28 January 2005 | jimm-8
Unforgettable Sci-Fi Episode
I watched "The Man Who Heard Everything" only once, nearly 50 years ago, and have never seen it since, but it was one of those extraordinary tales that once seen can never be forgotten. From the Douglas Fairbanks series commissioned by NBC, it was made in England, but premiered in America in 1954. I just happened to see the first English screening on Tuesday, 10 April 1956 at 4pm on the newly opened Midlands ITV region. (I was eight, my sister was four). The half-hour story begins with Michael Gough driving along while eating a bag of sweets. He bends down to see if any are left in the bag, and crashes the car. Awaking in hospital he discovers that his powers of hearing have phenomenally increased. Visiting wife Brenda Bruce has to talk in whispers, and even the rustling of flowers is deafening. Returning home, he has to wear muffling around his head and fix mattresses round the walls to keep out the noise. The condition worsens, but the problem is not so much the volume as the "filtering through" of sounds from far away. He hears people talking in different languages from miles away, even whole countries away. Eventually --- and this is real twilight zone stuff --- he picks up the voice of a desperately lonely woman communicating to him from another planet. Luckily, crazy ear doctor Lloyd Pearson invents an operation to cure the problem, but right up to surgery the E.T. lady pleads with her would-be lover not to desert her. The writer of this forgotten masterpiece was Lawrence B. Marcus (aka Larry Marcus) who many years later would become an Oscar nominee, but this was surely his best story. Even though it was watched by an impressionable 8-year-old and would no doubt seem a bit creaky today, it still takes some beating to be remembered vividly after half a century. If anyone does get the chance to see this again, please make allowances for the fact that my review was written 50 years after the viewing!