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 which won Kelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that year as psychotic Rhoda Penmark’s (Patty McCormack) mother, Christine Penmark. The Bad Seed also stars Eileen Heckart and the quintessentially cranky Henry Jones)
The evil Rhoda stroking 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 husbands 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 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 tid bits thrown in so that it can take it’s place in the wonderful blogathon that’s going on between July 7 -July 13!
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 is 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 it’s 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.
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 to 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 it’s 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 what ever 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 it’s sheer uncluttered plot. It almost works as a stage play. In it’s simplicity, in it’s ordinary environs set on it’s head one stormy night, gives this episode it’s thrilling design.
And Baba the black cat does not die, thank god….! Baba the cat plays an important part of the narrative because he allows us to cut to an objective viewer 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 it’s 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 keeps 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 it’s teeth and shakes it like a rat in a trap”
The only thing Janet has between the storm and her fears are her raincoat and flashlight!
The Blonde in the trunk oh my!
Watch it and see who lurks behind the rain storm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s been Thrilling….MonsterGirl