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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
Prognosis Negative
Plot:
A mentally disturbed soldier is recruited by a fake medium to take her game to the next level. The military conducts a desperate search for the missing psychopath. She might not have bargained for what she had let herself into.
Episode:
0049
Air Dates:
First Run - March 3, 1974
Repeat - May 25, 1974
Writer:
Listen:
Rating:
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22 Responses to Episode 0049


One criticism of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater is that the episodes are padded to fill an hour. This is not generally my criticism; however, you could make the case that this episode suffers from padding. The soldier escapes from the medium, remembers his true identity, visits his ex-wife, and ... returns to the medium with his phony identity to resume where the story left off. A Twilight Zone ending that doesn't quite mesh with the story. I expected that the strange sequence of numbers he was spouting would tie in to the plot, but it never did. Crime drama, questioned supernatural elements.

A soldier who has either been brain-damaged or brainwashed while being held captive by the enemy returns home with no memory, but plenty of murderous capabilities. He becomes intertwined with a phony seer and her husband, who use him to help them scam a woman out of thousands of dollars. Kind of clumsy acting, but I've heard worse, to be sure.

An interesting tale of a former P.O.W. who has been mentally damaged by his tormentors. Kent Hatcher murders people after speaking a halted mantra of “6...5...3, Listen to me, listen to me”. He is a fugitive when he happens upon a medium and her partner. They are determined to use Kent as, “Mazumodar”, an Indian mystic in their confidence game.

Listen to me. An excellent, disturbing tale of a man with nothing left.

Kent Hatcher spent eight years as an enemy prisoner and the government thought he was dead. But, he turns up during a prisoner exchange. His wife has remarried, his mind and body are shot, and he ends up in a mental institution. A doctor wants to try and help him but there are some problems.

A fake medium takes in a military created psychopath to enhance her act. She is playing with fire while the military searches for their lost soldier Some holes in the story, but suspensful nonetheless.

This starts out in a military psychiatric unit, sort of like a little known gem of a movie called "The ninth configuration". (A William Peter Blatty novel, the same guy who brought us the aforementioned "Exorcist"....except HIS setting was an old castle.) Like that film, however, this involves a patient who wasn't just another enlisted man (he was described as an "agent") who apparently became a psychopathic killer. Kent Hatcher was tortured behind enemy lines and brainwashed - programmed to kill at the drop of a hat. He'll say "Six..five..three...listen to me...listen to me" before he goes off. A colonel warns a doctor at the unit that Kent is a living "time bomb". He appears to be doing well, but snaps and kills a doctor's assistant, then escapes and kills a clothing store clerk. (The colonel had warned the doctor that this might have been part of the programming of Hatcher's mind.) In the meantime, his picture is being broadcast all across America. Sadly, Kent has no family...his wife remarried after she thought he was dead, and their daughter died of pneumonia. The episode takes a fascinating turn when Hatcher seeks shelter in the flophouse of a woman who makes her living as a fake medium. She stages phony seances with the help of an assistant who specializes in audio visual tricks. In Kent, she sees someone who is susceptible to the powers of hypnosis (which is how the enemy "programmed" him in the first place after brainwashing him) and whose mind she can control to help bilk a certain rich client out of a lot of money...

A POW returns home emotionally scarred and withdrawn. Through therapy he starts to recover but is extremely susceptible to suggestion. Eventually he escapes and finds a home with a couple who turn out to be con artists and use him through hypnosis to bilk a rich woman of her money by staging seances to contact her dead son.

Kent Hatcher--did he die of a broken heart after visiting with his wife after a decade away from her? Did he stay alive just long enough to ease a grieving mother of her fallen son? And just what kind of special \"gifts\" did Kent gain after being a POW for over eight years? All questions Mazzy-Modar could have answered if he hadn\'t died in this episode. I liked it. I liked it a lot. 5 stars.

Prognosis Negative An interesting tale of a former P.O.W. who has been mentally damaged by his tormentors. Kent Hatcher murders people after speaking a halted mantra of “6...5...3, Listen to me, listen to me”. He is a fugitive when he happens upon a medium and her partner. They are determined to use Kent as, “Mazumodar”, an Indian mystic in their confidence game. As noted, this play is loaded with potential but it didn’t feel finished to me when the final door closed. I was intrigued but unsatisfied because I don’t understand the significance of the “653" pre-murder mantra. Further, I didn’t understand why Kent needed to visit his former wife. This part of the play seemed out of place and like a filler. Otherwise, the writing was excellent and the music was even better (the seance scene was completely set by the music complete with a haunting piano) but, and I repeat myself, I just needed a few more minutes or I needed an opportunity to quiz the author, Sydney Sloan, before I could let this one go.

Prognosis Negative- Yes, it is a good show. How to create a monster? Abuse a human being. The Frankenstein, we know, will turn on his new captors. The supernatural aspect here, is to me, irrelevant. His damage and inevitable destruction of self and the manipulating creepo’s is what makes the story. We want him to turn out OK, but we know he will not. He is damaged goods. “Everything dead, or gone, or over.”” 6-5-3-Listen to me!” His only salvation is the destruction of the new captors...at least he can do that. He has been manipulated to the “enth” degree and still turns on the captors...although he is an out of control murderer. It is a sad and interesting story. Drama (supernatural claptrap) 9.

This was a great one! A well done psycho-thriller. I, too, felt that there was something unexpressed and incomplete in the script. The visit to the ex-wife had no place and his behavior (the recall of his previous life) was out of character. I wonder if there wasn't something to his expression of sympathy for a grieving mother. As someone who writes from time to time (not very well I'm afraid), I wonder if maybe Mr. Sloan's ideas were too big to fit into one hour. It was Stephen King who said that every short story wants to turn into a novella and every novella wants to turn into a novel and every novel wants to turn into and epic. This happens to me and I get frustrated and give up. Mr. Sloan, who was being paid, didn't have the option of throwing in the towel. this could have been a great two or three parter. CBSRMT should have done a couple of these.

I listened to this program for the first time a few months ago - and then again today. It's a weird one. Written especially for the Mystery Theater, it is certainly creative. Going all the way from the mental institution after being a POW to the crooked seance clan - that's an interesting story line. Kent is certainly an oddball. Especially the voice. I don't know whether it's too convincing or not convincing at all. Let's say too convincing! It's strange how much Kent does seem to know. His personality is strange but it is hard to judge what he really is. He seems to go along with the con job all too easily and does such a good job for not being able to do anything else. Without a doubt, Kent is a time-bomb. But, as much as he seems to know, you would think he could get a handle on himself somehow. Of course, this is over-analyzing a dramatic production but these are the kinds of things that I think about while the program is running. At the end, the inscription on the inside of the bracelet - I am unsure how this plays into the story. Obviously, the mother would have known what it said and no one else would have. So, there we have a mystery in and of itself but how does that connect to any other events? We were not supposed to believe that Kent was her son - that would not make sense. His name was known. So, what is that all about? I will read to see if anyone else has an explanation...

Ahhh. Now that is something I can agree with. I think the character and the topic was intriguing but incomplete. I could have seen where at least a two parter would have worked much better. I still want someone to explain the pre-murderous chant to me!! Sorry if I'm being a simpleton.

When I first listened to the program and heard how that was going I was sure that it was going to turn out that Kent was her son. But, that just doesn't make sense the way the story is written. But still, I do not understand how the inscription appearing on the faked bracelet ties in with anything else.

You know how much I respect the military so this isn't a slight on anyone there. Notice however, whenever the colonel was contacted by the doctor (including at the very end) he'd always say something to the effect of "Will this take long, doctor? I've got an appointment." Whenever the doctor would say "It's about Hatcher" the colonel would nonchalantly say "oh, him." It's likely the colonel was indeed a very busy man. However, this served to set the tone for how (seemingly) insignificant Hatcher's life really was in this episode. I definitely picked up on the "oh, him" comment and wondered if the colonel wasn't more involved in the destruction of Kent's mind. During the initial stages of the RMT plays, I find my mind searching for the possible story lines and the "colonel as a sinister character" plot certainly crossed my mind. At the end, the inscription on the inside of the bracelet - I am unsure how this plays into the story. Obviously, the mother would have known what it said and no one else would have. So, there we have a mystery in and of itself but how does that connect to any other events? We were not supposed to believe that Kent was her son - that would not make sense. His name was known. So, what is that all about? With the bracelet inscription being correct and Kent having a name similar to the woman's son, I was sure the author was going to turn this into a "mother reunited with her son" story.

When I first listened to the program and heard how that was going I was sure that it was going to turn out that Kent  was her son. But, that just doesn't make sense the way the story is written. But still, I do not understand how the inscription appearing on the faked bracelet ties in with anything else.

Another episode I've enjoyed tremendously that I wanted to ressurect for us newbies, especially in light of the great discussions posted here. The more I analyze it the more I find it to be flawless. I decided to read everyone's comments BEFORE posting, so as not to be repetitive ( a no-no, I know...no) . I figure that's OK on the oldies. Anyway, the episode was awesome and I agree with much of the observations already posted here, except that I think we all missed the crux of it -- that the unknown powers of the brain could be so strong as to actually make contact with spirits. Remember, E.G opened the episode with: "My story explores the dark uncharted area of the human brain. Despite medical research, scientists admit that there is much still unknown about the flesh and blood computer that guides our conscious and unconscious lives." Because the medium was a fake, we all assumed that the seances were fully contrived. I don't believe this play needed more segments. It's all there. Kent was highly susceptible to hypnotism and that's how he was so easily led into the "fake" seances... but that wasn't the only reason he was so convincng at it. Someone wrote that he seemed very competent at this charade for someone who couldn't do anything else. But I assert it was no charade. Defintely not the second one, anyway. The answer to the bracelet inscription is that, despite the medium's crooked intent, Kent's connection to the otherworld was "real." Kent had formed a wavelength with the real son. The bracelet was transformed from beyond into the real one! A step way above spoon bending, for sure. I also believe that the visit to his ex-wife was not filler. It marked the transition from the previous brainwashing (6-5-3), when he remembered nothing at all about his life, to the connection he had now made with the otherworld, which awakened his own memories as a prelude to bringing him over. The first seance began the process of his mind tuning into the other side. Right after that, he had his last 6-5-3 episode when he attacked the medium's accomplice. She ordered him to his room and to stay there until commanded otherwise. But during the two days that it took to have the fake bracelet made, he was compelled by something else, stronger that the medium's spell, but obviously NOT the original spell, to disobey the command and go out into the world, follow his ex-wfe without knowing why, or who she was at first, before the recollections of her name, and most tellingly, their dead daughter, came back to him. Then, he was compelled to return to the medium's place, seemingly back under her spell, but actually driven by the dead son, who traded Kent some memories, perhaps even contact with his own dead daughter, in exchange for the ability to reach out to his mother one (more?) time. After Kent had gone out and seen his wife, he never had a 6-5-3 moment or attacked anyone. The old spell, which doctors could not reverse, was gone, changed by something more powerful, which may have actually been triggered by the phony medium. Prior to the first seance he told the mother, "I am sympathetic to the sorrows of a grieving mother," at the prompting of the medium. During the second seance, he told the mother, as Mazomodar, that he must produce evidence only known to the two of him... which he actually did do. At that time, he said that it was something that she had given him "shortly before I left for overseas on my last furlough home." While the medium knew that the ID bracelet was a gift from the mother and that it was never recovered, there was no indication that she knew the exact time the mother gave it to him. After the seance, Kent's last words were "I am sympathetic to the grief of a lonely mother." Then, his contact with the dead became complete as he immediately joined the son (and his own daughter) on the other side. Kent's damaged, manipulated psyche, the susceptibility for hypnosis, the powerful suggestions of the medium, the fervent power of the mother's intense needs, and his own impending death paved a road to the other side. So, rather than being a extraneous add-ons, the visit to the former wife was part of the transition out of the previous brainwashing and onto the bridge, and the inscription on the bracelet, performed from the other side, took all of his own power, and life. I listened to this three times and I have to say that I didn't get any of this theory until after I read the previous comments and listened yet again, intent to figure out why the wife visit and bracelet inscription were included. That's the best explanation I can come up with. Why else would the writer have the guy wander, of all places, into a psychic's lair? If this was just about a brainwashed guy unable to control murderous, implanted commands, he could have just kept on going around killing people and met a sad fate at the hands of the cops. Instead, he utilized the power of his stretched out mind to do something good.

Yes, it is a good show. How to create a monster? Abuse a human being. The Frankenstein, we know, will turn on his new captors. The supernatural aspect here, is to me, irrelevant. His damage and inevitable destruction of self and the manipulating creepo’s is what makes the story. He is damaged goods. His only salvation is the destruction of the new captors...at least he can do that. He has been manipulated to the “enth” degree and still turns on the captors...although he is an out of control murderer. Until_next_time, you almost could be describing that movie I've quoted above.  Col. Kane was damaged goods, too in that movie, in a state somewhere between amnesia and walking catatonic schizophrenia. (His brother has an emotional scene in which he admits to bringing the killer there as a type of therapy.) Like Kane is effectively humanized in several ways in that movie, so too is Hatcher, both in his visit to his wife (who remarried in his absence) and in his last seance with the grieving mother. Hatcher may be a murderer, but he almost doesn't seem out of control at the end. 

This reminded me (though it's not a parallel story by any means) of the movie "The Ninth Configuration", which I also think was released under the name of the William Peter ("Exorcist") Blatty book which inspired it called "Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane". In that film, a colonel named Hudson Kane, a strong yet quiet, kindly and reassuring military psychologist, is brought in by his psychologist (or psychiatrist? can't remember) brother, also a military officer, into a special military psychiatric hospital. This hospital is located in a spooky old castle, and the only patients are military officers who've gone insane. (The first half of the movie is almost comedic and filled with one liners. Remember Jason Miller, who played Fr. Damien Karras in "The Exorcist"? He dresses in drag as a cigarette smoking, sunglasses wearing nun, and tells visitors that he's "Sister Eve Black".) The colonel is perceived to be crazier than the other patients (and perhaps they're right). He immediately befriends an astronaut from the old "Apollo" program who was hospitalized after he suffered a breakdown prior to launch and refused to get in the space capsule. (Spoiler ahead for those who've not seen the movie)The astronaut is dismayed to learn that the colonel is a Viet Nam combat veteran nicknamed "Killer" Kane, who went crazy after he decapitated a viet cong fighter with a wire. Kane claimed that while holding the VC's severed head in his hands that the head "kept on talking". (Second spoiler) This could have been another in a parade of anti-war films. The second half, however, is anything but a comedy. It becomes a story of why we indeed have to fight sometimes, and more importantly, why sometimes we have to make supreme sacrifices. Back to "Prognosis Negative". This episode involves a patient, like Col. Hudson Kane, in a military psychiatric unit. His name is Kent Hatcher (played well by Mason Adams) and he appears to have been some type of operative beyond a normal enlisted man. He, like Kane, has apparently been behind enemy lines, and also appears to have a past, with the ability to "snap" at any minute. Unfortunately, this operative has been programmed by an apparent combination of torture and hypnosis to kill innocent people. He's described by a (former?) commanding officer as a "time bomb". I hadn't heard an element like this in any previous CBSRMT episode. What makes this interesting is how Hatcher is "assimiliated" into society after living as a fugitive murder, by a con artist "medium" and her, for lack of a better term, "audio visual" specialist. (Take note how unafraid the "medium", who recognizes a mark when she sees one, seems to be of Hatcher). Add to this an element of the supernatural (no plot spoilers from me here) and, like "The Ninth Configuration", an element of sacrifice, and it makes for a haunting yet very interesting RMT listen.

I listened to this a second time all the way through yesterday for re-reviewing: - I fully agree with you that some episodes needed to be two or three-parters. (I like that quote from Stephen King). Over in my listening log I said as much on the episode "The Ninth Volume" (You're hung up on "ninths" this thread)...some episodes have too much promise to be relegated to one hour. - I'm sort of with you on the "six..five..three" stuff...however, I think that's the brilliance of the CBS RMT writer in using certain elements as descriptive rather than narrative tools. A further case in point...did you notice that sometimes Hatcher would say: "No...no...no..." before he'd say his "signature" phrase? A. Was he trying to tell himself "No...don't do this...I don't want to do this"? B. Was he trying to tell his intended victim to stop doing something. (At one point, though, he said it in front of the colonel and the doctor, neither of which he was ready to kill.) C. Was he remembering something hideous the enemy had done to him in "programming"? We'll probably never know, and that's one of the things that IMHO can sometimes make a well-written program like an RMT episode. - On that note, did you notice the fake medium, after Hatcher escaped the first time? When her partner was saying "Let's forget about Hatcher" she said, twice: "No...no..." - like Hatcher. Interesting. - Another subtle yet equally powerful element. We have no visuals so much of the RMT "theatre of the mind" must rely on dialogue. You know how much I respect the military so this isn't a slight on anyone there. Notice however, whenever the colonel was contacted by the doctor (including at the very end) he'd always say something to the effect of "Will this take long, doctor? I've got an appointment." Whenever the doctor would say "It's about Hatcher" the colonel would nonchalantly say "oh, him." It's likely the colonel was indeed a very busy man. However, this served to set the tone for how (seemingly) insignificant Hatcher's life really was in this episode. - At the 11:04 mark is a piano and brass interlude (a sped up version of a music bed I commented on in "Hickory Dickory Doom") that was probably one of CBS' most used "bad things are happening" music pieces. I, too, like the eerie (viola?) seance music around the 20:03 mark. - I've talked about some of my favorite male RMT personalities. One of my favorite female personalities is Bryna Raeburn (sic?) who apparently plays both the "fake medium" and Hatcher's first victim in this episode. - One last thing...anyone get the feeling that the wealthy client (whose son "Kenneth" was shot down in wartime) of the "medium" was about to learn that Hatcher was her son? I know he wasn't, and her last name was different than "Hatcher", but there was some kind of connection made as well. Perhaps one former POW looking after another, or both of them doing the same?

I thought it interesting that the names of the two soldiers were so similar - Kent and Kenneth. The question about the 653 - I was thinking that as he was being questioned/brainwashed he was given that number rather than a name, so he was repeating what his captors had said to him and I'm sure they used violence as well (and thus his violence when repeating it). That is only a supposition, but that's my guess. The first comment does mention filler/padding and I agree that this one had some, but the quote from King is good in both directions - sometimes a longer version of something can really be shortened, but in this case it had to last long enough for the show.

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