Review: Horror stars keep us in “Suspense”

Complete with creepy organ music straight from a radio serial, “Suspense” was a live television program that aired from 1949 to 1954. The show followed a radio program of the same name, which is obvious from the narration and music.

Each episode tells a creepy and suspenseful story, and well-known actors made guest appearances on episodes, including horror stars, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Without sharing spoilers, here are two episodes the stars appear in:

Boris Karloff, Anthony Ross and Barry Macollum in the “Suspense” episode “A Night at an Inn.”

“Suspense”: A Night at an Inn (1949) – Season 1, Episode 7. Aired April 26, 1949
Based on the 1916 play “A Night at the Inn” by Lord Dunsany, this television play stars Boris Karloff in one of six “Suspense” episodes that Karloff acted in. In this TV play, Karloff is the leader of a gang of three sailor jewel thieves. The four men have taken over a remote English inn after they steal a ruby eye from an Indian idol. Three men from India are tracking them to steal the ruby back. While the thieves successful avoid the men, another force is putting them in danger.

“A Night at an Inn” is interesting, but a little slow in parts. However, the twist at the end is worth the wait.

Romney Brent and Bela Lugosi in the “Suspense” episode “A Cask of Amontillado.”

“Suspense”: A Cask of Amontillado (1949) – Season 2, Episode 6. Aired Oct. 11, 1949
An updated take on Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado,” the television plays begins on V-E day in Europe at the end of World War II. Italian Count Montressor, played by Romney Brent, reports to two American GIs, played by Frank Marth and Ray Walston, to tell about a murder. The show is a retrospective as the Count shares his trouble with Italian fascist Gen. Fortunato, played by Bela Lugosi. Fortunato started as the Count’s stable boy and grew in favor with Mussolini and ruined the Count’s life, marrying his sister and steals his wife.

This episode of suspense was Bela Lugosi’s first TV appearance. This was one of his few TV roles of Lugosi, except for playing Count Dracula on the “Texaco Star Theatre” and on “The Red Skelton Hour” in a comedic role.

While Bela Lugosi got bad reviews for his performance, I think he does well in this radio play. Romney Brent is really the focus here and does a great job as the tormented and depressed Count. It was also a surprise to see Ray Walston in a small role.

Of the two TV shows, “A Cask of Amontillado” was the most exciting and had the most shocking ending, as I wasn’t familiar with the Poe story. “A Night at the Inn” was fine, but you could certainly tell it was a play since it had more talking and less action.

I suggest checking these out. The TV episodes are a great look at early television and live TV plays. I was surprised at how well they looked and at the sound quality since some of the early television programs can be fuzzy and hard to hear.

Of the 260 “Suspense” episodes filmed from 1949 to 1954, unfortunately, many are missing after being destroyed in a fire. However, you can find episodes released through Film Detective.

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