As sure as my name is MonsterGirl, this is a Boris Karloff Thriller! “The Storm”

An underrated episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller in brief! even for me, that is…

The Storm -Release date Jan. 22nd, 1962

Directed by Herschel Daugherty adapted for television by writer William D. Gordon from a short story by crime novelist MacIntoch Malmar. Which was later adapted for television, again directed by Hershel Daugherty in an updated film called The Victim 1972  starring the wonderful Elizabeth Montgomery and the always acerbic Eileen Heckart.

Starring Nancy Kelly as Janet Willsom (The Bad Seed 1956) The classic American horror-thriller film directed by Mervyn LeRoy won Kelly an Oscar for Best Actress that year as psychotic Rhoda Penmark’s (Patty McCormack) mother, Christine Penmark.

Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune wrote of her “Tony Award-winning stage performance:

“Though Miss Kelly has done attractive work on Broadway before, she has never really prepared us for the brilliance of the present portrait” (Walter Kerr-New York Times, January 14, 1995).

The Bad Seed 1956 also stars Eileen Heckart and the quintessentially cranky Henry Jones)

The evil Rhoda strokes her mother. Scarier than clowns….!

The Storm also stars James Griffith as Ed Brandies the quirky lecherous and intrusive cab driver. David McLean as Ben T. Willsom and Jean Carroll as the voice of phone operator Drucie. Not to be forgotten, the beautifully sleek and ever-present Baba the black cat and real star of this episode…

Nancy Kelly plays Janet Willsom, a woman besieged by noises and bad weather, while isolated in her home, waiting for her husband Ben to arrive home in during a raging storm. Kept alerted and accompanied by her faithful black cat Baba, Janet must first fend off the nauseating advances of the cabbie who brings her home and wants to practically move in on her, while her husband is away on business.

When I originally posted this feature I had made a reference to Hitchcock in the post concerning the body of the dead girl in the trunk. The focus is on her lifeless finger, with the large diamond ring dangling as limp as a soggy carrot.

The Storm, in general, contains striking elements of a good old-fashioned Hitchcock thriller! As well as the framing of one hell of a good stage play!

I hadn’t been asked to join in the BEST HITCHCOCK MOVIE (THAT HITCHCOCK NEVER MADE)  yet. So here it is once again, with a few little tidbits thrown in so that it can take its place in the wonderful blogathon that’s going on between July 7 -July 13!

Nancy Kelly- strong actress, beautiful, never got to play a Hitchcock heroine!

The use of a strong woman, alone in a situation where there is a person unknown stalking her. Plenty of red herrings thrown in to divert our attention, and one hell of a dead body stuffed in a trunk, that we the audience are privy to, but not the feature’s protagonist, Janet Willsom.

Janet Willsom, finds herself in the midst of one single night’s journey of survival, trying to stay one step ahead of a murderer and also delay an uncomfortable bit of evidence, that could turn her entire world upside down.

From its small taut moments of built-in suspense, until the eventual climax, ‘The Storm’ plays out truly like any good Hitchcock ‘Woman in Peril’ such as Dial M For Murder 1954 Starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland.

Grace Kelly – The Strong Hitchcock blond-beautiful!

  Suspicion 1941

The episode opens with a mysterious pair of man’s trousers assailing a beautiful blonde in the midst of the rainstorm. She is strangled and stuffed in a trunk in the cellar, as we are strategically shown the emphasis on a shiny diamond ring on her lifeless finger sticking out of the trunk. A very Hitchockian moment…

Is Janet now being stalked by the same mad killer? What’s behind every noise and flash of light and sweep of shadow?

I love this episode because it creates a perfectly creepy environment of isolation. Very much lit as a faithful crime drama Film Noir, the shear simplicity of each moment, each little task Janet undergoes to create normalcy and safety in her surroundings, what would usually be merely ordinary banal gestures become tautly drawn-out maneuvers in a darkly ominous, tweaked and dangerous landscape.

Invoking more of a sense of terror because of its bared-down realism, than a manufactured horror. As suggested by David Schow‘s wonderful commentary of this episode on the recently released DVD box set, the atmosphere of the isolated ‘woman in peril‘ who must fend off whatever is lurking, reminds us of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark 1967

This is also a faithful psychological Film Noir piece, utilizing the very best in Nancy Kelly as the dame in danger and James Griffith as the lasciviously intrusive cab driver Ed whose quirky character is either a raving maniac or just a red herring to throw us off the scent of the true murderer.

We are placed at an ordinary house, during the night of a brutal rain storm, as the suspense builds by inches, making this episode truly memorable for me, because of its sheer uncluttered plot. It almost works as a stage play. Its simplicity, in its ordinary environs set on its head one stormy night, gives this episode its thrilling design.

And Baba the black cat does not die, thank god….! Baba the cat plays an important part in the narrative because he allows us to cut to an objective observer who can see the real events that are surrounding Janet’s predicament. She is a woman in peril and Baba is the compass that points the way, every time something is going to happen.

The always hyper-vigilant, loyal, and condensed milk-drinking pussy cat!

The tension cleverly builds, because Janet never has a chance to relieve herself of incidental disturbances. This keeps the pace intensifying until its final conclusion.

Ed waxing eloquent, while trying to push himself on the wet and tired Janet.

There’s always a noise.

Janet comes in from the rain, and the lights go out. Janet goes back out in the storm to shut the cellar doors, not yet privy to what we know, that there is a dead blonde wearing a diamond ring, shoved in a trunk down there.

The constant ‘unknown’ that is surely lurking. The use of the cellar is a crucial environment for invoking a ‘fear’ response in us.

One minute we’re in abject darkness with curious shadows swarming about, then we are quickly thrust into hot white light from the electrical storm that is encircling the isolated house. It’s these constant oscillations that keep us moving toward the climax, with a palpable tension right up to the end.

Drucie the phone operator’s voice adds a bit of connection to the outside world, yet this connection too… gets frustratingly cut off.

Janet composed but inwardly frantic awaits her husband Ben, who is expected home, but might have been hampered by the bad weather, leaving her alone and at the mercy of a killer on the loose!

According to the DVD’s commentary by David Schow Boris Karloff wrote the intro to this story, “In this narrative, a storm takes an isolated house  between its teeth and shakes it like a rat in a trap”

The only things Janet has between the storm and her fears are her raincoat and flashlight!

The use of the female corpse hidden in the trunk down in the cellar has a very Hitchcockian flare to it. We see the dead body, but Nancy Kelly does not!

The Blonde in the trunk oh my!

A still from the promotional trailer of Hitchcock’s Frenzy 1972. Poking fun at the dead woman in the potato truck near Covent Garden Grocers.
The discovery of the murdered woman who had been stuffed in a potato sack by Robert Rusk, the sex-murderer of Frenzy. Reminds me of the poor unknown dead blonde in the trunk down in the cellar of The Storm!


Watch it and see who lurks behind the rainstorm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s been Thrilling…MonsterGirl

14 thoughts on “As sure as my name is MonsterGirl, this is a Boris Karloff Thriller! “The Storm”

  1. Monster Girl, your review of the THRILLER episode “The Storm” had me as riveted as if I were watching the entire episode! The imagery of your screen-grabs were perfectly chosen, and there were nice touches of humor tucked into your blog post. Now I want to get ahold of the episode itself to see what the heck happens to poor Nancy Kelly and her cat! :-) Great job!

    1. Yay!!!!! I aims to please my readers! And The Storm has always been such an unsung episode amongst the more popular ones. Not that Thriller isn’t all fabulous of course. And I hope it’s okay that I gave away the cat not dying. I have a code I follow…no harm to cats and dogs, but for me Cats in particular, because I live with several wonderful felines, do rescue work and HATE when films show violence toward them or any other defenseless little soul. I usually like to know going in, if I’m going to get upset or not, so I decided to calm any worries about the cat! Thanks so much for stopping by The Drive- In. I’m doing Roses’ Last Summer next, which I think is another sleeper episode. Starring Mary Astor who is just the bees knees!! Cheers- Joey (MonsterGirl)

      1. Joey:

        I watched The Storm for the umpteenth time the other night and loved it, as always. That it doesn’t have a better reputation perplexes me. Maybe because it’s not a horror in the usual sense. It plays very like a TV version of the wonderful old-time radio series Suspense, which featured many episodes like this. I heard one last week set in the Austrian alps,–no killer, just an impending avalanche, or was it something else?–great listening even as I correctly guessed the outcome. One of the best in this vein, comparable to The Storm in quality is A Country Road (the 1950 Cary Grant-Betsy Drake version). It’s riveting from start to finish. Who’d have thunk the back roads of Long Island could be so menacing and isolated feeling? Well, circa 1950 many of them were. It was still more country than suburb.

        But I digress. The Storm is also suburban New York, not mentioned in the Thriller version but it’s in the story it was adapted from. Nancy Kelly sells it. What a great actress! Her performance is consistently good from start to finish, and I especially like her reactions to David McLean as her husband near the end. Master class acting. The story itself offered few surprises. Its excellence lay in the way it was told, not in the Big Reveal. No supernatural elements here, yet it’s a classic Thriller, in the style of the series, not a crime episode a la The Fatal Impulse, which I like very much for different reasons. James Griffith’s brief performance was brilliant, really set the tale up, eh? I wonder if you know the poem he recited as the storm picked up (“O blow wind, blow…all is on the hazard!”,–I paraphrase). The final scenes when hubby arrives are tense. One senses almost immediately what’s up, and that hubby’s not on the level. There’s a macho smugness to him. His coming down the stairs when he sees his wife dialing the town operator may be the most frightening part of the episodes, as the viewer knows things are coming to a head.

        David McLean was remarkably good as the husband. This future Marlboro Man was a first rate actor, and his rugged good looks made him appear deceptively normal. Those final moments in the rain are Thriller running on all cylinders, with McLean’s startling meltdown providing a perfect coda for this fine episode.

        I hope you’re doing well, Joey, and that your health is good. Mine is alright. It’s money problems that dog me.

        Best Wishes,

        John B.

  2. I have a black cat that is the spitting image of Baba in “The Storm.” I was intrigued to hear Mr. Karloff’s background on the background of the name being that of an ancient Egyptian philosopher. A nice intro by Mr. Karloff, to one of my favorite Thriller episodes, with the anniversary (1/22/62) only four days from now!

    1. Yes, that was a good introduction. Such a small cast, such a great episode. I wish that the people who make television shows today would study episodes like The Storm,. You really can make something out of what might seem like “nothing”, provided that the talent is there.

      1. It’s an incredibly taut little chiller because of the set up. We know there’s a dead woman, the rain, and Nancy Kelly’s superb performance… One of my favs.

      2. The A Thriller A Day Blog, which I still have on my favorites menu, has some good trivia on various Thrillers, and on it someone said Baba was the same cat witch for a day Jeanette Nolan used as her familiar in La Strega, which came to somewhat confusing climax, as Nolan and Alejandro Rey–she going even further over the top than in Parasite Mansion, Rey, an excellent “straight” actor, was playing (or so it appeared to me) “for tragedy”–though it was a good episode overall.

      3. I love your A Thriller A Day Blog… I’ve been planning on continuing with a few more episodes of significance for me. I LOVE Jeannette Nolan. I actually did a feature on her for the What a Character Blogathon 2 years ago. She’s marvelous as a truly over the top hag/witch/strega/harpy… and I adore her. I remember The Strega being a bit of a narrative mess. But since I’m a completest… eventually I’ll cover the entire series. So ahead of it’s time, and so sad that there were only the 69 episodes. So glad to see you stop by here at The Last Drive In!

        PS what also made THRILLER so compelling IS the incredible resource of talented directors actors, set designers and of course Composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Mort Stevens and Pete Rogolo!

      1. Yes, Joey, I know about the Egyptians and cats. Just a few minutes ago I saw a middle aged women walking up the stairs in my building carrying a cat, and it was humongous, but not heavy. I’d like to borrow it to leave a scent so as to keep the mice–field mice where I live, not the little gray city mice, even as I live within the city limits–they’re not much of a nuisance for me but I’d like to discourage from making their cold weather homes in our building.

        Ah yes, cats! What would horror be without them? Or without dogs for that matter; or birds? These creatures are often featured prominently in horror; and sometimes the cats and dogs mix it up with the humans, thus the mostly male werewolves and the mostly female cat people. Birds sometimes figure as well, as does the occasional reptile (don’t let’s forget the lethal “little brudder” snake in Pigeons From Hell). Yet The Storm is far more people than animal focused even as an owl features prominently if briefly, in one spooky scene

        This is a grand episode. It’s near sheer perfection from start to finish. Nancy Kelly is magnificent, and David McLean’s not far behind. James Griffith brought some real edge if not quite menace to his too snoopy cabbie. Given the extremes of emotion in this episode it remains grounded in recognizably human, even rational behavior. Nor are there any hints of the supernatural, though it is suggested in the strange sounds, the bumps in the night, the inexplicable things Miss Kelly sees and finds in the house. What a great house set, too! It’s not creepy looking or feeling in itself but rather it channels creepy feelings due to what’s going on and inside it.

        The ending in fittingly over the top, a shocker, and this ties The Storm to many others Thrillers that had “raving lunatic” endings, by which I mean even when there are, literally, no raving lunatics, many episodes end as if written and directed by one

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