Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interview with Christine Miller of Escape and Suspense!

Her website

My special guest today is Christine Miller who runs the wonderfully deep and comprehensive Escape and Suspense! website which is devoted to the two radio shows by the same name.

If you are a fan of either show I am sure you already appreciate her web site.  I appreciate her taking the time to do this interview with me.

OTR Buffet:  Can you tell the readers what prompted you to start your web site and some of the background behind it?

Christine Miller:  Back in 2006, I started listening to OTR at work as a means of escaping a frustrating coworker. (Think Mrs. Stevenson from "Sorry, Wrong Number.")  At that time, I listened mainly to comedy programs, but eventually, I found Suspense and then Escape. I grew to have a particular affinity for that series because the stories delivered on their promise to take you away from the "everyday grind".

Anyhow, in January of 2007, I was home sick for a week with a terrible cold. I was listening to Suspense or Escape and thinking it would be interesting to organize these episodes and write about them online. Then, I got out bed and started building a website. I remember being really sick, but too absorbed in my new project to stop working on it.

So that was how it started but, for months, and even years, afterward I would wake up in the morning and think...."Why do I have a blog about Escape and Suspense? What was I thinking?"

Now, my blog is four years old, and I've written summaries for over six hundred episodes. It still feels strange that such a large project was started on a whim.
OTR Buffet:  How long have you been listening to old-time radio?  Can you tell us some of your earliest memories involving listening to the radio?

Christine Miller:  When I was about nine or ten my parents gave me a cassette tape of "Golden Moments" from the Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy show. Unfortunately, I don't have that tape anymore, but I can remember everything that was on it and recite the jokes. My parents grew up in the radio age and they always talked about the shows they listened to. My mother still does.

OTR Buffet:  Obviously, you are a huge fan of Suspense and Escape.  There are some big similarities (the quality in producers and production values, CBS, etc.)  Obviously Escape is more like an adventure story while Suspense can be anything at all... But what do you think the elemental difference is between the quality of the shows?

Christine Miller:  For Suspense, the episode summaries pretty much write themselves. All I do is listen to the episode and then summarize it in a way that captures the essence of the show. Suspense stories are usually about regular people and everyday life, and how bizarre that can be. Suspense is all about hidden dangers and cautionary tales. Suspense is there to help you by warning you about everything that can possibly go wrong.

Escape, on the other hand, was twice as much work to research and write about because it was such a well-crafted show.  A large number of Escape episodes were adapted from short stories, classics, popular novels, etc.  (Some of those short stories were really hard to track down, too.) Still, you have to understand the source work to understand the episode and evaluate it. Some of Escape's adapations were incredible and in a few cases, they didn't do justice to the original at all. Escape had a depth and workmanship to it that was very different from Suspense.

OTR Buffet: Regarding Suspense, there were different directions made during the span of the show.  What do you think were the best new directions they took and by which writers/producers?

Christine Miller:  William Spiers and William N. Robson were probably the two best influences on the show. Personally, I liked the direction the show took after Robson left and the series was in its final years. They tried a lot of different stuff. Sometimes the results were really good, and other times, not so good.

OTR Buffet: Escape used many classic stories while others were originals.  Do you have any idea which were more popular with the listeners?

Christine Miller:  Good question. I don't know if the classics were more popular than their own original stories. It is hard to tell. I don't necessarily think all of their adaptations came off that well. The original stories are what really defined the essence of the series.

OTR Buffet:  Would you mind telling the readers your few favorite episodes of each show and why they are you're favorites?

Christine Miller:  For Escape, I would say "Three Skeleton Key", "Treasure Incorporated", "Papa Benjamin", "A Passenger to Bali", "The Derelict" "Two Came Back" "Bloodbath" among others. For Suspense,"The Hitch-hiker", "Ghost Hunt", "The Leading Citizen of Pratt County", "The Paste-board Box," "2462" "Never Follow a Banjo Act" "House in Cypress Canyon". Why? When I look through the list of episodes, these are the ones that sort of jump out at me as favorites. They are ones that I go back and listen to from time to time.

OTR Buffet: We have a lot of fun with Charlie McCarthy on my blog.  I talk of him as though he is alive and probably even evil.  It seems as if you have picked up on the relevance of dummies as well in Suspense and Escape.  Be honest - are you afraid of dummies too?

Christine Miller:  The first episode of Escape was based on the ventriloquist's segment of the 1945 British horror film Dead of Night. It was a strange way for them to start off an adventure series, but that is what they did.  Well, ventriloquist dummies are naturally kind of creepy, so of course, Suspense wrote episodes warning about them, too. One of our helpful blog slogans is "Beware of hitch-hikers and ventriloquist dummies."  I keep meaning to print that on a bumper sticker. Anyhow, yes, I do find them disturbing.

OTR Buffet:  Most people that have a smattering of OTR knowledge probably think of Agnes Moorehead when the topic of Suspense is brought up.  What one actor do you think best exemplifies Suspense and Escape?

Christine Miller:  As far as radio actors are concerned, I would say Joseph Kearns. He was a truly remarkable voice actor who worked on both series.  For guest stars, I would say Vincent Price exemplified Escape and Joseph Cotten exemplified Suspense.

OTR Buffet:  I'm almost finished listening to Escape.  It's taken me almost 3 years to do it and I think I have 11 episodes left.  I have only listened to the East Coast broadcasts and got rid of the West Coast broadcasts.   Did I make a mistake?  Is there anything in the West Coast stuff that isn't in the East Coast stuff?

Christine Miller:  Um, I don't think there is any difference other than the introductions. I'm actually not certain of that though.

OTR Buffet:  You explore Escape and Suspense on your site - but why not The Whistler?

Christine Miller:  I often refer to Escape and Suspense as the gin and tonic of old time radio. They are a perfect combo of entertainment.  Still, I'm running out of episodes, so I am looking around for other shows to write about.

OTR Buffet:  I've heard or read somewhere that Bernard Herrmann wrote the theme song to Suspense?  I have also read otherwise.  I'm a big Herrmann fan.  Can you settle my mind?

Christine Miller:  I believe he did, but I don't know for certain. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

OTR Buffet:  Do you listen to the two series over and over or do you throw in other stuff to listen to as well?  What are your favorite shows aside from Suspense and Escape?

Christine Miller:  No, it just feels like I listen to the same shows over and over again. I only have so much time during the week, so I usually have to stick to the task at hand and just keep going down my list of "to do" episodes.  However, I listen to other shows once and a while. I've been digging Screen Director's Playhouse lately. The Couple Next Door is also favorite of mine.  Often, I listen to other OTR shows because they relate in one way or another to an episode that I am researching.

OTR Buffet:  I know you are a big fan of film noir and I am too.  Would you like to tell me, what are a few of your favorite film titles in the noir vein?  And do you have a favorite film director(s)?

Christine Miller:  Oh, some of my favorites right now are Desperate, Scarlet Street, Night of the Hunter, Double Indemnity, The Prowler, One Girl's Confession, and Night Editor. That covers a wide range of noir right there, from serious to campy. I don't have a favorite director in particular.

OTR Buffet:  I have seen all of those except, One Girl's Confession.   Night of the Hunter is noir but to me anyway, borders on horror because the film heavily involves the lives of children.  A great film.

Christine, I appreciate everything!  And my readers and I are in your debt.  Thanks so much for joining us.

©Jimbo 2010/2011


  1. I always like the Suspense story about the couple on the road and they take a short cut and think they have an encounter with an insane woman. Very scary. I think they did the show with two different actor and actresses playing the main parts. I also like the story where Fibber McGee & Molly (Fibber was chief of police) led a criminal to their house to catch them. Great story.

  2. Lots of comedy teams and comedians played it straight for several shows, Suspense being one of the bigger ones. Same can be said for Lux Theatre and a couple of others.

    Jack Benny was a a couple of Suspense episodes that I remember. One, where he is a piano tuner...

  3. it's a great show but the best radio actor was frank lovejoy, he did a appear on a few suspense episodes too..

  4. Lovejoy had a great voice! Thanks for the comments, mister mark!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Just finding this site thanks to your great interview with Christine Miller about her wonderful site! I am a huge OTR Fan and a great fan of Suspense, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and others. I just chose to follow this site and look forward to staying in touch. Keep up the great work!

  7. Thanks Gary. Hope you stick around for more stuff on here!


Let me know what you think of this post or this site! It only take a few seconds and I'd really appreciate your comments...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...