Tales of Tomorrow was a science fiction anthology series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. The show’s short run is due to many factors, not the least of which was the fact that ABC was the least popular network at the time. And because the show was often riddled with problems. It was television in its infancy after all. That said, the stories depicted on Tales of Tomorrow were impressive, most based on popular books. Some of the productions were later shown in different versions on the highly regarded The Twilight Zone. Also worth a mention is the impressive list of stars that made appearances. These included Boris Karloff, Thomas Mitchell, Lee J. Cobb and Paul Newman, among many others.
Out of curiosity I took a look at an episode of Tales of Tomorrow, which stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as The Monster in Frankenstein. Here’s a bit of the story followed by the video…
Directed By Don Medford
Original Air Date: January 18, 1952
Season 1, Episode 16
Filming Locations: New York City
I was quite surprised by what I saw in this episode and suggest you keep an eye out for a few things that make this memorable – its flubs. While mistakes were common during the early days of television – before many of the players got used to working with the equipment and before actors learned the intricacies of live recordings – I think you’ll agree this episode is particularly bad in that regard.
Background – It has been widely reported that Lon Chaney was often drinking while this episode of Frankenstein was in production. As a result he reportedly confused rehearsals with the actual live recording of the show. For instance, after he and the other actors were advised to be careful not to destroy props during rehearsals, he is seen on the live recording picking up things while in fury and later placing them down gently so as not to destroy them for future use. That’s how I see it as well, but it’s important to note that Chaney always denied that story and attributed the confusion to the make up, which was difficult to work with. In any case, you be the judge as to what this looks like. Also worthy of note is the fact that the Frankenstein story is cut down to approximately 23 minutes for the half-hour broadcast, which leaves obvious holes in the story. All that aside, however, this is a historically significant episode for horror, classic TV and/or Chaney fans.