Audio Drama Review: CBS Radio Mystery Theatre: Your Move, Mr. Ellers

“Your Move, Mr. Ellers” aired over the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre on December 30, 1976. In the episode, an insurance investigator (Bob Readick) is investigating a series of thefts that have occurred over several years from a respected jeweler. He’s concluded it must be an inside job and his suspicions appear to have fallen on the firm’s most respected employee, the chess-loving Mister Ellers (Roger De Koven), who has a friend (Jackson Beck) with a shady past and maybe a shady present. And the young man (Jack Grimes) Ellers mentored seems to have found himself in the middle.

For today’s old-time radio fans, the casting of this episode includes some wonderful Easter egs. Readick was the immediate successor to Bob Bailey as radio’s most well-known insurance investigator. In addition, the other three members of the cast were all veterans of the Golden Age of Radio. Grimes had voiced Jimmy Olsen on “The Adventures of Superman”, where he also worked with Beck, who served as announcer and was the star of several old-time radio series, including “Philo Vance”. DeKoven was no star, but a consumate character actor who was perfect for a role like Ellers’.

While Readick’s presence evokes Johnny Dollar, I actually think the episode has undertones that evoke a more contemporary influence: Columbo. At one point, the insurance investigator states that he had Ellers convinced he was an incompetent bungler: the exact sort of situation that Columbo thrived on. And while we don’t “see” (or hear) the crime committed beforehand, and it’s not a strict inverted mystery, it definitely isn’t exactly a traditional whodunit either.

The story uses chess as a theme, and weaves through the narrative right up to a satisfying and insightful conclusion. It’s a carefully plotted and well-produced play performed by four pros who know their business. There are certain plots that are a bit predictable, but more than enough surprises and good drama to make this a very satisfying forty-five minutes of listening.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

  2 comments for “Audio Drama Review: CBS Radio Mystery Theatre: Your Move, Mr. Ellers”

    April 13, 2024 at 4:32 am

    Adam: I used to listen to the “CBS Radio Mystery Theater” (second syllable spelled “ter” rather than “tre”!) when originally aired and was — am — very fond of it. The quality of the stories varied, but as a homage to Classic Radio, these were always worth my time. E.G. Marshall, however, albeit a fine actor, didn’t seem “right” as the host; he lacked the unsettling, sinister quality needed for such, a la Raymond Edward Johnson on “Inner Sanctum” — that and this having the same producer: Himan Brown (hence the creaking-door opening of both programs!).

    I always enjoy Jackson Beck, one of the performers in this entry. When I was preparing the liner notes for Radio Archive’s “Philo Vance” CD collections (my notes can be seen online with the announcement of the second box set), I was able to incorporate material I’d obtained from Beck, the star of the ZIV radio series, in a telephone interview I had with him (comic Soupy Sales having provided me with both his phone number and home address). Prior to calling Beck, I had sent him an autographed first edition of Citadel’s “The Films of Peter Lorre”, which I’d co-written. But upon contacting the actor, I was shocked at his angry verbal response before hanging up on me. This had me literally walking in circles, not at all understanding it, the Lorre book having been both a critical and commercial success; so, upon getting up my courage, I made a second call. When he answered, I nervously said, “Mr. B-B-B-eck, didn’t you c-c-c-care for the Peter Lor-lor-lorre book I sent y-y-y-you?” “Oh!” he responded apologetically. “I’m SO sorry. I thought you were a salesman that’s been pestering me!” The interview that followed more than made up for his mistake!

    Ray Cabana, Jr.

    April 13, 2024 at 4:39 am

    P.S. Mr. Beck’s reply to my asking if he’d gotten what I’d sent him was: “Yes. I got it! And it’s garbage! GARBAGE!” Small wonder this so upset my equilibrium!

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