The Final Reckoning: Swing Your Razor High, Boris
0 comment Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |

Has your nighttime revelry been suddenly disturbed by the crackling sounds emanating from your dusty radio? Is the dial glowing with a light that can only be described as demonic? Have you left the iron on? Well if so, then you realize with a shuddering gulp that these omens can only mean one thing. That's right, it's another frightful journey down the molding halls of yesteryear for an episode of "Horror From The Airwaves"! And in tonight's twisted tale starring the immortal Boris Karloff, we will hear about one of my favorite subjects: "the eternal seeking of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
George Miller has spent nearly his entire life within the wretched, grey walls of prison, serving a life sentence for a crime that he didn't commit. But George has gotten a break. His sentence is commuted and he will soon be a free man. And all the better, because Miller has some unfinished business he needs to take care of. This unsettles the warden who speaks to the cadaverous Miller just before George is released back into society. Miller seems to be fueled by this one sole purpose, and it doesn't seem like he's wary of breaking the law to achieve it. What perplexes the warden even more is that Miller had recently quit his job as the jailhouse librarian to become the barber's apprentice. So now the quiet and peaceful Miller, whose imprisoned years have changed him both physically and mentally, has become learned in the ways of the straight razor...
Things aren't looking so hot for big-time gangster Ace. He isn't happy about the news of Miller's release and the dead rats that keep appearing on his doorstep and in mail packages don't seem like harmless accidents. Sensing that Miller has returned to settle a score from the past, Ace retreats to a mountain cabin hideaway with his gal Miss Caroll to elude Miller's grasp. And wouldn't you know it, the cabin has a new caretaker, a fine old chap named Walter who recently replaced the old guy. Ace's nerves are pushed to their breaking point as the slain rats keep showing up, signs of the fate that he will eventually meet. But Walter's there to soothe Ace's mind, and what better way to help him out then by offering a nice, relaxing shave?

"The Final Reckoning" bears a more than passing resemblance to "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street", that beloved tale of psychos and shaving cream that haunted the cheap paper of the penny dreadfuls. What makes that slightly interesting is the fact that this episode incorporates the wronged-prisoner-seeking-vengeance storyline that would later be popularized by Christopher Bond's stage play adaptation of the tale (which would later go on to serve as the basis for Stephen Sondeheim's bloody musical) thirty odd years before it's inception. Listening to this drama can't help but conjure up images of Karloff on the Broadway stage, singing his heart out in that marvelous tenor as he slits the throats of his unsuspecting customers. That would have been a wonder for the ages.
Speaking of Karloff, the man shines in this episode as George Miller. His soothing, crisp tone is so devilishly eloquent that he sounds as if he's reciting poetry even as he's threatening someone's life with a razor. As in many of his most famous roles, Karloff manages to pull us in and root for his wronged character with that passionate voice of his. Miller may be off his loop, but Karloff never for once plays him as a cackling villain who has a habit of rubbing his hands together diabolically (with all due respect to Tod Slaughter). Instead Miller becomes an actual person, a tragic figure in a predicament that could've warped any one of us. And Boris never yells; his rage boils just under the surface of his skin and the tiny flourishes of madness that he instills in his speech really stick with you.
"The Final Reckoning" was part of a radio series entitled Creeps By Night that premiered in 1944. Despite starring such terror luminaries as Mr. Karloff and Peter Lorre in various episodes, the show has fallen into obscurity over the years. Like the fate of many other radio shows of the day, the majority of episodes have become lost with only a handful still remaining in circulation on the web and in disc format.
If you'd like to get an earful of the craziness just described, head on over HERE to listen to "The Final Reckoning" and a few other shock stories from Creeps By Night. Thanks for stopping by the parlor. That'll be two bits.

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