Last night I was in on Charlie Chan’s Secret (1936). If somewhat deficient in atmosphere, this old whodunit has many of the key elements of early twentieth-century mystery melodramas like Seven Keys to Baldpate and The Cat and the Canary. Let’s see: there’s a large family fortune and plenty of heirs who’d like to lay claim to it; bogus visitations from the realm the dead; murders ingeniously plotted but thwarted; and a wealthy elderly matriarch in a neo-gothic mansion who is in desperate need of a detective to sort out the family closet. Come to think of it, that sounds rather a lot like “The Thing That Cries in the Night,” one of the sequences of Carlton E. Morse’s radio thriller I Love a Mystery. Now, there’s a serial I wouldn’t mind reviewing . . . again.
As I said previously, I don’t have anything against radio serials, if only they did not insist on such a commitment on my part to be intelligible, let alone enjoyable. Of course, I Love a Mystery is not one of those open-ended daytime serials that go anywhere, and nowhere fast. By the way, I did follow up what happened to Mrs. Goldberg and her chicken venture, but still couldn’t make much sense of the not-going-ons over at Molly’s house.
Morse’s storytelling is byzantine, to be sure, but it is not interminable; each cliffhanger takes you closer to a solution, even though the inevitable conclusion is never as satisfying as our journey and gradual advancement toward it.
On 31 October 1949, the East Coast revival of I Love a Mystery began its investigation of “The Thing That Cries in the Night.” For fifteen nights, listeners were invited to follow the bizarre adventures of three soldiers of fortune—Jack, Doc and Reggie—in an old house whose closets were filled with the proverbial family skeletons. Even though I devoted a lengthy chapter to it in my dissertation, I have never enjoyed this serial as it was offered to the radio audience—as a mystery whose solution is purchased on an installment plan.
So, inspired by the shared viewings going on over at the Charlie Chan Family Home, I am proposing a shared listening experience of “The Thing That Cries in the Night.” It would require little more than ten minutes each day to listen to each of the fifteen episodes (available online here) and a few minutes more to exchange ideas about it on this blog. If you miss an episode, you can always catch up with the convoluted plot here. I will even continue my reviews while away for a visit to my former home, the Big Apple.
Anyway, let me know whether you accept my invitation to go in search of the mysterious “Thing,” starting this Halloween . . .