March 07, 2006

I Was a Communist for the FBI

Over the last couple months, I've listened to hundreds of old radio shows, chasing pulpy stories by writers like Cornell Woolrich and Robert Sheckley. I was destined to be a radio show writer like them, but cruel fate handed me this blog instead.

Recently, I've obsessed over old episodes of I Was a Communist for the FBI. This show juiced up the adventures of Matthew Cvetic, an undercover agent who infiltrated the communist party headquarters in western Pennsylvania sixty years ago. Cvetic surfaced in the early 1950's, right as the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings axed hundreds of Hollywood artists for communist sympathies. In the fallout, this bizarre FBI agent landed a book, radio, and movie deal about his exaggerated adventures.

His life story produced over 70 mind-boggling radio episodes. Dave over at the Old Time Radio Fan site has archived a few episodes, including my favorite: "I Can't Sleep." This propaganda goldmine takes listeners inside Cvetic's surveillance-heavy bedroom. In a single episode, both the Russian and FBI agents bug our spy's room at the same time--everybody struggling to eavesdrop on Cvetic's sleeptalking jags. The scene where Cvetic crawls around in his communist bunk-mate's bed groping for a "toggle switch" on a bulky tape recorder is a classic moment in American paranoia.

If that's not enough, the Freedom of Information Act released hundreds of FBI files about Cvetic in the 1990's. Click on this link, click on the PDF link labeled "Part 01," and scroll down to page eight on the PDF for a bit of Black Magic Marker Top Secret Espionage FBI File Action where Cvetic claimed to know about a terrorist plot to poison the water in L.A.-- a memo straight from the desk of J. Edgar Hoover...

"I told Hood to see BLANK and first of all point out to BLANK that while we have not made any public comment on Matthew Cvetic we want BLANK to know for his own personal and confidential information that BLANK BLANK BLANK BLANKETY BLANK BLANK secondly, Cvetic has no right to presume to speak for the FBI as is connoted by his use of the word "we," that Hood feels BLANK should know that it might be necessary for us to publicly deny Cvetic's alleged insinuations."

In a year where Good Night and Good Luck took a look at the pulpy McCarthy-era newsroom and Brokeback Mountain took a look at homoeroticism in another masculine pulp fiction genre, I think I uncovered enough material for a big winner next Oscar season. Please include your movie offers in the comments section below, figures rounded to the nearest million.


At 2:03 PM, Blogger Harry "broadcastellan" Heuser said...

I'm sure you've listened to a lot of Cornell Woolrich on Suspense, then. Perhaps, give Norman Corwin a try. After all, a documentary about him won an Academy Award this year. Cheers, Harry

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Jason Boog said...

Thanks for the advice. Cornell Woolrich is my favorite suspense writer, I think I listened to every episode.
Jason Boog

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Harry "broadcastellan" Heuser said...

There's more Woolrich to be had listening to thriller anthologies like the Molle Mystery Theater; but I'm probably not telling you anything you didn't already know. Cheers (and thanks for stopping by), Harry


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