A sign reads “NO TRESPASSING ~VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT~DokTor Konrad Markesan”
The Incredible DokTor Markesan aired Feb 26 1962 perhaps the most creepy of all the Thriller stories, originally appeared in Weird Tales Magazine and was taken from a story written by August Derleth and Mark Schorer, and adapted by Donald S Sanford and directed by Robert Florey. The rotting corpse make up by Jack Barron, actually predates Romero’s 1968 Night Of The Living Dead, which I feel only made both effectively more creepy by the B&W film.
Mort Stevens score begins as gravely contemplative and day dreamy single notes on the piano beckon us into this episode, then begins the darker,deeper cello strings foreboding and ominous. As the piano resolves into more somber chords, the young Fred Bancroft and new bride Molly drive up to the entrance of Oakmoor. What has happened to the broad green lawns and the servants in starched white uniforms? They proceed to enter the house, the door having been strangely left unlocked. Seemingly vacant, Oakmoor is crocheted in cobwebs, from years of neglect. There is no electricity.Fred lights a candelabra and the couple continue to search for Fred’s Uncle Konrad.As they start to ascend the staircase,suddenly a door creaks open, the music sways from ominous to severe and a sallow, blank, expressionless, Konrad Markesan steps out of the shadows. Uncle Konrad staring up at them, ashen,emotionless, his right hand poised in a state of rigor, he stares off, silent. Fred trying to ingratiate himself awkwardly, remains smiling, excruciatingly strained in the midst of his Uncle’s peculiarly inhospitable behavior. Molly acutely more aware of his uncle’s bizarre presence stands there obviously horrified and uncomfortable while Fred still flounders to make a connection with his relative.Molly chirps out a “Hello” and from the moment Fred holds out his hand to shake his Uncle’s, Markesan turns away and says “come with me” and proceeds to leave the grand hallway.
At this point, Boris Karloff breaks into his honorary introduction of this evening’s episode. “creepy, sinister sort of chap” speaking about the character he’s portraying. ” He’s the kind of netherworld character who’s forever popping up in nightmares” As Boris warns, these uninvited guests will soon regret disturbing the tomb like serenity of this decaying old house. Dick York ( the first Darren on Bewitched) plays Fred Bancroft and Carolyn Kearney plays his wife Molly Bancroft.
Fred and Molly follow the deathly Uncle Konrad into the library, Molly interjects ” I hope we’re not intruding”but Markesan continues his ghostly restraint. The darkened circles under his eyes are nearly grotesque.The couple continue their idle banter between themselves until Markesan sparks to join in still quite restrained.The mention of Penrose College seems to end his silence, as Fred explains that they’re broke and have no place to stay and perhaps DokTor Markesan can use his influence at the University to get them a part time job at the college. Becoming a little more shall I say “reanimated” Markesan tells them” I’ve severed my connections with the University years ago”
As he looks stage left to ponder a little inside joke, like a morbidly terse soliloquy, he breaks into a sardonic grimace. Fred continues to bellow his appeals to his Uncle, that their stay at Oakmoor would only be temporary, and “Well, the place certainly needs repairs, the grounds need work and…;”Markesan turns his back on them, Molly pipes in ” Stop begging him Fred, Let’s get out of here!””And stay where?” mumbles Fred.
The shadowy silhouette of Markesan on the wall, shows him pausing to listen to the couple, calls to them “Come in here please” They follow him into the library where he is standing behind a desk. He offers them money. Molly offended by the implication, says “we’re not beggars” and Fred adds that they only need a place to stay for a few days. Markesan says that what they ask is impossible, the place is uncared for, the utilities have been turned off. It’s only after Fred threatens to just try the people at Penrose College, perhaps they’ll be more hospitable, that Markesan sees this as unacceptable. “Well, then it would hardly do for you to discuss me in a bad light with my former colleagues would it” but ” No one must know that I’ve returned”
His conditions are that they touch nothing else in the house, but what’s in the master suite off the hall on the 2nd floor and the kitchen, and above all do not seek him out or disturb him. And the last condition which is most vital, do not venture forth at night, they must stay in those rooms from dusk until dawn or leave the house entirely. As Markesan exits the room, the camera closes in on his stone like claw hand on the door knob.
Between Markesan’s apparent rigor mortis, the lack of food in the kitchen except for the petrified loafs of bread that shatter into a million powdery particles,there’s not a crumb fit to eat, how does he exist? What does he eat?
The uncanny decrepit atmosphere, the inhospitable presentation by Markesan, tethered to the peculiar restrictions that he has put on his unwelcome guests, you would think that Fred and Molly would just leave and take their chances elsewhere. No, they not only decide to stay, but they begin to push the boundaries of their situation and do everything that DocTor Markesan has asked them specifically not to do.Like after having been locked in, Fred slips the dead bolt with a wire hanger and leaves the bedroom after dark to investigate the house. He does this even after having seen his uncle staring up at him from outside the barred windows, as he’s walking away from the house,through the overgrown footpath behind the Arboretum. The footpath that leads to a swamp, a swamp that leads to…a graveyard! What’s Markesan hiding? It’s at this point of the story where I really feel like the couple have elevated their status from unwelcome guests to intruders.
They have been specifically told not to wander after dusk, and still their curiosity propels them to meddle into something dark and threatening where they have no business being.Molly discovers after looking in the hallway that none of the other doors have bolts on them just the master suite and it’s not a new fixture. Molly’s incessant curiosity forces Fred to reveal that his Aunt Lorinda, Markesan’s wife had been “mentally disturbed” and had lived out her last years locked away in these rooms at Oakmoor, because Markesan refused to have her committed. Molly insists that what ever was wrong with his Aunt doesn’t justify being “locked up like a pair of sheep” They say “Knowledge is power”, Eating from the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden.
According to Genesis, eating of the fruit of the tree, in a sense, led to the Fall of Man, because man became knowledgeable of their sin. Although Markesan could be considered evil, unlike the serpent of Genesis,”he” is not trying to tempt the young couple into tasting the forbidden fruit or in their case explore the unknown secrets that this mysterious man is hiding from them. It’s as if Molly and Fred are the archetypal Adam and Eve who are defying Markesan who is saying You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. Markesan has warned them ” do not seek me out” he’s is essentially saying do not go in search of the truth.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Both Fred and Molly made a choice to break the rules and go in search of the forbidden.
The Incredible DokTor Markesan works well as Allegory, as Cautionary tale like the original Grimm’s version of Goldilocks. Same as many fairy tales.Same thing with the Tree of knowledge.The Tree was not just the Tree of Knowledge, but rather the knowledge of Good and Evil. All who disobey will suffer the consequences.
Fred eventually stumbles onto a twilight meeting of his uncle with his three necrophilic colleagues.He tells Molly that they were like creatures out of a nightmare.After finding an old newspaper article showing one of the men, Professor Everett Latimer PENROSE EDUCATOR DIES dated Sep 10, 1951,
obviously years ago, he slips the bolt again the next night and seeks out Prof. Angus Holden, the Dean of the Science Department at Penrose, to try and find out why his uncle left the University. Holden tells Fred that Markesan was asked to resign because he claimed to have devised certain chemical techniques with which he could raise the dead. This was a fluid he extracted from the mold found in graves. To prove his ghastly theory, he invited three of his colleagues to a secret demonstration. These three men, Holden says, along with his Uncle Markesan who is buried in the crypt, have been dead for years.
Now, this sick nightmare that Fred has witnessed is actually Markesan tormenting his colleagues who each new night, is reviving them, doomed to recite over and over again from the informal trial where they each gave their testimony against DokTor Markesan that led to his dismissal at the University. The gaunt, gruesome hole pitted faced Professor Latimer begs Markesan”In the name of all that’s holy, Let us rest”!
Now that Fred and Molly have tasted of the Tree of Knowledge they are at the mercy of the diabolical DokTor Markesan.
40 thoughts on “The Incredible DokTor Markesan-[Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller]”
DEEE-lighted to find another fan of retro horror, drive-ins and someone who clearly misses the “good ol’ days” as much as I do. Today’s films, with their reliance on CGI and spectacle, have no heart. Contemporary horror films and fiction is a wasteland of brain-sucking zombies and brain-dead creators. We have no equivalent to Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling these days–and that’s a shame.
Keep up the good work…
Yet another fine review, MG. Trivium: Dr. Markesan’s director, Robert Florey was the man initially slated to direct the 1931 Frankenstein, in which Bela Lugosi, fresh from the success of Dracula, was slated to play the monster. Due to problems with Lugosi demands and disagreements with the studio’s approach to the film the project was temporarily halted, Lugosi, who didn’t really want a non-speaking part anyway, departed, Florey was let go, and a whole new team, led by James Whale, was brought on board to bring Mary Shelley’s novel to the screen. We all know who played the monster in that film, so it only seems fitting that when Florey finally got to work with the actor who starred of the James Whale Frankenstein from thirty years earlier, it would be a story about a mad doctor who resurrects the dead. In this case the doctor and the monster are one in the same (though some might argue that this is true Frankenstein as well).
As to the episode itself, it’s one of the nearly pure horror Thrillers. No messing around here with romance or even local color. There’s no “padding” whatsoever. This one shows great promises from the get-go, delivers in spades (is there a pun there?). If one loves gothic horror, it’s wholly satisfactory on every level. The atmoshere is stronger than in almost any other Thriller I can think of. Dr. Markesan is so meticulously constructed and superior in its production values that it could easily have been, with a little tweaking, released as a feature film. If it had been, it would be a cult classic today, yes?
Further thoughts on the episode: it’s one Godless piece of work. We see no belief system, get no counterbalance to the dark deeds of the doctor in any moral or spiritual sense. The show may as well have been titled The World Of Dr. Markesan. It’s like he pulls the strings, has the power, as is certainly the case in the decaying house he inhabits. The episode is extremely well designed in the interior scenes, yet minimalist, with only three main characters, then the professor, who has one brief scene, and no one else, unless one counts Markesan’s three former colleagues-turned-zombies. I don’t think we ever see the town or the college campus. We don’t know where the young couple came from or what they’re about. They seem normal, certainly not weird. I’m intrigued by the geography. I could swear that it was set in Louisiana, that it’s Deep South, and that the couple had traveled a long way to get there. They’re not locals. Yet it’s not a Southern Gothic sort of tale. Closer, as you mentioned, to a fairy tale, one that just happens to be set in the South (assuming that I’m correct here). Another reason I suspect a Southern locale is the feeling of decay in the story, as if the heat and humidity wears people down, maybe drives them mad. The ambiance is borderline fungal. I think it’s fair to say that we’re not in Maine or Minnesota in this one. Once other thing: the ending is, while horrific, almost equally tragic. The young couple, like Sebastian Grimm in The Cheaters, didn’t ask for what they got, nor did they, when we were first introduced to them, seem headed in a wrong direction. Their tragedy is partly a matter of wrong time, wrong place, yet also, as with The Cheaters, a refusal to heed the warnings, examine what’s in front of them (uncle Konrad!), pay attention to what’s going as it pertains to their well being, and of course get out of Dodge when the gettin’s good.
I first saw this episode as a child, and the final scene with Moly closing the coffin lid has haunted me all y life.
I saw so terrified when I witnessed that as an eight-year-old that when it came back around as a rerun that season, I didn’t even turn on the TV.
I recently found and bought a copy on eBay, and, needless to say, found is considerably less scary that that initial viewing.
As a bonus, Dick York is in it. His lines are so cornball. “…something to sustain the corporeal man,” and “There’s not a muscle in my carcass that’s not howling bloody murder.” “There’s something horrible going on. Something unholy.”
Now what I wonder is why Prof. Angus Holden sits around in his study in a suit and tie at midnight.
My folks always sent me to bed when Thriller came on (I was eight years old). On February 26, 1962 my father was out of town and Mom didn’t want to watch Thriller alone, so I was allowed to stay up and watch “The Incredible Doktor Markesan” with her. Big mistake! For years afterwards I had nightmares, some about the dead men surrounding Molly in the library and others about Fred screaming as Molly lies down in her coffin. Even in my forties I realized that most of my nightmares were variations of that one episode of Thriller. I am now a big believer in the influence of television on kids!
Hey Mike~ I feel the same way about most of the Thriller Episodes I wrote about.
There was an effectively creepy quality that just stays with you. Retro television in particular influenced a lot of our culture and most of all, it left an impression on me which I carried into my music writing. Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoyed the post. I”m glad that it brought back that nostalgic chill, that those of us who remember the good old days of Chiller Theatre and Fright Night and all the rest tickle our long lost dreams,
Like a haunting.
I love this discussion.
Question: Does anyone know where the theme music for Thriller is available? I can’t find it on YouTube – every Thriller clip (that isn’t Michael Jackson-related) has the music cut out, maybe for copyright reasons.
I’d love to see the whole intro again, with that figure evading the angular shapes and lines.
I saw this episode alone in a hotel room:
The episode still holds one of the most powerfully eerie atmospheres even today. It’s timeless. In a hotel room alone. Did you lock the door and leave the lights on?
Tonight is the 50th anniversary of the night Doktor Markesan scared me so badly as a kid. I thought that it would be interesting to watch it again (I purchased a copy from Amazon) to see if it would still give me the shivers. One thing I remembered from the original broadcast was that the last scene faded into a commercial for Pall Mall cigarettes, and even the Pall Mall jingle used to creep me out whenever I heard it afterwards. Well, anyway I still find it to be one of the eeriest shows I have ever seen. But this time I was left wondering about a few things:
1. Why did Markesan, a college professor spell doctor with a “k”?
2. How did Fred explain Molly’s death to his in-laws? And if he went to the police, was there enough evidence to back him up?
3. Did Fred continue his post-grad work at Penrose?
It might have been interesting to have made a sequel to it!
Mike. thanks for reminding us about the anniversary of this timeless chiller. It has remained burned into my psyche forever! Karloff’s facial expressions, the dead colleagues sitting around the table begging for release. Still holds its power today. Thriller truly was a series that was not only ahead of it’s time, but timeless. And you ask great questions. But I fear we’ll never know what happened to Fred. Perhaps, he remained with his uncle and dead wife. After all there was probably enough mold left in the tomb to supply the whole county! Sleep tight! Joey MonsterGirl
Mike, I remember that night so well. We must have experienced it simultaneously (I was on Pacific Standard Time).
The key moment of immobilizing horror for me was when he bursts into the room as Molly is closing the lid, and his bride is a now a dead, misshapen thing.
I think Fred went on to marry a woman with special powers and a twitchy lip problem.
Hi Kevin, I think Fred also went on to be able to read peoples mind’s due to a coin he paid toward a newspaper purchase. A coin which miraculously balances on it’s side for some time…in The Twilight Zone.. We love Dick York here at The Drive In!
Holy cats, MonsterGirl, THE INCREDIBLE DokTor Markesian was truly disturbing, and so well done! Quite a light-and-dark difference between Dick York’s performances here and in the far more lighthearted BEWITCHED later! You picked great screen-grabs for this chilling allegorical tale, too. Great job, girl!
Markesan is still one of THE most memorable episodes of Thriller and in my opinion, one of the scariest, most atmospheric pieces of theatrical works. It withstands the test of time. I simply adore Dick York too. Regardless of his persona as Darren Stevens, I have found his performances in other dramatic programs stellar. He’s adorable, versatile and has his own unique flare.
I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a
blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% positive. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it
Chris, as a blogger myself (TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED, http://doriantb.blogspot.com/), I can tell you that most blogs don’t cost money. Certainly mine doesn’t, though some folks put a donation button in case anyone reading our blogs happen to have fans with money! :-) Just decide what your blog will be about, get a topic and a Web site (again, it’s usually free), and get started! No doubt plenty of us here will have helpful free advice for you! Go for it, and good luck!
Dorian, thanks so much for lending your voice to help Chris in his endeavor to start up his own blog. Chris BTW, Dorian’s blog is wonderful, you should go see what happens there,,,,!
I am in agreement with Dorian. A blog should NOT have to cost you money, unless you want to pay someone to design something technically extravagant, but it seems like you really just want a space where you can put your thoughts out there like us.My blog didn’t cost money. I used WordPress, but there are other servers,
It’s fairly easy to follow how to set up the look and functionality of your blog. If you have a theme or if it’s more like a personal journey that you want to share, you can pick from various templates that suit your style and personality.
I happen to have a partner who IS internet savvy otherwise, I would still be sitting on my couch writing notes about movies to myself and the cats…so get yourself out there and just jump right in…!
I watched Dockor Markesan again tonight, or rather last night, and it held it beautifully, which is to say horrifically. The time around I was paying close attention to detail, was struck by the moody, off angle photography, the occasionally “tilted” camera. Karloff was sublime as the sinister Doktor, who has it in for his former colleagues but not, initially, for his nephew and his nephew’s wife.
As to the Old Testament aspects of the story, I agree, though I don’t think the author (or authors) were seriously trying to channel Genesis so much as use it to tell a gruesome and highly effective horror tale. The pace was a bit slow but the music and the framing of the scenes were superb. Everything and everyone was exactly where they should be. Director Florey didn’t miss a beat with this one. The makeup reminded me of the much later cult classic movie, George Romero’s Night Of the Living Dead.
The dead were all the more frightening for being reluctantly, against their will and painfully forced to come to a sort of life to please their former colleague, who treats them sadistically, punishes them for having “testified” against him. When Molly sees them heading toward her the effect was very
Romero-like, more intense in some ways since they weren’t doing anyway, just shambling, a la Kharis in the Mummy flicks. The final few moments were as effective as I remembered; and some of what happened I’d forgotten, such as Markesan’s being “killed”, or maybe I should say stopped, by a falling ceiling light; and this time he’s dead for good. As to the Big Reveal (i.e. what “became” of Molly), it was masterfully staged by Florey, reminding me a little of the ending of The Cheaters in the abruptness of the tragedy, with the one member of the couple left alive and behind and the viewer (this viewer) wondering how he can go on with this life after all he’s been through. It’s like it was “over” for him, too. He wasn’t dead but he may as well have been.
Take Care, and a belated happy Halloween, Joey,–
A belated Happy Halloween to you as well! You really caught the vibe of Markesan so eloquently… It truly does stand the test of time. I’m so glad that you stopped by to write down your valuable thoughts on the subject. Be well my friend!
I love your site, Joey, would come here and post more often but always seem to have broswer-navigational issues, could easily “live here”, as I do on other boards. I’m stil in the process of “dfiscovering it”,–yes, I know, after all the years–and also enjoying it. Our tastes are very, very similar, thus I ALWAYS know where you’re coming from (LOL!). Sometimes I disagree a little. More often, I’m impressed.
Take Care (and vote!),
As for the name MARKesan? Why, August Dereleth founded ARKham House, yes … ?
The entire episode has a very Lovecraftian, Dereleth feel to it don’t you agree…(:)) Arkham is a town I would never want to get stranded in…
Fantastic horror blog!! The best I’ve seen online hands-down! Have just added you to out blog-roll, and want to thank you for pressing the ‘like’ icon under my recent review of Thriller’s The Cheaters as part of my Saturday anthology series that will take a look at about twenty episodes of the classic series. I must say, I will find it very difficult staying clear of some of the superlative ideas expressed in your great review and in this incredible comment section when I presently prepare my own review of this episode for this coming weekend. I am a 58 year-old English/literature teacher, so I fall into the same category as a number of your readers. I also endured some nightmares, especially from this episode and ‘The Weird Tailor.’ Sounds like I have been missing quite a bit, as I am a huge Val Lewton fan, and recently attended in force with my entire family of 7 the William Castle blogothon at Manhattan’s Film Forum. I just added you to our blogroll. Thanks again!
Sam, how do I even begin to respond to your wonderfully warm and flattering comment. I’ve admired your blog for a long time now. And I look forward to reading your Saturday anthology series. I’ll be doing an expansive overview of Thriller for the upcoming blogathon for The Classic Film & Tv Blog Association. Revisiting my old posts and adding a whole slew of new episodes I haven’t covered yet. It’s so wonderful to find like minded people here, and I so appreciate your reaching out like this. The Weird Taylor is quite disturbing- I find it hard to watch sometimes because the subject matter is brutal. I’ll be doing that one for sure. Listen- Would you want to contribute to our William Castle Blogathon coming up at the end of July. I would love to have your valuable presence with us for the event. Let me know I’m sure you’d offer something great to the mix of excellent writers- I’m going to the Film Forum on the 1st to see the remaster of Rosemary’s Baby, maybe I’ll see you there….-cheers Joey
Joey—I will indeed write a review for the William Castle blogothon. My all-time favorite and preference for so many reasons is HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, but I am certain someone has claimed that already. But I can do any other one, including STRAIGHT-JACKET, HOMICIDAL, THE TINGLER, MACABRE, WHEN STRANGERS MARRY or IT’S A SMALL WORLD. I have every intention of attending ROSEMARY’S BABY as a Film Forum regular (I was there six times for the Ozu Festival over the past two weeks) and Monday the 1st would definitely be a good night, as it’s a Monday. My wife and at least two of my five kids will also be there. Will you be attending the 7:00 P.M. show or the 9:30 P.M. show? We can make either. As far as “The Weird Tailor” I did review it two weeks ago as the first in the THRILLER series that will have “Markesan” as the third essay for Saturday.
So we should definitely meet at the Film Forum on Monday night!
Sam!- With all the films Bill has under his belt, I too adore House on Haunted Hill. I’ve actually chosen to do that one simply because it holds such nostalgic glee for me, loving Price and his Frederick Loren in particular. BUT, we have so many wonderful writers already covering just about everything, that I don’t want to be restrictive about it. I still want you to contribute and trust that you’ll approach his films with your own unique style. That said, while I’m doing a backstory to Castle’s production of Rosemary’s Baby, no one has chosen the film itself. It’s my all time favorite next to Wise’s The Haunting. If you’d like to do a review of that it would be marvelous. Otherwise go ahead and do House on Haunted Hill It’s totally fine with me. – Pick another favorite or do more than one and approach it from a completely different angle and make it your own.
On Monday, I’m actually attending the 2pm showing as it’s my birthday and I want to get into the city early, celebrate and hit The Strand Book Store before I head back to Jersey to make sure the cats haven’t revolted! Wish we could have met up there, but I plan on doing more Film Forum days now that we’re back in town.
Plus I’ll be heading over to Wonders in the Dark, to read your latest! It’s so great to find a fellow Karloff Thriller enthusiast…
Let me know what you decide about the blogathon. The deadline and date of the event is July 29- Aug 2nd in honor of the anniversary of The Tingler…
See ya soon- Joey
Holy cats, Joey, your birthday is coming soon?! All of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ hope you have a wonderful birthday, dear friend!
Joey, I can write on Rosemary’s Baby. No problem with that at all. As to the Film Forum, though I teach summer school only till 12:15 every day for the next six weeks, and could still conceivably make that 2:00, I must see how things will work out with everyone else. If I can make it I’ll come back to this thread and let you know over the weekend.
Sam, started leaving a long comment to your incredible post on The Cheaters, and somehow it got sucked up into an abyss leaving me frustrated because I was singing your praises and it all just disappears. I’ll have to revisit Wonders in the Dark and try it again. But for now, just wanted to say how fantastically well written and elucidating your post was. So glad to find someone else who is as enthusiastic about 60s retro anthology series. I plan on doing more Alfred Hitchcock and The Outer Limits. Thanks for the birthday wish too… I’ll be tuning in to your series on Thriller and will link to it on my blog so people can read your incredible insights- Cheers Joey
Oh geez BTW Sam- So glad to have you along for the ride with The William Castle Blogathon! And I’m especially thrilled that you’ll be taking on Rosemary’s Baby- the dates of the event are July 31- Aug 2 Perhaps you can publish on the 2nd which will coincide with my Backstory: What Ever Happened to William Castle’s Baby? Let me know and I’ll mark you down with the rest of the fabulous guests attending the party!
Actually there won’t be a 7:00 show on Monday night, so it’s 9:30 for sure.
Joey, I will have that review ready to publish at WitD on August 2nd indeed. Thanks so much for the very kind words!
It’s great to see you here, Sam. We travel on many of the same (Internet) roads, thus it’s not surprising. I caught Doktor Markesan once again this A.M. on MeTV, and while I had tech issues with it due to my having dropped cable and with a storm raging outside!–well, great atmosphere, lousy weather for antenna TV–and yet I enjoyed it all the same.
Markesan in perhaps the best Thriller at a purely technical level (it needless to say delivers in other areas as well). It tells its story with almost no digressions, a fair amount of fascinating back story that was an actual factor in the plot of the episode. I was once again reminded of Robert Florey’s brilliance as a director. He didn’t miss a trick with this one (nor a cobweb).
Is Markesan the best Thriller? I see no reason to have to choose. Again, technically, maybe so. If it lacks anything it’s strong emotional involvement. It draws me in every time, but not with empathy or even all that much caring for the young couple. I liked Dick York’s good guy character way better than Carolyn Kearney’s occasionally off putting borderline bitchy one. Markesan elicited zero empathy, which was of course intentional.
It’s in this area, of caring (for the characters) and their fate, that Markesan doesn’t quite quite measure up to not only Pigeons From Hell (in which I liked Denton, de Wilde and Ken Renard’s characters). Also, Denton was for all intents and purposes the true hero of the piece, while Markesan didn’t have one. The Cheaters seemed like it had one in its second half and then he went and looked in the mirror and all hell broke loose. Great episode, more profound than Markesan, yet not so fun or well made.
Also,–as if this needs saying–Markesan was a personal triumph for Boris Karloff, giving a superlative master class performance as a highly unsympathetic character–and knocking it out of the park. (Maybe his nearest to this in feature films would be his Master Sims in Bedlam, a man with no redeeming qualities and who revels in it.) Markesan’s probably his best turn in Thriller. He was always good, sometimes way better than that, but in this he is sublime.
Once more, Joey, thanks for this wonderful blog.
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The only bad thing about the plot is that following his being told by the dean that Markesan is dead for years, Fred goes to the crypt on the estate amd finds that the niche marked for Konrad’s burial has the seal broken open as if in an explosive resurrection.We know that Mrkrsan dug up his three colleagues and brought them to life. But who exhumed Konrad and administered the chemical to him?
I was able to find the text of Pigeon’s from Hell (the short story) and resolve problems inadvertently created by the script-writers in that piece, but the story for Markesan is not in the public domain, and not available on the internet.
Perhaps he pre-treated himself prior to expiring?
I was able to find a copy of Weird Tales Vol26 #3 and read the original story, “Colonel Markesan”. In it, the house is near Boston and Markesan (and his colleagues) worked at Harvard. There are quite a few differences, such as there being no resurrection fluid or coffins for the resurrected in the basement. Instead, Markesan goes to the cemetery and summons his victims from their graves by apparent force of will.
Hope this helps!