Thriller – The Weird Tailor (10/16/61)

Arthur Smith, Jr. drunkenly arrives home to the family estate.  We, never see it from out side, but the double doors open into a long hallway lined with sculptures, so I’m thinking this ain’t my neighborhood.

The tipsy trust-fund infant stumbles from piece to piece offering no admiration or respect.  He puts his hat on one, and gallantly wraps his overcoat around a nude Venus de Milo [1] (although the sleeves need to be taken up a tad) who is scandalously showing her marble-hard nipples on TV in 1961.

Darn the luck, he arrives just as his father is performing a satanic ritual.  Arthur opens the door just as smoke is rising from a pentagram.  He stupidly walks directly across the pentagram to the booze on the other side of the room.  Down goes Arthur — another alcohol-related death.

Smith’s father goes to see Madame Roberti, a blind psychic.  He wishes to bring his son back.  He offers his entire fortune, but she admirably does not deal in such blasphemy, damnation, and defiance of of God . . . but she knows a guy.

She offers him a business card to go see Honest Abe at a used car lot — now there’s a guy used to blasphemy and damnation.  Honest Abe pulls an old manuscript out of his safe — Mysteries of the Worm.  There are only 3 copies left in the world — the others were burned centuries ago along with their owners.

Honest Abe figures he can let it go for, oh say $1,000,000 . . . $1,000,500 with undercoating.  Despite the lure of insanely low APR financing, Smith pays cash for the book (something that was done back when there used to be places called Barnes & Noble or Borders (there also used to be a place called “The Border” in the southwest United States.  Alas, that is gone because Congress still takes cash).  But I digress.

tweirdtailor17Erich (or Erik on IMDb) Borg’s landlord Schwenk storms in and demands the rent, but Borg doesn’t have the dough.  He goes in the back to where his wife is sewing in their apartment.  As usual in these stories, Anna is far too good for him (and 24 years younger), a disparity made even more evident when he tells her to “shut up” and smacks her; when, really, just the smack would have been sufficient.

The store is having a busy day as a second person arrives.  Mr. Smith has brought his own magical fabric required to resurrect his son.  It looks like something Elvis might have made into a gold lame suit.  Borg is to be paid $500 upon delivery.  When Anna asks about the strange fabric, he physically shoves lovely Anna away and she runs to the bedroom to confide in her only friend — a damaged mannequin.

tweirdtailor18In bed alone as Erich works only the unusual specific hours required by Smith, Anna comes out to look at the suit.  It tingles when she touches it, probably more than she can say for Erich.

The next morning, he delivers the suit.  He treats Anna horribly and laughingly threatens to leave her. She goes to have a heart-to-heart talk with the mannequin which she has named Hans.  It is very sad as she describes how she has been beaten and they have both been broken by Erich’s abuse.

Unfortunately, when Borg delivers the suit, Smith is a little short on funds.  Borg is suspicious when he notices that Smith has a nice new refrigerator.  He opens it up to find Smith’s son frozen inside.  In a scuffle, Borg (fighting a man for a change) kills Smith and takes the suit back to the shop.

He instructs Anna to burn it while he goes out for a drink; but, having priorities, he takes time to shove her around a little first.  When he returns, he finds that Anna has dressed Hans in the strange new suit.  Borg admits to killing Smith and Anna says she can’t live with a murderer, so he puts his hands around her throat and proves her correct.

During the struggle, Hans jerkily begins moving.  He chases Borg into the shop and kills him so he and Anna can live happily every after.  At least until she realizes he is not anatomically correct.

Henry Jones (Borg) was probably one of the first “that guy” actors, but I don’t remember ever seeing him play a character who was so despicable and pathetic.  On the other hand, this was Sondra Blake’s first-ever credit on IMDb.  Both were great in their depiction of this sad marriage.

As always, a good story and screenplay from Robert Bloch.  Twilight Zone and Rod Serling are so iconic, they will never be surpassed.  But Thriller is exposing me to a whole new genre I didn’t know existed — quality horror programming, well-written and cast, that was from that same era.

Maybe the fact that the Fan Favorites collection contains only 10 of the 67 episodes is a clue to the consistency of the quality, but I’m going to have to give the others a try.  The Hitchhiker wasn’t even able to pull together ten good episodes for their compilation.

But with one iffy exception, like the other episodes, this one is good stuff.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Always the quipster, writer Robert Bloch has Arthur say to the armless Venus, “We’re gonna have to take those nail clippers away from you.”
  • Title Analysis:  Borg is an abusive loser, but does not seem particularly weird.  Maybe it is just a play on “Weird Tales.”  If so, it fails because the double meaning isn’t there.  But then I also never understood the Best of Both Worlds title of the Star Trek TNG Borg episode.  Maybe Picard was the best of humanity, then of the Borg after assimilation?  Of course his attempted genocide of them 5 minutes later might have tainted his legacy among the Borg.
  • Hmmm, I wonder if Madame Roberti is played by the same Iphigenie Castiglioni that was in Return of the Hero?
  • Borg’s landlord was the guy who sold the Tribbles in Star Trek.
  • Strangely, Hans was taller than Anna, but when he became animated, he seemed very small.  We never saw him scaled against anything, so it could have been poor camerawork.

Thriller – The Cheaters (12/27/60)

tcheaters01I always considered Robert Bloch’s screenplay to Psycho to be about as perfect as you can get — well-paced, quotable, manipulative, funny, scary.  I guess it should be no surprise that 3 of these first 5 episodes of Thriller — Fan Favorites — have been written by him or adapted from his work.  I would like to read more of his work, but sorry Amazon, I’m not shelling out $18 for a paperback of his best.

A not particularly useful prologue (hey, who wrote this rubbish!)[1] shows us a very crabby Dr. Van Prinn inventing a new type of spectacles.  When he tries them on, he looks in a mirror and screams in horror much as I do at Eye-Glass World.  They’re just glasses — they aren’t going to make me look like George Clooney.

Van Prinn is so distraught at what he sees (but we do not) that he screams in horror. Host Boris Karloff informs us that he hanged himself before dawn.  Rather than destroy the damnable specs so no one else suffers his fate — won’t someone please think of the children! — he apparently tucks them away in a desk drawer where they remain for 200 years.

Act II

tcheaters02Maggie and Joe live in a modest home (better than the Kramdens’ apartment, maybe more like Norton’s — which always sounded a little nicer, but I’m not sure was ever seen).  Maggie is just the kind of nagging shrew that we usually get from Alfred Hitchcock.  She is berating poor junkman Joe about bidding $100 on a blind lot from an abandoned building.  She is really a harridan, continuing to insult him as his young, single, handsome, athletic employee Harry enters the apartment.

They find nothing but disintegrating books, a lot of cobwebs, and broken furniture. Charlie mocks Joe just as his wife did and leaves thinking they have been had; but Joe finds the glasses which have been hidden away for 200 years.  He has been having trouble seeing, so these are the titular “cheaters” in the optical sense of the word.

When Joe gets home, Maggie is as dolled up as she can get.  She apologizes for being so rotten and selfish that morning.  When he puts on the titular cheaters, though, he can hear the truth from Maggie and see her “true” face — she plans to kill him. Charlie comes over to the house and Joe, through the specs, can see their unexpressed thoughts.  A gas company wants to buy their property for big bucks (because where better to drill than in a residential neighborhood (well (no pun intended), this was in the days before the EPA was created by Richard Nixon (that’s right, Richard freakin’ Nixon!)).  Not only that, Charlie and Maggie are planning to kill him — which explains Charlie’s interest in this 20-year older . . . I’m running out of synonyms that don’t stat with C.[2]

Joe brutally takes a tire iron to Maggie and Charlie.  A policemen overhears the disturbance and runs into the house.  Joe looks at the glasses and yells, “the cheaters, the cheaters!” adding a nice double-meaning to the title.  He raises the tire iron to pulverize the spectacles, but is gunned down like Michael Brown — except he was going for the glasses and not for the cop’s gun; or to attack him physically; or to rob a convenience store; or to assault a clerk.  Otherwise, pretty similar.

Act III

tcheaters03The story cleverly maintains continuity by having the glasses show up in an estate sale to get rid of the contents of Maggie and Joe’s home.  They are purchased by an old woman who can see that her children are planning to murder her.  She sees through the specs that the trustee of her husband’s estate is in on the murder plot so she jams a gigantic hatpin into his heart.  That hat must have been the size of Turd Ferguson’s.

Act IV

tcheaters04A year later, at a costume party, her son is mocked for lacking spectacles to complete his Ben Franklin get-up. Once his wife provides the specs, he finds he can hear his guests’ thoughts about the cards they are holding.  When he accuses another player of cheating, it gets turned around so he appears to be guilty. There is a fight and Thomas Jefferson clubs him in the head, accidentally killing him.  Cleverly, another twist on the word “cheater.”

Act V

tcheaters05Sebastian Grimm, one of the players at the game, takes the specs, suspecting that they have some special property.  He is writing a book about the glasses and goes to the old Van Prinn place, abandoned for decades.  He wants to know why Van Prinn hanged himself.  His wife begs him to not go upstairs, to go home with her.

He goes up, puts on the cheaters and looks in the mirror just like Van Prinn.  Grimm sees a hideous reflection, for reasons I am not clear on.  Did he do something that I missed?  Was it the hubris to think he could look within his own soul?  Was he seeing the evil that is in all humans?.  He screams in horror and claws at his face until it is bloody.

On the plus side, he does stomp on the glasses and put and end to their trail of carnage.  So there should be some redemption for that.

Great episode.

Post-Post:

  • [1]In retrospect, the prologue was an integral part of the story.  But am I going to start rewriting at 1 am?  Well, for that matter, is there any evidence that I ever do?
  • [2] Ya kinda need to know the yacht is name The Seaward.  Thanks for mangling one of the best jokes of the series.  And screwing up the aspect ratio.
  • Etymology Corner:  I’ve been using “for that matter” a lot lately — kind of a weird phrase.  I recently bookmarked an article on “believe you me” that I will actually read some day.
  • For all my praise of Robert Bloch, he did write 3 of my least favorite episodes of Star Trek.  On the other hand, dude wrote 3 MFing episodes of Star Trek!
  • Title Analysis:  Finally, I can give an A.  The multiple meanings and continuity were beautiful.

Thriller – The Hungry Glass (01/03/61)

thungryglass07In a flashback, we see hottie Laura Bellman (Donna Douglass) checking herself out in dozens of mirrors arrayed through her home.  A doctor and and man with a hook knock on her door; when she answers, we see her directly for the first time, and she is an old crone.  She asks just to be left alone with her mirrors.

Gil (William Shatner) & Marcia Thrasher have just bought the old Bellman place.  They are meeting the realtor at what appears to be Sam Drucker’s General Store from Petticoat Junction. They are warned of “visitors” at the house and one of the checkers-playing locals asks if it wasn’t strange that there was “nary a looking glass in the whole of it.”  Considering they will soon be eating dinner on the floor due to a lack of tables and chairs, mirrors might not have been my priority.

Realtor Russell Johnson (The Professor from Gilligan’s Island) arrives and takes the Thrashers to the house, introducing his wife Liz on the way.  Why they met at the store is a bit of a mystery.

thungryglass02At the house, Liz screams as she sees someone reaching for Marcia through the window — a man with a hook for a hand — but there is no one there.  Nerves are shocked, a champagne bottle is broken, and carpet is ruined.

Adam says he has to warn them “when my wife is having a real good time, she’s apt to scream a little.” Understandably, they are not offered a bedroom for the night, but are invited tomorrow for dinner.

Adam and Liz leave, but Gil sees an apparition of the two-handed variety.  He tries to hide it from his wife, but she sees it herself the next morning in a mirror.

While photographer Gil develops pictures in the basement, Marcia explores the attic which is packed with more crap than post-Kane Xanadu.  Marcia amazingly finds a padlocked door hidden behind a dressing screen.  The lock was merely screwed on from the outside, so Marcia goes at it with a Phillip’s head butter-knife. Inside she finds all the mirrors.

Gil comes up through the attic hatch and Marcia excited tells him, “I found the mirrors!  Big mirrors!  Little mirrors!  Fat mirrors!  Thin mirrors!” and presumably mirrors that climb on rocks, and even mirrors with chicken pox.  After Marcia leaves, Gil sees a ghost and faints.  He blames it on “troubles I had before.  Doctors told me there would be recurrences.  You never really get the stuff out of your system.”  Turns out he is talking about being shell-shocked from Korea.  Next thing you know he’ll be seeing a man on the wing of the plane.

thungryglass06That night at dinner, served on the floor by candlelight, Adam toasts, “Here’s champagne to our real friends and real pain to our sham friends.”  The episode is filled with clever dialog like this from Shatner and Johnson.  Robert Bloch only gets a story credit, but a lot the words really sound like him.

The gals go tour the house leaving the guys to chat.  Adam says that Gil has been reflective tonight — funny considering the role mirrors play in the story.  Adam tells him why it hasn’t been occupied for the last 20 years.  Jonah Bellman built the house for his beautiful wife Laura.  She was only really in love with her own reflection.  After Jonah died of a broken heart, it was only Laura and the mirrors.

As she became ancient, she still saw her young beautiful self in the mirrors.  When she was locked away in her bedroom, away from the mirrors.  She was still able to use the window to see her young reflection.  Then she went right through one and died.

thungryglass08aGil’s emotional problems resurface and things do not go well.

Another good episode. Thriller is 3 for 4.  Shatner in Thriller is 2 for 2.

Post-Post:

  • All of the local’s have that trademark Stephen King New England accent, but luckily not the trademark Stephen King insipid dialog).  William Shatner and Russell Johnson are just visitors to the area, thus sparing us the pain of hearing The Shat attempt an accent.
  • I realized I have no idea what those old dressing screens are called — the ones women draped their clothes over in old movies.  At first I tried dressing triptych, but this one had more than 3 folds.  I’m still not sure what they’re called.
  • Shatner tells his wife she’ll go blind looking in the mirror so much.  She asks if she can do it until she needs glasses.  C’mon, Bloch snuck that one in.

Thriller – The Grim Reaper (S1E37)

tgrimreaper09There will be no more Outer Limits because my Hulu-hate won out; also my cheapness as Season 3 is $35 at Amazon.

I was immediately leery about Thriller.  Stephen King’s blurb says “The best horror series ever put on TV.”  On the other hand, this collection of “Fan Favorites” had to to go all the way the episode 37 for the first entry.  I can only hope they are not going chronologically.

Late at night, there is a knock at the door.  A man is looking for the artist Henri Radin.  For a shiny nickel, the chambermaid takes the man right up to Radin’s room, but warns the man that he might be drunk or on drugs — wow, already edgier than Alfred Hitchcock or Twilight Zone.

tgrimreaper10

The Grim Reaper is the one on the right

She is not a fan of Radin’s art which she says is evil.  The man suggests, “Perhaps a nude?” She responds “There is no evil in nakedness.”  Scandalous for 1959!

The woman knocks, but there is no answer.  The man insists on being let in as he is Radin’s father.  We see the shadow of Radin’s legs as he swings dead from a noose — finally, back to some wholesome 1960’s entertainment.

They take a look at his last painting, and is fairly evil, and better than any of the oil-slicks on Night Gallery.

In his intro to the story, Boris Karloff is examining the painting, which we learn is now over 100 years old.  And there is fresh blood on the scythe.

Paul Graves (William Shatner) arrives at a house and is greeted by his aunt Beatrice (Natalie Schafer).  He is surprised that she bought a hearse, but being a a writer of 27 mystery novels, she bought it as publicity.

tgrimreaper11Beatrice introduces Graves to her fifth husband, Gerald Keller, who is much younger than her.  Also to her young secretary Dorothy.  They go downstairs to see Beatrice’s new acquisition, Radin’s “Grim Reaper.”  It was this purchase that disturbed Graves so much that he had to visit his aunt.  He warns her to get rid of the picture.

He says that since it was painted in 1848, the painting has had 17 owners, 15 of which met with violent deaths.  Beatrice was aware of the curse and also bought that for publicity.  She had also previously heard Grave’s revelation that the painting began to bleed before each death.  Like NOW for instance!

Of course, that night they discover Beatrice dead at the bottom of the stairs.  A few days later, the will is read and everything was left to Keller.  So now Keller is the owner of the painting, and the pieces start to fall into place.

tgrimreaper12They might play a little fast and loose with criminal evidence and estate law, but accompanied by a shrieking score and great performances, it moves toward a twisty, satisfying conclusion.

My initial pessimmism was unwarranted.  This was one of the best episodes I’ve seen in the past year.  At the most basic level, it looked great, very crisp black and white.  The camera work was excellent, and Robert Bloch (Psycho) came up with a very witty script that was well played by everyone.

If there is one nitpick, the score seemed a little overwrought.  But if that was meant to heighten the feel of unease, it worked.  Also, as host, Karloff was no Rod Serling (TZ not NG).

Overall:  Excellent.

Post-Post:

  • It is bizarre that Beatrice jokes that the hearse she bought was driven only by a “little old corpse from pasadena.”  It was not until 3 years later that Jan & Dean recorded The Little Old Lady from Pasadena.
  • At 12:15, it really sounds like Beatrice calls Dorothy “Samanatha.”  She could have said “What’s the matter” — several replays later, I couldn’t be sure.  She later clearly refers to “The Decoration of Independence.”
  • Of course, the two leads went on to be Captain Kirk and Lovey Howell.

Night Gallery – Tell David (S2E14)

ngtelldavid03On a dark and stormy night, Ann Bolt is driving through the rain.  After a nasty bolt of lightning, the radio starts playing some awful music and it seems to be daylight — or at least, dusk — I’m not sure if this was a story point or a mistake.  The rain continuing, and the radio going crazy, I can see happening; but time reversing is going to get a reaction from me.

She pulls into the garage of the first house she sees, and rings the bell. The owner, Pat Blessington, invites her in, and Ann is confused by the krazee electronics.  There is a closed circuit security monitor which she mistakes for modern art, a one-way window, and a telephone which is very unfuturistically built into a console.

ngtelldavid15Pat is very accommodating, offering her a cigarette of a type she’s never seen before — non-lethal.  Pat’s husband David comes downstairs to show off his new gadget — a mapping computer about the size of a suitcase.  He is able to show her the way home, but they invite Ann back some time when she can stay longer.

When Anne arrives home, she notices her husband’s car is dry and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.  For some reason, Ann’s husband Tony is waiting for her dressed as an old hag and begins screaming at her.  Supposedly he is acting out the way she treats him, reducing her to tears.

ngtelldavid12I supposed the hag mask was an excuse to make something of the reveal that the same actor is playing David and Tony.  It was wasted on me as he is such an average looking guy, I still couldn’t make them look alike the second time I watched it. Add completely different temperaments, hair and mustache, and it seems pointless.

After a lot of screaming, they go upstairs to check on their child, also named David — hey, you don’t think . . . Tony makes eyes at the Nanny as he passes.

The next day at the Blessington’s house, it is clear that David realizes that Ann is his mother, has somehow traveled from the past, and — oh yeah — isn’t dead.  He is pretty nonchalant about this miracle.  He talks about how got the name Blessington from a relative who took him in as an orphan, but never mentions his prior name.  He is also pretty obtuse in vaguely telling a story about a woman who killed her husband and later herself.  Ach du lieber, just tell her and save her life, you idiot — she’s your mother!

ngtelldavid21Back at home, Tony mentions — apparently for the first time in their relationship — a cousin named Jane Blessington. That, combined with an incident older David mentioned about his 4th birthday finally clues Ann into what is happening.

None-the-less, after catching Tony making out with the Nanny, she shoots him and plans on killing herself before the trial.  This is the sacrifice she is willing to make after seeing what a good man David grew up to be.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  None.
  • Swapping spit is pretty casual in the future, so it is lucky David recognized his mother early on, or we could have had a reverse Back to the Future moment.
  • Skipped segment: Lagoda’s Heads, because two was enough.  Although, Vigoda’s Head — that, I would have checked out.  A rare misfire by Robert Bloch.