Mystery in the Air: The Black Cat

This episode of Mystery in the Air is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Black Cat. In Poe’s original story the protagonist is not named and, on paper, that’s not a problem. A radio show is a different matter; so the central character, played by Peter Lorre, is named Charles.

Charles has always been an animal lover. His wife loves animals too and they share their home with many pets, including a black cat named Pluto. Of all the animals Pluto is Charles’ favourite.

Then things change for the worse, or rather Charles does. He begins drinking heavily and goes out every night. He also becomes abusive towards his favourite pet, attacks it, and tears its ear. Although he later regrets the act, it is not long before he commits a worse one and murders Pluto for no other reason that he knows it loves him and has never given him any cause for offence.

That same night, Charles’ house burns down and everything is destroyed. Only one wall remains standing and the plaster on it bears an unusual mark that resembles a cat with a floppy ear.

Not long after the fire, Charles finds a stray cat in the local taproom. Like Pluto, the cat is black, but unlike Pluto it has a white patch on its chest and, feeling that a new cat might help wipe out his memories of Pluto, Charles takes the cat home with him. He soon discovers the new cat has a torn ear exactly like Pluto’s and, to make matters worse, the white patch on the cat’s chest is gradually changing and taking on the form of a gallows. The road for Charles from then on is all downhill and it is a road that ultimately takes him to a real gallows.

The Mystery in the Air dramatization of The Black Cat remains fairly true to Poe’s original story but is perhaps a little tamer. The only negative comment I can make about the show is that Peter Lorre does have a tendency to overact in places, but all in all this is quite an enjoyable recording.

Mystery in the Air: The Black Cat

(Listen to the Full Episode)

(Listen to the Full Episode)

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