MonsterGirl “Listens”: Reflections with great actress Audrey Dalton!

me and my mollusk

Audrey Dalton

Audrey Dalton born in Dublin, Ireland who maintains the most delicately embroidered lilt of Gaelic tones became an American actress of film in the heyday of Hollywood and the Golden Age of television. Knowing from early on that she wanted to be an actress while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts was discovered by a Paramount Studio executive in London, thus beginning her notable career starring in classic drama, comedy, film noir, science fiction, campy cult classic horror and dramatic television hits!

Audrey My Cousin Rachel
Audrey Dalton as the lovely Louise Kendall in Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (1952) directed by Henry Koster.

Recently Audrey Dalton celebrated her birthday on January 21st and I did a little tribute here at The Last Drive In. Visit the link above for more great info and special clips of Audrey Dalton’s work!

Since then I’ve had the incredible honor of chatting with this very special lady whom I consider not only one of THE most ethereal beauties of the silver screen, Audrey Dalton is a versatile actress, and an extremely gracious and kind person.

While I’ve read a few interviews one in particular in a division of USA TODAY: The Spectrum  Audrey Dalton survived a sinking, a ‘Serpent’ and a stallion by Nick Thomas. 

The article in USA Today asked about Titanic, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, designer Edith head, the pesky mollusk and her appearances in several notable film and television westerns.

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Naturally they inquired about Audrey Dalton’s monumental contribution to one of the biggest beloved 1950s ‘B’ Sci-Fi  treasures and she deserves to be honored for her legacy as the heroine in distress, pursued by a giant Mollusk, no not a Serpent nor giant caterpillar it be!

She is asked… eternally asked about this crusty bug eyed monster, and why not! it’s part of a fabulous celebration of what makes films like The Monster that Challenged the World (1957) memorable for so many of us!

The love for these sentimental sci-fi films are still so much alive! Early this year, Audrey Dalton joined Julie Adams to celebrate with fans both their iconic legacies for starring in two of the most popular monster films of all time… The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).

She’s been asked about her wonderful performance as Annette Sturges in Titanic (1953) with focus on her co-stars Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb, and of course about one hilarious anecdote around her role in several westerns, including TV shows like The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Wagon Train, and her fabulous fear of horses! Even more than that giant drooling crustacean? “That monster was enormous!” –Audrey commented in her interview with USA Today.

I don’t have a video of Ms Dalton on a rambunctious horse, but here she is giving a fine performance in the television hit series that ironically reunites Stanwyck as the matriarch of the Barclay family and Audrey together again…tho Stanwyck is not in this scene, she works well with actor Richard Long in an episode called ‘Hazard’ in The Big Valley (1966). Audrey went on to do one more episode as Ann Snyder in season one called Earthquake.

I am most taken with Audrey Dalton’s wonderful nostalgic joy and her earnest appreciation for the collaborations off camera and on the set- having a true sense of warmth, togetherness and a passion for her craft and fellow cinema & television artists, crew and players. I’ve used the term “players” when I refer to actors, something that Audrey Dalton pointed out to me was not only a very endearing description, but in addition, something I hadn’t known and felt an adrenaline rush to learn that Boris Karloff was known to do as well. Perhaps he is my grandpa after all. I can dream can’t I?

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Drum Beat
Alan Ladd and Audrey Dalton on a horse in Delmer Daves’ western Drum Beat (1954)

Audrey told me that she had a fear of horses, having expanded on it when interviewed by USA Today “I hate horses!” she admitted. “I mean I’m really scared to death of them. In one show I had to ride down a very steep hill and felt sure I was going to fall. I got through it, but when the scene was over the director asked, “Could you do it again, this time with your eyes open?”

My little conversations with Audrey seem to drift more toward our mutual appreciation of her experience working with Boris Karloff in some of the most evocative episodes of that ground breaking television anthology show THRILLER  hosted by the great and dear Boris Karloff.

The Hollow Watcher
Audrey plays the beautiful woman/child Meg O’Danagh Wheeler a mail order bride from Ireland married to Warren Oates the son of a bully played masterfully by Denver Pyle, Meg is a jewel trapped in a tortured space of rural repression and hounded by a folk lorish Boogeyman called The Hollow Watcher released in 1962-Link to past post above.

I hesitated asking one question which this feature is usually founded on. Because of my great admiration for years that I’ve held for Ms.Dalton, I couldn’t put restrictions on this wonderful opportunity to listen to the wisdom and sacred reminiscence by such a special actress.

Normally I call this particular feature MonsterGirl Asks, where I put one specific question to someone special in the entertainment industry, arts or academic world instead a full blown interview asking predictable or possibly stale musings that are often over asked or just not inspiring for all concerned. I’ve had several wonderful chances at getting to ask a question here or there. But I have to say, THIS feature is centered around a very heart-warming exchange between myself and Audrey Dalton, yes the sublimely beautiful, versatile & talented actress of film & television.

So I took a chance and asked if she would agree to do my MonsterGirl Asks feature. What happened was she generously shared some very wonderful memories with me so instead of calling it MonsterGirl Asks, I defer to the much lauded star and changed the title special feature as I humbly open myself up as MonsterGirl Listens to a great star who has had the graciousness and kindness to allow me to share these reminiscings with you.

hayfork & billhook

For years I have been such a fan of this otherworldly beauty, not just from watching Boris Karloff’s Thriller where Audrey graced three of the BEST episodes, nor is it her attractive self-reliance in defying Tim Holt’s priggishness as Lt. Cmdr. John ‘Twill’ Twillinger or showing shear guts in the midst of that giant Mollusk, that Monster That Challenged the World, nor is it just her ability to stare danger and death in the face, the very frightening face of Guy Rolfe otherwise known as Mr. Sardonicus in William Castle’s eerie cheeky masterpiece. Audrey Dalton has appeared in two of the most iconic treasures from exquisitely better times in the realm of Sci-Fi & Classical Horror film. She is still beloved by so many fans!

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Tim Holt and Audrey Dalton in director Arnold Laven’s memorable & beloved  sci-fi jaunt into the giant creature movie of the 1950s!
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Audrey Dalton and Ronald Lewis are unfortunate prisoners of the sadistic Mr. Sardonicus (1961) brought to you by the great showman of cult horror William Castle!

Though Audrey Dalton may have graced the world of cult horror & ‘B’ Sci-Fi phantasmagoria, she is quite the serious actress having been one of the main stars in Titanic (1953). Here she is shown with Robert Wagner.

audrey and wagner Titanic
Audrey Dalton co-stars with Robert Wagner in Titanic (1953)

Then Audrey brings a delightful bit of class to director Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables 1958, Audrey is provocative, self-reliant and wonderfully flirtatious as Jean who joyfully seduces Rod Taylor, keeping him charmingly distracted and constantly on his toes! Though this gif has him pecking her adorable nose!

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audrey with don taylor in the girls of pleasure island 1953
Audrey with Don Taylor in her first film The Girls of Pleasure Island (1953) Alamy Stock Photo.
Rex Reason in Thundering Jets
Audrey Dalton co-stars with Rex Reason in Thundering Jets (1958)

Audrey played the lovely Louise Kendall quite enamored with Richard Burton in Daphne du Maurier’s romantic thriller  My Cousin Rachel 1952 also c0-starring Olivia de Havilland as the cunning Rachel.

with Burton in My Cousin Rachel
Audrey Dalton co-stars with Richard Burton in My Cousin Rachel (1952)-photo: Alamy Stock Photo.

Audrey’s been the elegant Donna Elena Di Gambetta co-starring in the romantic comedy with Bob Hope and Joan Fontaine in Cassanova’s Big Night (1954),

Cassanova's Big Night
Audrey Dalton, Bob Hope and Joan Fontaine in Cassanova’s Big Night : Alamy Stock Photo.
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Here’s Audrey in Drum Beat (1954) as Nancy Meek who must be escorted by Indian fighter Johnny MacKay played by Alan Ladd

Ladd and Dalton in Drum Beat 1954

Alan Ladd Drum Beat 1954
Audrey Dalton as the sensuous Nancy Meek in Delmer Dave’s Drum Beat (1954) co-starring with dreamy Alan Ladd. :Alamy Stock Photo
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Audrey plays Louise Nelson in this superb British film noir The Deadliest Sin (1955).

I am so touched by Audrey Dalton’s kindness. She not only possesses a beauty that could be considered otherworldly, and up there in the ranks of so many of the great beauties of that Golden Age of Hollywood, it turns out she is one of THE most gracious and kind people in an industry filled with egos and eccentrics.

I shared a bit about why I call myself MonsterGirl, that I am a singer/songwriter and how much I’ve loved her work in film and television for as far back as I can remember. I mentioned that I had heard so many stories about how kind and gentle Boris Karloff was in real life. That I wished Boris Karloff had been my grandfather. My own was a real ‘meanie’ and so around here we often joke and say Grandpa Boris.

I was so glad that I got the chance to tell her how much her contribution to THRILLER elevated the episodes to a whole new level, including Boris himself who brought to life a confluence of genius, the immense collaborative efforts of some of the most talented artists and people in the industry. Audrey Dalton worked with directors– Herschel Daugherty on Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook, with John Brahm on The Prediction starring along side Boris Karloff and director William F. Claxton and co-starring with another great actor Warren Oates in The Hollow Watcher 

The series has never been imitated nor surpassed in it’s originality and atmosphere. We conferred about our shared love of THRILLER and it’s impact on television as a visionary program and a wonderful working space off camera.

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Audrey Dalton has a fay-like smile, a pair of eyes that are deep & mesmerizing with a sparkle of kindness besides…

MonsterGirl Listens-

Audrey Dalton– “Here’s some thoughts for you on my most beloved work as an actor.”

“I was on a lot of Westerns (despite my fear of horses) but my most favorite show was the Thriller series. I had an agreement with Boris to do one a season. Boris Karloff was a lovely, gentle man who was loved by the crew. Many of them had worked with him years before. That was nice to see. The Thriller set was a wonderful place to be. We all had so much fun working with one another. When we filmed Hay-Fork, we would all go out for late dinners after filming. Alan Napier was very tall and had a wonderful sense of humor about it. He would tease Boris that he should’ve played Frankenstein’s Monster because of his height and strong features. But Boris was the best Monster of all. He was always a gentleman and genuinely enjoyed listening to everyone talk. He was a true actor and director. He watched people and life around him with huge eyes.”

On BORIS KARLOFF and his iconic anthology television series THRILLER:

karloff thriller opening

It must have been wonderful working with Boris Karloff on this remarkable series that possessed an innovative and unique sense of atmosphere, blending mystery & suspense, the crime drama and some of the BEST tales of terror & the supernatural!

Joey“I’m glad to see that you enjoyed working with him {Boris} on the show THRILLER… It was not only ahead of it’s time, and I’m not just trying to impress you, it IS actors like yourself and the quality and the true passion that you brought that helped make the show a very special body of work. It’s so nice to hear that you enjoyed the experience behind the scenes as well… It is one of my favorite classic anthology series. I can re-watch it over and over because it’s so compelling and well done!”

Audrey- “I feel very fortunate to have been working when the film industry was still relatively small and run by creative producers, writers and directors who had the studio solidly behind them, and not by financial conglomerates for whom film making was just one more way to make money. Boris could just call up his favorite film colleagues to work on Thriller, and that made it a wonderful experience. Film making today is a more complicated business with so much more emphasis on the business side and on ratings. We told stories because we were passionate about them. I’m not sure that passion is the same any more.”

“I watched some Thrillers last month after my daughter first saw your website.  They are creepy even for someone who acted in them. It was such a well-done, well-made show.”

on the Moors

“Thriller is such a gem that it would be wonderful if you wrote more about it.  It does not get the attention it deserves. Boris really considered it his masterpiece of so much talent in each episode.”

Joey- I laughed out loud, at your comment that Thriller was “even creepy for someone who acted in them.” I suppose it would be creepy, and I often wonder how the atmosphere of the set and the narrative might influence a performance just by the suggestion of the story and the set design! And the musical score is yet another defining element of the show. Jerry Goldsmith, Pete Rugolo and Mort Stevens’ music is so extraordinary! Moody and evocative. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Hollow Watcher is just incredible, it added to the emotionally nuanced scenes you had as the stirring character of Meg secretly married to the conniving Sean McClory in The Hollow Watcher. I will be covering very soon, your two other fantastic appearances in Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook and The Prediction.”

Audrey- “Boris would love to know you think of him as Grandpa Boris. He had a huge heart and I do so love remembering how kind and gentle he was.  I am so grateful to have been one of the lucky few who worked with him.”

On working with Barbara Stanwyck & starring in the classic hit TITANIC (1953)

dalton and stanwyck titanic

Audrey- “My other most cherished project was Titanic. I worked with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb. Clifton was a little bit like snobbish and mostly kept to himself, but he was very funny with a sharp wit. Barbara Stanwyck was a dream – the ultimate pro, always prepared to act and ready to help the rest of us.”

On starring in director Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables (1958)

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Joey- “I loved your performance in Separate Tables! It’s obvious you were having fun and it was a lovely and playful characterization. As well as pretty modern which I loved! Did it send Rod Taylor running back to the Time Machine because you were such a strong and confident gal…”

Audrey -“Another favorite role of mine was “Separate Tables” with David Niven, Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth and Deborah Kerr. It was such a fun little film. We rehearsed for 3 weeks and shot it in sequence, which was very unusual. Niven was a wonderful, funny man, a great raconteur. It was great to just sit quietly in a chair and listen to his wicked sense of humor. Rita was incredibly nervous during filming and was literally shaking. We all had to be quiet to help her get over it. She was such a sweet person, but I think she was having health problems by then.”

Joey- “You were wonderful in Separate Tables! The old gossips like Glady’s Cooper (who –from her performance in Now Voyager, I wouldn’t want to be my Grandma or mother for that matter!) I adore her as an actress though… and Cathleen Nesbit they were hilarious as they watched nosily at your goings on with Rod Taylor… you both brought a very nice bit of comedic lightness to the underlying sad tone of Deborah Kerr and David Niven’s characters.”

Audrey“Now I might have to watch Separate Tables again.”

On ELSA LANCHESTER- 

Elsa The Girls of Pleasure Island

girls of pleasure island

I did wonder if The Girls of Pleasure Island co-star Elsa Lanchester had left an impression on Audrey Dalton, a seemingly feisty character I wondered if she had experienced anything memorable acting in her first feature film along side of another of my favorite actresses.

Audrey- “I don’t remember a lot about Elsa Lanchester. When we filmed “The Girls of Pleasure Island” it was on the Paramount backlot and I remember she always had a camera with her.  She was an avid photographer and she had a wonderful sense of humor.”

On WILLIAM CASTLE and Mr. Sardonicus!

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Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton and Guy Rolfe in William Castle’s macabre Gothic masterpiece Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

I read William Castle’s bio and it was quite a hell of a read! The stories about his childhood are wild. Like Audrey said, “he is a legend for good reason”, and Mr. Sardonicus (1961) is quite a macabre masterpiece in so many ways. Castle was considered a master of Bally-Hoo but he truly had an eye for creating weird spaces and stories. Although considered low budget, it doesn’t matter to so many of us, because he left a legacy and Audrey Dalton is part of that…

Joey- “I imagine working with William Castle on Mr. Sardonicus, there must have been a great deal of creepy moments because of that horrific mask that Guy Rolfe wore! and Oskar Homolka and his awful leeches, horrid man… (the character not the actor of course!) I hope it was as enjoyable working with William Castle as it was with Grandpa Boris. You were wonderful in the film!”

Audrey- “Bill Castle was another incredible director I was fortunate to get to work with. He’s a legend for good reason; I don’t think I have ever met someone so creative and driven about his work.  You are right that the mask that Guy wore in Mr. Sardonicus was chilling. I have not seen that film in years but I can see that image as clearly as if it were yesterday.”

Sardonicus

On being friends with actress BEVERLY GARLAND!

The Alligator Man

Audrey“I noticed you wrote a bit about Beverly Garland.  She was such a dear friend of mine.  She was in Pretty Poison with Noel Black who just passed away last year.   Bev died years ago and even though she remained active in the Scarecrow and Mrs King for so long, she loved acting in “B” films the most.”

Joey- “I am a big fan of Beverly Garland! I think she was a versatile and extremely accessible actress! Just wonderful to watch. Even her outre cool 1950’s police show DECOY: Police Woman!… Of course she’ll always be beloved for her ‘B’ movies with Roger Corman.

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It’s so wonderful to hear that you both were good friends. I’m sorry she’s gone. So many wonderful people we’ve lost. It’s so great to know that she enjoyed being known as a “B” movie actress in addition to her other incredible body of work. I loved her in director Noel Black’s Pretty Poison (1968). I forgot that she played the psychopathic Sue Ann Stepaneck’s (Tuesday Weld’s) mom!”

Beverly Garland not only exuded a gutsy streak in every role she took, she shared the notable distinction of starring in one of Boris Karloff’s THRILLER episodes called Knock-Three-One-Two co-starring with the wonderful character actor Joe Maross who has a gambling problem and will be beaten to a pulp if he doesn’t pay his bookie. So he enlists the help of a psychopathic lady killer to murder his wife Beverly for her tightly held purse and large savings account!

On ED NELSON– Like the wonderful Audrey Dalton, Ed Nelson exudes an inner light and sort of tangible kindness.

ed nelson

Joey “One very endearing thing that happened in August 2014 after Ed Nelson passed away, when I wrote a little something about the ubiquitous actor, his son wrote to me in particular to thank me for saying such nice things about his dad. It’s ironic Ed worked on several of Boris Karloff’s  THRILLERs too! When he had passed on, I hoped he knew how many fans he had and could have had the opportunity to enjoy a nice tribute from me for all the work he had done.”

Ed Nelson and Linda Watkins The Cheaters
Ed Nelson and Linda Watkins in The Cheaters episode of Boris Karloff’s anthology television show Thriller!

I just watched the 70s television show Police Woman with Angie Dickinson as Pepper Anderson —Audrey Dalton starred in the episode called Shoefly.” It was so nice to see her playing the wife of actor Ed Nelson, since they both starred in several roles of Thriller! and the chemistry between them was very genuine. And I told her so, and did ask about him.

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Ed Nelson plays Lieutenant John Hess married to the loving Rose in Police Woman episode ‘Shoefly” 1974

Audrey “I did know Ed Nelson quite well, by the way. We lost touch over the years, but during the time we were first filming Killers in Paradise and then again while filming Police Woman. He was a kind man and very smart.  And he was a very busy actor.”

COMING SOON: Boris Karloff’s anthology television show THRILLER  featuring Audrey Dalton in 2 memorable & evocative episodes– HAY -FORK and BILL-HOOK  and THE PREDICTION!

the prediction

Hay Fork and Bill Hook
Audrey Dalton in Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook shown here with Doris Lloyd as Mother Evans. There’s witchcraft afoot in the Welsh moors.

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Audrey- “Your website brings back wonderful memories and I have enjoyed reading it so very much. It is such a treasure.”

Joey- With all my sincerest gratitude and ever lasting admiration, it’s been one of the greatest thrills of my life, speaking to you, the amazing Audrey Dalton!

Love always, Joey

 

 

 

 

 

It’s January 21st! The Last Drive In wishes a very fond & Happy Birthday to the lovely Audrey Dalton 82 years old today!

actress-audrey-dalton-attends-a-wedding-in-gettyimages Michael Ochs Archives Collection LA 1955
Actress Audrey Dalton attends a wedding Los Angeles 1955 courtesy of Getty images photograph -Michael Ochs Archives Collection

Audrey Dalton is exquisite, dreamy, even otherworldly. When I try to find the perfect words to describe the essence that makes her uniquely beautiful these are the words that come to mind. Part of her allure includes her clear and enchantingly liquid voice, a subtle vision of classical beauty with a light that shines from her deep and mercurial eyes. Make no mistake, she is not just a pretty face, Audrey Dalton is an extraordinarily genuine actress who has been one of my favorite unsung heroines for many years. In my opinion she possesses a transcendent kind of beauty and talent that can be seen in other screen idols, Jean Simmons, Jennifer Jones, Gail Russel Ella Raines Jean Peters and Joan Bennett.

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Born in Dublin she was destined to become an actress from early on and once her family moved to London she joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Audrey is the daughter of Irish war hero and producer Emmet Dalton. She appeared in his film This Other Eden (1959) directed by Muriel Box, it’s the story of small town in Ireland during the 1920s who want to erect a monument to an IRA rebel, and the son of an English colonel who is against the plan. Audrey plays Maire McRoarty co-starring with fine British actor Niall MacGinnis.

It was while she was attending RADA that a Paramount executive saw her and arranged an audition for an upcoming picture The Girls of Pleasure Island (1953) She got the role as one of Leo Genn’s three daughters Hester Halyard along side the great Elsa Lanchester. Audrey also got a contract with Paramount Pictures, and so she came to the U.S. in 1952 to start shooting for “Pleasure Island’

My Cousin Rachel
Audrey Dalton co-stars as Louise Kendall in My Cousin Rachel (1952) also starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland

Paramount studios would eventually loan Audrey out to 20th Century Fox to co-star in the adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (1952) with Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton and in director Jean Negulesco’s Titanic (1953) with Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck’s and Robert Wagner. Dalton was wonderful in both parts, giving a richly emotional performance as Annette Sturges.

Titanic-lobby-card

In 1955 Audrey Dalton starred in The Deadliest Sin aka Confession a taut film noir where she plays sister Louise Nelson whose brother Mike (Sydney Chaplin) is a cold blooded thief and murderer.

She was wonderful in the romantic & feisty role as Jean whom Charles (Rod Taylor) has a hard time pinning her down for marriage. Co-starring in director Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables (1958) along side an incredible ensemble the likes of Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, David Niven Wendy Hiller Burt Lancaster Gladys Cooper and Cathleen Nesbitt. Amidst the collection of wonderful characters from writer Terence Rattigan, Audrey Dalton’s portrayal of the independent Jean shines through brilliantly.

Now being a child of the 60s who earned the name MonsterGirl first as a way to tease me now I wear as a badge of honor, because I was so drawn to classical horror and sci-fi pictures, I can’t neglect the fact that Audrey Dalton starred in one of the most iconic giant creature features from the 50s-The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) where giant Mollusks terrorize a California coastline.

Not only is this one of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, Audrey Dalton brings a lot of class to the film, acting opposite the hyper-manly bratty Tim Holt ( I can’t stop thinking of him as Georgie Minafer! in The Magnificent Ambersons) This is one of the more superior giant creature films that ran amok during the 50s, and I’m sure many of Audrey’s fans will remember her as Gail MacKenzie whose little girl Sandy (Mimi Gibson) turns up the heat on one of the tubs in the lab and helps one of the giant mollusks to grow and break loose! It’s a hoot of a scene though I always find myself saying just before the monstrous mayhem, “Save the bunnies, save the bunnies!”

Mollusk & Audrey

Mollusk & Audrey 2

Audrey Dalton is marvelous, never becoming that clichéd ‘hysterical’ woman that screams frozen in terror, too overwrought to move a muscle to help. Nope! Gail crosses that scaly beasty and takes little Sandy in her arms while the mollusk is working it’s way through the particle board door, telling her to close her eyes. That’s courage and fierce motherhood, and Audrey Dalton makes it look like monster movie poetry. She added a bit of class and benevolence to the film, which happens to be ONE of my favorites of that nifty blend of sci-fi/horror that is an above average monster movie.

sandy and the mollusk
Sorry kid, that’s what you get for turning up the heat on the cooker! That’ll teach ya… oh those poor bunnies!
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Audrey Dalton and Guy Rolfe in William Castle’s truly macabre masterpiece Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

In 1961 the master of artful ballyhoo and gimmickry director William Castle cast Audrey Dalton as the woman in peril -the Baroness Maude Sardonicus who is a prisoner to the gruesome Baron Sardonicus/Marek Toleslawski played with a morbid conviction by Guy Rolfe in the Gothic Grande Guignol horror masterpiece Mr. Sardonicus.   A man who’s face has been frozen in a terrifying grimace after digging up his father’s corpse to retrieve a lottery ticket, the death mask of his father causes his facial muscles to be stricken with a Sardonic grin… Maude is used as blackmail to persuade Sir Robert Margrave (Ronald Lewis) to try his new techniques in curing paroxysms of the muscles. Audrey’s character again in the midst of terrible circumstances maintains her sophisticated composure even whilst the sadistic Krull (Oskar Homolka) tortures young girls from the village with leeches. She brings that air of class and elegance to this better than average B-movie shocker!

There are times when you love film and television so much you are able to revisit episodes or memorable scenes because they never lose their power for you. In particular, I periodically watch Boris Karloff’s anthology show THRILLER because of the confluence of talent that manages to create something so beautiful, memorable, and burned into the psyche as it gives off innate sparks of genius. A show that today is still a work of art that is original and charismatic. One of the major influencers for me constantly revisiting the show, has been due to the incredible acting and characterizations that make this fantasy/horror/thriller/noir fusion come to life, including all it’s various actors who made their roles seem effortless and memorable.

Now, I have to mention the way I came to be struck by the talent and vast dimensions of Audrey Dalton. If you know me by now, you know that I sincerely wish Boris Karloff had been my grandfather. Hosting the groundbreaking anthology show THRILLER brought to light so many incredible actors who helped create a landscape of mystery, fantasy and horror. Audrey Dalton appeared in perhaps three of the best episodes of the series. The haunting and outré creepy The Hollow Watcher co-starring Warren Oates and Denver Pyle as the brutal & sadistic Ortho Wheeler.

Appearing as Meg O’Danagh Wheeler in the rustic boogeyman piece of Americana The Hollow Watcher, Audrey Dalton proves to be a mesmerizing beauty, at times vulnerable and at other times commands the screen as a hell cat. not over the top, but a believable young woman with desires and a sense of self preservation in the midst of the confining atmosphere of a slew of hillbilly neanderthals who would possess her like a pretty doll, with not much say about her life or her own body. Dalton, transmutes those cultural chains by emerging a strong woman, without cliché and keeps herself steps away from being a victim of judgement by the symbol of falsely righteous anger, the Hollow Watcher and the men who would deem her wicked yet simultaneously objectify her while ultimately trying to keep her down.

The Hollow Watcher was not only a rustic tale of the boogeyman in the form of a scarecrow, but it also brought out a few sociological  implications, like fear of foreigners, as Meg was from Ireland, misogyny and small mindedness that leads to hate. Audrey’s character Meg, while at times plays a hell cat, okay and a murderess, though Ortho Wheeler was a belligerently evil bastard, balances this fiery role, with a delicate portrayal of vulnerability, self possession and self preservation. She gets my sympathy as an anti-heroine, and it takes true inner strength to project that perfect balance.

Beautiful and tragic, Audrey Dalton’s presence elevates the story to a higher level, than just a scary bed time story about a bumpkin boogeyman. I think the reason the episode never loses it’s potency, nor does the simplistic scarecrow appear sophomoric is perhaps the way it transforms these elements into pure revelation– that at times, the things that frighten us are truly very simple and primal fears.

In the episode The Prediction, Audrey performs with Boris Karloff in one of the few stories where Karloff doesn’t just lend his hosting prologues. Audrey plays Norine Burton assistant to stage mentalist Clayton Mace. Her father (Alan Caillou) is a drunken wretch and Clayton is more of a loving guardian to her. She wants to get married, but Clayton starts having real visions of danger and insinuates himself into the couples plans, resulting in a tragic end. Audrey is wonderful in the role, bringing that believable kindness and light that shines from her emotional eyes. I plan on covering both The Prediction & Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook as a continuing tribute to this series that was both far ahead of it’s time and timeless.

the prediction

In director Herschel Daugherty’s Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook she plays Nesta Roberts who’s husband (Kenneth Haigh)  is a Scotland yard detective trying to solve a murder in the Welsh moors where the people at The Inn of the Dark Woods are a closed community bound by superstition and fearful of witchcraft. They believe Nesta to be a witch because she is beautiful and that’s always dangerous and she has seen the elusive black dog.

hey fork

Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook is another mysterious piece from THRILLER. Dalton plays Nesta  a new bride to a police inspector who stumble onto a horrific murder case on the Welsh moors where there is a suspicion of witchcraft about. Nesta not only doesn’t sit idly by like a complacent pretty wife waiting to be protected by husband, Kenneth Haigh. The couple come upon the clues, and contend with the villagers frightened by superstition. Nesta assists her detective husband to solve the uncanny events, like the vision of a strange black dog and confronts the mystery head on, exuding a sense of smarts.

Dalton in all three episodes of THRILLER possesses a range of emotion that make her a perfect heroine, with a dimension of emotional fortitude, vulnerability and perseverance.

In Douglas Heyes’ Kitten With a Whip (1964), Audrey Dalton manages to avoid all that tawdry exploitation orgy that her husband John Forsythe gets tangled up when he befriends psychopath Ann-Margaret. She lends her lovely portrait to the film as counter-balance to Margaret’s wildly amoral Dvorak Jody who marks up the photo with lipstick by drawing a sloppy pair of lips mocking her lovely mouth. Audrey also lends her worried minute to a phone call that turns chaotic on the other end. Audrey is too classy to be mixed up in this mess Forsythe has got himself into…

In 1965 Audrey appeared with Dan Duryea in the gritty spaghetti western The Bounty Killer.

Audrey Dalton appeared in various television dramas and westerns to name a few, Kraft Suspense Theater, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Dragnet, The Wild Wild West, Bonanza, Wagon Train, episodes of Police Woman.

Audrey Dalton in Wagon Train 1958
Audrey Dalton in the television series Wagon Train 1958

“Acting always seemed honest and straightforward. The characters portrayed had a purpose, and I loved the unspoken communication between the actor and his audience” -Audrey Dalton

Well that explains why every one of Audrey Dalton’s performances appear honest and with purpose. She manages to give a bit of herself with every role. Never the same, she taps into the part and becomes that person with grace and ease of movement. We can see it in her expressive eyes and with that candid smile of hers.

I get excited to see her every time I’m watching one of her films or television performances. It’s like seeing an old dear friend.

Actors like Dalton who frequented THRILLER , popular television shows and major motion pictures make us feel comfortable because she’s easy to like and appears to be a ‘real’ person, authentically accessible and believable.

A tremendous thank you to her daughter Vickie who was gracious enough to take the time to comment on my blog with kind words from she and her incredible mum!

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With deep affection & admiration, wishing her a very very wonderful birthday- love Joey

What A Character Blogathon!… is back 2013- The unique Jeanette Nolan!

What A Character Blogathon 2013!

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Hosted by Once Upon A Screen- Outspoken & Freckled & Paula’s Cinema Club

As these fabulous bloggers say -“They are eccentric. They are unusual.  AND they are BACK!”

Character actors are the grease that spins the wheels of cinematic & television memories. I am so thrilled to be participating in this blogathon, because there are a lot of unsung actors that deserve recognition. Though it was a tough decision, I decided to focus on the inimitable Jeanette Nolan!

Jeanette Nolan

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Jeanette Nolan as the tightly wound housekeeper Mrs Peck in one of my all time favorite Columbo episodes Double Shock-“Yes, thank you I’m extremely fond of health cookies”-Columbo

Jeanette Nolan just kept popping up for me in film and television episodes until I couldn’t resist her often irascible charms, and quirky yet dignified demeanor. Okay okay, she’s played a truly bona fide hag at times. No one cackles and frets quite like a Jeanette Nolan crone.

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Jeanette Nolan in Boris Karloff’s 60s television show Thriller episode -La Strega

But, don’t let that fool you into thinking that she didn’t have an incredible depth and range of characterizations filled with heart and a sharply honed instinct for creating an atmosphere that drew you into it’s orbit, even when she was on the periphery of the plot and the main stars in the story.

I adore this woman and I’m so glad I get to share more than just a few of the memorable moments in Jeanette Nolan’s long career.

Jeanette Nolan was born in 1911 in Los Angeles California, She began her acting career in the Pasadena Community Playhouse.She made her film debut as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ 1948 film version of Macbeth.

Jeanette Nolan Lady Macbeth
Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ production of Macbeth
Jeanette Nolan The Secret of Convict Lake Harriet
Jeanette Nolan as Harriet Purcell in The Secret of Convict Lake 1951
Nora Ericson The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Jeanette Nolan as Nora Ericson in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962
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Jeanette Nolan as Mrs. Ewing Perryman in Chamber of Horrors 1966

Before her death at age 86 due to a stroke on June 5th, 1998 her career encompassed so many varied roles. Her last performance was in Robert Redford’s film The Horse Whisperer, where she plays Tom Booker’s mother “Ellen.” She played Bertha Duncan in The Big Heat 1953 and Nora Ericson in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962

If you can imagine she brought to life some of the most interesting characters in over more than 300 television shows. From Perry Mason, Doctor Kildare, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Medical Center, The Twilight Zone, Naked City, I Spy, The Mother’s In-Law,  Ironside, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive & Columbo and even played Rose Nyland’s (Bette White) mother Alma Lindstrom on The Golden Girls  just to name a few. Jeanette Nolan earned four Emmy nominations.

Nolan was married to actor John McIntire who died in 1991. And… Nolan actually provided the screams for Norman’s “mother” in Psycho (1960) Husband John played Sheriff Chambers.

Here’s Jeanette Nolan in one of Columbo’s memorable episodes ‘Double Shock’ as Mrs Peck who keeps a very tidy house.

As the oddball Annie in Dr. Kildare’s The Hand that Hurts, The Hand that Heals 1964

Jeanette as Bernadine Spalding in Emergency! Weird Wednesday 1972

As Dirty Sally Fergus on Gunsmoke

As Mary Fitzgibbons in ‘Triumph’ The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1964

As Edith Beggs in Coming Home Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1961

As Hallie in The Secret- Medical Center 1972

As Mrs Fleming in The Reluctant Astronaut 1967

Jeanette Nolan as Miss Havergill The Invaders

As Mrs Grimes in The Right Kind of House- Alfred Hitchcock Presents

As Naomi Kellin in ‘Ill Wind’ The Fugitive

Jeanette Nolan in Wagon Train- “The Janet Hale Story”

As Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s television anthology series Thriller- “Parasite Mansion’

Jeanette Nolan as Mrs Downey in Say Goodbye Maggie Cole Tv Movie 1972

As Bertha Duncan in 1953 film noir classic The Big Heat

As Granny Hart in Twilight Zone’s ‘Jess-Belle

As Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ Macbeth

As Mrs Tibbit in Marcus Welby MD “Epidemic”

As Mrs Waddle in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery episode “The Housekeeper”

As Mrs Fitzgibbons in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour “Triumph’

Jeanette Nolan in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery “Since Aunt Ada Came To Stay”

As Judge Millie Cox in The Streets of San Fransisco “The Runaways”

Jeanette Nolan as Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s Thriller ‘Parasite Mansion’

Jeanette Nolan as Emma ‘Martha’ Benson in Perry Mason’s The Case of the Nine Dolls

Jeanette Nolas as Mrs Trotter in Alfred Hitchcock Presents “The Morning After”

As Edna Brackett in Quincy M.E. with husband John McIntire

Here’s to the inimitable character- Jeanette Nolan!!! Love Joey

Boris Karloff’s anthology tv series: It’s a THRILLER!

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SILVER SCENES IS HOSTING THE UNIVERSAL BLOGATHON! SO I THOUGHT I’D BRING OUT THE UNIVERSAL TELEVISION PRODUCTION OF BORIS KARLOFF’S ANTHOLOGY… LET ME ASSURE YOU, IT’S A THRILLER!!! VISIT SILVER SCENES AND CHECK OUT ALL THE WONDERFUL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS HALLOWEEN CELEBRATION!

Classic TV Blog Association is hosting the MeTV Summer of Classic TV Blogathon

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“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)

boris intro parasite mansion

At the bottom of this feature you will find links to my older Thriller posts. Some of my favorite episodes- as well as 4 newly covered episodes in brief for the MeTV Summer of Classic TV Blogathon!-Masquerade,Parasite Mansion, Mr.George and The Purple Room!

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.”

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 ’59-’64 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents ’55-’62.

Thriller was filmed at the same network and sound stage as Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Producer Writer & Director Douglas Benton claims though not hearing it directly that Hitchcock resented Thriller, as he considered Hubbell Robinson encroaching on his territory.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1955

Benton states, “Actually we weren’t doing the same thing he was, he was doing some very sophisticated ‘twist’ material. Hitchcock was doing the sort of thing that they started out to do on Thriller… We {Frye, Benton et al} came along and improved the ratings considerably and got a tremendous amount of press and Hitchcock didn’t like the competition. I don’t think he ever came out and said ‘get rid of ’em’ but he did allow them to enlarge his show from -a half hour to an hour, and that made it more difficult for us to stay on.” {source: Boris Karloff-More Than A Monster The Authorized Biography by Stephen Jacobs}

The series was developed by Executive Producer Hubbell Robinson program director and then executive vice president at CBS who was responsible for dramatic shows like Studio One & Playhouse 90 and produced Arsenic and Old Lace (tv movie ’69) with Lillian Gish & Helen Hayes. Boy oh boy would I like to get my hands on a copy of that!

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Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes with Bob Crane rehearsing for Arsenic and Old Lace ’69

In 1959 he left CBS to start his own production company, Hubbell Robinson Productions. Robinson had said “Our only formula is to have no formula at all,” endeavoring that each week’s episode would not be like the week before, bringing viewers one hour feature pictures that were “consciously and deliberately striving for excellence. {…}Each plot will be unique, unusual.” Robinson {source:Boris Karloff-More Than A Monster The Authorized Biography by Stephen Jacobs}

Also on board were producers William Frye, Fletcher Markle & Maxwell Shane (The Mummy’s Hand ’40, Fear in the Night ’47) who added their vision of a superior mystery & horror anthology for MCA’s Revue Studios which would conform to the trend of anthology series’ featuring a host to introduce each week’s story.

The format had somewhat ambivalent themes, leaving the show’s narrative straddling both genres of crime melodrama and tales of the macabre. But… either of these atmospheres created by some of the best writers, directors and players delivered a highly intoxicating blend of both, remaining a powerful anthology with unique dramatic flare.

boris karloff thriller

Karloff loved the title for the show, “It’s an arresting title. And it does not tie you to one type of show. You can have suspense and excitement, without getting into violence {…} There will be none of the horror cliches on this programme {…} we will deal with normal people involved in unusual situations.”

Boris Karloff was very critical of horror for the sake of horror, during Thriller’s run,“We’re in an era of insensate violence. Today it’s shock, so-called horror and revulsion. I think the idea is to excite and terrify rather than entertain. The story is muck for the sake of muck. The over emphasis of violence on screen and tv has reached the point of being utterly absurd… That’s one thing you won’t find on Thriller-violence for the sake of violence, shock for the sake of shock.”{source:Boris Karloff-More Than A Monster The Authorized Biography by Stephen Jacobs}

Dark Legacy
Boris’ prelude to Dark Legacy
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Boris Karloff presents The Hungry Glass
Boris intro Hayfork and Bill-Hook
Boris Karloff introduces Hay-fork and Bill-Hook

Not only was there unmistakable atmosphere to each of Thriller’s episodes, the stories themselves were lensed in a unique way that was very ahead of it’s time. The actors brought a serious attitude to their characters and the plot development, and didn’t treat them as merely short pulp stories as fodder for the tv masses. This was an intelligent show, and the presence of Boris Karloff added a charming and cerebral primacy to the show’s narration. It was like being tucked in by your remarkable grandfather who loved to tell a good spooky tale to you right before bedtime. I’ve said this plenty, I wish Boris Karloff had been my grandfather. Everyone who has ever worked with Karloff had nothing but glowing praise for the great and gentle man. He exuded a quiet grace and was the consummate professional taking every part seriously and extremely generous with his time even as he suffered from his physical limitations. Karloff had been getting on in years and his grand stature was riddled with arthritis causing his legs to bow.

Actress Audrey Dalton said this, “Just the perfect gentleman. A terribly British, wonderful wonderful man.” Actor Ed Nelson who was dying to work with Karloff said, “He was a very gentle man” Douglas Benton had said, “Boris Karloff-God, what a lovely man.”

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Karloff as Clayton Mace the phony mentalist in The Prediction

While filming The Prediction the scene at the end when he must lie down in the pool of rainy water and die, Karloff asked director John Brahm “Is this the best way for the camera?” who said, “Yes, it is but good lord you don’t have to lie there and have gutter water coursing up your britches like that!”  Karloff replied, “Oh yes I do! This is my work. I insist.” {source: Boris Karloff-More Than A Monster The Authorized Biography by Stephen Jacobs}

Every installment of the show offered us a chance to see Karloff as he enters the Thriller stage like a sage Fabulist delivering us the evening’s program with a refined articulation of philosophy and captivating story telling encapsulated in a compelling little prologue, often infused with it’s own brand of dark humor.

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Continue reading “Boris Karloff’s anthology tv series: It’s a THRILLER!”

Boris Karloff’s Thriller: What Beckoning Ghost?

I like Judith Evelyn. There’s something well…  solid and handsome about her. She also has a way of making you feel sympathy but not from a place of desperation,but an elegant, restrained kind of grace.

Consider a career in being scared to death (Angel Street tv 1946) She plays Mrs Manningham in a version of Gaslight, based on Patrick Hamilton’s stage play.

She’s always vulnerable you see. She has that kind of fragile appearance. It was nasty business the way Philip Coolidge playing Ollie frightens poor mute Martha (Evelyn) to death in William Castle’s The Tingler 1959

poor Martha can’t even voice a righteous scream in The Tingler!
iconic scene from William Castle’s The Tingler (1959)

And playing a Lonely Heart waiting for a love that may never come, in Hitchcock’s masterpiece Rear Window 1954.

The tragic Eloise Crandall who falls to her death in Female on the Beach 1955

I loved her as Mabel McKay in Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Martha Mason, Movie Star aired May 19th 1957. She was deliciously delightfully delusional, a murderess… yes, but sadly sort of lovable.

Evelyn has done a grand job of picking up the slack where starlets have left gaping holes for the less glamorous woman-in-peril to fill nicely. And here in What Beckoning Ghost? she is in top form, enunciating her words, drawing them out in sophisticated drones, no… not whiny. I didn’t say whining. Judith’s imploring are secret little gestures that make you want to protect her.

WHAT BECKONING GHOST?

What Beckoning Ghost? originally aired on September 18th 1961 and started off Thriller’s second and only other season unfortunately.

It feaures aside from Judith Evelyn, Tom Helmore and Adele Mara. The story was adapted by Donald Sanford, based on a short magazine story by Harold Lawlor (The Grim Reaper, The Terror in Teakwood) and adding to it’s threatening appeal, it was directed by Ida Lupino  Ida’s everywhere!

Here Evelyn plays concert pianist Mildred Beaumont (perhaps my particular affection for this character lies in the fact that I’m a pianist, and wouldn’t appreciate anyone fucking around using music in order to drive me crazy!)

Mildred suffered a serious heart attack, and now must convalesce at home, doing mostly bed rest, while her doting sister Lydia and patronizing husband Eric hover over her, like vultures shoving coffee and pills at her, scolding her for being restless, treating her like a muzzy child, all the while waiting to pick her bones dry, as they slowly drive her to her real death. Well that’s what it looks like right… I won’t give away the story til you’ve seen it for yourself.

Mildred begins to see visions of her own funeral, downstairs in the drawing room. There begins a macabre harpsichord waltz by Jerry Goldsmith that becomes the leitmotif for the story. An almost maniacal, or should I say diabolical theme, music to be driven mad by one would say…

She sees herself laid out in a coffin with a large wreath of flowers baring the platitude, Rest in Peace. Is she in such a weakened physical state, and so devoted to her scavenging, philandering husband Eric, that Mildred is too vulnerable to realize that there is a fowl plot under way. It’s almost Shakespearean with its glint of malevolence, madness and sardonic revenge!

The episode opens with Mephistophelean violins serenading Mildred as she hugs a fur coat to herself. She is transfixed in a three way mirror. Mirrors often used as symbolism, representational for the issue of ‘identity’ one in crisis, one that’s dubious of sanity etc.

Enjoying her luxury Mildred is smiling. Waltzing around the room she begins to slip the fur off her shoulders As she sets it on the back of a chair, Eric enters the room with a glass of milk. She turns to greet him as he says,  “Hey, why aren’t you getting ready for bed?”  “Oh Eric, I feel so unbearably happy!” Eric has a smile like that of a viper about to strike, all fang and no heart.

Mildred sparkles a little, “Happy and whole…” She lets out a little exhausted sigh, her breath strained with a childlike glee, but not the energy to bring it forth.
” I can’t even remember what we saw at the theater tonight, I just sat there and felt the crowd all around me!” She’s ebullient, a sense of having shed a tremendous weight. Months of being ill and finally out on the town with her handsome husband on her satin and crepe draped arm.

Gasping a little for air ” I kept thinking how wonderful it was to be with people again, to be out and ALIVE!!!” Her enthusiasm as she thrusts the word ‘alive’ out of her body seems so out of synch with Eric’s stoic blasé manner.

She asks him to dance with her, wrapping her arms around his shoulders to try and prod him. He becomes a little stern. “Oh no it’s way past your bedtime.” She begs him, “Oh please.”

“Absolutely not!,you’ve had quite enough excitement your first night out. You’ve got to give that heart of yours a chance to keep up with your feet you know.” Finally a little whimsy comes to his staunch fatherly expression. Does he really love her? Does he really care about her health? It would appear so…but this is a Thriller. We know something unsavory is afoot.

“Oh but you promised champagne in front of the fire before we went to bed…”

“You never forget anything do you? An interesting clue, that Eric should remark about her impeccable memory.

She smiles in agreement and tells him,  “I asked Lydia to put a bottle on ice before we went out.” She grins like a naughty child. Eric looks at her with his plasticine smile, “You could charm the birds, right out of the trees.”

Grabbing her chin and pinching it affectionately he tells her that he’ll get it. She says, “No, just like old times…I’ll go down and get the champagne and you light the fire.”

“Alright but take it easy on those stairs” ” I already got up them once tonight by myself…thank you.” She blows him a kiss.

Continue reading “Boris Karloff’s Thriller: What Beckoning Ghost?”

Coming this week to The Last Drive In: Boris Karloff’s Thriller episode ‘What Beckoning Ghost?’

What Beckoning Ghost?

Starring Judith Evelyn and Tom Helmore. Directed by Ida Lupino

Air date 9 -18-1961
See it here soon ! MonsterGirl

The Incredible DokTor Markesan-[Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller]

The Incredible Doktor Markesan played by Boris Karloff for one of Thriller’s most memorable episodes of the series!

A sign readsNO 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.

Continue reading “The Incredible DokTor Markesan-[Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller]”

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 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!

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 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.

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 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.

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

Sure as my name is MonsterGirl, This is a Boris Karloff’s Thriller ” Rose’s Last Summer”

Yet another underrated Karloff Thriller episode in brief. Yes, I know, I”m long winded, and if you had to wait for me to do the whole transcription for some of these wonderful shows and films, I’d never write anything. I am trying to be disciplined here. Less photo work, less rambling on, more to the gist of the story!

But don’t get too comfy with my brevity, The long winded MonsterGirl lurks around the corner to sweep you up with 2 part series’ and photo galleries that could fill an entire album. That’s just how I roll, and I truly hope most of you take me as I am….!

Rose’s Last Summer -release date October 11 1960

“They Called Me “Bad Girl” – Rose French

Karloff begins his opening soliloquy…

“Rose French. in the blur of memory…the face grows dim…but do you remember the name….20 years ago…Rose French, the remarkable Rose French. As a servant girl, or as a princess. She was a quicksilver star in a celluloid heaven. If a woman could sell her soul to achieve such fame, what wouldn’t she do to get it back. Poor Rose, that was all she wanted, to re live the past. And those who loved her, Frank Clyde for instance could do nothing to stop her, but the come back trail could lead to strange and sinister places. To a lonely garden. And to a night of terror!

It could even lead to the face of a painted doll…but the come back trail is a journey without maps…as sure as my name is Boris Karloff…Poor Rose French and her last desperate summer….That’s the name of our story ROSE’S LAST SUMMER. Our principle players are Ms Mary Astor, Mr Lin McCarthy and Miss Helen Quintal …

Let me assure you this is a THRILLER”

Starring Mary Astor as Rose French/Mrs Horace Goodfield/Helen Quintal,

Lin McCarthy as Frank Clyde, Jack Livesey as Haley Dalloway, Hardie Albright as Willet Goodfield, Dorothy Green as Ethel Goodfield

In the beginning scenes of Roses Last Summer we see a weary yet unrestrained drunk, an uninhibited woman who looks like she’s got a mad on at the world, stumbling outside a night crawlers bar. She’s having an argument with the bar owner who apparently has thrown her out of his establishment. After spouting a few barbs at the place, she takes off her shoe and throws it through the glass window with neon letters that spell BAR.

She then stumbles in front of a moving truck which strikes her down in the street. A crowd gathers around her unconscious body. Someone picks up a snapshot of her from her hand bag and announces , that this is no ordinary lush, this is the once famous but now aged star of the silver screen Rose French. An intense and curious man in the throng of street faces, begins looking suspiciously at poor Rose splayed out on the asphalt.

But this is just the beginning of the story.

Continue reading “Sure as my name is MonsterGirl, This is a Boris Karloff’s Thriller ” Rose’s Last Summer””

Boris Karloff’s Thriller The Remarkable Mrs Hawk: A Modern Re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, Circean Poison with a Side of Bacon.

Of Circean poison and intoxicating things. When dealing with The Gods, the result is suffering.

The Remarkable Mrs Hawk (air date December 18, 1961)

Starring Jo Van Fleet as Mrs Cissy Hawk, John Carradine as Jason Longfellow, Paul Newlan as Sheriff Tom’Ulysses’ Willetts, Hal Baylor as Pete Gogan and Bruce Dern as Johnny Norton. Directed by John Brahm and adapted to the screen by Donald Sanford from a story by Margaret St Clair

“What beast-molding Drakaina [Kirke] shall he [Odysseus] not behold, mixing drugs with meal, and beast-shaping doom? And they, hapless ones, bewailing their fate shall feed in the pig styes, crunching grape stones mixed with grass and oil cake. But him the drowsy root shall save from harm and the coming of Ktaros [Hermes].”

Here is yet another favorite episode in the Thriller canon that always brings a smile to my face, even having seen it a number of times over the years. One of the most memorable and striking attributes that most of Karloff ‘s macabre little theatrical plays possess is an uncannily vivid sense of place, despite them having been filmed on a sound stage at Universal Studios.

Part of the enjoyment of this episode is the presence of that Ubiquitous character actor John Carradine, who’s facial expressions alone can be so accentuated and, bear acrobatic demonstrations that make him so uniquely entertaining to watch and listen to. Not unlike the great Burgess Meredith. These actors both, use their face as their canvas.

It’s a very interesting idea to take mythology and place in a southern Gothic rural setting, along side the carnival which adds a layer of mystique.

There’s a great scene which utilizes the theatrical anachronism wonderfully. Cissy Hawk carries the bowl, or ‘Circe’s cup’ the night she feeds the pigs grapes and turns Johnny back into a man for a while. An ancient rite on modern rural farm land.

Another thing that’s notable is her wand is a plastic back scratcher!

The mixture of the playful score, clarinet, flute and the grunts and groans and deep bassy string swells in contradiction add such a maniacally macabre touch to the episode.

Perhaps it’s just good writing, and set design that forges a perfect landscape for each stories central theme to thrive. Mrs Hawk, is one of those contributions that offers just the right meat, from the perfect theatrical marrow. Continue reading “Boris Karloff’s Thriller The Remarkable Mrs Hawk: A Modern Re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, Circean Poison with a Side of Bacon.”