Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thriller - Progress Report #1

I've finally started going through my box set of the vintage Thriller TV series.  According to most of the things I've read on the show, the common thinking is that it was a conventional suspense anthology show in its early episodes and only really got good when it turned to the horror themes it's most remembered for.

In actuality these early shows are nothing to sneeze ateither . I've seen just the first nine episodes so far and they've involved gangsters, spies, murder mysteries, haunted houses and serial killers. The first episode, "The Twisted Image" starrted Leslie Nielsen as a businessman hounded by two stalkers with competing agendas and things have stayed interesting from that point on.

The most famous other TV anthology it resembles is Alfred Hitchcock Presents but there's been a darker edge here so far than Hitchcock's black comic whimsy.  The people who made this show did not go for laughs and knew how to get you hooked into the stories of a delusional young boy loose in the woods with a loaded rifle or a mob lawyer trying to go straight in only 50 minutes.

Two of these episodes, "The Purple Room" and "The Watcher" have been more in line with the show's creepy reputation, giving off outright scary vibes.  They were produced by one William Frye whereas Fletcher Markle produced the other shows and you can tell the different approaches from the way Boris Karloff does his introductions. In Markle's shows he appears wearing glasses and talks very chipper and eruditely about the story. In Frye's programs so far, he doesn't wear glasses, talks a bit more dramatically and the lighting gives him a more sinister look befitting one of his movie roles.
As for the shows themselves, "Purple Room" was about a man, played by Rip Torn, who has to spend the night in a haunted house (impersonated by the Bates house from Psycho) in order to get an inheritance. Someone tries to scare him out and needless to say things don't end well. "The Watcher" was directed by John Brahm , who made among things, the great Hangover Square. It was about a high school teacher who closely watches one of his hunky former male students, played by Richard Chamberlain, and murders the young women he thinks are "corrupting" him. There was one scene where the teacher tried to "comfort" the kid where his intent was much more obvious than you would have imagined being shown in 1960. 

All this and people like Mary Astor and Everett Sloane showing up in other shows as well. Thriller, so far is holding up its reputation. It'll be interesting to watch future episodes especially when the horror stuff really kicks in.

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