Daily Horror History, August 9th: ‘The Thing on the Fourble Board’


August 9th, 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the initial air date of “The Thing on the Fourble Board,” generally considered one of the greatest works of classic radio drama ever produced.

This being a relatively rare occasion where I can share a story without worrying about any apparent copyright violations, so I’ve made it available below for anyone who hasn’t heard it (or heard of it) before.

For those without the time or inclination, the story can be summarized as a derrick-hand recounting an encounter he and his fellow “roughnecks” had with something mysterious, bizarre and ultimately dangerous on an oil derrick (a fourble board is apparently “a platform at a height of 80 feet or more above the floor of an oil derrick“).

The narrator, Porky, seems to simply be telling the story in the 2nd person to the audience as though the listener is actually present before him, a common device in old-time radio horror programs. As the story progresses, however, we find out that his audience is someone who is part of the story, in a way that might not surprise savvier, modern listeners accustomed to this kind of tale, but that can still prove disturbing even to the jaded, and that certainly must have come as a gut-punch to many of the episode’s initial listeners back in 1948. Likewise, the strange-if-inspired wailing performed by Cecil H. Roy, (the voice actress most famous as the voice of Little Lulu and Caspar the Friendly Ghost in their respective cartoons), might make the titular “Thing” seem less intimidating and more childish and silly at first. By the time everything is discovered, however, we realize that this is a bit of a diversion, and the story is all the more chilling for it. Of course, I could be wrong; you might find her cries chilling from the moment you first lay ears on them.

At the risk of spoiling the classic radio drama above for any who just refused to listen to it, it has something in common with the other entry in today’s horror history post, Anthropophagus. That commonality is, of course, “monsters that eat people.” Instead of being some inexplicable creature from miles beneath the earth, however, the beast in Anthropophagus is merely a man. A mad one, driven so by loss and isolation, but a man just the same. This Joe D’Amato film is not notable for any storytelling flourishes or for even being good, but for its status as one of the more notorious “Video Nasties” banned by the Brits in the 80’s. Given that the film ends with the scene depicted on its infamous poster–that of the insane, cannibalistic villain gnawing on his own guts as he dies –it’s not all that surprising that the people behind the “Video Recordings Act” added it to their list. It also features a fetus being turned into raw veal, so, you know, for the curious, just know what you’re getting into.

Anthropophagus was released on this date in 1980 its home-country of Italy (a country that was really into cinematic cannibalism around that time; I think it even worked its way into their rom-coms).

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Daily Horror History, August 6th: ‘The Sixth Sense’ Released; Umberto Lenzi’s Birthday

It’s a common habit among more stringent horror fans and detractors alike to be overly restrictive regarding what constitutes a horror story. Detractors, be they overt or subtle tend to disqualify a movie from being in the Horror genre if it turns out to be too good or too successful, or both (for a recent example, see It). “Hardcore” fans, meanwhile, tend to exclude movies they deem not “horror enough”; usually anything that has too many dramatic elements (The Babadook is a recent example).

Which brings us to The Sixth Sensethe runaway hit of 1999 that would have been the biggest movie of the year if not for the long awaited return of Star Wars, and made substantially more money at the box office than intended blockbusters like Armageddon (the previous year’s top money earner) and Mission: Impossible 2 (2000’s top money earner). In fact, it’s safe to say The Sixth Sense was a bonafide phenomenon; a rare late-summer super-smash that rode a wave of positive buzz over its now (in?)famous twist ending, which prompted many people to see it a second time just to look for the clues they missed the first time.

And yes, it’s a horror movie. Not just because of its premise, the story of a kid who sees ghosts. But because of the presentation. The movie is built around fear and is intended to scare audiences as it drags them through the frights experienced by young Cole Sear (okay, that last name is a little on the nose). The fact that the story’s ultimate objective is for him to overcome (or at least learn to manage) his fear and improve his relationship with his beleaguered, desperate mother doesn’t change that. The fact that the subplot involves a spirit coming to terms with his fate and finding the peace to move on–after initially experiencing horror at the realization of his circumstances–doesn’t change that either. I understand that a movie prominently featuring ghosts isn’t necessarily a horror movie (for a classic example, see Ghost); but I also understand that a movie prominently featuring horror is still a horror movie, even if it also has a lot of heart. Horror is an emotion, after all. I’ve said it before, I’ll harp on it for as long as I feel it’s necessary: it’s perfectly fine for Horror stories to be emotional.

The Sixth Sense opened in theaters on August 6th, 199.

Today also marks the birthday of prolific Italian director and writer of shock and shlock flicks, Umberto Lenzi.

He is perhaps most known for the infamous Cannibal Ferox, one of the more unforgettable features produced during the cannibal-sploitation boom, which features the requisite scenes of graphic violence and torture, and also some genuine animal cruelty (which I want to judge more harshly, but it’s hard to reconcile that disgust while also still being in love with Oldboy despite an octopus being eaten alive in it, so I’ll try not to be too self-righteous and critical for the moment; catch me on another day and I might have more to say, though).

Lenzi is one of those filmmakers who seemed to constantly be working on two or three projects at a time during his peak years. He also directed several action movies, crime / gangster thrillers and giallo thrillers to go along with other horror films such as Nightmare City (part of the Italian zombie-craze of the late 70’s and 80’s), Ghosthouse (one of several Italian “unofficial sequels” of American movies, this one of Evil Dead), Demoni 3The Man From Deep River (aka Sacrifice! — the movie credited with igniting the cannibal sub-genre) and Eaten Alive! (yep, more cannibals).

Umberto Lenzi was born on this day in 1931.

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