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Why radio works: “Leiningen Versus The Ants” in real life March 14, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> News, >> Out Basket.

In 1948, William Conrad starred in “”Leiningen versus The Ants” presented by Escape over the CBS network. Conrad’s character, Leiningen, is determined to not only defend his plantation from being overrun by killer ants but to destroy the colony. Leiningen defies everyone around him and runs through the colony to release a dam which floods the ants. He returns exhausted, near death, and in some places, “bones were showing” (1). After he is assured that the plantation has been saved, Leiningen says, “I told you I’d come back, even if I am a bit streamlined.” (2)

The radio drama is gripping, horrific and worthy of a listen.

Fast forward to 2007 and the Buddhist monks living at the Ang Hock Si Temple. Buddhism forbids its followers from harming other living creatures. At one time, a cobra slithered into the temple. The monks at first meditated with the cobra crawling around. Eventually they captured the snake and returned it the forest.

Now, the monks are facing a Leiningen-ish dilemma. Fire ants are invading the temple. Initially, monks were able to meditate away the sting of the bites. But other visitors with lesser meditation skills are suffering painful bites and swelling.

The Venerable Boon Keng, chief monk of the temple, is looking for ways to deal with the ants in a manner consistent with Buddhist practices. He has even gone so far as to say “that if someone turns up unbidden and deals with them without the monks’ involvement then that is the will of the universe.” (3)

Imagine a dramatized version of the modern story complete with the chief monk sending away the other monks and preparing to confront the ants alone. What happens? What is the “will of the universe”? What would be the sound of millions of ants devouring everything in their path?

However the story might be told or what the ultimate outcome could be, no medium would tell it better than radio.

1) “Leiningen versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson in 1947.
2) Ibid.
3) “Malaysian monks face ant dilemma” by Jonathan Kent, 12 March 2007, in BBC News.

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1. Barry - March 16, 2007

I heard that same drama on an episode of “Suspense” – I believe also performed by William Conrad. It was a great story. All the radio plays of the 40’s liberally borrowed stories and performers from each other, didn’t they? I wonder what a comparison of the two performances would be like, in dramatic style, music, etc.

2. Bill - March 16, 2007


Thanks for stopping by. Performers were on different shows, different networks, and so forth. Similar to what happens with sports announcers these days.

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