Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Chinaman Button

The Chinaman Button is a moral quandry from 1802's The Genius of Christianity which has been used in four suspense stories in four different ways.  The basic set up - someone is given an offer to gain a large sum of money, and in exchange a complete stranger will lose their life.

To be fair, the last three are derivative of the first, the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson.  I haven't read it, but from the spoliers the twist in the tale is a cheat and a lie.

Next is 1974's "The Chinaman Button", a radio drama for CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  This one is my favorite - the twist surprised me, and it managed not to drag.

Next is 1986's "Button, Button" from the 80's Twilight Zone.  Matheson took his name off it because he didn't like the different, vastly superior ending.  I remember the end chilling me as a kid, but there's only enough material here for maybe 10 minutes.

Not enough material for half of an hour-long show?  Let's drag it out to a feature length film.  2009's The Box has car chases and government conspiracies and aliens or something - if you can stomach Cameron Diaz then you watch it.

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