained origins and provide top-quality entertainment. Occasionally a celebrity would appear in a leading role - Victor Mature, Edmond O'Brien, Vincent Price - but for the most part Escape relied on the tried-and-true veterans of "Radio Row," outstanding performers like Elliott Lewis, Jeanette Nolan, Jack Webb, Lillian Buyeff, Hans Conried, Vivi Janiss, Harry Bartell and Georgia Ellis, to name just a few. Distinguished veterans like William N. Robson and Norman Macdonnell oversaw the production and direction, and exceptional scripts were provided by the likes of Les Crutchfield, John Dunkel, Gil Doud, E. Jack Neumann and Kathleen Hite. Week in and week out, Escape demonstrated that it was truly an outstanding and memorable show...even if it was lacking that "Hollywood gloss" that attracted big-money sponsorship.
While stories of mystery and crime were the bailiwick of Suspense, Escape concentrated more on tales of high adventure — war, westerns, supernatural horror and science-fiction. Esteemed authors like Rudyard Kipling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and Joseph Conrad provided much of the source material for the program, setting Escape apart from most of the other dramatic anthologies on the air at the time.
Many of the shows dramatized on Escape have established permanent residence in the recesses of this author's memory: "Zero Hour," an eerie science-fiction tale about the end of the world; "Evening Primrose," in which a misfit removes himself from the rest of society by hiding out in a department store...and discovers to his horror the strange creatures that roam there after hours; "Poison," a sweat-inducing allegory on prejudice that develops when a man awakens to learn that a deadly snake has joined him in his bunk. "A Shipment of Mute Fate" was another of Escape's all-time classics - an African bushmaster gets loose on a passenger ship, much to the dismay of both travelers and crew - and ditto "Leinengen vs. the Ants," in which a stubborn plantation owner must fight off an army of African ants. Perhaps the best remembered tale aired on Escape is "Three Skeleton Key," in which a group of lighthouse keepers find themselves besieged by ravenous rats. (Fans rarely remember the title to this one and simply refer to it as "the one with the rats". Enough said.)
Escape featured one of radio's most memorable openings, with either William Conrad or Paul Frees intoning: "Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you...ESCAPE!" The orchestra would then strike up Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and, within seconds, the listener would be transported to a Caribbean jungle or to an icy glacier, effectively putting them in the shoes of that episode's protagonist.
Of the more than 200 episodes originally broadcast, there are but a mere handful of Escape programs that are missing today — wonderful news for the novice listener, as hours and hours of great and rewarding radio drama await.
Here is the complete content of this 10-CD Radio Archives collection:
The Man Who Would Be King
Monday, July 7, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Operation Fleur de Lys
Monday, July 14, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
Monday, July 21, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Monday, July 28, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Sire de Maletroit's Door
Monday, August 4, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Ring of Thoth
Monday, August 11, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Fourth Man
Monday, August 18, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Most Dangerous Game
Wednesday, October 1, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Fall of the House of Usher
Wednesday, October 22, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Pollack and the Parrah Man
Wednesday, October 29, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Wednesday, November 5, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Young Man with the Cream Tarts
Wednesday, November 12, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Casting the Runes
Wednesday, November 19, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Country of the Blind
Wednesday, November 26, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Wednesday, December 3, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Wednesday, December 10, 1947- 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Wednesday, December 17, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Back For Christmas
Wednesday, December 24, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
Wednesday, December 31, 1947 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining
The Second Class Passenger
Wednesday, January 7, 1948 - 30:00 - CBS, sustaining