Interesting Radio

The Orson Welles Radio Tapes

Orson Welles was the multi-talented polymath who was a pioneering figure in twentieth century theatre and film.

2015 marks the centenary of his birth in Kenosha, Wisconsin and various celebrations have been taking place across the world at festivals and cinema societies.

He is still best known for co-writing and directing Citizen Kane (1941), a landmark in film history, but also made astonishingly audacious stage productions, such as a production of Macbeth in Harlem with an all black cast.

However, it was on radio where he reached national attention in 1938 with his infamous adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel ‘The War of the Worlds’, which was so convincing it caused widespread panic.

His Mercury Theatre group not only produced acclaimed work on stage but also on the airwaves from 1938-40 and again in 1946, with a stock company of actors including Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins and Helen Hayes.

Courtesy of the Internet Archive site, here is a selection of his work, which includes literary classics, especially Shakespeare, but also dramas by Thornton Wilder and Noel Coward.


> Shakespeare

The Bard was a pivotal figure in Welles’ career and various abridged productions Welles produced included Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Richard III and King Lear.


> Mercury Theater Productions in 1938

If Welles was sadly denied creative control for most of his film career, his radio work was a different story. In 1938 he was given full reign in various adaptations of literary classics, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Treasure Island, and The Count of Monte Cristo. The music was by Benard Herrmann, a future collaborator on Citizen Kane.


> Radio Almanac Pt. 1

A mix of comedy, trivia, music and drama, with Agnes Moorehead as president of “the Orson Welles Swoon Club”. Guests include Nat King Cole and Kid Ory.


> Radio Almanac Pt. 2

Before The War of the Worlds made him (in)famous, the 22 year-old prodigy funded his theatrical productions with radio work, including a year playing avenging crimefighter ‘The Shadow’.


> Wartime Broadcasts

A collection of shows made during World War II, including the liberation of Paris, the Fifth War Loan Drive and
GI Journal. A fascinating snapshot of the time, it shows a more serious side to Welles, as well as illuminating a key episode of twentieth century.


> Commentaries

Long before Rupert Murdoch (a modern day Charles Foster Kane) owned the New York Post, Welles was a columnist on the paper and also had a weekly political radio broadcast, covering such topics as the atomic bomb tests, and the blinding of war veteran Isaac Woodard.


> The Bogdanovich Interviews

Director Peter Bogdanovich became a friend of Welles and conducted a series of audio interviews between 1969 and 1970. They discuss his life and career, including the success of Citizen Kane (1941) and later films such as The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958), and Chimes at Midnight (1960). In total this runs to about 4 hours, but is fascinating if you are interested in the filmmaking techniques Welles pioneered and the general arc of his career.


> The Lost Tapes of Orson Welles (BBC World Service Documentary)

Presented by Christopher Frayling, this 2014 documentary was broadcast on the BBC World Service. It explores audio of the conversations Welles had with his friend Henry Jaglom from 1983-85 and explores his life and career. Contributors include Welles biographer Simon Callow and film writer Peter Biskind.


> Find more about Orson Welles at Wikipedia
> WellesNet – A great resource for fans and aficionados


The Orson Welles Shakespeare Collection

Audio of Orson Welles performing Shakespeare on the radio between 1936 and 1946 has surfaced online.

Before he went on to make Citizen Kane (1941), Welles made a name for himself on radio with various broadcasts, including his infamous version of War of the Worlds in 1938.

Now thanks to the Internet Archive, have a listen to or download Welles perform in Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Richard II and King Lear.

You can download them as MP3 files by clicking on the links below:

You can also listen to his 1 hour version of Dracula by clicking here.

Orson Welles at Wikipedia
The Mercury Theater


FILMdetail: A Radio Timeline 1999-2011

Tonight marks the end of a radio era for me when Ian Collins presents his final show on TalkSPORT.

The very title of this website comes from Ian (“a bit of film detail”), whose show I started reviewing films on back in March 1999 when the station was called Talk Radio.

He was generous enough to let me come in every Friday and discuss the latest releases or interesting titles from the past.

His show has gone through several incarnations, not least a station name change, various moves around the schedule and different co-presenters and producers.

Aside from ‘what is your favourite film?’ the question I’m most often asked is ‘why don’t you write for ______ magazine?’.

The main reason – apart from the fact that I never really pursued it – is that I prefer the medium of radio to print.

I owe a great deal to Ian (and various team members down the years, some sadly no longer with us) for letting me come in and talk about films to the nation.

On Monday I was on Ian’s show and we had an hour long chat about the history of the film slot and various aspects of modern cinema, which you can listen to by clicking here (I have no idea why the web copy is completely wrong, but never mind).

But tonight (Thursday 1st September) is his last night, so I thought I’d publish a film-related timeline of the show from 1999-2011, which includes world events, some random things that happened, notable and quirky film stuff, my favourite films to be released between 1999-2011 and significant film trends of the period.


March 1999

July 1999

November 1999

  • Christopher Nolan’s Following (1998) is released at one cinema in London
  • Ian and the Creatures of the Night team go to a restaurant in North London, right near where Christopher Nolan grew up and filmed some of Following. Parts of which were also filmed in Central London (near the Talk Radio studios) and Southwark (not far from the TalkSPORT studios).

January 2000

March 2000

June 2000

  • Danny Boyle is spotted buying a copy of The Observer in East London
  • Early version of launches as a bunch of .html files on a web server.

September 2000

January 2001

September 2001

October 2001

November 2001

May 2002

June 2002

July 2002

August 2002

November 2002

March 2003

April 2003

October 2003

December 2003

February 2004

April 2004

May 2004

  • Jeff Beck offers members of the show tickets to see his concert at the Royal Albert Hall – but it coincides with the England Portugal game.

July 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

October 2005

  • Director Tony Scott rings up talkSPORT to talk about his latest film and is mistakenly put through to a phone-in about Arsenal in another studio.

November 2005

  • The 150-minute cut of Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005) screens in London

December 2005

  • Members of the team meet director George A Romero at a hotel in London, where he offers us some vodka and ice.

July 2006

September 2006

  • Director Stephen Frears refuses to believe that anyone is called ‘Ambrose’.

Sometime in Autumn 2006

  • A famous Hollywood actor in a hotel wants to know if he will be asked “anything about his personal life” even though we never did that anyway.

November 2006

January 2007

March 2007

April 2007

July 2007

October 2007

  • Ken Loach explains to us that he listens to talkSPORT on the way to games

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

July 2008

September 2008

October 2008

  • President Bush signs the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which uses $700 billion of tax payers money to bail out Wall Street banks.
  • Economics correspondent later tells us that during this period the UK is 48 hours away from ‘cash machines not working’

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

August 2009

December 2009

  • James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is released and goes on to become the biggest film of all time as well as triggering a boom in 3D movies.

January 2010

  • The iPad is unveiled by Apple.

April 2010

May 2010

  • An actor in Four Lions (2010) explains how director Chris Morris once wanted him to play Noel Edmonds’ golf caddy in a sketch for Brass Eye (1997).

July 2010

November 2010

January 2011

  • The Arab Spring begins in Tunisia before spreading across the Middle East to countries including Egypt, Libya and Syria.

February 2011

March 2011

May 2011

July 2011

August 2011

THE BEST FILMS TO BE RELEASED 1999-2011 (in chronological order)

  1. Magnolia (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
  2. The Insider (Dir. Michael Mann, 1999)
  3. Three Kings (Dir. David O’Russell, 1999)
  4. The Thin Red Line (Dir. Terrence Malick, 1999)
  5. Memento (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2000)
  6. In the Mood For Love (Dir. Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
  7. Mulholland Drive (Dir. David Lynch, 2001)
  8. Spirited Away (Dir. HayaoMiyazaki, 2001)
  9. Hero (Dir. Zhang Yimou, 2002)
  10. Adaptation. (Dir. Spike Jonze, 2002)
  11. The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)
  12. The Triplets of Belleville (Dir. Sylvain Chomet, 2003)
  13. Touching the Void (Dir. Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
  14. Finding Nemo (Dir. Andrew Stanton, 2003)
  15. Sideways (Dir. Alexander Payne, 2004)
  16. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2004)
  17. The New World (Dir. Terence Malick, 2005)
  18. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Dir. Shane Black, 2005)
  19. United 93 (Dir. Paul Greengrass, 2006)
  20. Pan’s Labyrinth (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
  21. Children of Men (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
  22. The Lives of Others (Dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
  23. There Will Be Blood (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
  24. No Country for Old Men (Dir. The Coen Brothers, 2007)
  25. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Dir. Julian Schnabel, 2007)
  26. Zodiac (Dir. David Fincher, 2007)
  27. Taxi to the Darkside (Dir. Alex Gibney, 2007)
  28. Michael Clayton (Dir. TonyGilroy, 2007)
  29. I’m Not There (Dir. Todd Haynes, 2007)
  30. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Dir. Christian Mungiu, 2007)
  31. Hunger (Dir. Steve McQueen, 2008)
  32. Waltz With Bashir (Dir. Ari Folman, 2008)
  33. WALL-E (Dir. Andrew Stanton, 2008)
  34. The Class (Dir. Laurent Cantet, 2008)
  35. Il Divo (Dir. 2008)
  36. A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard, 2009)
  37. The White Ribbon (Dir. Michael Haneke, 2009)
  38. A Serious Man (Dir. The Coen Brothers, 2009)
  39. Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas, 2010)
  40. Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy, 2010)
  41. Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010)
  42. Inside Job (Dir. CharlesFerguson, 2010)
  43. The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher, 2010)
  44. Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia, 2011)
  45. The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick, 2011)
  46. The Interrupters (Dir. Steve James, 2011)

SIGNIFICANT FILM TRENDS (March 1999 – September 2011)

  • The Rise of Digital: Movies are increasingly shot on digital cameras and now digital projection is common in both multiplex and arthouse cinemas in the UK
  • Pixar: Their astonishing run of animated films from the mid-90s continued with films like the Toy Story sequels, Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Up, which won Oscars and spawned many imitators.
  • The Decline of Retail: HMV is pretty much the only physical music and film retailer left standing after a decade in which Amazon and online shopping has eroded their profits.
  • HD: The rise in widescreen, high-definition televisions in the latter years of the decade has meant that many people have upgraded their home sets. But sales of Blu-ray have not replaced DVD and streaming (or downloading) content online looks to be the long-term future.
  • YouTube: One of the most significant websites of the last decade could have been sued out of existence but its survival – after being bought by Google in 2006 – has changed consumer attitudes to content (TV, film and music) and also become the world’s largest video library.
  • Netflix and Downloads: The US DVD rental and movie streaming service has displaced Blockbuster in the US (the UK equivalent is Love Film) and looks set to expand globally in the coming years as downloads replace optical discs.
  • CGI Tentpoles: The end of year box-office has been dominated by big-spectacle franchises like Pirates of theCaribbean, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix.
  • Special Effects: Increased computing power has allowed ever more sophisticated effects, most notably in The Matrix (1999), The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Avatar (2009) and Inception (2010).
  • Documentaries: Films like Bowling For Columbine (2002), Touching the Void (2003), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) broke through at cinemas whilst near the end of a decade filled with global turmoil, films like An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Taxi to the Darkside (2007) and Inside Job (2010) helped explain key events. Later Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) and Catfish (2010) played with the form in bold and inventive ways.
  • The Fall and Rise of The Indie: After indie movies got increasingly expensive in the 2000s, the bubble burst in 2008 and a newer generation of indie movies – made with cheaper digital technology – has come along with films like Catfish, Winter’s Bone, Another Earth and Monsters.
  • Torture Horror: The huge success of the Saw franchise and countless remakes of 1970s horror films has seen new levels of sadism and torture enter the multiplex.
  • Adult Comedies: Towards the end of the decade Hollywood realised that there was a gap in the market for slightly ruder comedies like Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), The Hangover (2009) and Bridesmaids (2010).
  • War Films Prove a Box Office Turnoff: Mainstream US audiences rejected seeing movies aboutAfghanistan and Iraq, with even the Oscar winning The Hurt Locker (2009) only making its real money on DVD.
  • Chaos Cinema: Mainstream action movies such as The Bourne trilogy and Transformers increasingly used quick cutting and jerky camera movements to dizzying effect. Was modern technology to blame for the worst of these films?
  • The Best TV Got Really Good: The best US TV got really good with shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire and Mad Men proving that movie production values could work on the small screen. It put a lot of crap British TV to shame.
  • Promising Signs in the UK: After a lean period of lottery-funded crap, homegrown UK cinema experienced something of a renaissance with films such as Hunger (2008), Fish Tank (2009) and Submarine (2011).

Student Radio Awards 2009

SRA Logo

Last week I was at the Student Radio Awards in London and the evening was a reminder of radio things past and present.

If you have listened UK radio stations like Talk Radio, TalkSPORT and Radio 2 over the last few years you may have heard me talk about films on certain shows at different times.

But my first proper experience behind the microphone was at the student radio station Insanity back in February 1998 presenting an afternoon show on a Saturday and doing roving reporting via a mobile on Matt Deegan’s weekend breakfast show.

Insanity Days

Back then it was a case of selecting CDs and learning how to work the faders after a bit of ‘training’ (i.e. a 10 minute session in which I realised how confusing a Denon Mini-Disc player was) and then basically doing a two hour show.

I have to be honest and admit that I did it because it it seemed like fun and I’d listened to a lot of radio in my first year as I didn’t have a TV.

Anyway, in early 1999 I managed to get some work experience on the Ian Collins show on Talk Radio and was lucky enough to get a shift reviewing films every week, which lasted in various forms on various shows until last year.

I also went on to do all manner of jobs in radio which included interviewing actors and filmmakers, producing sports shows and doing various podcasts.

But there is no doubt that doing student radio and facing the regular task of filling the airwaves with speech or music helped me enormously when I went into a professional environment.

One of the many nice things about the awards evening was seeing various people who’ve helped me in my radio journey:

But the real kick this year was being a judge in the Interview category.

Not only was it interesting to check out what different people had done but it was a real pleasure to see my first choice actually win.

It was an interview by Joshua Chambers of URY and featured him questioning Hilary Benn back in February about the government’s position on the use of torture in the wake of the Binyam Mohamed case.

Interestingly, the audio quality isn’t that great but if you read his written submission you’ll see an explanation that actually strengthens his entry.

I can honestly say it is one of the best audio interviews I’ve heard in a very long time, as the questions were well researched and highlighted the inconsistencies in the Government line Benn was trying to defend.

You can listen to the full interview here.

Anyway, he won and it was good to see him get presented the award by Steve Lamacq, who has done his fair share of famous interviews down the years.

SRA 2009

One thing that also struck me about the night was the good vibes transmitting themselves to the radio big cheeses in attendance (some photos are here)

People like Richard Park (Global Radio) and Andy Parfitt (BBC Radio) seemed genuinely enthused by the audience and it made a nice contrast to the gloom surrounding the industry and the world in general at the moment.

Congratulations to all the entrants, winners and organisers at the SRA for putting on the evening.

The whole event was a reminder to me about student radio – its value is not monetary, but lies in the fact that people can achieve a lot when others take the time out to help them.