Max Applewhite is the main antagonist of the 1994 comedy film Radioland Murders. He is played by Stephen Tobolowsky.


Max is a slender man with balding brown hair, glasses and wears a suit and tie.


Max is a manipulator, he can be seen fooling everyone of his coworkers into thinking he can be trusted. He also can be seen lusting after Penny Henderson, this is evident when he comforts her and tries to get close to her.

He is also vengeful, deceitful and somewhat insane and is shown to hold a grudge against people who betrayed him.

Powers and Abilities

Max is an inventor and knows his way around sound editing equipment, which is why he serves as sound engineer for both radio stations.

Role in the film

Max Applewhite is the sound engineer for a radio station in Chicago, Illinois. Known as WBN, on the inaugural night of the radio station's broadcast the station needs to impress Bernie King their biggest sponsor. Max concocts a vicious plan to get revenge on six unsuspecting people. Max works with Penny and Roger Henderson, a married couple who have a strained relationship, the station owner a former military general by the name of Walt Whalen Sr., his son and the director. Dexter Morris who serves as the announcer, Herman Katzenback and his wife Claudette. An ominous voice over plays over the radio station's speakers and an alcoholic trumpet player named Ruffles dies from arsenic poisoning.

Ruffles' rigged flask ends up appearing with unsuspecting Roger. Tension builds as the writers learn they have to do rewrites because King does not approve of the final scripts, causing one of the writers to become insane. The police are called when another murder occurs and the victim is Walt Whalen Jr. who is believed to have committed suicide, but was strangled to death. The short tempered and accusatory Lt. Cross suspects Roger of murdering Walt Jr. because he was on the sound stage where the dead body was found.

Roger tries to get to the bottom of things and learns that Claudette was being blackmailed by Ruffles. He then tries to confront Herman who all of a sudden is trying to fix his stage when the machinery malfunctions and ends up killing him. Roger then draws conclusions that Claudette is a possible suspect linking the murders to her, despite her protest. Cross believes him and has her arrested, and he and his men leave the radio station.

Roger with the help of the page boy, Billy Budget tries to figure out what all the victims had in common. Billy helps Roger recall all the ominous voice overs before the murders. Morgana, one of the writers reveals that the victims all worked at WOWA in Peoria, until a scandal involving the FCC shut down the station. Roger then learns Dexter is the next victim, and he and Billy desperately try to warn Dexter. He however brushes them off, and during a commercial and grabs his microphone. It shorts out electrocuting him, and Roger and Billy try to open the door. Penny shows up and reveals that the door should not be locked, and using a key the trio open the door. Unfortunately, it is too late and Dexter is dead and the police are notified once again.

Lt. Cross then pins the murder on Roger, but Roger tries to declare his innocence but to no avail. The lieutenant refuses to listen to Roger's evidence about Peoria, but then is curious when Roger mentions the ominous voice overs that occurred before each murder. Roger then uses a typewriter to write them all down, but another voice over interrupts the show. Roger then learns that General Whalen will die next, but Cross does not believe him. General Whalen and Bernie King are both in a booth, until one of Cross' men insists the General come with him. Someone then rigs the booth's ventilation system with laughing gas, causing King to start laughing. Roger notices this and tells Cross that King will be killed by mistake.

Roger then evades the police after smashing Cross' foot and goes to rescue King, but is stopped by a policeman. Roger then insists that he go get Cross, but just as he opens the door King is choking from the laughing gas. Roger is shocked but then starts laughing maniacally, unfortunately Cross and his men show up. Roger tries to state that King was suffocated with nitrous oxide, but the police fail to believe him. However, as they all proceed to take Roger into custody they all start laughing because of the gas. Cross then asks Roger to confess, but before he does General Whalen is killed by falling down an elevator shaft.

Roger's predictions were correct making him even more of a suspect, and because various pieces of evidence have surfaced at the scene of the crimes Cross is ready to make an arrest. Roger shocked that no one believes him not even his wife confesses to the murders. He then states he has killed dozens of people and fibs to Cross that the evidence is in his desk. Roger however uses this as an excuse to evade the police by screaming "Paychecks!" to his fellow writers. They swarm the lieutenant and his men and Roger wiggles his way out towards the window. He hops out and fakes his own death by pretending to fall off the railing, but all of a sudden Roger falls off the railing and ends up landing on the WBN sign.

The sign then malfunctions and Roger finds himself swinging up and down on the "N" then he steadies himself and grabs the ladder. Briefly electrocuting himself, the sign then swings and Roger crashes into a window on a sound stage successfully evading the police. Penny then starts to wonder if Roger is actually the murderer, but is comforted by Max who says Roger can't even order dinner. Roger then dons a penguin suit to avoid getting caught and tells Billy to deliver a letter to Penny. Penny meets Roger up on the roof and the two reminisce about how they fell in love, and he tells her that he is close to solving the mystery. Their romantic moment is ruined when one of Cross' men shows up. However, before he can do anything Penny has Roger grab her and pretend she is his hostage. Roger then tells him to drop his gun or he'll kill them both, the cop agrees but ends up throwing his gun off the roof. Roger then tells Penny that he intends to sneak into the file room, to which she says she will get him the key.

Roger now has to ditch his penguin outfit and this time grabs a Hispanic-style dress with a matching hat and makeup. He grabs Billy who at first believes he is a woman, but Roger quickly reveals it is him. Billy then hands him a package from Penny, and he is happy to see it is the key for the file room. He and Billy then sneak into the file room, but when all things look grim they find a miscellaneous section and Roger uncovers a newspaper article about WOWA in Peoria. However, just as soon as Roger pulls it out the cops are hot on his tail and are suspicious to see that the file room is unlocked. Roger and Billy devise a plan to throw them off, Roger ties him up and gags him with a peeled banana. Billy then fibs to the cop that he saw the killer and gives them false information.

Roger uses a magnifying glass to see who the killer could be and makes his own conclusions. He then learns that one particular script "Gork: Son of Fire" is not ready, he decides to rewrite the script and incorporate the murderer and his victims into the script. But, just as he is writing he loses his hat and the cops learn of his whereabouts until Penny makes an announcement. Cross is suspicious and questions her for what she just did then learns she was on the roof with Roger but before he can take her into custody for being an accomplice the phone rings for Billy. Billy then runs off to find Roger who then tells him to get the scripts to the actors and Penny. The cops then find Roger above the stage but before they can do anything the stand they are all on has snapped from the cables. Causing them all to fall, just then the scripts are given out to the actors. As Roger evades the police the actors read his script and reveal that the murderer is Max Applewhite, the station's sound engineer.

Max then throws everyone out of the booth and takes Penny hostage and just as she questions his motives she flips the speaker on he then reveals that he killed the six people because he felt they betrayed him. He worked with them at WOWA in Peoria and he was a stockholder with them. He need a patent for an invention but they stiffed him, and then confiscated all his designs and claimed they had ownership of them. Roger who has grabbed an emergency hose has sprayed all the cops, and then tells them that it was not him. The hose then goes out of control and knocks a speaker down clunking one of the cops on the head. Roger then finds himself falling out the window and hanging by the hose. Max states framing Roger wasn't part of his idea but it was too easy, he then grabs a stool and destroys the radio equipment, then proceeds to take Penny up to the roof.

The police then help Roger up and then they all proceed to follow Max up to the roof. Max's hideout reveals that he was the original inventor of television. Cross and his men as well as Roger find Max and Penny, but before Roger can save her Max pulls a gun and threatens to kill her. Roger realizing that Max might hurt Penny talks him into letting her go and agreeing to take her place. Max is reluctant at first, but then agrees and takes Roger up to the radio tower. Cross then calls for a biplane, while Penny is worried about Roger. Max forces Roger to climb up the radio tower, claiming they're going to "heaven". Roger climbs halfway up but then tries to talk Max into going back down. Max knowing he just confessed to six murders over the airwaves refuses to go back. Just then a biplane appears out of nowhere, Max fires his gun but misses and runs out of ammo. He is then shot multiple times by the pilot, and falls off the radio tower. Much to Roger's shock, Max's last words are "Radio is over!" as he plummets to the street.

Cross and his men then help Roger down from the radio tower, and go to look for Max's dead body. Penny surprised that Roger was willing to die for her gives him a hug. Penny then wonders why Max did what he did, Roger tells her Max was wrong and that radio could never die. Unaware that the station is still on the air, the two go back to the booth. Not before Penny opens up the sponsor's booth that had been closed in by Billy at the orders of the General, causing them all to run out of the booth. They are surprised to see the audience applauding and laughing at Billy who has saved the show. Penny then decides that a divorce isn't necessary and tells Roger that he is the only guy for her. He agrees but Penny is angry with his reply, an argument ensues and Penny flips on the speaker system. The audience hears their argument and they give Penny and Roger an applause as they both make up and passionately kiss. As a group of singers begin to sing "And the Angels Sing" Billy then declares that there will never be anything quite like radio.