Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) ON THE OTHER HAND . . . unlike the BBC-TV series "SHERLOCK" which I reviewed below, SHERLOCK HOLMES takes place in it's traditional Victorian setting. The recent blockbuster directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law has been getting a lot of bad word of mouth from several friends who saw it and warned me off. However, as always, I reserve judgment for myself and form no preconceptions until I've actually seen a film. As of this date, I have seen only two Guy Ritchie films; this one and SNATCH (which I liked very much). Friend Weaverman, in his recent savage but succinct "review" of SHERLOCK HOLMES has gone on record as not being a fan of Mr. Ritchie; he referred me to the fact that the director's work is called "Mockney" in it's inaccuracy and English stereotypes. I can't speak for the other films in Ritchie's oeuvre (and Weaverman admittedly has not seen SNATCH as yet) but SHERLOCK HOLMES is a different kettle of fish from Ritchie's norm. I can say that SHERLOCK HOLMES is actually quite a fun thrill-ride with expert direction by Guy Ritchie from a superb screenplay penned by Messrs Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg and Lionel Wigram. I can say that Downey and Law do a fantastic acting job and that this new look at Arthur Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective is fresh and original. I can say all that . . . but I'd be lying. The film is pure shit.
I am certainly no rabid Sherlock Holmes fanatic. I have read the stories and seen quite a few of the films but I am no obsessive. Therefore I'm not going to go on about any "sacriligeous corruption of the canonical material". However, I will say that Weaverman's comparison between SCHLOCK HOLMES and VAN HELSING is quite apt. I got an eerie sense of deja-vu while watching SCHLOCK HOLMES and it did remind me quite a bit of that steaming pile of werewolf shit called VAN HELSING. The problem is not so much with Guy Ritchie's direction (although he brings absolutely nothing to the material but cliched MTV quick editing apparently accomplished with a dull meat cleaver) but with the absolutely appalling screenplay. The amount of writers who produced said script should give you pause; it's a screenplay by committee in the usual modern Hollywood manner. When I say that the viewer has absolutely no idea what exactly the plot of the film is meant to be ONE SOLID HOUR INTO THE FILM I'm not exaggerating. The first hour of the movie is merely a string of "meet cute" scene followed by "cutesy set pieces" scene followed by a scene demonstrating how "cute those eccentric English people are when they're being eccentric" twaddle which only demonstrates lazy American screenwriting to engage the dwindling attention span of the average filmgoer. This is not a screenplay; it's a sketch show of pointless, non-plot-motivated scenes stitched together for no apparent purpose other than to make box office dollars. One might as well call it "SHERLOCK GUMP" and get it over with. The plot (such as it is) seems to concern a Lord Blackwood who is hanged for crimes including the practice of black magic (I'm sure there are hundreds of such cases of capital punishment for THAT crime in late Victorian England) and moidering several women in occult sacrifices. There is apparently some mealy-mouthed attempt to tie these killings (of 5 women the script pointedly informs us) in with the Jack the Ripper murders in the minds of mouth-breathing audience members even though Lord Blackwood is OBVIOUSLY not Jack the Ripper and the killings do not occur in the way Saucy Jack chose to dispatch his victims. The mere suggestion is sloppily floated out there for those uninformed audience members to latch onto in a frankly cowardly attempt to link THIS film with a more interesting subject. Be that as it may, Blackwood is hanged but apparently comes back to life. Why? Well, some vague master plan which isn't really made clear until the film is 2/3rds over. What does this mean in terms of the film. It means simply that Sherlock Holmes is investigating . . . well, nothing in particular. Somebody reports having seen the dead Lord Blackwood walking around and the police (who ridiculously take this as gospel truth) ask Holmes to investigate and HE DOES (?!?). With no real evidence that the eyewitness hasn't just seen someone RESEMBLING the dead man. Eventually, the so-called plot is revealed as some sort of attempt to take over Parliament and destroy the world . . . or take it over . . . or something or other. It's never made quite clear either. Why someone should need to take over Parliament in order to do this doesn't make much sense either; yet a good number of MPs apparently think it's a good idea and fall in line with Blackwood. Yeah, perfectly reasonable, innit?
Ah well, enough of what passes for a plot. Needless to say, the entire script is a shoddy mess obviously patched together by committee from a pile of failed earlier attempts. The direction, as I've said, is pedestrian and actually annoying in spots. The acting? Well, Jude Law has never been in a good film as far as I have seen and this outting doesn't impress me. I'm sure the guy MUST be capable of good work but there is certainly nothing for him to do in THIS role. Robert Downey Jr., of whom I'm something of a fan, here performs shamelessly. Downey's Holmes is a ridiculous combination of silly eccentric quirks, outrageous camp and downright childish petulance; certainly nothing like the character as written by Doyle or as performed by I don't know how many other actors. Downey Jr. in fact performs as if he's in a comedy; unfortunately the film is not a comedy and his performance is merely annoying. One can tell that Mr. Downey, after having read the cobbled-together script, is merely collecting a paycheck. And who can really blame him? The film looks pretty in places with its CGI'ed gloomy, stormy skies but the incredibly silly trope of placing futuristic gadgets in Victorian settings has really run it's course, don't you think? And Sherlock Holmes, reknowned for his deductive reasoning, barely uses it at all in this film but merely stomps around the film like Sam the Butcher. THIS is the world's greatest detective with the keenest analytical mind on earth?!? Not bloody likely! Oh yeah, and this brings me to the fact that several scenes and ideas have been swiped from other movies. Merely one example would be the boxing match (you heard me) between Sherlock Holmes and a big bruiser: this scene reminded me MUCH TOO MUCH of a similar scene in ONG BAK in which the big terrifying fighter challenges all comers only to be vanquished quickly by an unlikely opponent (Robert Downey Jr. in this film, Tony Jaa in the other). Now MAYBE Guy Ritchie never saw ONG BAK . . . and maybe he did . . . however the fact that SCHLOCK HOLMES is so derivative and unoriginal I am more than justified in bringing up the possibility.
I usually don't waste my time with an obviously inferior film like SCHLOCK HOLMES on this blog because a) I like to focus on the positive elements of even mediocre films and b) because it's just not worth my time to waste on obviously empty cookie cutter product like SCHLOCK HOLMES. Hell, it's more fulfilling to watch ANUS MAGILLICUTTY! But I'm just so tired of seeing Hollywood film after Hollywood film that not only endlessly recycles other films but also treats me (and you the viewing audience) as if we were complete morons who don't remember anything over five years old. It's offensive and I wish it would stop. Perhaps one more little diatribe against the current mercenary habit of non-filmmakers producing films to dump on an unsuspecting public might do some good. Somehow I think I'm just wasting my breath.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OH LOOKEE -- IT'S OFFICIAL: THE RECESSION'S OVER. Gee thanks, that's sure nice to know. And I really don't know why the image of a "Mission Accomplished" banner across the deck of a battleship immediately comes to mind. . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

SHERLOCK IS BLOODY MARVELOUS! As always, what Weaverman says can be taken to the bank because the BBC's "SHERLOCK" series is truly terrific. Like Weaverman, like practically everybody else, when I heard that BBC-TV was going to do a series on Sherlock Holmes updated to the present day...well, I didn't think much of the idea. But it really works. And better than I had a right to expect. In present day London, Sherlock Holmes (whom one police sergeant refers to as "the freak") is the world's only "consulting detective" whom police call in for particularly tough cases. A mutual friend (well, actually a guy who went to school with him) introduces Sherlock to Dr. John Watson: wounded and newly discharged from the war in Afghanistan. Both men are looking for a flat mate to share expenses and they take up residence at 221B Baker Street. Sherlock is, of course, extremely hard to live with; he even describes himself as a "highly functioning sociopath" while Watson suffers from a psychosomatic limp which his therapist advises he treat by blogging about his life. Thus the original Victorian journals of Dr. Watson are updated to the 21st century; I mean, of course Dr. Watson would blog about his adventures with Sherlock Holmes, wouldn't he?
The BBC series consists so far of only 3 movie-length episodes (at approximately 90 minutes each) but more are on the way. The casting is absolutely perfect. Benedict Cumberbatch (ATONEMENT) strikes just the right note of eccentricity and "likable unlikability" without resorting to broad acting. The basset hound-faced Martin Freeman (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HITCHHIKERS' GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, HOT FUZZ, the maybe/maybe not probably not the upcoming HOBBIT movie as well as the doctor who tries to extract "The Little Book of Calm" from Bill Bailey's gullet in the premiere episode of "BLACK BOOKS") as Dr. Watson is also perfect; his hangdog expression coupled with a serious competence when his help is needed make him believeable as an aide to the greatest detective. Una Stubbs appears as landlady Mrs. Hudson and Rupert Graves (A ROOM WITH A VIEW, V FOR VENDETTA) plays Inspector Lestrade. The series is the brainchild of DOCTOR WHO writer/producer Steven Moffat and LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN co-writer/co-star Mark Gatiss (who also has a recurring acting role) with Sue Vertue (COUPLING, MR. BEAN) on as producer. A strange combination, you might think, for a Sherlock Holmes updated but it works like gangbusters. The series is thankfully free of camp or comedy but takes itself seriously; however, at the same time it is an extraordinary amount of fun. The on-screen rapport between Cumberbatch and Freeman is like a big jam donut with cream on top. Couldn't ask for anyone better and, if not for these two gentlemen, I really can't think of any other actors who would be right for the roles.
The first episode (film?) is entitled "A Study In Pink" which is an obvious take on Conan Doyle's original "A Study In Scarlet" in which Holmes and Watson meet, take up residence in Baker Street and encounter a string of suicides which might not be suicides. Episode Two explores the well-known Victorian/early 20th century pulp trope of Chinese tongs updated for the 21st century with "The Blind Banker" which features murder, smuggling and even a monstrous assassin named The Golem! The third episode (which maddeningly ends on a cliffhanger) is "The Great Game" which incorporates elements of Conan Doyle's "The Bruce Partington Plans" as well as a nicely sly insertion of "The Five Orange Pips" while pitting Sherlock against a mad bomber who puts the consulting detective through a series of "tests".
Sadly, the "SHERLOCK" series is so far unavailable over here in the States but will be coming out on dvd this November. I certainly urge you to give it a look. While the idea of updated such a heavily Victorian thing like Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century might seem like a silly thing to do, the creators of the series rightly point out that, at the time, the stories were viewed as cutting-edge contemporary tales. And that's what they are again; thanks to everyone involved in this truly noteworthy series.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WHAT IS THE PERFECT "LABOR DAY WEEKEND" MOVIE??? Of course, if the question was Groundhog Day you'd pick . . . well, GROUNDHOG DAY. And a lot of people like watching SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE on Valentine's Day. Christmas? Well, there are too many to mention; as is the case with Halloween when any horror movie including a certain John Carpenter flick from 1978 would do. But Labor Day? The unofficial "end of summer" weekend party when people usually head to the beach one last time or have a barbecue in their backyards (giant wooden tiki idols and tiki torches should be a must!). Well, I'll tell you that there IS actually a Labor Day movie that I like to watch on Labor Day Weekend. The connection is flimsy at best; merely one mention of Labor Day is tossed off during the course of the film. But it DOES establish the film as taking place basically on and around Labor Day. And that film is the perfect one to watch; preferably if you take your dvd player and TV set out to the driveway with a loooooong extension cord and plop them on the hood of your car so that you can pretend you're at a drive-in theatre in 1959. Because the perfect Labor Day Weekend movie to which I refer is none other than the very early AIP classic (!) THE GHOST OF DRAGSTIP HOLLOW.
This B&W AIP film, unleashed upon the world by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff in the pursuit of the honest American buck, was so early in AIP's production history that there isn't even the slightest chance of a Vincent Price turning up for a cameo. DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW combines all those things which were swirling in the Clearasil zeitgeist of 1959: rock & roll, juvenile delinquency, rock & roll, hot rods, rock & roll, teenage horror comedies, rock & roll, ghosts & haunted houses, silent film-type slapstick presented on sped-up film, overactive teenage hormones, rock & roll, slumber parties and rock & roll. I don't think we can really say the film has anything resembling a plot but you'd only be a complete squaresville daddy-o if you went looking for one, ya dig?!? Basically, the film opens with your typical two hot-rodders challenging each other to a drag race through a drainage canal which eventually ends in a crash and a policeman taking down a name and license. HOWEVER, it is NOT typical in the fact that the two drag racers are teenage girls (or at least what passes for teenagers in this film since all the teens look like they're pushing 30). The evil (what passes for evil) blonde bimbo crashes while our heroine (what passes for a heroine) Lois gets away. Lois is played by Jody Fair and she is basically reprising her role from the earlier film HOT ROD GANG to which DRAGSTIP HOLLOW is something of a sequel, I guess. Lois hightails it back to the hot-rodders' clubhouse to which she is a member. A member of the fourth estate is doing a feature story for his newspaper about the teen hot-rodding culture and has been allowed to hang around the (very UN-juvenile delinquent) hot rod club in order to get an angle to his story "The Restless Breed" (hmmm, somebody oughta make a movie with THAT title). The closest thing to a "celebrity cameo" is Tommy Ivo: an actual record-setting drag-racer of the late 50's who spouts about 5 minutes of gearhead gobblegook to the bewilderment of the reporter while showing off his actual winning Buick dragster. The reporter Tom Hendry is played by Russ Bender who, in addition to acting actually wrote the film VOODOO WOMAN starring Fink's Mom! The hot rod club makes its headquarters in a sort-of auto shop/malt shop which features a dancefloor, a performing surf band (more on them in a minute) and a fat guy named Frenchy (Harrison Lewis) in a chef's hat who likes shooting off shotguns. Hendry is informed that the teens have been evicted from their HQ and will have to leave in a couple weeks unless they raise enough money to pay the rent or get another place.
Before we get TOO bogged down with plot elements, AIP treats us to not one but SEVERAL musical performances in a row by rock & roll recording artists who JUST HAPPEN to be on sale at your local record store from AMERICAN-INTERNATIONAL RECORDS label. At one point, a girl even holds up a copy of an actual AIP 45 directly in the camera for a good 5 seconds so we know exactly what to look for. The rock & roll group is apparently called "The Renegades" but I can't be 100% sure about that; the surf instrumentals they play are credited to Nick Venet. The songs are typical surf rock instrumentals that proliferated during this period and are actually quite enjoyable if you're into that kind of thing. Their big "hit", if you can call such an unknown record that, apparently is "Geronimo" (the 45 record I previously mentioned that is held up to camera) in which the band members actually shoot off guns periodically during the song. We are also treated to renditions of other surf instumentals called "Charge" (a western "cavalry"-themed song) and "Ghost Train" which should be self-explanatory. Three of our girl hot-rodders shortly get up and sing (actually lip-sync) a pleasant-little 3-part harmony thing called "He's My Guy" which sounds EXACTLY like it should for a late-50's girl harmony rock song. Then a slow dance number plays called "I Promise You" credited to Bruce Johnston & Judy Harriet; this song I promise YOU is torture on the eardrums as the harmony is mostly off-key. Ah well.
I suppose at some point AIP decided they'd better get back to the plot so we find Lois being grounded by her parents for the earlier drag racing incident with "bad blonde". Yes, this incredibly minor incident made the front page of the local paper! Here we have the only slight whiff of juvenile delinquency in the film since our hot-rod club is so squeaky clean that their charter forbids drag racing or any other similar naughtiness. During this time, an eccentric older lady named Anastasia Abernathy (Dorothy Neumann) comes to stay with Lois' family along with her belligerent parrot who constantly wisecracks and insults everyone. Many sources refer to Anastasia as Lois' aunt but I don't think that's right as I seem to remember Lois' dad referring to her as a "rich client". But I'm not going to go back and watch the film again to clear that up so you draw your own conclusions. Either way, despite Lois' recent grounding her parents allow her to have a party at the house for all her hot-rodding friends! And even more, after the party breaks up and the boys leave, the girls are staying all night for a slumber party! As Lois so 1959-ly puts it while explaining the concept of a pajama party to her square father: "the she-cats nap after the he-cats leave". Ain't she the ginchiest?!? Well, the party goes forward as the house fills with teenagers dancing to, you guessed it, those same surf rock instrumentals we already heard. The "evil" rival hot-rod gang (the one with the "evil blonde") arrives to stir up trouble but, of course, never really does. Then, after all the "he-cats" leave, the "she-cats" don their baby doll nighties for their pajama party; during which they dance and dance the night away and manage to keep Lois' father from getting to the bathroom to have a pee!
You may be asking yourself at this point where exactly the "ghost of Dragstip Hollow" comes in since the film is already 2/3rds over. Well, the hot-rodders are forced out of their HQ and Anastasis Abernathy offers the kids her unsold (and unsellable) property down in Dragstrip Hollow: an old dark house known for being haunted. Naturally, the teens break in their new headquarters with a rock & roll dance party held in the haunted house. The surf band (in goofy costumes featuring bug-eyes, big ears and buck teeth) perform "Charge" while the similarly Halloween-costumed teens sock hop the night away. At one point, AIP's music coordinator Jimmie Maddin comes out in a suit and tie and sings his new "hit" song "Tongue-Tied"! Of course, meanwhile the "ghost" of the house is seen creeping around the outskirts of the party. This "ghost" is actually famed AIP makeup man Paul Blaisdell wearing his SHE CREATURE costume (a head from INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN is also glimpsed). Amongst all the dancing, the rival gang makes another appearance doing nothing more menacing than dancing and arguing. The "ghost" is eventually unmasked and Blaisdell (in a comedy squeaky voice) cries that he's an out-of-work monster movie actor who did it all for . . . well, I really don't know why. Does it matter? Sadly, this would be Blaisdell's last work for AIP so his role was shockingly prophetic and the moneymaking SFX man (who worked on such AIP flicks as IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN and THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED) would fade away into retirement. The film quickly wraps up after this unmasking (and the revelation that there is STILL a real ghost in the house -- it walks out of a painting towards the camera) and the wonderfully 1959-era title card comes up on the screen: "The endest, man"!
THE GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW is not a great film by any means; but it's such a great film!!!! You know what you're getting when you start watching it and you certainly GET it. Really bad, bad comedy, rock & roll surf instrumentals, old dark house shenanigans, a little bit of drag racing, teen angst (lite), the generation gap (mild) and juvenile delinquency (almost non-existent) genres all smashed into one film. This film, more than any other, pointed the way towards what AIP would do in the 1960s with their Frankie & Annette beach movies and it, more than any other AIP film, provided the template for that cash cow. The Astounding B-Monster site makes this "astounding" (but actually somewhat logical) claim for the film: "Believe it or not, this cloying stretch of celluloid is, in many ways, a most important document. While hardly an intrinsic watershed, it marks a very definite progression in the history of the cult film. It is Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow that, more than any other film, bridges the cultural gap that once yawned between the J.D., hot rod flick of the 50s, and the foam-flecked dreck of the beach-blanket genre that drenched the drive-ins of the 60s." The film was leisurely directed by the rather unfortunately named William Hole. In addition to Paul Blaisdell, there are also a handful of other familar names in the credits including Ronald Stein providing the musical score and Daniel Haller's art direction. I don't know if you'd call the script written by Lou Rusoff "juvenile"; perhaps you'd rate the comedy more accurately as "sub-juvenile" since the stuff that's meant to be funny isn't but only produces a groan. Which, I suppose, makes it funny due to its sheer ineptness. The film is really just a perfect drive-in movie which can be enjoyed while munching popcorn, running to the concession stand and generally horsing around; in other words, you don't have to pay strict attention and take notes. It's all just a lump of silly fun and I can't think of a better way to spend an hour and a half out of your Labor Day Weekend each year.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT REJOICE! BORIS KARLOFF'S THRILLER IS FINALLY ON DVD!The TV show Stephen King referred to as the best horror series ever put on TV is now out on a 14 disc dvd box set containing all 67 episodes of the schizophrenic but classic series. Run do not walk to buy a copy. Sell your first born if you can't afford it. You're young you can make another one.
For those of you shockingly not in the know, Boris Karloff's THRILLER ran from 1960-1962 on NBC. When I say it was schizophrenic it's because the format see-sawed oddly back and forth between straight crime episodes and horror episodes. This probably accounts for the show only lasting two seasons since one never knew what kind of episode one was going to get. While the horror episodes were of a generally high quality, the crime programmes were of a more pedestrian and much-less-interesting quality. As the story goes, director/writer Douglas Heyes may or may not have been asked by producer William Frye why the ratings for the first season were less than spectacular and Heyes may or may not have replied (opinions of the principals are divided in this): "Well, it's called Boris Karloff's Thriller . . . not Richard Widmark's Thriller". People expect horror when they tune in and they got crime dramas. So the decision was made to start doing horror. Unfortunately, about half of the entire series still included crime dramas while the other half were horror episodes. If they had moved to horror completely, the show probably would've lasted longer.
So, in aid of overwhelmed THRILLER-watchers, I thought I would provide a list of episode which I think are worthwhile. This is a purely subjective list, you understand but, on the whole, it does resemble the general consensus of THRILLER fans as to which episodes are good and thems which ain't. Be warned, however, that several episodes you might think will be on my list are not: for instance, 2 of the episodes starring Boris Karloff in an acting part instead of just as host ("THE PREDICTION" and "LAST OF THE SOMMERVILLES") are excluded simply because they ain't that good.
  • WORSE THAN MURDER (Ep. 3) - an early crime episode which usually gets trashed by fans. However, the single reason to watch is the delightfully nasty portrayal of Constance Ford whose trashy, murderous dame is a joy to behold!
  • THE PURPLE ROOM (Ep. 7) - This is the first "horror" episode and it's pretty good. Nice ghostly happenings in a haunted house.An impossibly young Rip Torn stars with Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and THE BIONIC WOMAN).
  • THE CHEATERS (Ep. 15) - Generally considered one of the top 5 best episodes ever. An alchemist makes a pair of demonic spectacles which are found by a succession of modern-day people. The glasses give the wearer the ability to read other people's thoughts. And woe to anyone who wears them while looking at themselves in a mirror. The great character actor Henry Daniell appears briefly as the alchemist and a young Jack (THE FOUR SEASONS) Weston appears as a snivelling little rat-faced git.
  • THE HUNGRY GLASS (Ep. 16) - My vote as the best THRILLER ever. This one usually falls at Number 2 in Thriller fan polls. Classic ghost story involving mirrors. Stars the Shat along with Russell (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE) Johnson (who baby boomers probably know best as the Professor on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND), Joanna Heyes (wife of writer/director Douglas Heyes) and Elizabeth Allan (who will appear with the Shat later on in THE GRIM REAPER).
  • HAY-FORK AND BILL-HOOK (Ep. 20) - A fairly good spooky episode with a lot of atmosphere and a lot of witch talk, druid standing stones, fog and a murderer ripping people apart with sharp farm implements. Wonderful Alan Napier (yeah yeah Alfred the butler in the 60's camp TV show BATMAN) and Audrey Dalton (of MR. SARDONICUS as well as seen acting alongside Boris Karloff in the THRILLER episode "THE PREDICTION") are in this one.
  • WELL OF DOOM (Ep. 23) - This delirious horror episode stars Henry Daniell in a major part this time as a wack-job who kidnaps people along with his sidekick Richard (EEGAH) Kiel and tosses them in his dungeon of horrors. Ronald (SHERLOCK HOLMES) Howard also stars.
  • TRIO FOR TERROR (Ep. 25) - As you might suspect, this hour program features three stories: including a short adaptation of Wilkie Collins' A TERRIBLY STRANGE BED. This episode is one of many directed by Ida Lupino.
  • PAPA BENJAMIN (Ep. 26) - A rather nice voodoo story which may seem familiar to you when you realize that the story was also filmed as one of the episodes in the 1965 Amicus film DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS. Plot concerns a musician who steals an ancient voodoo tune to include in his own composition. But the voodoo gods are vengeful. John Ireland stars.
  • LATE DATE (Ep. 27) - another of the non-supernatural Thrillers but I really like this one not only because it was very faithfully adapted from a Cornel Woolrich short story but also because I love it's sweaty, sleazy atmosphere. A man kills his wife and his brother decides to dispose of the body while the killer establishes an alibi. The beach house setting is extremely unusual for a THRILLER episode but it really works. A nice pulp feeling permeates the story. Larry Pennell (Kemosabe in BUBBA HO-TEP) and Edward Platt (The Chief from GET SMART) star.
  • YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER (Ep. 28) - Not as wonderful as everybody says it is but still a nicely done Jack the Ripper episode from the Robert Bloch original short story and directed by Ray Milland. John Williams (of DIAL M FOR MURDER) stars.
  • THE DEVIL'S TICKET (Ep. 29) - a nice spooker featuring an artist who sells his soul to the devil. Macdonald Carey and John (KRONOS) Emery star.
  • PARASITE MANSION (Ep. 30) - basically a psycho-hillbilly-family story which also includes some CARRIE-like telekinesis. Beverly Washburn (of the cult fave SPIDER BABY) appears as well as the marvelous Jeanette Nolan in one of several evil witchy performances in this series.
  • THE TERROR IN TEAKWOOD (Ep. 32) - your basic "crawling hand" story but a really good one. A musical variation of MAD LOVE where a concert pianist grafts the hands of a piano virtuoso onto his own wrists. Quite chilling. Guy (MR. SARDONICUS) Rolfe and scream queen Hazel Court (of CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, etc. etc.) star.
  • THE PRISONER IN THE MIRROR (Ep. 33) - similar to the "haunted mirror" section of the classic British 1945 omnibus film DEAD OF NIGHT. Also similar to the David Warner sequence in the Amicus film FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. Diabolical Count Cagliostro is imprisoned inside a mirror and evilly influences anyone who owns the object. Henry Daniell plays the Count while Lloyd (THE DUNWICH HORROR) Bochner, Marion (HAPPY DAYS) Ross, David (TALES OF TERROR) Frankham and Frieda (RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE) Inescort round out the cast.
  • DARK LEGACY (Ep. 35) - Harry Towne (of several TWILIGHT ZONEs) plays the dual role of a dying sorceror and the relative to whom he leaves his magical grimoire. Not the best episode but there are some good creepy moments; some of which remind one of the tone of NIGHT OF THE DEMON. Alan Napier also stars.
  • PIGEONS FROM HELL (Ep. 36) - Many consider this to be the best THRILLER ever. Two brothers break down and spend the night in a dilapidated Southern mansion. In the middle of the night, one brother awakens to find the other brother missing . . . until his brother reappears walking towards him with an axe buried in his head. Brandon (SHANE) DeWilde stars.
  • THE GRIM REAPER (Ep. 37) - A quite nice spookfest involving a painting of the Grim Reaper which drips blood. The Shat is back along with his HUNGRY GLASS co-star Elizabeth Allan, Robert (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD) Cornthwaite and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND's Mrs. Howell Natalie Schafer.


  • THE PREMATURE BURIAL (Ep. 3) - This is another episode in which Boris Karloff appears in an acting role. Again, not one of the best but a quite good (if extremely loose) adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story. Sidney (ROSEMARY'S BABY) Blackmer also appears.
  • THE WEIRD TAILOR (Ep. 4) - The oft-filmed story of a man whose son has been killed. The father finds a book of spells which give directions on how to make a suit which will bring the corpse back to life. George (GILDA) Macready stars.
  • GOD GRANTE THAT SHE LYE STILLE (Ep. 5) - Another spooky castle episode which, while no classic, has some nice creepy moments. The cast includes Ronald (SHERLOCK HOLMES) Howard (Leslie Howard's son), Henry (THE BODY SNATCHER) Daniell and Victor (WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE) Buono.
  • MASQUERADE (Ep. 6) - One of my favourite episodes. This one is actually very VERY funny - which usually doesn't work in a horror show - but this time it works brilliantly. A young couple seek shelter for the night in an old spooky house which they are convinced contains a family of vampires. The young couple are Tom (NEWHART) Poston and Elizabeth (BEWITCHED) Montgomery and the head of the "vampire clan" is John Carradine. Poston and Montgomery are given dry, witty dialogue and each performs it with relish. Carradine, of course, has a wicked twinkle in his eye and appears to be having the time of his life. One of the best episodes.
  • A THIRD FOR PINOCHLE (Ep. 9) - this is one of the non-supernatural crime shows with a difference: it's really a comedy. A lot of the usual exquisite Thriller lighting in this one. Edward Andrews plays a nebbish who wants to bump off his wife but the two nosy old ladies next door keep spying on him. Andrews' performance makes the whole thing extremely watchable as he is a delight in a rare starring role (one of 3 he was to have in the THRILLER series).
  • THE CLOSED CABINET (Ep. 10) - yet another of the old spooky castle episodes. This one has a terrific beginning as an abused wife stabs her monstrous husband while he sleeps then kills herself after hiding the murder weapon. After centuries, no one has yet discovered the hiding place and your basic curse hangs over the castle. Again, not a classic but nicely creepy. David (TALES OF TERROR) Frankham appears once again. Ida Lupino directs.
  • DIALOGUES WITH DEATH (Ep. 11) - another episode with Boris acting. This episode has two separate stories and Boris acts in each one of them. First as a morgue attendant who can talk to the dead and second as an antebellum Southern gent. Other cast members include Estelle Winwood, William Schallert and Ed Nelson (who appeared earlier in THE CHEATERS).
  • THE RETURN OF ANDREW BENTLEY (Ep. 12) - a very Lovecraftian episode (which isn't surprising since it's from an August Derleth story). An old sorceror kills himself after his nephew promises to live in the magician's house and never leave it. A very nice special-effects-created demonic apparition lurks about as well. John Newland (of TV's ONE STEP BEYOND) and Reggie (SALEM'S LOT) Nalder appear. Oddly, this is the only THRILLER Richard Matheson ever wrote.
  • THE REMARKABLE MRS. HAWK (Ep. 13) - a darkly humourous retelling of the Circe legend. Mrs. Hawk is a farm woman who just happens to be a reincarnation of the witch Circe who turns men into pigs. Jo Van Fleet and John Carradine star.
  • PORTRAIT WITHOUT A FACE (Ep. 14) - a strange hybrid episode which starts out supernatural horror, then appears to switch to straight crime drama and then veers back into supernatural horror again. A painter is killed when a mysterious archer shoots an arrow into his head through a skylight. After the painter's death, however, a blank canvas suddenly starts to be filled in with the scene of the murder - and it's in the unmistakeable style of the late painter. John (ONE STEP BEYOND) Newland, Jane (OUT OF THE PAST) Greer and Robert (12 ANGRY MEN) Webber star.
  • AN ATTRACTIVE FAMILY (Ep. 15) - another very darkly humourous involving a murderous family of fiends. Cast includes Otto (DRACULA'S DAUGHTER) Kruger, Richard (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL) Long, Leo G. (TARANTULA) Carroll and Joyce (THE MATCH GAME) Builifant.
  • WAXWORKS (Ep. 16) - you were waiting for the wax museum episode of THRILLER, weren't you? Well here it is. Nicely atmospheric. Cast includes Oskar (MR. SARDONICUS) Homolka, Martin (THE FLESH EATERS) Kosleck and Ron Ely of TV's TARZAN show.
  • LA STREGA (Ep. 17) - another of the best episodes. This is a marvelous witch tale which takes place in Italy (la strega is Italian for "witch"). A superb cast features Ursula (DR. NO) Andress, Alejandro Rey, silent screen star Ramon Navarro and another superb performance by Jeanette Nolan as one of the best cackling witches you'll ever see! Beautifully directed by Ida Lupino; watch for the delirious witches dance.
  • THE STORM (Ep. 18) - this is one of the crime episode which nevertheless is greatly atmospheric and absorbing. A woman finds herself menaced by a possible lunatic in an isolated house during a torrential rain storm. Nancy Kelly stars.
  • THE HOLLOW WATCHER (Ep. 20) - this one is not particularly great but its a scary scarecrow story and, as such, has some nice spooky moments. Audrey (MR. SARDONICUS) appears once again along with Warren (RIDE WITH THE DEVIL) Oates.
  • THE INCREDIBLE DOKTOR MARKESAN (Ep. 22) - generally regarded as one of the top 5 THRILLER episodes and definitely the last "classic" episode of the series. Boris Karloff stars once again as the eponymous doctor who appears to be a reanimated corpse. Strangely, this is the one and only episode directed by Robert Florey. BEWITCHED's Dick York also stars.
  • THE LETHAL LADIES (Ep. 29) - not a particularly strong episode but just fun enough to warrant it's inclusion on my list. This is another episode which consists of two stories -- crime/murder mysteries without any supernatural horror elements -- which find two timid souls reaching their breaking points. Cast includes Howard (HIGH ANXIETY) Morris. This final episode on my list of worthies was also directed by Ida Lupino.