Frequently, the most terrifying part of an apocalypse movie or show is any snatches of news that leak through the haze of confusion and fear that comes after, say, a nuclear attack. The key is to tell the audience and the main characters a little (Jericho) but not too little (How I Live Now) about what’s going on in the outside world. Sometimes a flash of something is more terrifying than seeing the whole thing. Or at least more disturbing. The Day After makes you queasy,┬áTestament makes you cry. Pick your poison (sorry, they’re both fallout).

Knowing this, and knowing about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast — regardless of the myth of the mass panic, it’s a damned good broadcast! Especially the straight ersatz news parts! — it is no surprise that a nuclear war plot makes a fine radio play. I found The Last Broadcast thanks to Youtube algorithms which know me all too well.

We interrupt this broadcast” and sudden, dead air has been used in all sorts of scary things since 1938, and it still works. None of us have ever heard or seen a program interrupted by news of nuclear war or alien invasion, and let’s hope we never will. But we’ve seen enough bad, big news that the aesthetic still chills. There seem to be quite a few TV movies, most from the ’80s and 90s, which use this framing as well. I may dive into them next.

It’s the ’80s, and the Soviet Union has invaded West Germany and has invaded our regularly scheduled ’50s throwback hour on an Ontario radio station. The news gets worse from there, and if the static seems slightly fake, the accents suspiciously Canadian except the one news person who clearly fell out of the ’40s, and nobody can say “nuclear” correctly, it’s still an eerie and disturbing hour and a quarter. It helped that I listened while drowsy, with eyes closed, thereby enhancing the surreal feeling (especially when I got up and was still in my boyfriend’s parents’ killingly normal apartment).

The play is amateur, but impressive for all that. The only information I could find about its origins was that it was made and voiced by Canadian students. Not sure if it’s highschool, or college, but I definitely didn’t do anything this much scary fun in either. (I know I didn’t go to highschool, shut up).

  • http://gaylordshead2.blogspot.com/ Gaylord Cohen

    Wow! Great post! It’s good to know that I’m NOT the ONLY one out there who’s aware of this fascinating audio drama! I, myself, have also written my OWN review of the play. Please check it out, and let me know what YOU think of it. Cheers! http://gaylordshead2.blogspot.com/2015/07/my-review-of-last-broadcast-2006-audio.html

  • Ethel Grimes

    I just listened to it from YouTube, and it was epic (and a little scary)! I’ve been trying to find more info on this too. It’d be great if they would publish a script of it, just for nostalgia.

  • TimW42 .

    Lots of goofy errors, though. The Pershing II can’t carry “2 megaton warheads.” As for Trudeau’s “shock and horror” and the Reagan administration’s decision (you can tell when this was made), At the time, NATO countries were fully integrated into NATO defense plans that involved nuclear weapons–but the motive in this broadcast was clearly to somehow make the US seem at fault, at least that’s how it sounded. Could have been better as it had great promise.