Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Escape -- "A Bullet for Mr. Smith"

E-mail Print

Tired of the everyday grind?
Ever dream of a life of … romantic adventure?
Want to get away from it all?
We offer you … ESCAPE!

Escape (1947-54) aired "A Bullet for Mr. Smith" on January 14, 1951*, as the 154th of its approximately (depending on how historians count) 235 unique broadcasts. A spinoff and sister show of the highly popular radio program Suspense (1942-62), Escape produced (according to one source) 251 episodes of which 241 were unique stories, plots, or scripts (the remaining 10 being rebroadcasts of earlier shows and not different versions of previous episodes). Escape concentrated on adventure tales, some with an SF/F theme, though the straight adventure tale set in exotic locales was its meat and potatoes. While strangely not consistently supported by its host network CBS, who rarely gave advance notice of upcoming program titles and moved the show to different times and days willy-nilly over its 7-year run, the show found a faithful audience, and continued to produce well-written scripts with many of the finest actors in radio.

*Though this episode aired originally on January 14, 1951, that recording is no long available, so we have used the Armed Forces Radio Services (AFRS) rebroadcast from a few days later, January 19, 1951. The AFRS is responsible for preserving many otherwise "lost" episodes of numerous radios shows from its Golden Age, this being but one example.

John Dehner (1915-1992, photo top right) stars in this episode, as he did in many others over the show's 7-year run. By sheer coincidence, the previous episode of Escape we ran also happened to star John Dehner. Aired here on October 7, 2017, it featured Dehner as a western gunslinger in the episode "Wild Jack Rhett." I wrote a capsule pragraph detailing a few of his many personal and professional accomplishments for that episode, and if you're as much a fan of Dehner as I am please feel free to learn more about him here.

In  "A Bullet for Mr. Smith"  Dehner leaves his six-guns behind to assume the role of an American agent in service to the French Intelligence Service. Set in western Europe during World War II, Dehner's character must find and "eliminate" a deadly assassin known only as Mr. Smith. All he has is the name, which makes his task even more difficult, even with help from the French underground. The storyline unfolds nicely, and is a well done spy vs. spy scenario after he meets a beautiful woman by "accident." Also involved are secret plans our agent must not let get into the wrong hands, and a perilous journey by train. The production quality is top notch as are the acting performances, making for a taut, yet somewhat standard (a pretty woman, a spy, secret plans, and a train ride) suspense story. I always find it interesting in spy stories--whether in fiction, radio, or on the silver screen--the clever ways secret plans or documents are hidden or disguised by the bad guys. Here is no exception, but you'll have to listen nearly to the end of  "A Bullet for Mr. Smith" to discover--as does our clever agent--where and how they are hidden.

Play Time: 29:30

{The neighborhood gang bundled themselves up like Eskimos in the cold of January 1951 and with freezing puffs of breath and rosy cheeks (not to mention watering eyes) made it to the corner newsstand to spend some time with their favorite magazines and use their unusually long selection time as a good excuse to warm up before heading home. Astounding SF (1930-present, now Analog), always led the pack for first choice when a new issue arrived, and this issue was no different, especially sporting the terrific Sense of Wonder cover by artist Hubert Rogers. As always, Astounding held fast to its monthly schedule in 1951. Galaxy (1950-80) was a new kid on the block, its first issue appearing but a few months earlier in October of 1950. It was a hit from the beginning, and this fourth issue promised exciting reading, with a new Isaac Asimov story as the cover draw. Galaxy was also a monthly in 1951. An old favorite, Planet Stories (1939-55) was not to be overlooked, and as one of the surviving SF pulps still contained enough action, adventure, and wildly imaginative excursions to strange places and other worlds to yet snare its long time readers (young and old). It was a bi-monthly in 1951.}

         [Left: Astounding, Jan. 1951 - Center: Galaxy, Jan. 1951 - Right: Planet Stories, Jan/Feb 1951]

         

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.