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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
The Damned Thing
('Ambrose Bierce classic')
Plot:
A government official investigates the death of a very rich man an each witnesses narrates the incident differently. The man's best friend informs the coroner that he was murdered by a mysterious, invisible creature of a color invisible to human eyes.
Episode:
0185
Air Dates:
First Run - December 10, 1974
Repeat - February 5, 1975
Repeat - December 16, 1979
Writer:
Listen:
Rating:
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11 Responses to Episode 0185


Poor adaptation severely limited to the time demands of a radio show that lasts for just one hour. If you are a fan of the X-Files you will love this episode. Otherwise, "The Damned Thing" is just a 2-star listen.

Based on the story by Ambrose Bierce. The adaptation mixes in a dose of Rashoman and a dose too much of soap opera. So, another potentially scary idea is squandered... Furthermore, there's a problem with the story that is caused by the new material. The variant versions told of the death of the man, whose horribly mutilated body lies before the witnesses, covered only by a sheet (Interesting Bierce chapter heading from the story: "A Man Though Naked May Be In Rags") seem impossible to explain. And the rural coroner seems to have done a very thourough and sophisticated autopsy if he can not only rule out drowning but also snakebite... Not that either would explain the mutilation of the corpse. Interestingly, the electronic sfx used to suggest the presence of the unseen Thing is slightly better than the one used in The Horla.

An inquest is being held into the violent death of a man. Providing testimony are his wife, his lover, his friend, and an Indian guide. All of them tell different stories of his demise, but few can be corroborated because of the condition of the corpse. Each witness told their version of the story, each one wildly different. I didn’t think this story was well put together. While each telling was interesting, there was no explanation at the end as to why they were different, and with the proof of which story was correct merely being to look at the body (something the coronor presumably had done already), the confusion and mystery was unconvincing.

I'm not sure that "The d*mned thing" is on many RMT fans' list of favorites (different thread) nor is it necessarily on mine. However, I ALWAYS get a kick out of listening to it. It's like a foot-long inverse Twinkie, with the gooey, sweet stuff on the outside and the filling made of sponge cake. The inside's not too bad, but the stuff that surrounds it (that you can lick off your fingers when you're finished eating it) is what you wanted it for. In the case of this episode, the "outside" is what I call the "Real story (the d*mned thing and what it apparently did)" which contains the "Main story (the near-farcical 'he said, she said' at the coroner's inquest)". I'm heading to work right now so I'll have to comment on it later. Meanwhile: Did inspire which in turn inspired a writer for?

This probably would be one of my favorites. I enjoyed the whole concept of an unseeable monster and the reasoning behind it-- that it was either the color of infrared of ultra violet and therefore invisble to the human eye. I though the scenes where they stalk the creature and see just the moving wheat were quite effective and the attack on Hugh Morgan at the end was quite unnerving. I also enjoyed the different versions each witness gave at the inquest. Each hated the other--enough to try pin the whole thing on their nemesis. The whole episode spoke to the petty jealousies and burning ambitions which drive each of us. Perhaps "The Damed Thing" was just a metaphor for the ugly "creature" lurking within each of us-- if we give into our basest desires? I also enjoyed the ending-- the slap at authority-- as Mr. Bentley destroyed the tape (and thus, the truth) for the "good" of the people. How often, in real lfe, does our own government repress the truth for our own "good"? Just curious, but has anyone ever read the original version of this tale? How close did RMT stick to it? By the way, I really love twinkies, inverted or otherwise...........

This particular Jonny Quest episode was the first thing that popped into my head, as well. It was my favorite J.Q. pisode of all-time, and my daughters assure me that it is their favorite, as well.

I thought it was very odd that everyone at the inquest felt so strongly that one of the other characters had killed Moss. I think that's the real clue to what the "Damned Thing" was: the collective animosity of all the characters toward Moss. I watched the Johnny Quest episode (one of my favorites as a kid) and I don't believe that the eerie sound of the thing was lifted directly from the show. Most likely it was taken from the Twilight Zone, a CBS show that Himan Brown could access for free. In the days of the Twilight Zone and Johnny Quest there were few ways to produce strange sound effects --no synthesizers before the 70's. But there was an instrument called the melotron --I might be mistaken-- that made a spacey-sounding noise and was used a lot in movies and TV and even in popular and serious music.

I think you might be thinking of the Theremin, staple of many sci-fi flicks. (A related, but similar-sounding, device has a prominent place in the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations.") Could be that, or maybe just a manipulated tape piece. The Mellotron was sort of an early sampling device -- a keyboard in which the keys activated a tape loop containing a short prerecorded snippet of an orchestral instrument. Moody Blues used it a lot.

I believe the Beatles used the mellotron on the greatest album ever....Abbey Road. The approach of this episode, telling the story from the perspectives of different characters, leaving a trace of ambiguity, worked well. And the title is hard to beat.

- Sorry if I implied that I thought the background noise used during the appearance of "the d*mned thing" was the exact same one as the one used in JQ's "the invisible monster". It clearly isn't...however, they are very similar in everything except the pitch. - (BTW, interesting how both "the d*mned thing's" professor Morgan and JQ's Race Bannon both shoot at their respective invisible creatures with rifles. Wonder if today, were both these stories re-enacted, they would have used paintball guns? )

The main story: A "he said, she said" farce at the coroner's inquest". - Ambrose Bierce, who himself met a mysterious ending, wrote several short stories that were used as RMT plays. One was about two friends from Ohio who went to (the Civil) war and met their end on the battlefields of Tennessee, another "An occurence at Owl Creek Bridge". I think he also wrote a story which was the basis for the RMT play "The rivals". All were Civil War stories - Bierce was a Civil War veteran himself. I liked his plays because he wove history with the supernatural. - This was an interesting "lashup" of RMT talent: Arnold Moss (who adapted this story), Evie Juster, Robert Kaliban, Robert Dryden...I got a kick out of Kaliban's American Indian character (a bit wooden, no pun intended) and Ms. Juster's vixenized version of Ellie Mae Clampett. Even then, the bulk of the testimonies at the Coroner's inquest were more comedic than serious. - Moss and Dryden were, as always, heavyweights. Was there a better choice than Dryden to play a county coroner who want to get to the truth (or maybe not)? - I hate saying this, but remember Homer Simpson's classic line "Doh"? The one who did "Doh" better than any other RMT actor was none other than the Shakespearian-trained actor Moss - listen to his wails and moans whenever he gets bit by a rattlesnake or something far worse. Hate to laugh at tragedy but no one made guttural wails more amusing, IMO, than the late Dr. Moss. The real story: the d*mned thing - Midnight, here's the story itself, by Ambrose Bierce  vs. the day of the RMT. - According to an essayist, speaking of the author: "Bierce was never a great writer. He has painful faults of vulgarity and cheapness of imagination. But...his style, for one thing, will preserve him; and the purity of his misanthropy, too, will help to keep him alive." I think the signature line in this story, delivered by Moss and containing a simultaneous request for divine supplication and blasphemy, corroborates that judgment: "And, God help me! the d*mned thing is of such a colour!" (And (again, tip of the hat to Midnight) how cool was it to describe such a monster as being of a color that's invisible to human eyes, like certain sounds are unhearable by our ears?) - And (tip of the hat to AmericanElm)...the beast is described as making a noise like a pack of wild dogs, which are used as sound effects in the story. However, when you listen, that's not the only noise which accompanies the d*mned thing. The weird vibrato sound effect sounds at first like something one would expect of a space alien, and perhaps that indeed was the origin of the creature. But then, I remembered: "I've heard this type of sound before, in the only other movie/program I've ever heard of that's ever featured an invisible monster." - The Adventures of Jonny Quest: The Invisible Monster (Part 1 = YouTube, 6:30 - you hear the monster for the first time at the 3:10 mark, then many times thereafter through the end of the episode) - The Adventures of Jonny Quest: The Invisible Monster (Part 2 = YouTube, 6:30) - The Adventures of Jonny Quest: The Invisible Monster (Part 3 = YouTube, 6:30) Obviously, this JQ show was also influenced by "Dr. Frankenstein's Monster"...but that sound...and this episode aired a decade before the RMT adaptation of "The d*mned thing". Hmmm....

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