The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”

The Grim Reaper -aired (13 Jun. 1961)

Directed by Herschel Daugherty and adapted by Robert Bloch from a story by Harold Lawlor it concerns a 19th century painting and it’s fatalistic legend The Grim Reaper created by a morbidly obsessed painter Henri Radin. Radin who hangs out in graveyards and paints “still lifes” at the morgue, creates this cursed painting and then proceeds to hang himself. Again, much like with “The Cheaters”, who ever the painting falls into the hands of seems to doom them to a tragic or violent death.

The wonderful Henry Daniell  plays Henri Radin’s father who comes looking for his son, only to find that he’s hung himself, leaving his morbid portrait of death behind.

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Fifi D’Orsay and Henry Daniell open The Grim Reaper

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“last month he did a painting at the morgue His model was a corpse he called his painting… -still life-“

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CapturFiles_15 his last picture and he finished it Perhaps the picture finished him
Pierre Radin-“His last picture… and he finished it” Toinette-“Perhaps the picture finished him”

Boris Karloff presents the evening’s tale of terror standing in front of the infamous painting.

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“Yes the painting did finish it’s morbid creator but I can assure you that our story is not finished. Oh no… it’s only just begun… (He walks over to the painting and swipes the scythe getting blood on his hands) Blood!… think of that, this paining is over a hundred years old and yet real blood still glistens on the scythe of the grim reaper. Which by no mere coincidence is the title of our story for tonight. How strange indeed that the immortality sort by our mad artist should assume the form of death. But even stranger are the fearful consequences to these others… whenever the grim reaper’s scythe drips blood… You’ve seen the harbinger of evil. Someone is in mortal danger as sure as my name is Boris Karloff.”
CapturFiles_21 ah stay where you are, I'll join you
“Ah… stay where you are, I’ll join you”

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CapturFiles_24 we musn't let fresh air into the house
“Is everything alright Aunt Bea?”
CapturFiles_25 isn't it the ever lovin' end
“Isn’t it the ever lovin’ end (referring to her hearse) the only one who drove it was a little old corpse from Pasadena.”
CapturFiles_23 Isn't it the ever lovin' end the only one who drove it was a little old corpse from Pasadena
‘let’s not let all the fresh air into the house”

Fast forward to the present day Natalie Schafer “Lovie Howell” from Gilligan’s Island plays famous mystery writer Beatrice Graves who has a penchant for the dramatic, drives a hearse and lives at Grave’s End, a Charles Adams style mansion she uses for publicity. She purchases the cursed painting in order to garner some attention from the press. She also has a preference for lecherous husbands and has now married her 6th, a smarmy actor Gerald Keller (Scott Merrill) 20 years younger who is constantly chasing her after Bea’s lovely secretary Dorothy Lyndon (Elizabeth Allen) who looks like a Hitchcock blonde in this episode.

William Shatner plays Bea’s nephew Paul Graves who reads about his eccentric aunt obtaining the cursed painting. He arrives hoping to convince her that she’s in mortal danger, having made the fatal error of bringing this cursed monstrosity into her home.

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In actuality Paul is plotting to kill her and blame her death on the painting~ His eccentric Aunt Bea is a lush who waves him away as if swatting a fly and dismisses him for being “the worlds oldest eagle scout”. In realty Paul is setting everyone up using the legend of Radin’s painting to cover his murderous plans to become the recipient of Beatrice Grave’s inheritance until the painting decides to hold court and wield it’s bloody justice with it’s scythe. There are some authentically chilling aspects to this episode. The subject of Stigmata is injected into the plot, as part of the legend holds that the painting bleeds whenever someone has been chosen to die. Dorothy understands Stigmata to be a religious phenomena Paul tells her “No it’s not a religious painting unless the man who painted worshiped death”

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CapturFiles_41 that old story about the curse has been running in the sunday supplements for years
Paul tries to warn Bea about the curse-Bea tells him-“That old story about the curse has been running in the Sunday supplements for years”

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CapturFiles_45 every time someone is about to die the painting starts to bleed- oh you're making this up

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Natalie Schafer is wonderful as Aunt Bea modulating between being a sympathetically fragile, sensually self destructive and tragic character then she emerges as vitriolic and sulfurous as the great Medusa quite imposing as a figure of the Monstrous Feminine.

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CapturFiles_63 here's to you old buddy buddy
“Here’s to you old buddy buddy”

Many of Thriller’s female characterizations were very complex and well developed. Medusa as archetype has historically been seen as the archetype of “the nasty mother” Bea Graves having wed a man young enough to be her son. While Medusa symbolizes sovereign female wisdom and female mysteries Bea being a “mystery’ writer, understands her predicament and walks into the flames of desire anyway. She is universal Creativity and Destruction in eternal Transformation. She rips away our mortal illusions. Bea has no illusion that her husband loves anything more than her millions but she desires him anyway. In this case Bea knows that she is on a self destructive path and seems to embrace it willingly. “To me death is no more than a business partner”

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We never see the actual Reaper step out of the painting, in the way he was used in the literal sense in Fritz Lang’s 1925 masterpiece Metropolis where you see him step forward swinging his scythe. With this episode’s adaptation of the myth, It’s the sound and glimpse of his scythe cutting through the air in volatile swipes that create the slashing, nightmarish effect.

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“In English lore, death is often given the name the “Grim Reaper” and shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe, and wearing a midnight black gown, robe or cloak with a hood, or sometimes a white burial shroud Usually when portrayed in the black-hooded gown, his face is not to be seen, but is a mere shadow beneath the hood.”

In some cases, the Grim Reaper is able to actually cause the victim’s death, leading to tales that he can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted in order to retain one’s life. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving only to sever the last tie from the soul to the body and guide the deceased to the next world and having no control over the fact of their death. image at bottom ; dance of death. psychopomps”

The origins of the Grim Reaper go back far into the past and he was known by many names. In old Celtic folklore he was known as L’Ankou, sometimes called Father Time. To the Greeks he was known as Cronus and the Romans called him Saturn.

Don’t be grim, I’ll be back with more Thrilling episodes! MonsterGirl

6 thoughts on “The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”

  1. Nice review. The only thing I can criticize is that it is Medea, not Medusa, who is the archetypical “nasty mother.” Medea killed her children out of anger and revenge against their father (Jason of the Argonauts). Medusa was a childless and mateless monster, one of the 3 Gorgon sisters whose hideous faces could literally turn men to stone. The Medusa character does have a role in another Thriller episode, “Trio For Terror.”

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    1. That was a typo! Thanks for pointing it out to me. I cringed a little when I saw the comment because I knew that, and merely made an error in writing it. Thanks for letting me know. I have too many thoughts in my brain, and sometimes they collide!-Joey

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  2. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than
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