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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
The Oblong Box
('Edgar Allan Poe classic')
Plot:
A man makes a voyage to the US from Europe and meets an old friend carrying a peculiar oblong box that apparently contains an obscure painting. The strange shape of the box influences the fellow passengers to think that the box contains something far from innocent.
Episode:
0199
Air Dates:
First Run - January 8, 1975
Repeat - March 9, 1975
Repeat - June 17, 1979
Writer:
Listen:
Rating:
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22 Responses to Episode 0199


This episode is my all-time favorite! I have listened to it many times. Well constructed story, excellent performances, and -- even though you know exactly where the story is going the whole time -- chilling suspense. A true classic honoring the genius of Edgar Allen Poe.

This episode had me fooled. I thought the oblong box contained the priceless painting. I did not think the box contained Wills old friends dead wife. His old friend loved his wife so much he went down with the ship with his dead wife. I did not predict this ending when act three started. I gave this episode five stars.

Chills up the spine on this one - Wyatt's demented ramblings are very effective; especially when you hear him ranting in the background. Another shocking ending.

An eccentric man takes an oblong box aboard a cruise ship. He and his wife exhibit some strange behavior which attacts the attention of a former friend.

A couple learn that the husband’s old school friend, now a famous and wealthy painter, will be aboard the same ship to spend his honeymoon with his new bride. The husband is quite anxious to reacquaint himself with this dear friend whom he has not seen for 20 years. As the painter and his veiled wife board the ship with an oblong box, looking so much like a coffin, the husband tells his wife that the painter has procured a priceless painting of such dimensions that it could only fit into this specially constructed box. When finally they meet, the painter is less than enthusiastic about meeting his old friend and brushes him off, hurrying to the cabins he has taken aboard the ship. As the first night approaches the couple observe the wife sneaking off to their second cabin, hear the lid of the box being opened, and the painter weeping violently and broken-heartedly throughout the night. What is really in the box? Why do they have two cabins? Why is the painter so sorrowful in the night, and truculent to everyone in the day?

I can't pretend to be objective about "The Oblong Box"--or, in fact, any of the episodes from the RMT Edgar Allan Poe Week. Poe was my first favorite writer, and I heard these shows not too long after I first read his collected stories (when I was 12 or 13). In general, I dislike Poe adaptations; usually they're quite cheesy, and show little understanding of what makes Poe so effective as a storyteller (the 1960s Vincent Price Poe movies are classic examples, though I suppose I enjoy them in a way--their sheer corniness). But the RMT Poe Week is a shining exception. I loved them when I heard them in 1975, and I love them today. Some of the shows (including my favorite, "The Tell-Tale Heart") are really brilliantly creative, expanding and reimagining tales that only run a few pages into full-bodied, 45-minute radio plays that are still, somehow, Poe-esque. An added delight for me in the case of "The Oblong Box" is the wonderful sound quality. About 15 years ago I bought a bunch of (bootlegged, no doubt) audio cassettes of RMT, including the Poe episodes; I still have them, and their sound quality, though audible, is as bad now as it was then. What a pleasure to hear this show in clear sound for the first time since I was a kid--I can actually hear all the dialogue in the big storm scene in Act 3! I suppose, objectively speaking, that this is really one of the lesser Poe RMT adaptations. The story is fairly obvious, and, as with so many RMTs, would probably have worked better in two acts. And yet the climax is memorably disgusting, and the exchange between the husband and wife as they watch seems to me to strike straight to what makes Poe's work so memorable: Wife: How gruesome! Husband: But beautiful...in a way. So many of Poe's stories (cf "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Ligeia") could be described just this way. Gruesome...yet beautiful. I'm sorry for rambling, but I'll say one more thing. It never occurred to me until I re-listened to "The Oblong Box" this afternoon that these RMT adaptations may have somehow played a role in my own professional development. They certainly proved to me that Poe *can* be adapted successfully, even brilliantly. And so maybe they were somehow in the back of my mind, unconsciously, when I put together POE'S LIGHTHOUSE, a collection of original stories I've edited which is due out in the next couple of months. No doubt my mentioning this would be more appropriate in the Off the Air section, and I'll post something there when the book is officially released. As you'll see, it's an anthology of stories which adapt an unfinished fragment of an Edgar Allan Poe tale in two dozen different ways. A thousand pardons for the naked self-promotion here--I hope I haven't offended anybody. I'll shut up now. But I'm forever grateful for Poe, and for these Poe RMTs. They're not just good episodes, they're the best possible episodes!

Yet more Poe... This is a slight expansion on the original story - but only slight. That may be the problem here. The original is very simple, very linear and the mystery is not very significant. So it is here, with the addition of a wife for the protagonist to facilitate the story by allowing dialogue...

Not to get too OT here but...remember what a fun actor Richard Mulligan could be? Remember his performance in the movie "Teachers" as an escaped lunatic who ended up being the one of the best substitute educators an inner-city high school could have?

Yes I do remember that film! Underrated, slightly flawed, but heart-warming and inspiring as well. I'd say more but an old friend of mine across the hall has a priceless painting in his room that he won't show me. He's gone for the moment, so I going to dash over there and have a peek at it while he's gone.

I agree that this is a fine adaptation of the original. And a very good encode as well. I haven't listened to the other Poe tales in a while, but I think there was one story that I didn't much care for. That was the adaptation of "The Pit and the Pendulum". If I recall correctly, I thought the RMT strayed too far from the original in their version of the story, with detrimental results. I also like the Ambrose Beirce adaptations that RMT did. I thought they were quite faithful to the spirit of the original tales. I'm something of a Beirce fan . . . there are those who even rank his short-story horror tales as superior to Poe's! I don't think I can go quite that far. But Beirce in real life was just as intriguing a character as Poe was . . . and his death even more mysterious! To those unfamilair with his writings, I would also recommend Beirce's very dark yet humorous tales; My Favorite Murder, An Imperfect Conflagration, etc. Kinda like "The Aadams Family" with the gore left in. Straying slightly off topic . . . to film adaptataions of classic horror. A decade or more ago we saw Hollywood release "definitive" films (denoted by incorporating the author's name in the movie's title) of . . . "Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'" and also "Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'". Big budgets and big actors. I liked the first half of both films (true to the original tales) and then was disappointed by the endings, which strayed significantly from the author's stories. Granted that "Frankenstein" ended even more horribly than Shelley had written it . . . in fact I've only watched that film once . . . the ending was so disturbing. Well enough rambling. Until next time.

I was going to place my vote in the pole but since I do not remember the shows from 25 years ago, and "The Oblong Box" is the only episode I have not listened to I cannot objectively vote, so.... I will wait until after listening to a few to do so. However, since I am not voting I can't see what the votes are. Any chance of letting me know what the votes are? I am kind of curious what others thought of this episode, thanks.

Thanks Alicia for the update , I did and gave it a 1. After 25 some odd years I still found that RMT could put me on the edge of seat. I am looking forward to listening to more, I need my dose of suspense.

The Oblong Box was quite enjoyable to listen to. Edgar Allan Poe is a master storyteller, and i look forward to hearing more rmt shows based on his stories.

just chiming in briefly here... i also thought this was a terrific episode, and agree that although not the strongest. A hundred thousand congrats on the book. if the words on the page don't sell it alone, then that beautiful artwork surely will help! wow! good luck and i'm happy you mentioned it in this thread. as for Richard Mulligan, he was a great joy to watch in the US tv series, "Soap," as well as in one of my favorite movies as a kid, "Scavenger Hunt." he was very much like my best friend's dad, so i always got a smile from him. i still recall when he passed away in 2000, i was actually sad about it. while most folks may not recognize him or his name, i always enjoyed his Emmy-winning level performance.

I can't pretend to be objective about "The Oblong Box"--or, in fact, any of the episodes from the RMT Edgar Allan Poe Week. Poe was my first favorite writer, and I heard these shows not too long after I first read his collected stories (when I was 12 or 13). In general, I dislike Poe adaptations; usually they're quite cheesy, and show little understanding of what makes Poe so effective as a storyteller (the 1960s Vincent Price Poe movies are classic examples, though I suppose I enjoy them in a way--their sheer corniness). But the RMT Poe Week is a shining exception. I loved them when I heard them in 1975, and I love them today. Some of the shows (including my favorite, "The Tell-Tale Heart") are really brilliantly creative, expanding and reimagining tales that only run a few pages into full-bodied, 45-minute radio plays that are still, somehow, Poe-esque. An added delight for me in the case of "The Oblong Box" is the wonderful sound quality. About 15 years ago I bought a bunch of (bootlegged, no doubt) audio cassettes of RMT, including the Poe episodes; I still have them, and their sound quality, though audible, is as bad now as it was then. What a pleasure to hear this show in clear sound for the first time since I was a kid--I can actually hear all the dialogue in the big storm scene in Act 3! I suppose, objectively speaking, that this is really one of the lesser Poe RMT adaptations. The story is fairly obvious, and, as with so many RMTs, would probably have worked better in two acts. And yet the climax is memorably disgusting, and the exchange between the husband and wife as they watch seems to me to strike straight to what makes Poe's work so memorable: Wife: How gruesome! Husband: But beautiful...in a way. So many of Poe's stories (cf "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Ligeia") could be described just this way. Gruesome...yet beautiful. I'm sorry for rambling, but I'll say one more thing. It never occurred to me until I re-listened to "The Oblong Box" this afternoon that these RMT adaptations may have somehow played a role in my own professional development. They certainly proved to me that Poe *can* be adapted successfully, even brilliantly. And so maybe they were somehow in the back of my mind, unconsciously, when I put together POE'S LIGHTHOUSE, a collection of original stories I've edited which is due out in the next couple of months. No doubt my mentioning this would be more appropriate in the Off the Air section, and I'll post something there when the book is officially released. As you'll see, it's an anthology of stories which adapt an unfinished fragment of an Edgar Allan Poe tale in two dozen different ways. A thousand pardons for the naked self-promotion here--I hope I haven't offended anybody. I'll shut up now. But I'm forever grateful for Poe, and for these Poe RMTs.

Well I certainly enjoyed this show. I was definitely hooked until the end. I was very curious to see how this was going to be wrapped up. Great performances all around and a solid script. I thought it was an example of what I really like about rmt in the first place. They are very skilled at creating suspense. Or at the very least curiosity. Thanks for the show and I am looking forward to next week's episode. This in my humble opinion was a great example of rmt at it's best.

I was a big fan of RMT in my childhood and only recently began searching the net for episodes and info about the show. Thank you for this great website. Listening to "The Oblong Box" was a great joy for two reasons. First it was the first time hearing RMT in over 25 years and that alone made the episode top rate. Secondly, the story and acting was as good as I remembered. I remember hiding under my covers when I used to listen to the show and while the "fear" was not as pronounced now I do have to say that in the middle of the episode my phone rang and I just about jumped out of my chair . I enjoyed the suspense of the episode and was thinking "What was in that box?" and was kept wondering until the very end. Richard Mulligans did an excellent job. I remember him in the show "Empty Nest".

Excellent RMT episode. I thought the story to be excellent and the sound quality exceptional. Not only the sound encode but the effects seemed well done to me as well.. I enjoyed it very much... Can't top much of the analysis that has allready been done! PS. thanks to this group for getting me reconnected to RMT! I am thouroughly enjoying the shows. I listen to I am guessing about 10 shows a week and I started from #1 and am going down the line... I also am listening to other otr... great stuff... Having finished "Bradbury 13" recently I found this to be exceptionally well done! Well this may be a little off for this website. Cheers

Edgar Allan Poe + CBSRMT = Mystery At Its Finest! Richard Mulligan & Grace Matthews did a wonderful job on playing Mr. & Mrs. Hopkins, but I think Court Benson did marvelously for playing Cornelias Wyatt. He went from balky (in ACT 1) to lonely (in ACT 2) to crazy (in ACT 3). I've read Poe's story before and George Lowthar made a compelling adaptation to it, better than the film adaptation that starred Vincent Price. If you want to know what's really inside the Oblong Box, let's just say...it's NECROMANTIC! >=0

This was an excellent episode! I rate it 4.5 out of 5. Enjoyed it very much! It is creepy and mesmerizing at the same time.

What a great episode! It’s gritty and raw with just the right actors. It was a very thrilling and suspenseful episode. What a nice adaptation.

A good listen and a good adaptation of the story. Hearing Richard Mulligan as a serious person was a little odd, but he did a great performance. Slightly different from the original story (from what I remember reading) it was still a good story even though I knew the ending.

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