Fred & Molly Bancroft pull up to his uncle’s house in a snazzy VW Beetle convertible hoping for some charity. Fred has written letters to his uncle, but much like my letters to Brit Marling, they have gone unanswered (note: I have written no letters to Brit Marling). Once the finest estate in the county, it is now a run-down hovel; but one of them 20,000 square foot hovels.
As in every horror show, when there is no answer to their knock, they feel free to let themselves in.
After looking around the dusty, cob-webby, run-down mansion, they finally encounter the run-down man who dwells there (notice I didn’t say “lives there” — see what I did there?), Fred’s uncle Doktor Konrad Markesan. OK, Konrad is your given name, but you’ve been working in an American university, so let’s cut the Doktor crap (Ich habe nicht für 4 Jahre die medizinische Schule gehen zu Herrn genannt.”)
He invites them into the library where Fred lights a fire, wisely, in the fireplace. I think the hulking dried out husk of Markesan is in more danger of going up in flames than the old books. He stares dead-eyed as they talk about their trip. He says he never received Fred’s letters because he has been away; and will be leaving again soon.
He offers them a room upstairs with the proviso that they not ever leave the bedroom at night. Fred admits that they are flat broke and are hoping Markesan can pull some strings to get them jobs at the Penrose University. Sadly, he is no longer associated with the institution; and those aren’t strings, they’re cob-webs . . . actually on him. He further warns them not to let anyone at Penrose know he has returned, because his work is highly secret.
That night they go to their room, and just to be sure they don’t go exploring, Markesan locks them in. They look to the window to escape this fire trap, but it has iron bars. And they see Markesan shambling out into the bog.
That night, Fred discovers that Markesan is reanimating the dead. He seems to be convening the corpses nightly until they regain their humanity, and are not slow-witted zombies. It might help if he kept them in the house and didn’t take them back to the crypt each night.
The next night, Fred sneaks out of the room again. Again, Markesan has brought his moaning dead pals back to the house. He has each of them laid out in caskets getting inter-venous feedings. At midnight, Fred goes to see Markesan’s former professor Angus Holden, holder of the most expansive office hours in college history. Typically a college professor’s of 12:00 – 12:15 office hours are PM, not AM.
Holden says that Markesan was forced to resign when he began experimenting with reanimating the dead using an extract from mold found in graves. Well then, wouldn’t every dead body be coming back to life? I guess the extract is the secret ingredient; like Retsin. Maybe it’s an ancient Chinese secret ingredient — that’s why there are so many of them.
Meanwhile, out in the bog, Fred goes to the Markesan crypt. He finds the previous generations still stowed away, but Konrad’s slot is open even though it says he died 8 year ago.
When he runs back to the house to tell Molly, he finds Markesan. The Doktor says not only can he bring the dead back to life, but he can prolong his own existence forever. Rarely has such a good episode created so many questions.
Markesan looks like death, not even warmed over, but rolled on a gurney through a warm room. But he is alive. Who reanimated him? He was not saved by his life-prolonging research, he actually had a crypt with a date of death.
Why does he keep marching the intern zombies back out to the unseen bog or crypts or cemetery instead of letting them reside in their comfortable satin-lined coffins where they get they IVs? Maybe it’s all that moaning. Maybe some better surroundings, a little Mozart, a few paintings might have humanized them. Also some Lysol spray and Fabreeze, I imagine.
Of course, when Fred returns, he sees dead-eyed Molly closing herself into a casket. Why, since the secret ingredient was not the blood of a young hottie? If they killed her to keep the secret, why reanimate her? And why does she get to sleep in the comfy satin coffin — just because she’s a chick?
I’m not that crazy over Karloff as a performer. He has all the range of Shemp. He’s a good performer, but pretty much one dead note. Dick York plays a good everyman, and his wife was fine; however, she was as out of his league as Samantha. Part of Thriller’s effectiveness is its overbearing Psycho-like shrieking score, but even that works to unnerve you.
I rate it zehr gut.
- Konrad Markesan is played by series host Boris Karloff.
- Dick York is much better and much better cast here than in Vicious Circle.