Fear on Four (BBC)
Old time radio listeners in the United States know the “Man in Black” as an early announcer for the beloved anthology Suspense. Others may be reminded of the late singer Johnny Cash, who famously wore all black as a protest, or the menacing G-men who supposedly hide proof of extraterrestrials among us.
But some of these Men in Black are British, thanks to the chilling BBC series Appointment with Fear, which began during WWII in 1943. The show continued for ten seasons over the next 12 years on the Home Service, and on the Light Programme, which are the predecessors to BBC Radio 4 and 2 respectively.
Like Suspense, it was a wonderful concoction of original terror scripts and classic horror adaptations which continues to win fans today. Valentine Dyall (known to many genre fans from his appearances on Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) starred as The Man in Black, who presented the stories – just as Suspense’s Man in Black did. There was even an attempted rebranding named simply, The Man in Black, in 1949, also starring Dyall.
The BBC ran five seasons of a revised series they now called Fear on Four, beginning in 1988. The RADA-trained Edward de Souza became the Man in Black for four of those seasons, with no narrated introduction chosen for the last season. Still another revival began in 2009 with Mark Gatiss as the new Man in Black. (You can click for our early podcast here to hear a sample episode; look for the episode listed at Friday, October 5th.) Clive Lever’s episode guide for the 1st revival series is available here.