Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


THRILLER Season 1. 1960 CBS TV series.

After Alfred Hitchcock Presents had been running for several years on CBS with half hour episodes, it moved to NBC. CBS then decided to hire horror star Boris Karloff to host an hour-long mystery anthology series entitled Thriller. [Alfred Hitchcock Presents was eventually turned into The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.]
Karloff made an excellent host [although one could argue that Hitchcock was even better] and generally gave good performances on the infrequent occasions when he appeared in an episode [in the second season]. Stories on the program ran the gamut from mysteries to crime thrillers about gangsters -- anything that thrilled -- but eventually there was a strong concentration on macabre and outright horror stories, some adapted from classic short stories. The program ran for two seasons.

Highlights of the first season of Thriller include "Worse Than Murder" with the versatile Constance Ford [who played a very different role in the superb Hitchcock episode "The Creeper"] as a hard-as-nails blackmailing bitch; "The Mark of the Hand," based on a Charlotte Armstrong novel; "The Poisoner," with Murray Matheson doing away with irritating in-laws; "The Merriweather File," about a man accused of murder; "Late Date," with a man covering up for his brother after the latter commits murder; "Papa Benjamin," a tale of voodoo with John Ireland as a musician playing a very memorable "Voodoo Rhapsody;" "Final Impulse," with a bomb in a woman's purse and a frantic search to find her; "Prisoner in the Mirror" with Henry Daniell as wizard Cagliostro; "Dark Legacy" with Harry Townes as a magician who's desperate for a book of secrets; "Pigeons from Hell," an adaptation of the Robert E. Howard tale with Brandon De Wilde; and "The Grim Reaper," a Robert Bloch story about a painting with a death curse starring William Shatner and Natalie Schafer.

The very best first season episodes were: Robert Bloch's "Cheaters," in which an old pair of spectacles reveal others' secret thoughts to the wearer; "Trio of Terror," a trilogy of macabre stories well-directed by actress Ida Lupino [who directed several episodes of the series]; "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," based on another classic story by Robert Bloch with John Williams and Donald Woods [directed by actor Ray Milland]; and "The Terror in Teakwood," a fascinating chiller about a pianist's severed hands with Guy Rolfe and Hazel Court.

Verdict: Spooky, entertaining, and pretty classy all told. ***.

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