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Lights Out!

I have provided a review of the classic OTR and early TV program for your consideration.

By Edward GermanPublished 8 months ago 4 min read

During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, a radio drama called "Lights Out" was created by Wyllis Cooper and produced by the legendary Arch Orber. It aired on both the NBC and CBS radio networks from 1934 to 1947 and was later adapted into a television series that ran on NBC for three seasons starting in 1949. While the show was categorized as horror, it also incorporated elements of suspense, mystery, and science fiction.

The Series.

Lights Out originally premiered on WENR radio station in Chicago, Illinois on January 3, 1934. Initially, the show was aired for 15 minutes at midnight and later extended to 30 minutes. After a successful trial period, NBC picked up the show and broadcast it nationally. The creator of the show, Wyllis Cooper, had originally planned for a mystery and suspense program to air during the midnight time slot while other stations played music. However, an anthology format was selected for the show instead.

While Cooper was producing the show, he wrote stories that centered on grizzly horror stories. The story would have its main character get mangled, burned, beheaded, and eaten. The drama was performed in a tongue-in-cheek style of humor similar to the Grand-Guignol. The show would also include blood-curdling screams and other sound effects to give the show a strong horror motif. It is interesting to note that episodes of the show were a bit more explicit, while motion pictures of the period were subject to the Hayes Code. However, once the program went national, the producers toned down the content.

After Cooper stepped down as producer, a writer from Chicago named Arch Ober took his place. Ober kept the same format Cooper had established, but introduced historical episodes and shows with political themes. Some of the stories were set in the past or centered around a historical event. Additionally, some of Ober's scripts included underlying social or political messages within the story.

During his time, Ober was a highly sought-after writer, known for his prolific output. Apart from contributing to Lights Out, he also penned scripts for other radio programs and worked on various shows. To meet the high demand, he often stayed up late at night, dictating into a recorder to create the script for the next episode. Although he could complete the task within 30 minutes at home, a written script would take much longer, requiring multiple revisions.

Arch Obler and an unknown actress

During the late 1930s, the Network canceled the series, but it was later revived due to popular demand. Although Ober left the show after the fourth season, he returned during its run in the 1940s and reused old scripts from past shows. He even redid the opening monologue for the series, which can be heard at the beginning of this article. I have posted a YouTube video containing the opening dialogue. Just look for the Light Out logo and listen.

The Television Show.

Introduction by Frank Gallop.

When the radio drama "Light Out" ended, a TV adaptation with four live episodes was commissioned by NBC during the early days of television. The producer was Fred Cole who later produced other live TV shows in the 50s like "Playhouse 90" and "The Goodyear Playhouse". The four episodes were special showings before the series became a regular show in 1949.

screenshot from the first episode.

The first episode of the TV series aired on December 19, 1949, titled "The Elevator". The cast was mostly unknown actors at that time, but it showcased very talented actors including fan favorites such as Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and a young Lesley Nielsen who performed during its three-year run. Although the series did well in the ratings, it started to lose out to the classic TV show "I Love Lucy".

Frank Gallop's opening monologue on the TV show featured him as a head against a black background introducing the story and ending with "Lights Out" while blowing out a candle. Gallop was a former investment banker in New York City who switched to working as a radio announcer in the 1930s.

Closing Remarks.

Lights Out radio drama was a great success thanks to talented writers Cooper and Ober. They were trailblazers who set the stage for the more realistic horror that awaited during the Second World War. Their talent was essential to providing temporary escape during the Great Depression.

If you enjoy OTR programs or other dramas, you can find more in the Internet Archive. Additionally, you can find episodes on the website relicradio.com. If you are interested in watching TV series from the 1950s, you can find them on tubi.com. I have selected a few episodes for your convenience after this article.

Some selected episodes.

This episode is based on the real-life serial killer H.H. Holmes, who lured unsuspecting women into his house, only to never be heard from again. Holmes had built a large house with multiple rooms and secret passages that enabled him to conduct his grisly business. Will the next victim get out in time? Tune in to find out.

In this episode, a couple witnesses a meteor crash and discovers an otherworldly protoplasm that transforms into an evil alien. Can they stop it in time? Tune in to find out.

TV Show.


About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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