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.

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