Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) & Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964): Otto Preminger/Bryan Forbes -‘A Conspiracy of Madness’: Part 1

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Doll-maker: “This doll had almost been loved to death. You know, love inflicts the most terrible injuries on my small patients.”

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965)

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Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) (British) is director/producer Otto Preminger’s psychological thriller, considered to be part of the noir cannon or Post-Noir yet embraces the suspense thriller sub-genre. A thriller about a little girl who may or may not exist! The film deals with the dread of losing yourself, not being believed, childhood nightmares which are rooted in the sense of lack of safety in the environment where they should be protected.

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Starring Carol Lynley (The Cardinal 1963, Shock Treatment 1964,The Shuttered Room 1967) as Ann Lake and Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey 1968, Black Christmas 1974) as brother Stephen Lake, the Americans who relocate to London and exude a mysteriously emotionless manner even when they act frenzied, enraged or frantically distressed.

The film also stars Laurence Olivier as Superintendent Newhouse, Martita Hunt as retired head schoolmistress Ada Ford, Anna Massey as the uptight Elvira Smollett, Clive Revill as Sergeant Andrews, playwright Noel Coward as Horatio Wilson, the lewd, drunken, seedy and lecherous Landlord who is creepy and inappropriate as he carries his little dog Samantha around with him everywhere. He’s also got a wicked whip collection… one which was once owned by the ‘master himself’ the Marquis de Sade.

Otto Preminger and Laurence Olivier on the set of Bunny Lake
Otto Preminger and Laurence Olivier on the set of Bunny Lake
Preminger and Noel Coward on the set of Bunny Lake
Otto Preminger and Noel Coward who plays the lascivious Horatio Wilson on the set of Bunny Lake Is Missing.

Finlay Currie plays the kindly old Doll Maker, Adrienne Corri  is the disagreeable Dorothy,and Lucie Mannheim plays the irascible German cook.

Preminger filmed Bunny Lake Is Missing in stunning black & white using a widescreen format on location in London, hiring Director of Photography and cameraman Denys Coop (The Third Man 1949, Saint Joan 1957, Lolita 1962 and Billy Lair 1963) and Production Designer Don Ashton.

The story is based on the mystery novel by Marryam Modell  using the pseudonym Evelyn Piper (who also wrote the novel, The Nanny 1965  brilliantly adapted to the screen starring Bette Davis as a very sympathetic yet disturbed nanny) With a screenplay by John and Penelope Mortimer, Preminger adapted Piper’s original novel and re oriented the story taking it out of New York and placing it in heart of London.

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Seth Holt directs my favorite- Bette Davis in The Nanny- 1965’s adaptation of Marryam Modell’s novel

The incredibly striking, simplistic and evocative score was composed by Paul Glass (Lady in a Cage 1964) and used not only in the opening titles designed effectively by the great Saul Bass but the theme is used frequently as a childlike refrain, poignant and moving. The British group The Zombies also appear in a television broadcast, featuring three of their songs, “Remember You”, “Just Out of Reach” and “Nothing’s Changed.”

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No one designs a title sequence like Saul Bass… each one evocative, primal… yet simplistic at it’s very core

Hope Bryce (Anatomy of a Murder 1959, Exodus 1960, Advise and Consent 1962) was responsible for the Costume design.

A standout performance is Martita Hunt, the wonderful British character actress who was in Boris Karloff’s Thriller episode as the batty aunt Celia Sommerville in The Last of The Summervilles. Here, she plays the school’s eccentric retired old headmistress Ada Ford who listens incessantly to recordings of little children who tell their nightmares and dreams recorded on her reel to reel tape machine.

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The fabulous Martita Hunt as the batty Celia Sommerville co-starring Phyllis Thaxter as the cunning cousin Ursula Sommerville in one of the great episodes of Boris Karloff’s anthology television series THRILLER.

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Columbia Pictures actually wanted Otto Preminger to cast Jane Fonda as Ann Lake, and Fonda was very anxious to play the role, but Preminger insisted on using Carol Lynley.

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Carol Lynley as Ann Lake

Much like the hype of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, audiences were not allowed to tell the film’s ending. The film’s poster promoted a tagline “No One Admitted While the Clock is Ticking” I will also choose not to reveal the film’s coda in this post, so as not to give away the culmination of the film’s secrets or it’s finale.

This was one of Preminger’s last films with a Noir milieu, since The Man With The Golden Arm 1955 starring Frank Sinatra.

Preminger and Frank Sinatra on the set of Man With The Golden Arm
Preminger and Frank Sinatra on the set of Man With The Golden Arm (1955)

Within the film’s openness, and it’s various environments, it appears that several of the frames are cluttered with visual odds and ends and bits and pieces, the sequence with the unbroken view of dolls, Wilson’s African masks and whips all evidence of the film’s sense of Fetishism.

Bunny Lake is Missing has a visual openness and fluidity which gives the film a striking dimension. The sweeping camerawork is familiar from the noir days of Preminger’s epic Laura (1944), although here it breaks away more completely from the enclosed environs of the 40s noir film.

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Premingers iconic noir Laura
Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Preminger’s iconic noir classic Laura (1944)

Denys Coop’s diligent camera seems to peek into corners, moving through doors and up and down those iconographic STAIRS becoming part of the film’s fretful and apprehensive rhythm. Coop uses peculiar camera angles and lights his subjects from below in order to distort the mood, and throw odd uncomfortable shadows on their faces.

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An odd angle as the camera catches Ann Lake coming up the iconographic noir stairs. The visual Images are often a little skewed in Bunny Lake
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While Ann talks with the quirky Ada Ford, her face is lit from underneath giving her an ethereal, fairy tale like glimmer

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING: THE SYNOPSIS

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A single American mother Ann Lake (Carol Lynley relocates to London England to live with her journalist brother Stephen (Keir Dullea), Ann drops off her four year old daughter Felicia nicknamed ‘Bunny’ on the first day at her new nursery school “The Little People’s Garden.” When Ann returns to see how Bunny is getting on in school, she can not find a teacher or administrator present, except for a cranky German cook who is complaining about serving Junket (which is essentially gruel) played by Lucie Mannheim. Ann is forced to leave Bunny unsupervised in the building’s ‘first day’ room under the promise by the cranky cook that she will look after the child. Ann must rush to meet the movers who are awaiting her at the new apartment. When Ann returns in the afternoon to pick up her little girl, the cook has quit, and she becomes distressed when Bunny is no where to be found and the school’s employees Elvira Smollett (Anna Massey) and Dorothy (Adrienne Corri) who are left in charge fervently obstruct Ann’s attempts at locating Bunny even denying that the little girl was ever at the school in the first place. No one remembers having seen her. This creates a mood of distrust and paranoia.

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Ann desperately calls her brother Stephen for help. Ann and Stephen were raised without a father, and Ann never married the man who got her pregnant. She and Bunny have depended on Stephen to take care of them. Brother Stephen becomes enraged by the carelessness of the school’s staff, but Scotland Yard begins to investigate the matter. In walks police superintendent Newhouse acted thoughtfully by Laurence Olivier assisted by Sergeant Andrews played by Clive Revill. Newhouse begins searching through the Lake’s belongings and the details of their lives trying to uncover what seems to be a mystery as to whether the child ever existed at all. He discovers that Ann once had an imaginary childhood daughter named Bunny, but even more odd is that there seems to be no presence of Bunny’s belongings at the Lake’s residence.

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Little Bunny’s hair brush and comb set out on the bathroom shelf…

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Where are Bunny’s things???? A taste of female hysteria and maternal paranoia.
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Does the curious headmistress Ada Ford know more about Bunny’s disappearance than she’s telling or is she just one of the plot’s red herrings?
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Retired head mistress Ada Ford who has a fantastical grasp of the inner workings of a child’s nightmares. Inhabited perfectly by wonderful character actress Martita Hunt

There are several red herrings which are inserted into the plot to divert us away from the truth. One such red herring involves retired headmistress, the eccentric Ada Ford played by the marvelous Martita Hunt who seems to have an odd sensibility about children and an acute understanding of childhood motivations which is quickly picked up on by the plasticine yet cold-blooded Stephen Lake.Yet another odd character in the mix is the lecherous landlord Horatio Wilson an aging writer and radio actor played by Noel Coward who revels in his African Fertility Masks and let’s himself into the Lakes apartment at will, in a perpetual state of inebriation lurking about making lewd gestures and propositions to Ann. He also has a collection of whips, exhibiting signs of his sadomasochistic proclivities.

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Horatio Wilson (Noel Coward) is a peculiar sort… as he intrudes on Ann’s world

All these strange characters give Inspector Newhouse a lot to digest, as he tries to eliminate all the possible suspects while trying to find a trace of Bunny that proves she actually does exist, not discounting the idea that Ann Lake is a delusional hysterical woman.

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Ann and Stephen tell Inspector Newhouse that Bunny’s passport and all her belongings have also gone missing, assumed stolen during the mysterious burglary in the apartment. Another odd detail which doesn’t support Ann’s truly having raised this missing child, is that the school’s authorities claim that they never received a tuition check for a Bunny Lake.

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Ann shows Stephen the voucher for the Doll Hospital where Bunny’s doll is being repaired. Proof that she exists? Traces of an incestuous bond from the bathtub…

Ann finally remembers that she has a ticket for the Doll Hospital where she took Bunny’s doll. She remembers this during a scene where Stephen is taking a bath, and brother and sister are both just smoking and talking like a married couple. The film constantly hints at traces of a very incestuous relationship, creepily manifested in several scenes, Stephens physical contact with Ann when he tries to comfort her and one other such overt scene while Stephen is taking his bath…

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Ann runs out into the dark and ominous London nightlife to try and get the doll from the repair hospital so she can show the police that Bunny owned a doll, reasoning that this will prove she exists.

Ann at the doll hospital

Continue reading “Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) & Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964): Otto Preminger/Bryan Forbes -‘A Conspiracy of Madness’: Part 1”

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! 2 Tales of Matrimony On the Treacherous Rocks!

“An Absolute Ball”

X,Y and ZEE  1972

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Elizabeth Taylor  wears the role of Zee Blakeley, a Machiavellian temptress, who is married to the wealthy yet miserly, miserable and misogynistic architect Robert, played deftly by Michael Caine who partakes every bit in the nasty psycho-sexual game playing their afflicted marriage has manifested over the years.

Zee is wild, possessive and cunning, Robert is melancholy, brutish and at times down right violent. Longing for a change he pursues the lovely Stella played by Susannah York, who he meets at a party given by friend, the bird like, arty, jet setting, gold Lamé, pink fluffy haired Gladys (Margaret Leighton) who collects people and things for her ‘cocktail parties’ strewn with beautiful types, fags, artists and anyone with a title attached to their name.

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Zee and Stella

Life and love is cut throat in this film, and Taylor’s portrayal of Zee is unnerving and difficult to watch at times, as she fluctuates between venomous seductress and wounded little girl. York as always is like a fawn from the eldritch woods with those dreamy eyes. But talk about eyes, no one has a pair that arrests you quite like Elizabeth Taylor.

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Elizabeth Taylor as the beautiful, the tumultuous Zee Blakeley…

Once Robert decides to play house with Stella and leave Zee to wallow in her jealous vitriol, Zee goes on an orchestrated rampage to try and destroy their burgeoning romance, uncovering the shell of sweet Stella exposing that she has some secrets of her own. Written by Edna O’Brien, and directed by Brian G. Hutton who also directed Taylor in the thriller, Night Watch 1973, another equally disturbing film about the deep rooted ugliness and danger of an ill fated marriage.

With fabulous Costume designs by Beatrice Dawson.

Next up…

SUCH GOOD FRIENDS 1971

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Such Good Friends title design by Saul Bass

“The little black book that became a national bestseller.”

Based on the novel by Lois Gould, with a screenplay by Elaine May using her pen name Esther Dale, and an uncredited  Joan Didion (A Star is Born 1976, Panic In Needle Park 1971) Directed by the omnipotent Otto Preminger.

The Great Otto
The Great Otto Preminger

Dyan Cannon is Julie Messinger a New York housewife who finds out that her husband magazine editor Richard (Laurence Luckinbill Boys In the Band 1970) has been cheating on her, because he ‘doesn’t like her feet.’ She stumbles onto his little black book with the names of several ‘women.’

Nina Foch, plays Julie’s mother an annihilating, narcissistic harpy who criticizes her about everything.

Nina Foch

Such Good Friends

When Richard winds up in a coma from complications stemming from a simple mole-removal, Julie’s good friends gather around her for support. Including an impromptu cocktail gathering in the blood donor ward of the hospital…

It’s a biting, black comedic sexual romp through the self-explorative 70s, with a fabulous cast of characters.

Cannon and O'Neill

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James Coco as

Dyan Cannon

Howard and Cannon

Co-starring the wonderful  James Coco as Dr. Timothy Spector, Jennifer O’Neill, as Miranda, Ken Howard as photographer Cal Whiting, Louise Lasser, Burgess Meredith, Sam Levene, William Redfield, James Beard ,Rita Gam, Lawrence Tierney and Doris Roberts. And an uncredited Salome Jens as a Blood Donor at the hospital and Joseph Papp and his Shakespeare Theatre.

Nurse-“Have you ever had venereal disease?”

Blood Donor-“No I was never even in the tropics!”

It’s been a ball-MG

The Graphic Genius of Saul Bass: The Man with the Distinctive Title

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The great graphic designer and iconic film TITLE master SAUL BASS

Saul Bass born in my beloved New York City in 1920 is regarded as not only one of the finest graphic designers, was also an illustrator, film producer and director, publicist,and film editor but monumentally known for changing the look of opening sequences in the film industry and as THE man who created the ultimate film titles. Once you’ve seen a Saul Bass opening sequence, title and credits, you feel immediately drawn into the storytelling infrastructure, with just a few symbolic prompts.

Anatomy of a Murder

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He has created film credits and title sequences of over 60 films, and has often worked with directors such as Otto Preminger, Stanley Kramer just to mention a few. Especially notable for his work with Alfred Hitchcock on Hitch’s most memorable film Psycho, of which Bass designed the titles.

His trademark was to contribute Avant-garde title sequences and symbolic posters to a timeless art form, resonant, vibrantly reverberant and memorable, even still. Symbols have been a powerful, motivating and inspiring tool as far back as the creation of Runes. One single image can evoke an entire ethos into the collective consciousness.

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The Victors image

The Victors

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His evocative opening sequences not only draw the audience in but Bass himself theorized that captivating the viewer, bringing the audience in right from the top , would make it so that you could tell what was going to happen in the story within the first few moments of the film.

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The wonderful opening sequence in Walk On The Wild Side is particularly evocative for me, as it uses the fetish of female sexuality=feline energy. The black cat slinks across the screen as the titles roll-provocative as hell

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He was also integral in helping out with visual concepts, storyboards but most significantly he created the titles for some of the biggest cinematic hit movies of the 20th century. Saul died in 1996.

Some of his other unmistakable title credits are for BONJOUR TRISTESSE, ONE,TWO THREE, THE CARDINAL, NINE HOURS TO RAMA, EDGE OF THE CITY (1957) SOMETHING WILD (1961) and he was uncredited for his work on ALIEN (1979) and the poster design for NO WAY OUT (1950)

Later on in his career he worked with Martin Scorsese on his remake of Cape Fear 1991, and his crime drama Goodfellas 1990.

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So how did he get involved with TITLES? He began as a graphic designer, as part of his work he created many film symbols as part of the Advertising campaigns.

During that period he happened to be working on a symbol for Carmen Jones (1954) and Man With The Golden Arm for Otto Preminger. At one point in their working relationship Preminger and Saul Bass just looked at each other and said

“Why not make it move!And it was really as simple as that….”Saul Bass

Saul thought to himself that initially the audience involvement with any film should and would really start with the very first frame…“You have to remember that until then titles had been a list of dull credits, mostly ignored or used for POPCORN TIME… So there seemed to be a real opportunity to use TITLES in a new way, to actually create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.”-Saul Bass

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Just to show how effective using merely a powerful symbol to define a film’s motivation or theme, you could use the example of Man With The Golden Arm which opened in New York City in 1952. The only advertising gimmick used on the Marquee was the disjointed image of the illustrated arm, to suggest the subject of drug addiction.

When asked how the symbol functioned when translating it to the film’s narrative, Bass answered by saying this “Well you remember that the film was about drug addiction. And the symbol…that is…THE ARM…in it’s jagged form expressed the jarring disjointed existence of a drug addict. Now to the extent that it was an accurate and telling synthesis of the film in the Ad campaign, these same qualities came to it in the theater and of course with the addition of the motion of sound really came alive and set off the mood and the texture of the film.”

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At some point in Bass’s career he made the transition of using a purely static graphic device, to creating movement and a choreography of postulations, evolving with IN HARMS WAY 1965 and SECONDS 1966.

“I started in graphics. Then as you’ve seen I began to move that graphic image in film. Somewhere down the line I felt the need to come to grips with the realistic or live action image which seemed to me at the time to be central to the notion of film… Of course then, a whole new world was open to me.”

“Keep in mind however, despite my fascination with this, I still felt CONTENT was the key issue. I continued to look for simple, direct ideas. For example IN HARMS WAY 1965, the story about the sea war in the pacific, I used the violent and  the eternal qualities of the sea, as a metaphor for the people in the events of the story.”

“In SECONDS 1966, a sixty year old man goes into a hospital, and through advanced surgical techniques is reconstituted in his entirety. And he comes out twenty five years old, and looking like Rock Hudson. Now tampering with humanity that way is pretty scary. So in the title, I broke apart,distorted and reconstituted the human face to set the stage symbolically for what was to come.”

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the opening sequence from John Frankenheimer’s Seconds with Rock Hudson

Titles for William Wyler’s western starring Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons, THE BIG COUNTRY 1958, Carl Foreman’s intelligent war drama THE VICTORS 1963 and John Frankenheimer’s GRAND PRIX 1966 starring one of my favorite guys in the world, James Garner, seem to stretch the action even further toward total integration of the title and credits as they merge into the beginning of these films. With GRAND PRIX Bass uses multiple identical images in one frame, much in the way the split screen is used. He also introduces the notion of the spectator, joining us as spectator.

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Saul Bass, went through an evolutionary process as he embraced the art of ceremoniously attracting us into the story. in his own words, “Absolutely, previously I used title to symbolize, summarize, establish mood or establish attitude. At one point it occurred to me that a title could make a more significant contribution to the storytelling process. It could act as a prologue. It could deal with the time before. For instance in BIG COUNTRY, I tried to establish the notion of an Island of people in a sea of land. The vastness of which is penetrated by a stage coach. After an endless journey it reaches this isolated group of people and only then does the story begin. So THE BIG COUNTRY was the free months before, and THE VICTORS it was twenty five years before. WWI and the middle of WWII, and in GRAND PRIX it was a moment before the preparation for the Monte Carlo race.”

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The end credits utilizing graffiti for the textual content of Jerome Robbins and Robert Wises masterpiece West Side Story. Saul Bass’ brilliant idea to end the film with the long credits in order to ease the audience out of the violent deaths of the main characters in the film.

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TRIVIA:
Bass not only designed the title sequence in Psycho (1960) he has been attributed to helping conceptualize the scene where Arbogast (Martin Balsam) ascends those fateful stairs to his unwitting doom. He also was responsible for drawing  the storyboards for the shower scene under the specific directions of Hitchcock himself. Although as referenced in the book  Truffaut on Hitchcock it is stated that he didn’t wind up using those sketches as they “weren’t right.”

Here are some examples of the moody, the powerful, the evocative, the iconic work of Mr Saul Bass-

It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)-directed by Stanley Kramer music by Ernest Gold

Psycho 196o – directed by Alfred Hitchcock music by Bernard Herrmann using only string instruments.

Anatomy of A Murder (1959) – director by Otto Preminger with original music by Duke Ellington 

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)-directed by Otto Preminger with original music by Paul Glass

Oceans 11 (1960)-directed by Lewis Milestone with music by Nelson Riddle

The Victors (1963)-directed by Carl Foreman music by Sol Kaplan

Seconds (1966) – directed by John Frankenheimer music by Jerry Goldsmith

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) – directed by Otto Preminger with music by Elmer Bernstein

Walk on The Wild Side (1962)– directed by Edward Dmytryk music by Elmer Bernstein

Vertigo (1958) – directed by Alfred Hitchcock with music by Bernard Herrmann

North by Northwest (1959) – directed by Alfred Hitchock music by Bernard Herrmann

Not With My Wife, You Don’t (1966)-directed by Norman Panama and music by John Williams with lyrics Johnny Mercer

Saint Joan (1957) – directed by Otto Preminger with music by Mischa Spoilansky

Storm Center (1956) – directed by Daniel Taradash music by George Duning

Such Good Friends (1971)-directed by Otto Preminger music by Thomas Z. Shepard

The Big Knife (1955)-directed by Robert Aldrich with music by Frank De Vol

The Seven Year Itch (1955)– directed by Billy Wilder with music by Alfred Newman

Spartacus (1960)-directed by Stanley Kubrick with music by Alex North

PHASE IV (1974)– Saul Bass directing with music by Brian Gasgoigne

West Side Story (1961)– directed by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise with music by Leonard Bernstein and Irwin Kostal

Boris Karloff’s Thriller 1960s television series

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From the show’s opening iconic musical score, you know something deliciously sinister is about to occur. The word THRILLER appears against a fractured white web like graphic title design quite a bit in the style of Saul Bass. The discordant piano and horn stabs of modern jazz already bring you into the inner sanctum of menacing story telling. As Boris would often say as a precursory welcome,“Let me assure you ladies and gentlemen, as sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a thriller”

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Boris Karloff’s THRILLER was an anthology series that ran from 1960-1962. It included 60 minute B&W episodes, 67 in all, that were expected to compete with The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

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The series was developed by Executive Producer Hubbell Robinson and producers William Frye, Fletcher Markle  & Maxwell Shane for MCA’s Revue Studios. The format was somewhat plagued by two ambivalent themes, leaving the show’s narrative straddling both crime melodrama and tales of the macabre genres. But… either atmospheres created by some of the best writers, directors and players delivered a highly intoxicating blend of both.

“I think the title leaves the stories wide open to be based on melodrama not violence or shock. They’ll be stories about people in ordinary surroundings and something happened to them. The whole thing boils down to taste. Anybody can show you a bucket of blood and say-‘This is a bucket of blood’, but not everyone can produce a skilful story”-Boris Karloff (1960)

Karloff starred in five episodes: The Prediction, The Premature Burial, The Last of the Somervilles, Dialogues With Death, and The Incredible Doctor Markesan.

Many of the stories were based on writing taken from Weird Tales and scripted by that magazine’s contributors such as Robert Bloch (author of the novel Psycho) who wrote one of my favorite episodes The Cheaters as well as adapting his story The Weird Tailor.

Other contributing writers were Donald S. Sanford, Richard Matheson, Barré Lyndon and August Derleth John Kneubuhl, Alan Caillou, Robert Hardy Andrews, Charles Beaumont, Robert Arthur, William D. Gordon, Jay Simms and Wilkie Collins.

THRILLER had an incredible line up of serious dramatic players. Leslie Nielsen, Mary Astor, Rip Torn, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson, Martin Gabel, Cloris Leachman, Fay Bainter, Victor Buono, Audrey Dalton, Alan Caillou, Elisha Cook, Robert Lansing, Mary Tyler Moore, Beverly Garland,Warren Oates, Werner Klemperer, Harry Townes, Jack Weston, Paul Newlan, Ed Nelson, Mildred Dunnock, Phyllis Thaxter,William Shatner, Elizabeth Allen, Guy Stockwell, Susan Oliver, Nehemiah Persoff, Torin Thatcher, Marlo Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Ireland, Pippa Scott, Jeanette Nolan, Guy Rolfe, Hazel Court, Lloyd Bochner, Brandon DeWilde, Sidney Blackmer, George Macready, Tom Poston, Constance Ford, Elizabeth Montgomery, John Carradine, Edward Andrews, Estelle Windwood, Bruce Dern, Jo Van Fleet, Jane Greer, Richard Long, Ursula Andress, Lillian Bronson, Reta Shaw, Dick York, Howard McNear, Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, John Fiedler, Linda Watkins, Martita Hunt, George Grizzard, Robert Middleton, Natalie Schafer, James Griffith, Bethel Leslie, Patricia Medina, Richard Chamberlain, Sarah Marshall, Conrad Nagel, Reggie Nalder, Henry Jones, Russell Johnson, Natalie Trundy, Diana Millay, Philip Carey, Kathleen Crowley, Susan Oliver, J. Pat O’Malley, Judith Evelyn, Tom Helmore, Robert Vaughn, Virginia Gregg, Scott Marlowe, Judson Pratt, Marion Ross, Antoinette Bower, Jocelyn Brando, William Windom, George Kennedy, Abraham Sofaer, Monte Markham, Patricia Breslin, Charles Aidman and so many other great character actors.

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Ida Lupino directed Last of the Summervilles, The Lethal Ladies, The Bride Who Died Twice, La Strega, The Closed Cabinet, What Beckoning Ghost? Guillotine, Mr. George and Trio for Terror

The series drew much of it’s artist edge because of the directors who contributed their stylistic observations of the story telling like Robert Florey, French Screenwriter who was responsible for contributing to The Outer Limits , Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone as well as assistant director on Murders In The Rue Morgue and the 1946 film The Beast With 5 Fingers yet another take of the Orlac saga. John Brahm had directed the 1944 version of The Lodger and Hangover Square. Much of the overall tone of the series combined elements of film noir and classical horror. The shadowy gray toned cinematography created so much of the atmospherics for some of the most memorable episodes in the series. Pigeons From Hell is yet another story adapted from Weird Tales Magazine. This episode was directed by John Newland of One Step Beyond, a television series consisting of half hour episodes that were purported to be based on true paranormal events. Some other notable directors who contributed their work to the series was the ever versatile Ida Lupino Arthur Hiller , Lazlo Benedak, (The Wild One ’53) Hershel Daugherty , Paul Henreid, Douglas Heyes and Jules Bricken.

THRILLER’S musical compositions seemed to be sculpted perfectly for each episode, underscoring the haunting and poignant quality of each story in such an evocative way that the music itself became integral to the narrative. The subtly intrinsic emotional quality in each of the arrangements help forge a climate of the distinctive theater of dramatic and unearthly chills.

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Jerry Goldsmith , Morton Stevens & Pete Rugolo  wrote some of the most vivid and beautiful melodies for the series. I was inspired by the episode God Grante That She Lye Stille, to name a song on my album Fools and Orphans after it.

Henry Daniell, who in addition to his marvelous face, had a wonderfully theatrical voice, plays the 17th century reincarnation of his ancestor Vicar Weatherford in God Grante She Lye Stille. He condemns the witch Elsbeth Clewer to be damned to the fires of hell and burn at the stake. Memorable is his invocation “God Grant That She Lye Still.” in that measured and lucidly flowing tone of his.”Thou shall not suffer a witch to live!”

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Henry Daniell in God Grant That She Lye Stille

Daniell would inhabit several striking characters on the series, including Dirk van Prinn the alchemist in The Cheaters.

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Henry Daniell as the cruel headmaster in Jane Eyre 1943

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I’ll be writing about some of my favorite episodes in depth because THRILLER was so ahead of it’s time in terms of the serious and artful risk taking of the various directors on board, the incredibly spellbinding story telling and dialogue, inspired set & art design, experimental cinematography, dramatic performances and evocative musical scoring.

Together the confluence of all these elements contributed to a show that often pushed the boundaries of what you might expect from a 1960’s television series. It’s moody, compelling and haunting quality, have not been duplicated on any other anthology series of it’s type to date. Although I also feel passionately about The Outer Limits for much of the same reasons, a show philosophizing on morality with a very science fiction lens. I plan on covering that series in depth as well. Alfred Hitchcock Presents & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was a fabulous mystery series that also merged noir with suspense. This is another show I’ll be talking about in the future. Yet THRILLER holds a special fascination for me, partly due to my enduring love for Boris Karloff.

Somehow THRILLER seemed to encapsulate it’s own Gothic methodology and mythos.

The sets had a uniquely eerie landscape and their own vitally uncanny, bizarre and shadowy environment. Not unlike the way Val Lewton seemed to create his own unique cycle of supernaturally themed shadow plays for RKO.

The show still evokes chills and Gestalt response in me even after having watched these episodes a hundred times over.

Also notable is Jack Barron’s make-up on the series, including The Incredible Doktor Markesan~

So please stay tuned as I journey back to Boris Karloff’s Thriller and wander through some of my most treasured episodes I’d love to share with you!

Also notable is Jack Barron’s make-up on the series, including Doktor Markesan ~

 

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a few scenes from a most groundbreaking & thrilling series!

A Wig for Miss Devore
A Wig for Miss Devore – Patricia Barry & Linda Watkins
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The Storm-Nancy Kelly
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What Beckoning Ghost?-Judith Evelyn
Fingers of Fear
Fingers of Fear- Robert Middleton
Mr George
Mr.George- Virginia Gregg and Lillian Bronson
Masquerade
Masquerade – John Carradine, Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery
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Rose’s Last Summer– Mary Astor
Parasite Mansion
Parasite Mansion- James Griffith and Jeanette Nolan
Pigeons from Hell
Pigeons From Hell– Ottola Nesmith
Prisoner in the Mirror
Prisoner in the Mirror – Lloyd Bochner and
The Cheaters
The Cheaters- Mildred Dunnock
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The Ordeal of Doctor Cordell-Robert Vaughn
the grim reaper
The Grim Reaper– himself
the hollow watcher
The Hollow Watcher– Audrey Dalton
the hungry glass
The Hungry Glass– William Shatner and Joanna Heyes
The Premature Buriel
The Premature Burial- Sidney Blackmer
The Purple Room
The Purple Room
the remarkable mrs hawk
The Remarkable Mrs Hawk– Jo Van Fleet
the weird tailor
The Weird Tailor- Sandra Blake & Hans the mannequin
The Incredible Doktor Markesan
The Incredible Doktor Markeson – Boris Karloff
Doktor Markeson
Doktor Markeson
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There are 2 episodes listed that never made it to the screen- A Secret Understanding and The Black-Eyed Stranger

 

Season One –

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Season Two