A sign reads “NO TRESPASSING ~VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT~DokTor Konrad Markesan”
The Incredible DokTor Markesan aired Feb 26 1962 perhaps the most creepy of all the Thriller stories, originally appeared in Weird Tales Magazine and was taken from a story written by August Derleth and Mark Schorer, and adapted by Donald S Sanford and directed by Robert Florey. The rotting corpse make up by Jack Barron, actually predates Romero’s 1968 Night Of The Living Dead, which I feel only made both effectively more creepy by the B&W film.
Mort Stevens score begins as gravely contemplative and day dreamy single notes on the piano beckon us into this episode, then begins the darker,deeper cello strings foreboding and ominous. As the piano resolves into more somber chords, the young Fred Bancroft and new bride Molly drive up to the entrance of Oakmoor. What has happened to the broad green lawns and the servants in starched white uniforms? They proceed to enter the house, the door having been strangely left unlocked. Seemingly vacant, Oakmoor is crocheted in cobwebs, from years of neglect. There is no electricity.Fred lights a candelabra and the couple continue to search for Fred’s Uncle Konrad.As they start to ascend the staircase,suddenly a door creaks open, the music sways from ominous to severe and a sallow, blank, expressionless, Konrad Markesan steps out of the shadows. Uncle Konrad staring up at them, ashen,emotionless, his right hand poised in a state of rigor, he stares off, silent. Fred trying to ingratiate himself awkwardly, remains smiling, excruciatingly strained in the midst of his Uncle’s peculiarly inhospitable behavior. Molly acutely more aware of his uncle’s bizarre presence stands there obviously horrified and uncomfortable while Fred still flounders to make a connection with his relative.Molly chirps out a “Hello” and from the moment Fred holds out his hand to shake his Uncle’s, Markesan turns away and says “come with me” and proceeds to leave the grand hallway.
At this point, Boris Karloff breaks into his honorary introduction of this evening’s episode. “creepy, sinister sort of chap” speaking about the character he’s portraying. ” He’s the kind of netherworld character who’s forever popping up in nightmares” As Boris warns, these uninvited guests will soon regret disturbing the tomb like serenity of this decaying old house. Dick York ( the first Darren on Bewitched) plays Fred Bancroft and Carolyn Kearney plays his wife Molly Bancroft.
Fred and Molly follow the deathly Uncle Konrad into the library, Molly interjects ” I hope we’re not intruding”but Markesan continues his ghostly restraint. The darkened circles under his eyes are nearly grotesque.The couple continue their idle banter between themselves until Markesan sparks to join in still quite restrained.The mention of Penrose College seems to end his silence, as Fred explains that they’re broke and have no place to stay and perhaps DokTor Markesan can use his influence at the University to get them a part time job at the college. Becoming a little more shall I say “reanimated” Markesan tells them” I’ve severed my connections with the University years ago”
As he looks stage left to ponder a little inside joke, like a morbidly terse soliloquy, he breaks into a sardonic grimace. Fred continues to bellow his appeals to his Uncle, that their stay at Oakmoor would only be temporary, and “Well, the place certainly needs repairs, the grounds need work and…;”Markesan turns his back on them, Molly pipes in ” Stop begging him Fred, Let’s get out of here!””And stay where?” mumbles Fred.
The shadowy silhouette of Markesan on the wall, shows him pausing to listen to the couple, calls to them “Come in here please” They follow him into the library where he is standing behind a desk. He offers them money. Molly offended by the implication, says “we’re not beggars” and Fred adds that they only need a place to stay for a few days. Markesan says that what they ask is impossible, the place is uncared for, the utilities have been turned off. It’s only after Fred threatens to just try the people at Penrose College, perhaps they’ll be more hospitable, that Markesan sees this as unacceptable. “Well, then it would hardly do for you to discuss me in a bad light with my former colleagues would it” but ” No one must know that I’ve returned“
His conditions are that they touch nothing else in the house, but what’s in the master suite off the hall on the 2nd floor and the kitchen, and above all do not seek him out or disturb him. And the last condition which is most vital, do not venture forth at night, they must stay in those rooms from dusk until dawn or leave the house entirely. As Markesan exits the room, the camera closes in on his stone like claw hand on the door knob.
Between Markesan’s apparent rigor mortis, the lack of food in the kitchen except for the petrified loafs of bread that shatter into a million powdery particles,there’s not a crumb fit to eat, how does he exist? What does he eat?
The uncanny decrepit atmosphere, the inhospitable presentation by Markesan, tethered to the peculiar restrictions that he has put on his unwelcome guests, you would think that Fred and Molly would just leave and take their chances elsewhere. No, they not only decide to stay, but they begin to push the boundaries of their situation and do everything that DocTor Markesan has asked them specifically not to do.Like after having been locked in, Fred slips the dead bolt with a wire hanger and leaves the bedroom after dark to investigate the house. He does this even after having seen his uncle staring up at him from outside the barred windows, as he’s walking away from the house,through the overgrown footpath behind the Arboretum. The footpath that leads to a swamp, a swamp that leads to…a graveyard! What’s Markesan hiding? It’s at this point of the story where I really feel like the couple have elevated their status from unwelcome guests to intruders.
They have been specifically told not to wander after dusk, and still their curiosity propels them to meddle into something dark and threatening where they have no business being.Molly discovers after looking in the hallway that none of the other doors have bolts on them just the master suite and it’s not a new fixture. Molly’s incessant curiosity forces Fred to reveal that his Aunt Lorinda, Markesan’s wife had been “mentally disturbed” and had lived out her last years locked away in these rooms at Oakmoor, because Markesan refused to have her committed. Molly insists that what ever was wrong with his Aunt doesn’t justify being “locked up like a pair of sheep” They say “Knowledge is power”, Eating from the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden.
According to Genesis, eating of the fruit of the tree, in a sense, led to the Fall of Man, because man became knowledgeable of their sin. Although Markesan could be considered evil, unlike the serpent of Genesis,”he” is not trying to tempt the young couple into tasting the forbidden fruit or in their case explore the unknown secrets that this mysterious man is hiding from them. It’s as if Molly and Fred are the archetypal Adam and Eve who are defying Markesan who is saying You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. Markesan has warned them ” do not seek me out” he’s is essentially saying do not go in search of the truth.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Both Fred and Molly made a choice to break the rules and go in search of the forbidden.
The Incredible DokTor Markesan works well as Allegory, as Cautionary tale like the original Grimm’s version of Goldilocks. Same as many fairy tales.Same thing with the Tree of knowledge.The Tree was not just the Tree of Knowledge, but rather the knowledge of Good and Evil. All who disobey will suffer the consequences.
Fred eventually stumbles onto a twilight meeting of his uncle with his three necrophilic colleagues.He tells Molly that they were like creatures out of a nightmare.After finding an old newspaper article showing one of the men, Professor Everett Latimer PENROSE EDUCATOR DIES dated Sep 10, 1951,
obviously years ago, he slips the bolt again the next night and seeks out Prof. Angus Holden, the Dean of the Science Department at Penrose, to try and find out why his uncle left the University. Holden tells Fred that Markesan was asked to resign because he claimed to have devised certain chemical techniques with which he could raise the dead. This was a fluid he extracted from the mold found in graves. To prove his ghastly theory, he invited three of his colleagues to a secret demonstration. These three men, Holden says, along with his Uncle Markesan who is buried in the crypt, have been dead for years.
Now, this sick nightmare that Fred has witnessed is actually Markesan tormenting his colleagues who each new night, is reviving them, doomed to recite over and over again from the informal trial where they each gave their testimony against DokTor Markesan that led to his dismissal at the University. The gaunt, gruesome hole pitted faced Professor Latimer begs Markesan”In the name of all that’s holy, Let us rest”!
Now that Fred and Molly have tasted of the Tree of Knowledge they are at the mercy of the diabolical DokTor Markesan.