Boris Karloff’s Thriller The Remarkable Mrs Hawk: A Modern Re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, Circean Poison with a Side of Bacon.

Of Circean poison and intoxicating things. When dealing with The Gods, the result is suffering.

The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk (air date December 18, 1961)

Starring Jo Van Fleet as Mrs. Cissy Hawk, John Carradine as Jason Longfellow, Paul Newlan as Sheriff Tom’Ulysses’ Willetts, Hal Baylor as Pete Gogan, and Bruce Dern as Johnny Norton. Directed by John Brahm and adapted to the screen by Donald Sanford from a story by Margaret St Clair

“What beast-molding Drakaina [Kirke] shall he [Odysseus] not behold, mixing drugs with the meal, and beast-shaping doom? And they, hapless ones, bewailing their fate shall feed in the pig styes, crunching grape stones mixed with grass and oil cake. But him the drowsy root shall save from harm and the coming of Ktaros [Hermes].”

Here is yet another favorite episode in the Thriller canon that always brings a smile to my face, even having seen it a number of times over the years. One of the most memorable and striking attributes that most of Karloff’s macabre little theatrical plays possess is an uncannily vivid sense of place, despite them having been filmed on a sound stage at Universal Studios.

Not only is this particular episode so effective because of Jo Van Fleet’s performance as the modern-day witch but it’s also due to the presence of the ubiquitous John Carradine, whose facial expressions alone can be so accentuated by his acrobatic facial expressions that make him so uniquely entertaining to watch not to mention listening to his Shakespearean elucidations, hard-bitten insights, and crafty machinations.

Not unlike the great Burgess Meredith. These actors both, use their faces as their canvas.

It’s a very interesting idea to take mythology and place it in a southern Gothic rural setting, alongside the carnival which adds a layer of mystique.

There’s a great scene that utilizes theatrical anachronism wonderfully. Cissy Hawk carries the bowl, or ‘Circe’s cup’ the night she feeds the pigs grapes and turns Johnny back into a man for a while. An ancient rite on modern rural farm land.

Another thing that’s notable is her wand is a plastic back scratcher!

The mixture of the playful score, clarinet, flute, and the grunts and groans and deep bassy string swells in contradiction adds such a maniacally macabre touch to the episode.

Perhaps it’s just good writing and set design that forges a perfect landscape for each story’s central theme to thrive. Mrs. Hawk is one of those contributions that offers just the right meat, from the perfect theatrical marrow.

Deriving its theme from the Homeric tale of the great enchantress Circe, blending a mix of Greek mythology with the Hobo Mystique

And crime drama, we are served up a tale about several young men disappearing in a small town, one ravenously sensual woman who runs a pig farm, who has an appetite for young men and a special gift for keeping them around, if they should want to go astray. A very uncomfortable sheriff whose middle name is Ulysses can not help but be wary of Mrs. Hawk, and a band of grifters who stumble onto Mrs. Hawk’s secret.

The Incredible Mrs.Hawk is a story about female sexuality, female sexual power, and the intimidating and destructive life force that it inflicts on male prowess. The art of seduction, the very act of female seduction is every bit a powerful chemical component as one of Circe’s potions, magic elixirs, for it has the same power to transform the male gaze as any tangible substance. The female sexual spirit, if vibrant can create an alchemical reaction either positive or negative. This story is a fairy tale, a fable about the struggle between the stamina of the male animal vs the fear of feminine sexual power.

Circe/Cissy Hawk had many lovers. Women are not allowed to pursue a vigorous sexual lifestyle.

In Homer’s epic tale, Circe/Kirke felt compassion for Ulysses/Odysseus and his men. Cissy Hawk is not an evil temptress, she is an empowered goddess/liberated woman who embodies a strong sexual drive and a command for loyalty, otherwise, lest ye be turned into swine, to dig for grapes in the mud. So what’s the problem here?

Circe herself was not unkind. She protected herself from lecherous men, she could command them by way of her subduing powers. Turning them into pigs. Yet, she cared about Odysseus and his men and guided them with instructions on how to be safe, from the sirens and other treacherous locations along their journey home.

Like Mrs. Hawk. She loved Johnny and Pete, she wanted male sexual companionship as well as a deep emotional connection to sheriff Tom Willetts. If they had not averted her advances she would not have turned them into swine.  Johnny was no good. He planned on robbing her, even causing her bodily harm. Pete while more docile, was willing to go along with the scam. And the Sheriff threatened to turn her in to the police which would have meant her execution, or life term in prison. When it’s Self-preservation the sympathies are calibrated differently. And of course there is a larger theme here…Eat or be eaten!

A Pan flute is playing a child-like tune. A delightful wisp of scales. To the left of the screen are a pair of black & argyle socks with holes worn in the toes, tapping out the melody in the air with his feet. A fire is burning in the trash can. This is a slice of the night in a hobo’s life. Paul, a washed-up prize fighter is seated next to the worn-out socks, looking irked and vexed by the flute playing.

A train whistle is blowing in the backdrop. Now there is a close-up of Jason’s (John Carradine’s) face. He is playing Jason Longfellow, an erudite transient, shabby and unshaven, with a razor-sharp acumen. Skinny, almost skeleton-like in his make-up, his lanky manner, betrays his urbane sensibilities. Peter starts to blow the car horn. He is signaling to the 3rd member of their little traveling con game, Johnny. Peter is very edgy.

Jason, obviously the ring leader, continues to play his pan flute, despite Peter’s growing anxiousness., as he lays on the car horn… ” That oughta do it…you think Johnny heard that?”  Jason stops playing long enough to say ” he isn’t deaf my friend” ” Come on let’s load up…when johnny gets back we got to be ready and take off” Peter is grabbing the bags from the camp sight and loading them into the old car. Jason just sets back and looks to play his flute again. Peter getting exasperated says ” Come on Jason will you put that thing away…we gotta get a head start on the cops” He goes to grab the flute from Jason who pulls his hands out of reach ” Come on give me it” The crickets are the background chorus. ” I don’t know why we ever took up with you” Jason plays a few more simple notes. Peter dowses the campfire. Loads a few more bags into the car. Jason continues his pagan serenade.

Peter walks over to a wall of bushes and moves the branches aside to expose a clearing in the woods, much like the one that was described in the Odyssey of Circe’s palace in the clearing on the Isle of Aiaie.

The branches move aside even more, and there is a close-up of the front of the house. The sign reads Isle of Aiaie Home of the Pampered Pig. Visitors Welcome owner Mrs. C Hawks manager. It is dark outside, but the lights from within burn brightly through the windows like 2 eyes lit up like torches.

Jason’s simple pan flute melody is merged with the episode’s comical and light-hearted melody of flute, oboe, and bassoon which leads us into the house. The tender, endearing strings drift across the screen, and we see a partial close-up of a man’s arm, with a heart tattoo on the bicep, with the traditional arrow through its center. The plaid shirt rolled almost all the way up the arm. A young man, Johnny played by a very young Bruce Dern, was not uncommon to be cast in the role of a young thug or twisted psychopath such as Jesse alongside Teresa Wright in Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s episode entitled Lonely Place

Bruce Dern is the drifter/psychopath Jesse, who terrorizes Teresa Wright.

(Original Air Date: 16 November 1964 ) where he did an absolutely stunning performance as a vagabond/sadist with too realistic an air not to cause real chills or stomach-turning repulsion. Dern was very good at tapping into that alienated quality of the unsavory miscreant, unstable youth who is not quite right in the head.

Johnny is laboring to bring the fork to his mouth in Mrs. Hawk’s kitchen. She begins to dote over him. His head is being held up by his hand as if the weight of it could fall into his plate. Mrs. Hawk comes in carrying a plate with a beautiful white cake on a platter.  ” I baked a surprise for you Johnny…something special for your dessert.” She brings it near to him. He refuses to look up, his sour demeanor still evident on his face. Hawk is beaming her usual wide prideful smile. As if a doting mother

” Why johnny you haven’t even touched your supper….What’s the matter aren’t you…”

Before she can finish the sentence “feeling well?” as she places her palm on his forehead to feel for any fever. Johnny erupts in a physically volatile burst, as he pushes himself away from the table and from Mrs. Hawk’s clutching hand.

The chair scrapes across the floor as he shoves it aside. He stands there shoulders pensive, dark eyes piercing outward at this provincially dressed lady in an apron. She meets his stance with a more tender air of concern and maternal swagger  She throws down her dish rag, “well never mind, it’s probably just a touch of the sun”  She moves closer toward Johny who is still standing as erect as a statue, defiant and willful. Angry, he’s knotted up in the guts… ready to lash out, uncoiling his rage at this polite zealously doting yet refined lady.

“Well now you don’t have to be depressed about it” moving a lock of greasy curl aside from Johnny’s forehead, he comes back violently at her, stiff finger aimed at her face. ” I want my pay now” ” Well of course dear boy, but I’m not gonna let you leave this house, til I give you something to cheer you up!” she goes over to the sideboard, where a set of crystal brandy decanter is ready on a tray. She pours Johnny a glass. “Now I have just the thing right here…” He watches hesitantly, hands on his hip, leaning forward aggressively.

” The last of my homemade black berry cordial…now I want you to drink this and no nonsense” He is still leaning in on his anger. Hips cocked with attitude. Ready to strike at any moment. Mrs. Hawk is seemingly oblivious to this raging wolf in her country kitchen.

Handing it to him he looks down at it. “Come on now, I want to see every drop of this gone by the time I get back with the money” She pointed her finger at him as if motherly prodding a child to take his medicine.

Johnny swigs it down as he watches her go to the wooden desk drawer to pull out the promised money. The scene frames him larger, Mrs. Hawk in a frilly apron appears as a small morsel that this monster in flannel is about to lunge at.

A long drawn-out one-note string lingers as Johnny slowly walks over to his prey, holding the crystal bottle that once held the blackberry cordial. He will use it as a weapon, blunt force trauma to Mrs. Hawk’s skull no doubt. He moves with the string note, slowly, thoughtfully gathered as she begins to open the little metal box filled with cash.

The scene abruptly breaks with a few toots, as Johnny raises his hand to strike, and Mrs. Hawk turns just in time to look up at him. The moment relaxes. She shows no fear, an odd calm. A signature tilt of the head, coquettish, empowered, and always in control, a secret strength that is never betrayed until the moment she must show herself, her true self. Her doe eyes flutter as she looks up into Johnny’s face.

” Johnny that’s not necessary” He looks at her as if he’s a bull facing down a matador, the bottle still in a striking pose. His eyes were dark and burning with a mixture of fever, sweat, and primal rage.

“Not necessary at all …. I told you…you could have anything you want”

The tone of doting motherhood… gone, a deeper more earnest voice comes through now. A woman betrayed, a woman scorned.

“All you had to do was ask…now if you must have this money…I won’t even call the police…Her voice softens and lilts delicately the word falls off her lips like a lullaby.

In a brutish rush, Johnny grabs the metal box making a rattling sound as he paws at it like a bear grabbing at food, then rips the phone wire out of the wall, he has a wild energy about him, staring at her the whole time, daring her to stop him. She still maintains her demeanor. Calmly cooly allowing him to act out, in a tantrum.

He runs for it, out the door, the strings begin to swell in a building swarm of impending danger, Mrs. Hawk gives a quietly sardonic? (find another word) look at the ripped phone wire, and the moment is broken as we hear Johnny screaming from the guts, off camera.


The violins have climaxed with diabolical ecstasy, Cissy Hawk drops the phone wire onto the floor like a dead snake, and she moves slowly coming toward the camera, not unlike Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard flirting for her close-up. Johnny now screams….”HELP ME!!!!!! SOMEBODY PLEASE!!!!!!!!!”

Cissy/Circe now moves closer to us, the camera’s eye, looking dead on gazing into our eyes. The violin strangles…

“HELP ME……PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Cissy Hawk is now close enough to almost embrace us. head bent downward looking up at us, slightly black widow, slightly gin house madam. His eyes burned with a hellish dark stare. No more sweet motherly doting, eat your cake, be a good boy, You’ll catch your death of cold…now we see the true enchantress at work. Not just a frivolous female in prissy ruffles gadding about tending to pigs and pancake batter.

This woman scorned is not just any ordinary woman….She can cause real pain…Be vengeful, work magic….! What is happening to Johnny outside? Why is he screaming? pleading in agony for help.? Mrs. Cissy Hawk moves even closer….toward us

Close as to devour us…her wrath has been unleashed…Eat or Be Eaten!

Johnny’s screams and pleas for help are excruciating wails now. As Hawk moves close enough to kiss, a shadow moves across her face like an eclipse. The moment is sharply cut to a frame of pigs in a stye burrowing for their scraps in the mud. Johnny’s scream’s have been drowned out and overlapped by the various squealing of the pigs fighting for their supper.

Cut to Peter tearing apart the bushes, to see across to the clearing, “that’s Johnny!…he’s in trouble…Come on Jason let’s go help him…” Peter grabs Jason by the shoulder trying to lift him up out of his chair. The old man is still playing that incessant tune on the flute. “Jason come on lets GO!!!!!!!” Jason now on his feet, almost spits over toward the farmhouse. ” Don’t be a fool….it’s too late” As Peter starts to go and help Johnny, Jason knocks him to the ground and hits him in the head with a rock, knocking him out temporarily. The physical comedy of Jason and Peter’s Slap & Punch aspect of these two invokes the spirit of the 3 Stooges.

QUICK CUT to Boris Karloff standing by a plaque that says MRS HAWKS  Playground for Pampered Piglets in old-fashioned signage. Like a sampler. Little piglets playing in a pen.

Boris dressed in a conservatively simple black suit, steps out to greet us, once again with the gist of tonight’s little macabre storyline.

“Imagine a woman with such poise, such calm in the presence of…..” He pauses a bit and lifts his eyebrow, a signature affect of Mr. Karloff, a note of irony, of cautionary devil may care…

“Whatever happened to young Johnny…” He laughs a little, and says  ” Huh Remarkable”
“The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk….that is the title of our little excursion into the impossible tonight, or
Boris walks closer to us, a little more earnest now….” Or is what happened to Johnny impossible in this day and age?”

He bends down, and we hear a squeal, as he pigs up a little pink piglet to stroke like a kitten.

“He was a thief!!! ….what ever he got he deserved you say…well my friends”…His eyebrows lifted, his lilting voice caressing us with wisdom and a sage kindness.

“How can you judge until you know the full horror that overtook him out there in the farm yard…”

” That’s a puzzle that I invite you to solve in the company with outcast”

” If you’ve ever yearned for a small farm with a few chickens…a cow…a pig or two” He looks sideways, again arching his wonderful brow….” or three” he now looks down at the little piglets…


” I particularly recommend this story…because as sure as my name is Boris Karloff… You’ll learn some animal husbandry that even the experts never dreamed of”

The white bars start to fracture the frame, a playful piece of music toys with the ending speech, as the THRILLER theme music closes in and winds up Karloff’s little soliloquy.

Composer/Arranger/Conductor- Pete Rugolo’s synthesis of Jazz and Classical music adds so much to the compelling landscape of the Thriller series. Rugolo’s quasi-jazz Nourish nightmare theme song and episodic score sets out to create a palpable aura of mind and spirit and consist of mood-intensifying musical cues.

Peter Rugolo conducting

Some of the best music I’ve heard is the pieces that Rugolo has written for the Thriller series, along with Morton Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith, 2 other favorite composers of mine.

THRILLER’S THEME MUSIC consists of Bass, Bass Clarinet…drums/percussion/bongo…flute and piccolo flute…french horn…Marimba and Timpani….organ…piano…alto saxophone…tenor and baritone sax….trombone….trumpet….tuba….Vibraphone and Xylophone.

Electronic sirens blare… whirring. Tin bells, whistles.. bongo trills and raps, upright bass  Tuba and Glockenspiel, 60s jazz horn section… The trademark soundtrack invites us to another THRILLER, only then to subside into an Americana western lite symphony, like that of 20th-century American classical music composer Aaron Copeland. A slice of plain living and rural folk.

Aaron Copeland American Composer

Jason Longfellow ( John Carradine) is sitting in a cane back fan rocker, a junk yard living room, cold tin coffee pot atop an oil drum, he’s hovering over an oblivious Peter Gogin whom he just knocked out. Jason is smoking a cigarette held between dirty, bone-like fingers. Peter is face down in the dirt.

The crickets are chirping, as Peter stirs, he asks Jason what happened. “You fell and hit your head…on a stone.” ” Well come on we gotta go help Johnny” ” I’m afraid Johnny’s beyond our aid or anybody’s.” In a panicked voice, low and out of breath, ” Jason,…what made johnny scream like that…do you suppose she pushed him in the hog pen” Jason lets out a little guffaw at that notion….” You know when hogs are hungry, erh they’re dangerous!”

” If I knew Johnny’s fate, my friend, I’d understand why Mrs. Hawk’s farm is designated Cave Accipitram among the brotherhood “Jason’s eyes bulged out of the sockets with glee and rancor.

The exquisite mixture for the facial expression of a mal content. Pete seems stupefied ” Hhm?” “Come on.. speak American would ya” Jason raises his voice and tone as to indicate the hierarchy in their educational backgrounds. ” Caveat Accipitrum”

“Caveat Accipitrum   BEWARE THE HAWK….” Jason ends his little lesson with emotive punctuation.

Jason grunts/laughs dismissively “Oh…Hey!” Jason looks away and takes a drag of his cigarette with his bone-like fingers, Squinting as if in deep contemplation about the matter.

“When you sent Johnny  up to mooch a job from her, you knew what was gonna happen to em”


He gets riled, rises up, and puts his big ex-boxer hands around Jason’s neck. ” You crummy weasel, you knew what would happen to Johnny” As he’s choking Jason, Jason gasps for breath…

” I didn’t know I just heard rumors that’s all, I still don’t know what happened to him…You wanna find out and line your pockets at the same time, let me go!” Like a scene out of the 3 stooges, Jason smacks Pete in the face with a chop to the nose and eyes causing him to give up his iron grip around Jason’s neck and clutch his own face in pain….Pete utters ‘I can’t see” , then Jason puts his arms around Pete and sits him down in the fan back chair. Pete still crying that he can’t see, his hands covering his face and eyes.

Jason tells him to ” Stop bellowin’, it’s only a temporary disability” Calmly no remorse Jason walks away and adjusts his dirty linen hat. Pete still holding his head in pain….

Pete starts to emit a slew of regrets- “Nah, we should have never taken up with you…you were just using Johnny too,” Jason interrupts, ” To confirm a rumor that’s all” Jason circles Pete as he still sits holding his poked eyes. Jason encircles him like a (professor of life) having just taught him a lesson in keeping his cool, and not underestimating this older man’s ability to stay one step ahead of (danger) Jason is a cocky, cool, conniving cunning individual. A user, a master manipulator, A grimier embodiment of a Socio Pathic predator who is underestimated because he carries himself in the guise of a filthy transient geezer with no outward refinement. Jason just looks like an ordinary bum.

As Jason goes to set beside Pete who has now let go of the painful grip on his poked eyes. Jason pokes Pete on the shoulder, ” you’re a smart lad Pete and I like you, I’m gonna take you into my confidence” He’s holding a flashlight and a magazine in his hands as he settles down next to a recovering Pete.

Pete, who has a big boyish-looking mug, insists ” Don’t do me no favors”

“Ordinarily a mere hobo rumor wouldn’t interest me” He pulls his reading glasses out of his shirt pocket. Pete’s still rubbing his eyes. Jason puts his glasses on to begin reading.

“Certainly not to chase nearly clear across the country….so what did excite me YOU ask?!”

” I ain’t asking.”

“This…a copy of Wedding Bells Magazine, and an advertisement that reads….as follows ” Attractive widow, owner of the prosperous farm….desires lonely young man to share her work and future.” The atmosphere is smokey from the cigarettes, The dust is everywhere from the dump site by the railway site. The crickets are serenading these 2 conspirators, albeit one very reluctant young man being led by an older con artist. There is a great sense of place as the grime, the mystery and the lilt of Carradine’s voice bring us a little closer to the narrative now.

“Signed Mrs. C Hawk. Box 35 Wedding Bells Magazine etc etc etc….”. He lifts his glasses off for a moment to look up at Pete. Pete is staring down at the magazine.

Pete cuts him off, ” Don’t tell me no more…I’m catching the first train West. Pete gets up from the chair and heads toward the car. He pulls out a white towel, his body partially turned toward Jason who has followed him over to the car. ” What does the phrase, lonely young man, suggest to you?”

Jason continues, Raising his arms in a gesture of shrug, ” Why should the young man be ‘lonely?’

Pete leans on the car, and looks downward for a moment to ponder Jason’s question. Now Pete looks right at Jason. ” I’ll tell you why….cause lonely young men aren’t apt to have relatives who will question their sudden disappearance…neither are Hoboes! …apparently, when the lady’s supply of drifters dwindles, she turns to a new source.” He smiles, pleased with his aptitude for discovery, looking down as he grips the magazine. Opening it up to the cover, ” A lonely hearts magazine”

Pete tells Jason….” well if you know so much, why don’t you tell the police?” Jason squawks ” The police!…where’s your sense of chivalry, my boy…one doesn’t rat on a lady, particularly a lady who so obviously can pay us for our silence,” Pete says ” Pay us?”

“Exactly, all we have to do is find out the secret of the lady Hawk’s gory little game what ever it is …then we can name our own price…” Pete grunts, ” Yeah… well cut me out”

“You’ll change your mind when the profits start rolling in…here now you start writing this” He hands Pete a pad and pencil. Pete leans on the fender of the car to start taking dictation from Jason.

” My dear madam….No!…(Jason paces while his mind is forming the perfect written correspondence to entrap the lady, Hawk. “My dear friend…I saw your ad in the marriage magazine” Suddenly Pete cuts in, “Wait a minute!” (he yells waving a finger), now wait just a minute…even if she answers this….I ain’t gonna go there!” Jason calmly answers him, ” We’ll discuss that when the time comes….where was I. ”

The scene fades to Mrs. Hawk sitting at her writing desk

Mrs. Hawk sitting at her writing desk. It is nighttime, she is scribbling on paper with a quill pen, her hair pulled back in a modest linen scarf, dressed like a maiden living in a different era. The moon is illuminating the bedroom curtains. yet the room is darkness and shadow. But Mrs. Hawk is rapt in concentration on her letter to Mr.Peter Gogan.

” Mr. Peter Gogan….( the quill pen, scratches and scrapes the words across the paper. She dips the tip back into the ink well) general delivery Wellesville. The strings are pensive and growing ominous.

“Dear Peter, I hope you won’t think it forward of me….to call you Peter….but your letter was so warm and sympathetic” the music becomes a whirlwind of dangerous undertow. She is about to lay the bait for her next lonely young drifter, unbeknownst to her that he is also about to attempt to prey on her as well….

As the violins spin scales out of control like a tidal wave of strings, the scene fades into the bright light of an afternoon at the carnival. Cooley’s Stupendous Traveling Shows, the pump organ serenades the fairway folk, balloons, and town’s people in a flurry of excitement, the Ferris Wheel in the backdrop.

Sheriff Tom Willetts stands guard for pickpockets monitoring the crown, then the scene cuts to a large hog in a pen. NANNOS entered by Mrs. C Hawks ribbons hanging from the sign. Cissy Hawk greets two men who are congratulating her on her prized hog. Dressed in a floppy hat she is a throwback, a lady from another period in time. She asks, “How’s the baby Mr. Larkin?” He answers, that she’s doing better.

She has that coy expression that washes over her tautly cheerful face., dressed in modesty, her eyes betray her demure sway, and the more alluring woman takes over. The two men I detect are a little uncomfortable around her. She looks up at Mr. Larkin, telling him that his wife should phone him if there’s anything she can do… “anything.”

She’s the perfect neighbor, and yet there seems to be an air of uneasiness that she creates around the local men of the town. Both men congratulate her on winning the prize for the best hog once again.

“Isn’t he handsome, my Nannos…” we see the pig which bares a heart with an arrow tattoo just like that of Johnny. “I’m so proud of him,” she says in saccharine tones, like that of a doting mother. “Nannos” she calls to the pig. It begins to squeal loudly as if agitated by her. She tilts her head back and laughs. ” isn’t it sweet the way he responds…pigs are very intelligent you know” Her lips puckered in, her face a grimace of pride.

Both men appear to wear odd smiles in reaction to this strange woman. Almost scowling at her dotage of the barn animal, they shoot each other a quick sneer, as Mrs. Hawk looks over Larkin’s shoulder.

Mrs. Hawk exudes an overly sexualized maternal dotage, rather than resulting in the men finding her seductive and enticing, she causes a shutter of repulsion as if her flirtations were unnatural and unsavory. It is as if the engendered maternal persona has killed off what is desirable about the feminine mystique.

“Oh there’s Tom Willetts will you excuse me.” She leaves the two men standing by the hog pen and starts her pursuit of Sheriff Tom ‘Ulysses’ Willetts.

“Tom, Tom…Tom Willetts”, she cries out like a cat in heat, as he scurries through the throngs of balloons and townsfolk trying to get away from her. His jowls were always in a downturn, the look of a basset hound who hasn’t had his supper yet. Finally catching up with him….”Oh Shawh, Ulysses…” She pleads for him to stop and take notice of her.
She’s baring her teeth in a smile like a fox that’s cornered the perplexed rooster.

“How many times have I asked you not to call me that,” Willetts says with annoyance in his tone.

The pump organ seems out of place, to a playful celebratory melody, ice cold drinks coffee 10c, people muddling about but these two people have an attraction like the polarity of two magnates pushes away from each other. So out of place. She was like a medieval lady in peasant dress, he a giant ogre in Sheriff’s clothing, an arm of the law, but a more cranky bear trapped in the country’s confines of civility.

“Well that’s your name isn’t it?” Willetts grumbles, ” Oh well it’s my middle name…( She touches his cheek with her white-gloved hand )He changes the subject ” Well I see you won all the hog prizes again,…( shaking his head) I just don’t know how you do it. ”

“Well, it isn’t easy I can tell you…with help so hard to get these days…my last young man was a terrible disappointment”

She shakes her head, rueing the thought of it.

Close up on Tom’s face ” Your last young man??? I thought you had Addis working for you?”He seems taken by surprise.

“She looks down and away ” Oh no…Addis left some time ago…that leg of his was bothering him so much so that he had to go south to the hot springs” She looks down and smiles a bit, Then looks back up at Tom, “Then I hired this young man, then he just suddenly asks for his pay and left”

As she trifles at his shirt pocket like a doting wife, she implores ” I don’t know how I”m gonna manage” Tom Willetts looks down at her hand, fixing his pocket. “It’s so hard on a lone woman Tom” She looks up at him, the doe eyes begging for connection, as he just continues to fixate on his shirt pocket, that has been neatly tidied up.


He begins to rearrange his pocket back to they way he likes it, a little bulky and open, he fumbles around the words, “Yeah, well, I uh I gotta go, I’m on duty.” Sheriff Willetts can’t wait to get away from Mrs. Hawk.

“Oh, Shawh” She’s trained on him like a bee to honey. “Sometimes I think you were born with this badge pinned to your skin…(touching her gloved finger and tapping his frowning lips ) You just take this job of yours too seriously” She drags him over to the booth with ICE COLD DRINKS ” “Now Tom Willett’s I’m gonna be simply devastated if you don’t buy me a lemonade” Willett’s is being pulled along like a reluctant mule.

“Oh, Shawh…..” Mrs. Hawks often used exclamation that I can’t find in any southern dictionary most likely meaning shucks, drat, or dammit it!

“Yeah, well I’d like that Mrs. Hawk, I’d like that very much, but I gotta go I gotta get back” He bolts away from her grasp, as she calls out to him “So soon…but I thought that maybe you’d like to drive me home and then maybe have a nice hot supper….( she pouts) again uses her regular aside “oh Shawh”

The scene fades, and Mrs. Hawk pulls up to her farm where Peter and Mr. Longfellow are waiting. Dressed up in cleaner clothing, Pete in a herringbone suit, all scrubbed and neatly shaken. She smiles from inside her truck, Peter looks panicked and Longfellow lifts off his hat to greet her. He’s wearing a bow tie and a black suit.

“Hello There!” Mrs. Hawk beams a smile, as she drinks up the looks of the virile young Peter, Jason’s sacrificial lamb to the ongoing experiment into the mystery behind Mrs. Hawk’s missing drifters.

The horns come in, spotting danger, as the white cross-hatched bars form over the frame of Mrs. Hawk’s beaming smile. Then it fades to black after the THRILLER title comes on screen and the strings fortify the danger with their fierce bowed strikes.

Inside Mrs. Hawk’s Farmhouse Longfellow impersonates Peter’s Uncle

Peter has answered the ad in Lonelyhearts Magazine.

Jason Longfellow admires the painting over the mantle piece.

An unwilling Peter goes along with Jason’s scam, his shyness and skepticism written all over his reluctant face.

A young man being sacrificed up to Mrs. Cissy Hawk…the Goddess Circe…



Pete runs away from Hawk’s farmhouse. Was it a nightmare?

Cissy Hawk comes to wake Peter for Breakfast and finds he’s cleared out!


Sheriff Willets is worried about Mrs. Hawk being alone on the farm, with Johnny and his crew of thugs & grifters wandering about the area.

Womanly wiles against a lawman’s legitimate concerns….

Willets tells Mrs. Hawk about the criminal gang Johnny’s been running with, more specifically, Jason and his ex-boxer pal, that nice young man Peter.


Cissy Hawk contemplates matters of betrayal and retribution. Men are pigs!!!!!!


A little research, a stolen library book, and some strange goings on and Longfellow starts to confirm his suspicions about the true identity of Mrs.Cissy Hawk



A reluctant young co-conspirator and a plan of blackmail begin…

Pete insists he’s not doing it…but Jason says ” that’s what you think!”…


Peter has some of this special blackberry syrup on your pancakes.

“Do you think your Uncle might come for supper tonight?” ” Oh yes, I think that would fit into his plans just right!”

“How do you like your pancakes, Peter?” “Oh they’re just great, I just didn’t realize I was so… SNORT!!!! Snortttt…. nortttt… snorrttttt… grunt grunt.


“Everything about your farm has a delicious quality, so sparkling and perfect, so many little surprises everywhere one looks”


“You know Mr. Longfellow I have the feeling that you’re not what you pretend to be.”
“Is anyone?” Longfellow goes on to spout some poetry
“False faith doth hide what the false heart doth know… Shakespeare said that and speaking of poetry.”

“Where is my lyrical young nephew?
“Ah…a woman’s taming influence?”

Jason Longfellow is well aware of Circe’s talent for mixing potions, especially in her wine.

And the game of blackmail begins. Longfellow wants the farm and all its contents.

Longfellow sneezes, there must be a lot of dust in the room, or is he allergic to quills? Or is it the touch of special powder on the quills?

Watching a thing like a man turning into a pig would be quite a sight!

Pete is still wearing his tweed sports jacket.

“Please No cries of outrage, not from you Mr. Longfellow, of all people!”





“Tom you know something about me don’t you?”

“That’s right…” “Exactly what?”
“Everything that Jason Longfellow discovered…who you really are…what actually happened to all those men who disappeared here”

“Oh, dear…I had hoped that all this unpleasantness would end with Peter and Mr. Longfellow…couldn’t you let the whole thing drop Tom?
“No, I couldn’t
“You disappoint me…I thought you were different…I really liked…( Tom backs away)…liked you… Tom
“Because uh, my middle name was Ulysses?
“Yes” ( Circe gives a teary reply)
“Then you admit you’re guilty?
“Of course I am
“Then you’ll sign a full confession.
“I have one prepared…I’ve had it for a long time…it’s on my desk.
“I guess I’m just a little tired of going on and on…you know Jason Longfellow said a very wise thing…he said ‘impermanence is the curse of the eccentric’ …I guess I am rather eccentric.”


“Just wonder what makes you do it?”
“Why does a spider eat her mate?”
“You know when I was searching the place I’d honestly hoped I find where you’d hidden those bodies…it’s gonna be hard for people to believe what really happened to those men.”

“Oh well when you show them my confession they’ll believe you…in the meantime, I hope you haven’t told anyone, Tom…”
“If I told anyone a thing like that they’d lock me up”

(Circe Laughs)…”You know that happened once. Long ago in Salem Massachusetts when it was still a colony…a very respectable deacon caught on
Oh, he got right up there in church and denounced me he said I was ‘Satan incarnate!’ (She raises her arm up with conviction.) There was a very unpleasant trial. After which they took him away and burned him…” She looks up at Tom with…ironic smile.

“Oh here it is now sit down, Now this is in 5th Century Greek….I guess at the time I thought I was going to retire…It says
I do confess….that I am… Circe…the Greek Sorceress….who changed the sailors of Ulysses into hogs and perhaps you should explain that the english translation of the word Circe is…Hawk….and perhaps you could add a list of my conquests…Jason Longfellow, Johnny Norton, Addis Martin, Henry…”

Tom stops her…”Oh, that’s plenty for a starter….
“OH… but there were many many more…I’ve lived a long long time Tom,…
“How did you do it?
She chuckles lightly “With a little pinch of powder ( as she wipes some off his jacket from the donut.
“White powder Tom”…as she puts some on his lips…
A clarinet curls around the moment as Tom realizes what she has done to him….he drops the donut, and the horns welcome his awareness, as he stares mortified through his thick black-rimmed glasses….”No”…he shakes his head…”you didn’t!”

“Isn’t it odd how they always say no you didn’t’ …when it’s perfectly obvious”,,, she walks over to her wand and waves it…from her gaze she finishes with the words… “that I did!” We hear Tom grunting deeply like a large hog.


“Why Tom…it didn’t take you long to change….”

“Always makes me a little sad to have to send them off to the slaughterhouse, you may load them now Al…”

Goodby Addis, you won’t be having any more trouble with that leg where you’re going.

“Goodbye, Johnny…I forgive you…”

“Goodbye Peter, you were such a sweet boy.”

“As for you Mr. Longfellow You should be ashamed for leading the others on.”

“Goodbye, Tom Ulysses Willetts… “I’m really sorry.



While the male antagonists in this play are not quite the heroic albeit historically bestowed heroism founded in the Mythic hegemonic male prowess flowing from the ancient tales of Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses, and his men, those sailors aren’t as blatantly unsavory as is this modern bunch of vagrant, violent grifters who plan on stealing and perhaps murdering Mrs. Hawk (Circe)

Considering the story takes its blatant tongue-in-cheek cues from the Odyssey, these men are not as closely aligned with the ‘noble’ crew of Ulysses, the sea-faring men. Jason Longfellow is given an erudite charisma and Sheriff Tom ‘Ulysses’ Willet does have an ambivalent attraction to Cissy Hawk. He is still obstinate about getting away from her at every turn.

Circe herself was not unkind. Homer says that Kirke felt compassion for Odysseus and his men.

She, Cissy Hawk, protected herself from lecherous men, commanding them by way of her subduing powers and knowledge of concoction-making. Turning them into virtual pigs. Circe cared about Odysseus ( Ulysses) and his men, kept her sacred oath, and guided them with instructions on how to be safe, from the sirens and other various dangers. Sissy Hawk loved or lusted after Johnny and Pete. She wanted male sexual companionship. She was genuinely drawn to Sheriff Tom Willet.

If they had not averted her advances she might not have turned them into swine. Johnny was an aggressive hoodlum. He planned on robbing her, even causing her bodily harm. Simple Pete while more gentle in nature, still complacently went along with Jason’s plan to rob Mrs. Hawk. And Sheriff Willetts, threatened to turn her in to the police which would have meant either execution or at least a life term in prison. Like many epic tales of heroes and heroines, the ultimate task is  ‘self-preservation’. ‘Eat or be eaten!’


Mrs. Hawk / Circean Poison and intoxicating things


In blue taken from portions of Wiki:

Circe transformed her enemies or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions. Again, she was known for her knowledge of drugs and herbs.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe/Kirke is described as living in a palace that stands in the middle of a clearing in dense wood. In Thriller’s Mrs. Hawk, we see the small farmhouse set amidst a clearing of trees and brush.

Around the house prowled strangely docile lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic; they were not dangerous and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom. She invited Odysseus’ crew to a feast of familiar food, a pottage of cheese and meal, sweetened with honey and laced with wine, but also laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they gorged themselves on it.

Circe is referred to in Dante’s Divine Comedy:  “Virtue is like an enemy avoided by all, as is a serpent, through the misfortune of place, or through bad habit that impels them, on which account they have so transformed their nature, the dwellers in the miserable valley, that it seems that Circe had them in her pasture.”

Shakespeare makes a reference to Circe in The Comedy of Errors. When the Duke is listening to seemingly contradictory tales that arose due to confusion between identical twins, he says: “Why what an intricate impeach is this! I think you all have drunk from Circe’s cup. If here you housed him, here he would have been;

In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, Lady Brett Ashley is compared to Circe by one of the men she seduces. “He calls her Circe,” Mike said. “He claims she turns men into swine.”


The phrase “Circean poison” has been used to refer to intoxicating things, such as applause.

The “Circe effect”, coined by the enzymologist William P. Jencks, refers to a scenario where an enzyme lures its substrate towards it through electrostatic forces exhibited by the enzyme molecule before transforming it into the product. Where this takes place, the catalytic velocity (rate of reaction) of the enzyme may be significantly faster than that of others.

A brief beginning synopsis of Odysseus’story of his relationship with Circe:

Ulysses voyages to the isle of Aiaia, a place where magical transformations take place. Circe considered a powerful witch, whose specialty is potions dwells in a large mansion in a clearing, surrounded by beasts, though wild, yet docile in nature. She has the power to turn humans into animals and animals back into human form. Ulysses aided by Hermes the god of magic is given the antidote for Circe’s brew that changes men into beasts. He is given the herb moly.

“These are digestive powers, and they are exactly what’s needed to return the animal Achaeans back to people. With help from Hermes, the god of magic, Odysseus and his crew regain the appearance of manhood from Circe. They become the eaters again, instead of the eaten, and they recover the strength that they once had in their innocence before Troy. Reborn in this way, seemingly young again, they remember their destination, which is home. Yet Circe instructs Odysseus that he can go home only by way of the underworld. As in Paleolithic art, it is only through death that the animal victims become human.”


Circe is described as having braided hair, not unlike Mrs. Hawk, when she undoes her updo and walks amidst her pigs throwing them grapes in the muddy moonlit night glow. She had the power to bewitch anything, so around her palace dwelled lions and mountain wolves, having given them drugs, they were as pliable as gentle children. And so the beast never set upon men, although they would rear up and beg for affection and fawn as playful as a dog fawning for its master.

Half the men stayed on the ship, and the other half went on to the great Circe.

Although Ulysses’ men were a little dismayed by the outward look of these fearsome beasts of prey, they lingered by Circe’s large wooden door and listened to her sing. She had a beautiful singing voice.

Once the men made themselves heard, Circe flung the doors open and ushered them in. All went except for Eurylokhos, who did not trust the situation at all.

She offered the men plates of cheese and barley meal, and yellow honey and Pramnian wine. But unbeknownst to the crew of Ulysses’s ship, the food had been infused with one of Circe’s drugs. A kind of amnesia fell over them. It was a drug to make them forget their devotion to their country and home.

Once they had feasted themselves on her meal, she struck them suddenly with her wand and drove them into her stys where she kept her swine. Now all the men had transformed into pigs themselves! The only thing left unchanged, was their minds remained that of men. They even shed tears as they were shut in, Circe throwing them acorns, and other treats for animals who eat off the ground.

Eurylokhos went back to the ship to tell the frightening news to Ulysses and the remaining men. He was almost speechless, so heartbroken was he about the current state of his friends. Finally, he related what happened to his friends, and the crew members. That he had stayed behind “foreboding mischief”.

Ulysses told him to stay with the ship but that he must go and confront the enchantress Circe. But on the way, he met up with Hermes who spoke to him, `Luckless man, why are you walking thus alone over these hills, in a country you do not know? Your comrades are yonder in Kirke’s grounds; they are turned to swine, lodged and safely penned in the sites. Is your errand here to rescue them? I warn you, you will never return yourself, you will only be left with the others there.”

He gave him the herb of magic virtue, called Moly whose root was black and flower a milky white, which will thwart Circe’s magical potion’s effects. He tells Ulysses before she can wave her wand at him, to pretend to strike Circe with his sword threatening to kill her. This will make her cower and so she will ask him to come to her sex bed. Then she will promise to release his comrades, and make him an honored guest. But first he must get her to swear an oath to the Blessed Ones, the gods, to plot no mischief toward you thus from now on. If she does not promise, while he lies naked there, he will be at the mercy of her to rob him of his courage and his manhood!

Why are women always doing that, taking away a man’s manhood? I find it interesting yet not surprising, that in Homer’s tale her status as a goddess possessing magical powers bestowed by the gods, her womanly wiles were still no match for Ulysses ‘might’, the sword and his aggression which made her subservient instantly…the one equalizing dynamic at the moment is going willingly to her sex bed

So Ulysses went to Circe’s palace and let out a great cry she heard his voice and came out quickly thru the shining doors. She gave him a silver-studded chair to sit in. She brewed  a potion for him to drink which she gave him in a golden goblet

Ulysses -“When I had taken and drunk it up and was unenchanted still, she struck at me with her wand, and `Now’ she said `be off to the sty, to wallow with your companions there.”

I find it interesting yet not surprising, that in Homer’s tale her status as a goddess possessing magical powers bestowed by the gods, her womanly wiles were still no match for Ulysses ‘might’, the sword and his aggression which made her subservient instantly…the one equalizing dynamic at the moment is going willingly to her sex bed

he pulled out his sword from beside his thigh and thrust it toward him as if to strike her dead, and with that, she shrieked and sank back and became submissive to him.

Kirke-“Who are you and from where? Where are your city and your parents? It bewilders me that you drank this drug and were not bewitched. Never has any other man resisted this drug, once he had drunk it and let it pass his lips.”

Kirke-“But you have an inner will that is proof against sorcery. You must surely be that man of wide-ranging spirit, Odysseus himself; [Hermes] the Radiant One of the golden wand has told me of you; he always said that Odysseus would come to me on his way from Troy in his dark and rapid vessel. But enough of this; sheathe your sword; then let us go to bed together, and embracing there, let us learn to trust in one another.”

But he told her that he could not think of intimacy while his friends were wallowing in mud transformed into swine. He asked her to pledge the oath, and once she did, he laid down in her sumptuous bed.
And beautiful handmaidens flitted about the palace, drew him a bath, and set out a feast, but he had no appetite because his friends were still under her spell.

Circe told him not to have any doubts that she had sworn the great oath, with wand in hand she flung open the doors of the sty and set about to bring each man back to human form. And Circe felt compassion too.

Tilla Durieux as Circe  Franz von Stuck


7 thoughts on “Boris Karloff’s Thriller The Remarkable Mrs Hawk: A Modern Re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, Circean Poison with a Side of Bacon.

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  2. A modern retelling of an ancient legend. This episode was written with real dark humour. This woman is one of the most unusual serial killers to ever grace the screen. The way she does it is one of the most unusual ways every depicted — but the results are still the same. What really irks me is that the story showed the woman GETTING AWAY WITH IT! The concept of such a thing being shown on a television program from THAT era is almost unthinkable. It was the era of the white-hat/black-hat. The rules of the system back then was that the villain should always loose in the end. She compares herself to a spider, which was a good analogy. The ending with her getting away with it and continuing her murderous ways was the one thing that disappointed me. What was the point of such an outcome? She should have been taken down in the end.

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