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Out of Focus


An advertising professional makes futile attempts to take the pictures of a beautiful model as all her photos turn out blank. In the process, he falls hopelessly in love with her until her real nature is revealed.



Air Dates

  • First Run - April 10, 1974
  • Repeat - June 30, 1974





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40 Responses to Episode 0072

Much like in the earlier episode "I Warn You Three Times," it seems that a witch's primary goal is to seduce men and then arrange for them to die. It seems creepy because of the whole "black widow" theme. But, let's say you had a terminal disease, and your only two choices were die WITH the best sex of your life or die WITHOUT the best sex of your life. (However, that was not the plot here.) Witchcraft.


A bored advertising executive fantasizes about a beautiful woman while on his daily commute. He takes her as his mistress only to learn she isn't what he bargained for.


This fellow really does have life’s values out of focus. His fate is sealed and good riddance.

Leon G.

An advertising executive falls for a model who seduces him. She seems to be his dream woman until she reveals her true, evil purpose.

Tintin Moya

Friends, this one really bothered me. At the show's beginning, a successful New York advertising executive has called his wife in suburban Connecticut to tell her that he's killed his mistress, who he thinks was a witch, and that there's no alternative for him now other than to kill himself...he says he's written her a letter explaining what happened. She hears a gun shot and breaks down into tears. Later detectives find both his body and the letter, and begin reading the latter. The dead man (whose first name was "Schuyler" and was referred to as "Sky") seemed to have it all...a promising job, a wife, a 16 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. One day Sky fell asleep on the commuter train to NYC (a la an old Twilight Zone episode "A stop in Willoughby") and a beautiful woman sat down and talked with him. He became obsessed with finding her, saying that her looks which suggest "endless sex" would be perfect for an ad campaign for a huge new client he's been assigned to. She disappears whenever he turns his back, or when he wakes up from a nap on the train...she tells him later that she doesn't like crowds, and that her name is "Dierdre". Sky becomes obsessed with finding Dierdre...usually doing so when he falls asleep on the train or has been knocking down Manhattans in a bar, and so forth. Meanwhile, his wife, daughter and son are all feeling neglected by their dad's longer and longer hours at work, the latter child so much that he takes one of the family cars and crashes it into a tree. He's fortunate...all he receives is a concussion. All that time trying to find the woman is hurting Sky's career as well. Sky's wife calls him and worrie that there is a "hex" on their family. It gets to the point, though, where he hangs up on her when she calls...Sky's only interested in finding ways to be with this woman and taking her picture. In the end, he has an apartment in which he meets this woman. He takes pictures of her, none of which are in focus and none of which contain her. Then he takes an instant picture...for a moment, he sees a horrible witch, then nothing. She looks at him and says "The wages of sin..." That's when we pretty much arrive at the events which started this episode, and the detectives are left to uncover any additional info. It can pretty much be summed up in the Apostle Paul's admonition that what feels natural to us is often not what is best for us. (or our families...)

Chepar Jordan

A driven business advertising executive finds a remarkable model who he thinks will be perfect for a campaign he is about to mount. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this woman wants only to seduce him, despite his wife and children. Strangely, she appears in unexpected places, at unexpected times... at first...

Walter Magods

Andy, I think the creature in this episode may not have been a witch, but rather what occultists called a "succubus", defined in Wikipedia as "a female demon or supernatural entity that appears in dreams, who takes the form of a human woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual intercourse...Religious traditions hold that repeated intercourse with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or even death."


1. I'm ashamed to talk about something that I wish I'd never done, a teen I read Playboy magazine. And I remember a "special feature" they once did on "Sex and the occult" (or some such drivel), talking about what were sex practices and legends with witchcraft and satanism. What happened in this episode appears to have been a visit from what Playboy called a "succubus". Wikipedia defines it as: "a female demon or supernatural entity that appears in dreams, who takes the form of a human woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual intercourse...Religious traditions hold that repeated intercourse with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or even death." ( I even remember the stupid photo said magazine had depicting the creature.) Which is what happened here. 2. This WELL DONE episode was always troubling to me because it showed the breakup of a family due to the father's sin. The WORST such episode to me on this (though also a powerful RMT) was "Star Sapphire". Curiously, two other RMT episodes with this theme had the term "wolf" in their title: "The white wolf" (from the Prosper Merrimack (sic) short story), and "The grey wolf" (I think that was the title) which starred Michael Tolin as a police officer/detective in New Mexico. The Tolin show was "Night of the wolf". Back to this one. Never knew until this was brought up that "Out of focus" was also an Ian Martin play. IMHO, that man, one of the RMT's "A-team", was also up there with Sam Dann as one of their best playwrights. He did some GREAT work. (And sadly, I think like the "Out of focus" star William Redfield (I can't remember a play he's been in for the RMT that I didn't like) Martin also died before the series aired its final episode.) 3. Some good music in this one. When he meets the woman on the train the background music used is what was so excellently placed in a future. 4. I'm speaking from the heart here: what Hollywood entity or New York media group would be brave enough, would even dare make a show today about illicit sex, with such a plotline, and say something to the effect of E.G.'s words: "Such a woman might burn your soul...forever!" As I recall, even the woman quotes Romans 6:23 (as demons and satan will do) "The wages of sin..." Instead, we have Kathy Griffin kissing Anderson Cooper's crotch on live national TV during an ostensibly "family" New Year's celebration now. How far we've come, and fallen. 


He also wrote "The hand", "Time and Again" and "The vampire plant". (Some would say the latter doesn't belong with the former two but all three ROCKED (and shook me up, at the time) in my book.) RMT Greatness. Heart attack killed him in '81, I believe.


The plot that you read all happens in Act 3. It would make more sense if Deirdre (the Antagonist) was a Succubus instead of a Witch. And instead of killing her with a gun, Sky Harris (the Protagonist) should have burned her photos. Each picture Sky took that became blank could represent a chipped piece of her soul, set them all on fire, and she would be destroyed instantly. I like Ian Martin's writing; especially for his 7 adaptations of Shakespeare's plays; but this episode was just okay.


We don't even believe in the existence of Satan or hell. That kind of negative darkness is an invention of Christianity, so please stop lumping Witchcraft together with Satanism! One has absolutely NOTHING to do with the other. It crossed my mind how for even as of the 1970's how this episode pushed those societal limits on subject matter in general and also with what you said in regards to your point number 4. I would rate this episode about 3.5 out of 5 hallucinations for good but not great. I like it for some of the points it makes on right and wrong and the results of the choices one makes.


it's still fascinating. And wasn't it interesting that "Sky" was a New York City advertising executive? (The late ad genius David Ogilvy once said if you think you have to use sex to sell your product it's because you believe it's too boring to sell itself. In that case, there must be a LOT of boring product out there.) Dennis, I appreciate your thoughts. But I think you've got the CBS RMT mixed up with some other radio series. Almost to a program ("The therapeutic cat" might have been an exception, where witchcraft was almost played for a laugh) the RMT warned about the danger of witchcraft and, yes, satanism (and indeed frequently they linked the two). Ever hear the solo song by the Eagles' Don Henley called "You better hang up"? A line from the tune: "You're from New York City, where they don't say no prayers...everything goes, nobody cares." Upon rediscovering and heavily listening to the RMT 11 years ago I found myself asking over and over, "How did they get AWAY with saying those things in New York City?" The RMT was astonishingly conservative for its day.* (*One last thing. Chris Pine has talked about the RMT's "big sis" (by a decade plus) "The Twilight Zone". A retrospective book I once read on the TWZ said that during filming of the episode "The howling man" (featuring a captured Satan at a monastery) the director wanted to prominently use a cross but the producers nixed it saying it was too religious for the viewing public. This being the early 60s, CBS executives said the same thing a couple years later about Charles Schulz' "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (they also said the public "wouldn't understand the music") which has only become one of the most popular American Christmas shows and TV soundtracks of all time. Somebody at CBS Radio in New York didn't get the memo. In the RMT episode "The Raft" biblical scripture was quoted no less than FOUR SEPARATE TIMES. And there were a lot of other controversial subjects (abortion, homosexuality/lesbianism, religious cults, islamic terrorism, communism) that the RMT took on in ways that would be controversial today. )) Again, I don't know how the CBS RMT did it in post-late-60s NYC, but I'm glad they did. (But I'd better get off my soapbox and get back to life.) BTW, if "Andy and Kathy" had done their schtick in a drag club somewhere it might have had an all-adult audience, but live on CNN's New Year's special? Shame on both of them.


This was one episode that I listened to straight thru from start to finish vs falling asleep halfway thru. Guess that I relate to these commuter tales as my husband rode the train for over 25 yrs. saw the plot from the family breakup aspect & husband's breakdown. Sad story really.


Amazing how American media once treated illicit (albeit supernatural) sex - CBS Radio Mystery Theater's "Out of focus":


Amazing how American media once treated illicit (albeit supernatural) sex - CBS Radio Mystery Theater's "Out of focus".


- This is one of the three most disturbing RMT episodes to me. (The other two being "Star Sapphire" and "Carmilla", both involving the implied (the former) and overt (the latter) molestation of a teenaged girl and the attempted destruction by a malicious individual of both. "Out of focus" is the slow self-destruction of a man and his family...and it's a painful episode. - Great music in this one. Remember that six-chord backgrounder in "The hand"? It's here too with the first time we meet the (unfortunately) main woman in the episode. The music used when "Sky" and his associate played by Earl Hammond are looking at photos of models is, as far as I can tell, unique to this one RMT episode. - Six people on the RMT's "A" team act in this one, which means little if no multiple roles. An RMT "six-pack" was usually a treat. Joan Loring is always great as a femme fatale. - E. G.s comments at the end of this episode are the second strongest I'd ever heard on the RMT, with the first being him saying (and I can't remember this episode) that "God's always ready to hear us - just call him." (I'm not doing the latter comments justice.)

James Shaver

RMT aired a number of episodes involving witches and this is one of the best. I rank "I Warn You Three Times" as the best, but this is close. I agree with the prior post that describes this show as disturbing. The protagonist's obsession with the witch is skillfully conveyed and culminates in one of the most haunting endings in RMT history. E.G. Marshall's concluding remarks are terrific. The role of Marshall in RMT's success cannot be underestimated. His presence and commentary add a weight to the shows that elevates the production. I have never heard another radio show in which the host adds so much to the quality of the broadcast. Usually the host, even those such as Christopher Lee who are talented, simply make perfunctory comments which are forgettable. Not so in the case of RMT. I love the line "Die witch die!" Best line in RMT history? Probably not, but off the top of my head, I can't cite a better one. Was the woman who portrayed the witch the same actress that starred in "I Warn You...."? Oddly enough, I was recently trying to recall the title of this episode, but could not do so. Anyone remember the show in which a man travels to Europe, becomes involved in a coven and relates his story to a psychiatrist? I would rank that up there in terms of Great Witch Shows. And "Escape, Escape" also involved a witch. Great selection.


I'm not sure if she's the same one from "I warn you three times". However, Ms. Loring did an interesting parallel role in "The plastic man", where she seduced a hedonist and supernatural intervention (in the form of her Indian-spiritualist rich husband with mind-control powers) resulted in doom for both of them. As much as I liked that episode, it went a bit heavily toward the clicheed. (I know this is going to sound strange but) This episode, on the other hand, had a strangely realistic feel to it. When listening I found myself thinking: "Yep, if a succubus assumed the form of a high-fashion model and seduced a workaholic, self-centered advertising executive, this is how it would likely happen..."


The episode you're referring to (The quote about calling on God) is at the end (I believe) of the episode "A Small Question of Terror" (It's a nail-biter about a woman, her fiancee and her mother trying to escape from a fictitious country behind the Iron Curtain). The episode about the man going to Europe and then relaying his horrifying experiences to a psychiatrist is "The Velvet Claws". (An episode that was done previously on "Escape" and called "Ancient Sorceries"). FYI..............................


You guys amaze me with with your knowledge, and recollection, of different episodes and even across different series and under different names! I certainly am enjoying all your comments and the discussion. This is why suggestions are great because you pick up on good shows I may miss. Thank you Kurt. Thank you all, and keep the suggestions coming.


Speaking of titles, I think "Out of Focus" is one of the better names for an episode that I can recall. Even though the main character spends a large part of the show referring to his plan to take a picture of the woman, I still didn't really link the title to the plot until the end of the story. Like many good titles, I suppose you can read the title in different ways. The only problem is that a title such as "Out of Focus" can be hard to remember; "Crazy Evil Witch" would be a little easier. By the way; does anyone think the witch was actually dead? Was this episode before or after "I Warn You Three Times"? Maybe she returned and, feeling a little guilty, offered men a fighting chance by warning them prior to the seduction. "Stay Out of Dutchman's Woods" also comes to mind when I listen to this particular episode.


I kind of wondered why he killed himself if she was a witch. I would think if one were actually able to kill a supernatural being, your lawyer would be able to find something to use in your defense: evidence of other victims or testimoney from a coroner that she was not really human. Just a thought.


Since the body disappeared, he wouldn't even need a lawyer. Of course, the body may have disappeared after he took his own life. My vote for most disturbing episode is "Mother Love". "Out of Focus" is my second favorite episode involving a camera. Number One is "Die! You're on Magic Camera". I confirmed that Joan Loring also starred in "I Warn You Three Times" and both episodes originally aired in 1974.

J. Angelou

Midnight, THANK YOU for giving me the name of that episode with the powerful words from E.G. at the end. Cardsfan and Confusacat, I can honestly imagine an episode brom the RMT's earlier days titled "Yes, your honor, I killed the witch!" Also, I thought Ralph Bell was excellent in this one in his brief appearances as the homicide detective who sounded like he'd probably seen too much of his job. (Although, as the ending showed, he hadn't yet "seen it all".)


THANK YOU for giving me the name of that episode with the powerful words from E.G. at the end. Cardsfan and Confusacat, I can honestly imagine an episode brom the RMT's earlier days titled "Yes, your honor, I killed the witch!" Also, I thought Ralph Bell was excellent in this one in his brief appearances as the homicide detective who sounded like he'd probably seen too much of his job. (Although, as the ending showed, he hadn't yet "seen it all".)


For Everyone's general information.........According to my handy-dandy Episode Guide and Handbook-- "I Warn You Three Times'' is the 7th Broadcast (airdate 1/12/74) and "Out of Focus" is the 96th (airdate 4/10/74). As for my opinion of most disturbing RMT's-- here's my list (In no particular order): "The Deadly Hour" (Especially at the end-- when George tries to cannibalize Marion!) "The Real Printer's Devil" (When the fate of our newlyweds is revealed) "You're Going to Like Rodney" (An ending very similar to the film "The Omen") "Who Has Seen the Wind?" (When we finally learn what really caused Mona's Death!) "The Dagger of Almohades" (A truly brutal revenge!!!) "The Guillotine" (Paul Hecht's blood-curdling scream!) and for 2 of the eeriest endings: "Terror in the Air" (Who really talked the plane down) and "The Stuff of Dreams" (When we learn Eddy's true identity!) Which episodes make Everyone else's List?????

Julius Abot

This is an excellent episode. It reminds me of Child of Misfortune which I liked better. Out of Focus is a creepy episode. This is a good example of radio theater at its finest because the beautiful model can be interpreted in many ways. I felt sorry for the wife and somewhat for the main character. Good episode!


Not as good as the Twilight Zone episode but that is because there was very little dialogue in the TZ one. This is a very good Episode based an a great story by Ambrose Pierce.


Out of focus is one of my favorite Mystery Theater episodes. 5 stars.


A well written episode with good performances. It reminded me a bit of a supernatural version of Mad Men. In fact, take out the witch and it basically is the plot of every Mad Men episode.

Phillip M.

This episode and the comments on it are very funny. Wow, I thought I was a CBSRMT fanatic, but folks here like Norbert and others blow me out of the water. This episode is soaked with the values of the past, alcoholism being the most prominent of the "traditional family values." Could the cheating bored and burned out advertising exec. be more stereotypical? How about Isabel? And the detective? And how many of these episodes have main characters named Harry? It's hilarious by today's standards. Too bad Skyler didn't have a digital camera, hmm. Firmament of the imagination indeed!

Pandora Spice

I agree with Jones - why kill yourself after killing the witch? I would think it would be easier on his family if he was alive (perhaps in jail or an asylum) than dead. I would've thought all those pictures would've told him the whole story after killing her (which he said he confirmed over 2 hours after shooting her). Still a good story that obviously many people above had some thorough thoughts on.


I saw basically the same story on some thriller anthology tv series but for the life of me I cannot remember which one.


Got it! It's a Night gallery episode "The Girl With The Hungry Eyes".


This isn't a tale of witches or succubi—it's about mental illness. (As Ralph Bell's cop says in the last line, Deirdre was a "firmament" of Sky's imagination—she doesn't exist.) The succubus & incubus are medieval folklore to help superstitious people explain their sexy dreams. (And the plot is taken from an old episode of an anthology TV show, but I can't remember which one. )


I think this one was really about Sky's alcoholism finally taking over his life. He kept saying he needed a drink (even after drinking already) and the other characters mentioned him and the "sauce." I think Deirdre was his mind giving him one more chance to pull himself out of it - and he chose the booze over his wife and kids.


I wish I could meet a “seccubus”. Course I am not married. And I like the other takes. It seems to be a mental problem or the sauce. Stay away from the sauce! Go green!

Scooter D & the mean Greens

Glad this show had commercials, because it was not one of my favorites. The actors and actresses were great but the storyline was wanting. It appears to be more of an issue of alcoholism, hallucination and losing control. Skye was alcoholic and on the downhill slide. Was there a witch or was it all a drunken stupor? Who suffered his neglect, his family. He was in a dark place and took the only way out he thought he had. Sad episode.


I wanted to like this, but it was just too long (or it was too thin a story for this slot). I think this could have worked in half an hour. Maybe. But what's the point? He seemed like a good man, actually. He wanted "the witch" to work for his ad campaign, not to be unfaithful to his wife. Maybe he eventually was unfaithful, but as a result of entrapment, not his going after someone. So it seems like the "bad guy gets what he deserves" ending is not so satisfying since he wasn't so bad. Why did this evil spirit even target him? It's so unclear (and they had ample time to make it clear!). But then it seems she was fictional and just part of his experience going insane? So what's the fun in that? Hearing a man go crazy is not all that entertaining. I just can't give this a pass since it was so dull and so pointless. Also, I get that the femme fatale is a long tradition, but here we have the rare episode with multiple women parts and what are they? A temptress and a shrew. Would it kill the writers to have made the wife a little less of a harpy? (There are episodes with interesting women who have as much agency and complexity as the men, but they are very few and very far between.) I could actually give the poorly written female characters a pass if the episode worked otherwise, but come on... we get it: no one else sees her; she's not what she seems; she's tempting him to his destruction. That's not much for a full hour.


35 minutes in, and I wonder why that guy didn't say "You're fired!" already!

Sammy Reed

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