Last Updated February 17, 2019 | Misc.

S1E10. The Willoughby Obsession

At some point, and for some reason, I took it upon myself to track down the entirety of the Canadian Broadcasting Company's 1980s horror program, Nightfall, and organize that entirety the best I could into a clean and orderly collection. I had little exposure to the show prior to doing this, only stumbling upon a few inconsistently labeled episodes while looking for something to listen to at my job at the time, so the impetus for acquiring the series wasn't driven by fandom, i.e. "I've just got to have my Nightfall!" fervor. No, it was more like motivation to do a good deed. I could find individual episodes independently uploaded to YouTube and I discovered several collections that each had their own distinct gaps and quirks, but I couldn't find a collection that met my standards of completion and detail. And you know what they say, if you want something done right...

So I did it myself, and the result is approximately fifty hours of the finest anthologized horror to ever grace the airwaves. Nightfall was allegedly so terrifying in its time that certain stations were forced to pull it from their schedules after listeners complained of nightmares. That may be a purely apocryphal anecdote, of course, but nevertheless it almost feels like a duty now that I have all of these stories to see if they're worthy of such a reputation. The audio files that I've amassed aren't entirely in the best qualityβ€”bootlegs of bootlegs of bootlegsβ€”but sometimes, that foreign fuzziness only makes them more frightening, more captivating and enigmatic. These are ghosts of stories, wailing and howling at me from the past and through my radio speaker.

The realm of radio is almost entirely untreaded ground for me, both as a critic and consumer of media. This page primarily serves as an ongoing diary for brief thoughts on each episode as I listen, paired with scores and links whenever possible to encourage visitors to check out the show themselves, too, if they're interested (an endeavor which nevertheless owes a debt to the dedicated authors at OTR Plotspot and The Nightfall Project, and their own more thorough episode guides). The links that I am providing are to public, online sources like YouTube; should any of these links be unavailable, please let me know.

Download the Nightfall Collection (.7z)

Password: "nightfall"

S1E01. Love and the Lonely One (Listen)July 4, 1980


A medical student earns a secret admirer after stealing a corpse to prank a campus sorority. When the rest of the school leaves on a ski trip, his clandestine caller urges him to finally meet her...

While this premiere episode of Nightfall isn't superb, narratively. The story is middling and predictable, and the characters aren't particularly pleasant. They remind me of the kind of whiny fodder that you'd see chopped up first in a slasher movie. However, the script is performed with such relished depravity that it perfectly sets the tone for the entire series. The foley work in this one alone is on par with some of the gnarliest footage the 80s had to offer. This is a fun one, all things considered, and again, a great start for the series.

Reviewed January 9, 2019.

S1E02. The Monkey's Paw (Listen)July 11, 1980


An English veteran returns from India with a magical monkey's paw, allegedly capable of granting any wish made by its wielder. The veteran's family, fascinated by the possibilities, ignore his warning that each wish comes at a terrible cost...

"The Monkey's Paw" is an indisputable classic of suspense, popularly immortalized as a symbol of the adage "be careful what you wish for." Since the story is so familiar, Nightfall invests in execution instead of innovation, and the result is sublime. The pacing of its familiar beats maximize the dread of waiting for the bad news to break, and the climax of the story is perfectly suited for radio; an unimaginable perversion of fate descends upon the famiy's home and the episode relishes the horror of the inhabitants, and the gasped, guttural half-words of "that thing outside" lurching forward.

Reviewed January 10, 2019.

S1E03. Welcome to Homerville (Listen)July 18, 1980


A novice trucker drives all through the night to haul newsprint to the town of Homerville. His fellow truckers warn him of the "bad road" up to Homerville and all the accidents that have happened on his route, but he's determined to make it, no matter what...

This was the first episode of the program that made me wish that I was really listening to Nightfall on a radioβ€”specifically, a car radio. Except for an expository scene at a truck stop diner, almost all of the dialogue in this episode takes place between truckers on their CB radios. That truck stop diner scene is wonderful, too, and really makes me wish I was at some crowded greasy spoon in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. "Welcome to Homerville" has a fantastic premise that simply sings as an audio drama and the sheer atmosphere of this one makes it a strong and early favorite. Also, as one YouTube comment revealed to me (they can be insightful, sometimes, apparently!), this story actually cribs a lot from The Odyssey: "Homer"-ville, get it?

Reviewed January 11, 2019.

S1E04. Hands Off (Listen)July 25, 1980


A scientist and his assistant are developing a "negative bait" that, when used, provokes intense hostility from nearby animals. When they accidentally spill the bait in a lab accident, it starts to seem like the whole world is out to get them...

The premise isn't as goofy as you'd think, I promise: the characters themselves even discuss what such a dangerous chemical would be good for, and they give a pretty good answer: a hunter or scuba diver with a vial of the stuff would be able to easily redirect and escape from an attacking animal such as a grizzly bear or shark. Still, the implications of the premise feel underutilized, with more time spent on the doctor's desperate madness than on particularly creative scenarios. The ending, though, has a gut-wrenching final detail that makes the entire ride worth it.

Reviewed January 12, 2019.

S1E05. The Tell-Tale Heart (Listen)August 1, 1980


A vagrant has killed and dismembered an old and lonely man and buried his remains beneath the floorboards of his house. The vagrant would assure you, however, that he couldn't possibly be mad, and can tell you in clear detail why and how he did what he did...

Similar to "The Monkey's Paw", "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a classic tale of horror and suspense. Unlike the former, though, the latter is entirely the subjective account of one character. To that end, this adaptation adds little more to the story than your friend would if they just read it out loud next to you. The flair of radio play is sparse here and relegated to only necessary sound effects; the rest is just narration lifted almost verbatim from Poe's original text. It's still a fantastic story, of course, and the performance is excellent, but Nightfall didn't adapt it so much as they simply recited it.

Reviewed January 13, 2019.

S1E06. Late Special (Listen)August 8, 1980


A woman and her husband crash outside of an old train station during a deadly blizzard. Blinded by the accident, she feels powerless to free her husband from the wreckage, but then she hears a train approaching that long-abandoned station across the road...

The one word that I can best describe this story with is "enchanting." It's so pervasively mysterious, and the exact nature of its characters is never quite explained (which is goood). Set against the engrossing atmosphere of a whistling, inhospitible snowstorm, "Late Special" is about vulnerability, desperation, and who you should or shouldn't trust to help you when you're helpless; the performances waver between quiet terror and hot, screaming anguish. The ending is brutal and feels like being ripped from a stranger and more magical world back into our more mundane one. Content warning for sex under coercion.

Reviewed January 14, 2019.

S1E07. Future Fear (Listen)August 15, 1980


A husband and wife's television set begins receiving broadcasts from the future. At first they scheme to make money from surefire sports bets, but the more that they learn about the future, the less sure they are that they shouldn't do something to change it...

These kinds of stories, the ones where some random schmuck or two are randomly given a view into the future, are always so interesting. The concept is so common and most executions are similar. There's a bit of Back to the Future here, with how the two main characters conspire to profit off their unnatural knowledge of the future, and yes I know that this episode predates Back to the Future, so maybe it's not even through any fault of its own that more than anything, "Future Fear" feels like a lesser script from The Twilight Zone. I feel like I've seen it all before, though I'm looking into the past instead of the future. This episode just doesn't leave much of an impact...though it does put one hell of a spin on the question of whether you'd kill baby Hitler.

Reviewed January 15, 2019.

S1E08. How Did You Get My Name? (Listen)August 22, 1980


After several years in a European mental hospital, a career criminal reunites in remote Canada with an old accomplice. Yet despite his lengthy absence, and having never even been to this part of the country before, everyone seems to know his name...

Probably the best episode yet, formally. It's lean and mean with not a single extraneous second. I love how domestic, almost cute, the first half of the story is with the reunited criminals, only for the suspenseful elements to start creeping in afterwards, accruing and accruing until neither the main character nor the listener can take it anymore. It's an elegant mystery from a subjective point of view, and as I'm starting to notice in these stories, delivers a real punch with its truly despondent ending.

Reviewed January 26, 2019.

S1E09. The Body Snatcher (Listen)August 29, 1980


A Scottish medical student is tasked with taking receipt of bodies delivered to his lab and paying the men who deliver them. The men are suspicious, though, and the freshness of the bodies even more so...

This episode is similar to "The Tell-Tale Heart" in that it's an adaptation of a classic first-person tale, and it has similar strengths and weaknesses, but I think that this one fares better for it. The fact that our main character, Fettes, is more of an everyman means that we get to feel his dread and terror as he feels it, and Robert Louis Stevenson's dialogue is much more exciting than the dreary ruminations of Poe. This episode has a fairly large cast and they're all great, but unless you're listening very closely it can be easy to get a bit lost in their thick Scottish accents. This one has an abrupt ending, too, even lacking the punch that has salvaged weaker episodes before it. In my opinion the most interesting part about "The Body Snatchers" is that it's actually historical fiction; Dr. Knox really existed and was an accessory to the real Burke and Hare murders. Above all else, this episode is a very fine period piece about a very stressed out medical student (also, if there isn't already a band called The Resurrection Men, someone needs to get on it).

Reviewed February 17, 2019.

S1E10. The Willoughby Obsession (Listen)September 5, 1980


An inscrutable criminal lawyer dies mysteriously on the same night as two people close to him. A reporter is determined to explain how it happened, but as strange as these deaths were, the investigation may be stranger still...

"The Willoughby Obsession" is quite the eye-catching title. The story itself is an inventive supernatural thriller and I hope to see more of these in Nightfall's future because I'm starting to love the way that they use distinct sound effects or overlays to convey the otherworldly and weird. The little touches of pure radio is what is most rewarding about strolling through this program. There's great chemistry between our leads, the aforementioned reporter and his surly cop friend, but as the story unravels, you get some weird tropes about Eastern spiritualism that weaken the whole affair. It's frustrating because it could have been anything else, but I think they wanted to do something different. And that they's certainly a lesser-known strain of Orientalism in this one.

Reviewed February 17, 2019.

S1E11. No Admittance/No Exit September 12, 1980

S1E12. Wind Chill September 19, 1980

S1E13. The Repossession September 26, 1980

S1E14. The Stone Ship October 3, 1980

S1E15. Special Services October 10, 1980

S1E16. Buried Alive October 17, 1980

S1E17. Last Visit October 24, 1980

S1E18. Ringing the Changes October 31, 1980

S1E19. The Devil's Backbone November 7, 1980

S1E20. The Blood Countess, Part 1: Blood Red November 14, 1980

S1E21. The Blood Countess, Part 2: Blood Blue November 21, 1980

S1E22. Deadly Developments November 28, 1980

S1E23. Where Does the News Come From? December 5, 1980

S1E24. Where Do We Go From Here? December 12, 1980

S1E25. On Christmas Day in the Morning December 19, 1980

S1E26. The Appetite of Mr. LuCraft December 26, 1980

S1E27. The Guest of Honor January 2, 1981

S1E28. A Short Wave Good-bye January 9, 1981

S1E29. They Bite January 16, 1981

S1E30. Dark Side of the Mind January 23, 1981

S1E31. Wildcats February 27, 1981

S1E32. The Room March 6, 1981

S1E33. Angel's Kiss March 20, 1981

S1E34. The Book of Hell March 27, 1981

S1E35. Mkara April 3, 1981

S1E36. The Fatal Eggs April 17, 1981

S1E37. Breaking Point May 1, 1981

S1E38. All-Nighter May 15, 1981

S2E01. CarmillaNovember 20, 1981

S2E02. In the Eye of the BeholderNovember 27, 1981

S2E03. Cemetery StopDecember 4, 1981

S2E04. In the Name of the FatherDecember 11, 1981

S2E05. Baby DollDecember 18, 1981

S2E06. Reunion at the Victory CafΓ©January 1, 1982

S2E07. GeraldJanuary 8, 1982

S2E08. MindriftJanuary 15, 1982

S2E09. Your Fortune in Twenty Words or LessJanuary 22, 1982

S2E10. TeddyJanuary 29, 1982

S2E11. Child's PlayFebruary 5, 1982

S2E12. The Club of Dead MenFebruary 12, 1982

S2E13. The Thinking RoomFebruary 19, 1982

S2E14. The Porch LightFebruary 26, 1982

S2E15. VolcanoMarch 5, 1982

S2E16. The Monkey's RaincoatMarch 12, 1982

S2E17. From My Appointed Place BelowMarch 19, 1982

S2E18. The Old Post RoadMarch 26, 1982

S2E19. The DebtApril 2, 1982

S2E20. Harris and the MareApril 9, 1982

S2E21. The JoggerApril 16, 1982

S2E22. The Screaming SkullApril 23, 1982

S2E23. Mr. AgostinoApril 30, 1982

S2E24. The Road Ends at the SeaMay 7, 1982

S2E25. The Maid's BellMay 14, 1982

S2E26. A Glimpse of EternityMay 28, 1982

S2E27. Beyond the LawJune 4, 1982

S2E28. The Turn of the BloodJune 11, 1982

S2E29. Reverse ImageJune 18, 1982

S2E30. Teig O'Kane and the CorpseJune 25, 1982

S3E01. This One Will Kill YouOctober 1, 1982

S3E02. FootstepsOctober 8, 1982

S3E03. LifelineOctober 15, 1982

S3E04. The Tie That BindsOctober 22, 1982

S3E05. The DentistOctober 29, 1982

S3E06. Assassin GameNovember 5, 1982

S3E07. Lazarus RisingNovember 12, 1982

S3E08. Young Goodman BrownNovember 19, 1982

S3E09. But, Oh, What Happened to Hutchings!November 26, 1982

S3E10. Daddy's GirlDecember 3, 1982

S3E11. The Cruel HusbandDecember 10, 1982

S3E12. The SignalmanDecember 17, 1982

S3E13. WatchingDecember 31, 1982

S3E14. The Strange Odyssey of Lennis FreedJanuary 7, 1983

S3E15. Weather Station FourJanuary 14, 1983

S3E16. The Brides of OliveraJanuary 21, 1983

S3E17. The ContractJanuary 28, 1983

S3E18. Beauty's BeastFebruary 4, 1983

S3E19. The Angel of DeathFebruary 11, 1983

S3E20. Semi-DetachedFebruary 18, 1983

S3E21. A Glaze of Perfect BeautyFebruary 25, 1983

S3E22. No QuarterMarch 4, 1983

S3E23. The UndertakerMarch 11, 1983

S3E24. Private CollectionMarch 18, 1983

S3E25. The HitMarch 25, 1983

S3E26. Walter's DogApril 1, 1983

S3E27. Safe in the Arms of JesusApril 8, 1983

S3E28. The WeddingApril 15, 1983

S3E29. HypnotizedApril 22, 1983

S3E30. After SunsetApril 29, 1983

S3E31. Servants of CerberusMay 6, 1983

S3E32. Waters Under the BridgeMay 13, 1983

The following episodes are BBC re-broadcasts that aren't part of Nightfall proper, but are often included in Nightfall collections.

S3E33. Fall of the Moondust, Part 1May 20, 1983

S3E34. Fall of the Moondust, Part 2May 27, 1983

S3E35. Fall of the Moondust, Part 3June 3, 1983

S3E36. The Chrysalids, Part 1June 10, 1983

S3E37. The Chrysalids, Part 2June 17, 1983

S3E38. The Chrysalids, Part 3June 24, 1983