Sunday, July 20, 2014

1939 Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form - My Ballot

Sorry for the long hiatus! I got stuck trying to read a nominee that was boring me, and kept wandering off to do other things. The July 31 deadline is fast approaching! Time to get serious!

Four of the five dramatic presentations (short form) nominated for the 1939 Retro-Hugo's are radio broadcasts starring, directed by, and sometimes also adapted by Orson Welles. All four can be heard, for free, here.

The fifth nominee, sadly, no longer exists.

My ballot and some spoilery thoughts behind the link.

 1. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch & Anne Froelick, directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)

This was the Halloween prank broadcast, produced to sound like a series of newscasts covering an actual Martian invasion of Grover's Mill, New Jersey, and from there, the WORLD.

Awesome. Just completely awesome. It had a few inconsistencies that hinted that it was not a real live broadcast (referring to things that happened in the last two hours, about 30 minutes into the show, etc.). But it's just brilliantly done overall. Several times the broadcast brought back vivid memories of the surreal and frightening experience of working as a relay operator during the 9/11 attacks - panic-filled bursts with partial information about what was going on, interspersed with normal every-day things.

This is the only one of the nominated broadcasts that really made me think that, as a child, I might have wanted to get my jello and smear it all over the floor! And of course, one must always wonder whether this really was a Halloween prank broadcast, after this documentary explained that the invasion really did occur at Grover's Mill, and the disclaimers about it being a work of fiction were just a cover-up the aliens arranged to hide their arrival.

Silliness aside, I've always wanted to listen to this show. I'm glad for the incentive to finally look it up and listen to it. Really excellently done. In my mind, this dramatic presentation is the clear front-runner.

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Written by Orson Welles and John Houseman, directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)

The performance is good. Sometimes, for me, the sound effects detracted from the story, rather than enhancing it. Dracula isn't one of my favorite stories, but I liked this version a lot better than the others to which I've been exposed. 

3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Written & directed by Orson Welles (The Campbell Playhouse, CBS)

I'll confess - I'm pretty bored with this story now, having seen so many different variations. This is the 4th Annual presentation of A Christmas Carol, which says to me that perhaps it's not as special as the other nominees. It was nicely done, though again, the sound effects occasionally detracted from the story rather than enhancing it.

4. No Award

5. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Written & directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)
Enjoyable performance. But, seriously, the protagonist is so completely unlikable! 

The pronunciation of Phileas Fogg, in this performance, sounds to me like Phineas Farb. After hearing it a few times, I began to wonder - is the Phineas & Ferb tv show a giant homage to Jules Verne?? I see that Phineas got his name from this story, but I don't see other links on this topic with a quick google.

Nicely done, but definitely not my favorite. Also, I see how it's adventure, but how is it sci-fi/fantasy? I'd rank it above "No Award" if I could see the sci-fi/fantasy elements in the story.
6. R. U. R. by Karel ńĆapek. Produced by Jan Bussell (BBC)

I'm very sad that this broadcast did not survive. I understand that it's historic because it introduced the word "Robot" into science fiction terminology. I'd love to see it so I can compare it with the other nominees. Since I can't, however, I have to vote it below No Award.

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