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In His Image - Charles Baeumont

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Listening Length: 39 minutes / Publisher: Falcon Picture Group / Released: 7 Jan 2011

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      27.01.2013 19:09
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      Spooky radio drama

      "What you have just witnessed could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn't. It's the beginning. Although Alan Talbot doesn't know it, he is about to enter a strange new world, too incredible to be real, too real to be a dream. It's called the Twilight Zone." In His Image is a radio adaptation of a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone written by Charles Beaumont. The Twilight Zone radio dramas were launched in 2002 and licenced by CBS and the Rod Serling Estate. Although they are obviously no substitute for watching the television show the audio adaptations are generally regarded to be an affectionate and competent spin on some of the more notable television episodes and this series has been nationally syndicated in the United States and also broadcast on BBC7 over here. The stories are sometimes given a slight tweak to bring them more into the present day but the core spirit of the source material remains. The structure is that Stacey Keach takes on the Rod Serling monologues and then there is a different guest star each week narrating the story and taking the central role. The 1963 season of The Twilight Zone was the one-off expanded year with hour long episodes and so consequently this audio version is slightly longer than usual too at nearly forty minutes. Anyway, the plot. Alan Talbot (played by John Heard here) seems to be a perfectly ordinary man but he's about to have the most puzzling and unsettling day imaginable.

      Talbot begins to hear strange voices and sounds in his head on the New York subway and is practically murderous when a ranting woman tries to push a religious leaflet in his hand. Not long after, he visits his finance but now has no memory of his strange morning on the subway. Talbot has a special day planned which involves visiting his home town of Coeurville to look at a few old haunts and see his aunt. But when he arrives he is quickly met with a series of very alarming surprises and developments that seem to question his sanity. There are new buildings he doesn't recognise (that couldn't possibly have been built since he was last there) and when he tries to enter his aunt's house he finds that his key doesn't fit the lock. Not only that but strangers answer the door and declare they've never heard of his Aunt Mildred. Talbot knows he has the right house but there is no trace of him or his aunt ever having lived there. The university where he works is now nothing but an empty field, a favourite diner no longer exists and - worst of all - when he visits the cemetary he finds that graves of his parents have been replaced by tombstones belonging to people he has never heard of. What is going on?

      In His Image was one of the best of the hour long Twilight Zones thanks to a superb performance by George Grizzard as Talbot and a neat script by Charles Beaumont about the common Twilight Zone theme of identity. More than anything it was the escalating series of revelations as the story progressed that gave In His Image its appeal. To state the bleeding obvious there are things you can do on television that you can't do on radio and this radio version is somewhat hamstrung by the fact that the big twist of In His Image is a purely visual one that requires no dialogue. You lose this big moment (which I'm of course not going to give away) of impact here although the adaptation is far from a waste of time and benefits a great deal from the presence of John Heard (who I always remember most from the Scorsese film After Hours), certainly one of the better actors to be roped into this radio series so far. Heard gives a convincingly frazzled performance and makes for a strong component at the heart of this weird sci-fi drama. I like the subdued atmosphere of these radio dramas too. It gives them an anachronistic feel and you are lulled into this aura from the start as Stacey Keach gives the introductory narration sounding like he's been injected with Ovaltine and deprived of sleep for three weeks. A certain off-kilter sense.

      This is one of the most thoughtful contributions to the series by the eccentric but often brilliant Charles Beaumont and an exciting and ultimately poignant story about the nature of identity and memory. While the one season hour long format was a problem for many of the episodes and made them feel padded and long winded, In His Image successfully maintains the intrigue and suspense over the duration of its running time both on television and here and always holds your attention. Talbot's unsettling experience of finding his home town changed beyond all recognition (in what seems an impossibly short space of time) is merely the first of a series of big twists and revelations that send the story heading towards a cliff-hanger final act. The translation into a new medium has dulled some of the effect but I still found myself becoming drawn into the story and (of course) the fact that this is adapted supplies an extra layer of interest as one waits for any changes or diversions that they may have made (In His Image seems to have been left largely intact though). Beaumont's dialogue is superb at times and I was glad to see much of it retained.

      I still think things like The Thirty-Fathom Grave (sonar beeps!) are most suitable for radio (although In His Image was a better television episode) but In His Image, thanks to John Heard, the genius of Charles Beaumont, and some nice work by the sound department, is very good nonetheless. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of one of The Twilight Zone audio compilations (they usually sell them in packages of five stories and they are fairly reasonably priced) or download it it individually for £1.19.

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