Lights Out

This page is devoted to Lights Out, one of the early tv shows, which based stories and themes on classic science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with the occasional gothic. But like the radio series that pre-ceeded it, was not afraid to do good old-fashioned ghost stories.

Lights Out was created in Chicago by Willis Cooper, who later left to write movies for Hollywood including the third of the Frankenstein movies, Son of Frankenstein (it starred Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone). The series started out as a local 15-minute radio series in Chicago on 1-1-34, going to 30-minutes on NBC the following year.
Wyllis Cooper stayed on awhile as writer, along with Arch Oboler & Ferrin N. Fraser. Intended as a scary suspense-drama, Lights really hit its stride when Arch Oboler was promoted to director/host. He started each episode by doing a live disclaimer of sorts (actually intended to tantalize more than warn) in the opening:
Announcer: Arch Oboler's Lights Out, everybody (gong or old temple bell sound)
It (gong) Is (gong) Later (gong) Than (gong) You (gong) Think (gong)
Oboler: This is Arch Oboler bringing you another of our series of stories of the unusual. And once again we caution you, these Lights Out stories are definitely not for the timid soul. So we tell you calmly, and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off your radio now. (gong)
The program aired as late as 10:30 pm, sometimes even midnight, and soon rivaled Inner Sanctum (a radio version of tv's Tales From The Crypt) as the single scariest series on the airwaves. Some sample episodes:
"What The Devil" (1942), A man driving on a lonely road is menaced for no apparent reason by a truck that seems to be playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. When he pulls alongside, he can't see the driver (different ending than Spielberg's similar movie, Duel. Police find the wrecked car the next day)
"Fast One" (1943), A man goes on a crime spree using a serum that temporarily speeds up every atom in his body 20X. He walks 60mph, can run even faster. When he kills someone to rob them, they look like they were hit by a car. But there are side-effects... This episode was later adapted by Gene L. Coon as an episode of Wild Wild West and as an ep of Star Trek
"Murder in the Script Dept." (1944), 2 typists (Bea Benedaret, Mercedes McCambridge) are typing a Lights Out script late at night, all alone in the big dark building
"A Day At The Dentist," The new patient looks familiar - it's the man who ran off with the dentist's wife. Now let's start up that drill...
"Meteor Man" (1942), As an astronomer & his wife watch a meteor shower, she speculates that each one could contain invading life-forms. She realizes too late that...
"Taking Papa Home," A girl is driving drunk Dad home from the bar when the car stalls on a railroad track, and he's no help getting it restarted
"Organ" (1943), A young couple is suspicious when they get a big old house cheap, from a nervous estate agent, but it's all they can afford. Then the pipe organ starts playing itself...
"The Story of Mr. Mags" (1942), A wimpy little man buys an old chest at auction, not knowing it contains a murderer's soul (later rewritten by Robert Bloch of Psycho as Star Trek episode "Wolf In The Fold")
"Money Money Money" 3-30-43, A discussion by 2 immigrants about money ends in death for one over a $3000 sweepstakes ticket, and for the other while diving for haunted gold bars
"They Met At Dorset" 2-23-43, Two Nazi spies parachute into England & spend the night in a house that turns out to be haunted (End: one goes nuts and pulls the pin on a grenade)
In a radio episode later adapted as a less-effective episode of the tv-series, 3 people are driving through a primitive-looking part of France when they find a fossilized neanderthal skull with what appears to be a bullet hole. Then they're in an accident, driving off the road into a deep valley...where they're surrounded by cavemen that they try to hold off with a gun...
"Poltergeist" Three women are in a snow-covered clearing in the country. One decides to dance, then they discover it's a graveyard and a vengeful spirit hunts them down one by one for dancing in a cemetery.

Light Out radio episodes are scheduled occasionally online on the Golden Age of Radio
The series came to NBC-TV on 7-19-49 with Jack LaRue as host after a 4-episode miniseries in 1946. Frank Gallop hosted 1950-52, and instituted a "guest star" policy with Boris Karloff, Leslie Nielsen (soon to star in Forbidden Planet), Burgess Meredith, Billie Burke, Basil Rathbone, Eddie Albert (who also did an Outer Limits 1960s episode), Raymond Massey and Yvonne DeCarlo (The Ten Commandments and later Lillie on The Munsters).

Arch Oboler's only non-horror/scifi job on radio was as one of the writers of First Nighter, a 1929-53 series that broadcast radio versions of popular Broadway plays. Mr. First Nighter (the host) was played for a time by Brett Morrison, better known as The Shadow after Orson Welles left the role for his Mercury Theatre series. Oddly enough, First Nighter was never broadcast from Broadway (New York), only Chicago or Hollywood.

Arch Oboler was born December 7, 1909. In addition to radio, he made a few movies, which leaned toward scifi/horror:
"Bewitched" (1945), as writer/director, psycho movie not related to tv sitcom Bewitched
"Strange Holiday" (1942), as writer/dir., about a businessman who returns to discover U.S. democracy has been overthrown. Censors would not approve such a movie during W.W.2, and it was not released until after the war
"The Arnelo Affair" (1947), as writer/dir.
"Five" (1951), as writer/dir., about survivors of World War 3, filmed in and around Arch Oboler's somewhat odd-looking Frank Lloyd Wright home
Bwana Devil (1952), as writer/dir., the world's 1st 3-d movie. Jungle railway workers in Africa start disappearing one by one (remade recently as The Ghost & The Darkness)
"The Twonky" (1953), as writer/dir., starring Hans Conried as a man whose life is taken over by his alien-possessed TV
Exploring The Kinsey Reports (1961), docu. as writer/dir.
The Bubble (1966) aka "The Fantastic Invasion Of Planet Earth" (originally released in 3-d), A young couple find themselves trapped all alone in a small town covered by a plastic bubble for study.

In addition to Lights Out, Arch Oboler was the sole writer for a radio series called Everyman's Theater. One episode, "Two," was about the 2 survivors of WW3 (Joan Crawford & Raymond Edward Johnson)
"The Laughing Man," about a man centuries in the future laughing hysterically at how 20th century people spent so much time and energy destroying each other with guns and bombs

But the most popular episode, broadcast five different times by popular demand, was the poignant and provocative "The Ugliest Man In The World," starring Johnson as the man and Betty Craine. An ugly man finally finds work in a circus freakshow, where a carny worker takes an interest in him but only so he'll spend money on her. He quits, and a blind girl falls for him. He contemplates suicide while waiting to find out if an operation to restore her sight was successful, fearing her reaction when she sees him for the first time. He doesn't know that she has already figured it out due to the reaction of others when they saw the two together, and she doesn't care.

No TV episodes of Lights Out have been scheduled recently on the Sci-Fi channel, since the Fall 1999 episodes:

THE MARTIAN EYES: a bar patron (Burgess Meredith) says his prescription glasses allow him to see Martians who are invading, and who now are following him...(remade as the John Carpenter movie "They Live")
THE FACELESS MAN: in another TZ - like episode, a man demands experimental new plastic surgery, but then... (no relation to the movie Faceless Man)
Burgess Meredith also starred in an episode as a backwoods man who at first enjoys newfound peace and quiet, then he and his wife hear on the radio that the strange total silence is spreading nationwide from his location. So he sets out into the woods and finds a nasty alien flying saucer. Good thing he brought a rifle...
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