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 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!
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.
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 Blonde in the trunk oh my!
Watch it and see who lurks behind the rainstorm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s been Thrilling…MonsterGirl