“ Author: Charles Beaumont / Genre. Sci-Fi & Fantasy „
"You're looking at Act One, Scene One, of a nightmare, one not restricted to witching hours or dark, rainswept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present, who conjures up the dead as if they were alive. In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history, but rather from a book on black magic, which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon." Long Live Walter Jameson is an audio drama based on the 1960 Twilight Zone episode of the same name written by Charles Beaumont and features the voices of Stacy Keach and Lou Diamond Phillips. Lou Diamond Phillips you might know as the knife wielding Indian Jose Chavez y Chavez from the Young Guns films. Anyway, this is one of the very best Twilight Zone stories and makes a decent enough audio drama principally because it is very talky and is essentially a battle of wits between two men which leads to a most extraordinary unmasking and secret. These Twilight Zone radio dramas are not bad at all and interesting even if you have seen the original television incarnation. They are respectful to the source material but give themselves just enough room to embellish certain things that are unnecessary to do so in a visual medium but sometimes required here. This radio series actually feels more like a blood relative to the groundbreaking Rod Serling show than the blah rebooted nineties Twilight Zone television series does. It helps of course that radio is a very atmospheric medium that exists within your imagination and forces you to conjure your own images.
The premise of Long Live Walter Jameson has a Professor Samuel Kittridge becoming very curious and worried about another teacher at his college named Walter Jameson. Jameson has never apparently been in any trouble and is a very respected and able teacher but there is something very strange about the man and a number of things that don't make any sense to Kittridge. He has known Jameson for twelve years now and not noticed him age a single day since they first me. He always looks exactly the same. Furthermore, Jameson reads from a real authentic Civil War Diary in class that contains details and events that never appear in any history books. How did he come into possession of such an artifact and where does he get his precise and detailed knowledge of the Civil War from? Kittridge is intrigued after listening to Jameson discuss a Civil War officer named Skelton. When he investigates Skelton he finds a hundred year old photograph and is stunned by what he sees. "You made me curious about this Major Skelton today. I thought it would be interesting to see what he looked like. So I went through my Brady pictures, not really expecting to find anything..." Further complicating matters and heightening Kittridge's desire to discover the secrets of Jameson is the fact that the mystery man is engaged to his daughter Susanna Kittridge. Jameson is not the most enlightened chap in the world when it comes to women (Jameson says that Susanna will have to end her academic studies to become a housewife at his beck and call!) and this yet another reason why Professor Kittridge is determined to get to the bottom of this curious enigma.
Be careful what you wish for is the message of the story and the wonderful Charles Beaumont takes the premise to its logical and horrible conclusion. This is built around a long conversation between Jameson and Kittridge and a fascinating and absorbing episode with elements of horror. The two actors are fine (although they of course can't hope to match the superlative performances of Edgar Stehli and Kevin McCarthy in the television version) and Keach is one hand to supply the opening and closing monologues that were performed by Serling. "You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!" The drama is about mortality and always interesting. It considers the consequences of someone truly being able to live forever. It might sound like a blessing on the face of it but perhaps it would be more of a curse. Time would lose meaning and you would constantly lose all the people you knew. "I can't tell you the secret, Sam, because I don't know it myself. I was like you, Sam. Afraid of death. I thought of all the things that a man had to know, in the miserable few years a man had to know them, and it seemed senseless. Every night I dreamed as you dream, of immortality.... only if a man lived forever, I thought, would there be any point in living at all. I talked to priests, philosophers... Then one day..."
Mortality was very much of the mind of the author Charles Beaumont because he was always plagued by illness and struck down with an early form of Alzheimers. He died at the age of thirty eight. These dramas are certainly atmospheric through earphones in particular and the music cues are good I think. Nothing too dramatic or theatrical but a constant backdrop of restrained spooky mystery music! Out of the ones I've listened to so far I think Long Live Walter Jameson is one of the more effective because of the strength of the original script and the confrontational dialogue. The wonderful ending to the television series is the one thing you are going to have trouble conveying in a radio drama as it was a very visual twist but I think they do a reasonable job here and throughout the drama manage to capture the essence of Beaumont's story and capture a fair amount of Twilight Zone residue. It's not a complete 100% transcript and I think that's not a bad idea really. Long Live Walter Jameson was a Twilight Zone episode that you wouldn't have minded being a bit longer so you could learn more of the story of Walter Jameson and they can do that a little more here. The core of the character is that he's detached from life and someone who must remain low key and not draw too much attention to himself. This weary quality is understood in this audio version and nicely done. Overall, I enjoyed listening to this and found it good late night fun. This runs to about 40 minutes and at the time of writing is available to download for £1.19.