Movie Scientist Blogathon 2016- The Menacing Altruism of Boris Karloff!

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Hosted By Christina Wehner & Silver Screenings

This is a Blogathon I just couldn’t resist, aside from the nifty idea, I always love the opportunity to cover one of my favorite actors… the great Boris Karloff. Corridors of Blood is a fine example of how Karloff’s benevolent charisma always manages to create a sympathetic ‘monster’ either virtual or psychologically. He appeared in several films as the altruistic scientist seeking and working toward the ultimate good, only to inadvertently create a creeping chaos unraveling in a most horrific way.

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Boris Karloff as the evil Mord in director Rowland V. Lee’s Tower of London (1939) not a sympathetic character but a true villain who elicits no “I wish Boris Karloff was my Grandpa” from me while watching this historical horror play.

Speaking for myself and I am assured a gazillion other fans, even at his most nefarious, we never fail to align ourselves with most of Karloff’s characters, perhaps with the exception of the sadistic Mord in Tower of London (1939) and the maniacal Master George Sims in Bedlam (1946). But, for most of his performances, including his poignant portrayal of Mary Shelley’s eternally replicated monster, we began to see the depth of Karloff’s craft. It’s an art form in and of itself to be able to manifest personae that can be simultaneously benevolent and menacing, accessible and yet frightening- the ultimate anti-hero… (Vincent Price has that awesome quality as well). It is this gift that makes Karloff so beloved and so compelling to watch over and over again!

Thanks once again to Christina Wehner and Ruth from Silver Screenings for coming up with a fantastic topic and allowing me to come out and play!

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Boris Karloff as the most sympathetic monsters of all time-Mary Shelley/James Whale/& Jack Pierce’s Frankenstein’s monster!– courtesy of Dr. Macro

Boris Karloff

From Boris Karloff More Than a Monster: The Authorized Biography by Stephen Jacobs ” The scriptwriters had the insane scientist transplant brains, hearts, lungs and other vital organs. The cycle ended when they ran out of parts of anatomy that could be photographed decently.” Boris Karloff (1962)

CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958)

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Source: From A Day-by Day Guide to 366 Horror Films -A Year of Fear by Bryan Senn: According to Senn’s marvelous book that includes some wonderful obscure gems, Corridors of Blood (1958) was promoted with this sensationalist trailer-

“You’ll take shock after shock after shock! Don’t hold in your terror; shriek if you must!”

And this quite sobering historical horror/melodrama at times does create several shocking moments, acid thrown in someone’s face, defenestration that result in death by impalement, asphyxiation by pillow, & surgical amputation without anesthesia.

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Mr Blount: “A good day’s work, Bolton! You’re getting faster all the time. Beats me how you do it!” Dr. Bolton: [Bitterly] “No matter how fast I still can’t save them!” Mr Blount: “Yes, most distresing, but, alas, inevitably you can’t have operations without screams. Pain and the knife, they’re inseparable!” Dr. Bolton: “I beg to differ. Someday surgery must and will be made painless.”

Produced by John Croydon, and directed by Robert Day, The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood were shot back to back and released both in 1958.

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Directed by Robert Day (First Man into Space 1959, SHE 1965, slew of superior tv movies such as, The House on Green Apple Road 1970, Ritual of Evil 1970, In Broad Daylight 1971, The Initiation of Sarah 1978 and television dramas: The Streets of San Francisco, The Name of the Game, Circle of Fear, Police Story, McCloud, The Sixth Sense, The Bold Ones, Bracken’s World, & Ironside.)

Corridors of Blood stars Boris Karloff  as the kindly Dr. Thomas Bolton, Francis Matthews as Jonathan Bolton,  Betta St. John as Jonathan’s girlfriend Susan, a standout performance by Christopher Lee as Resurrection Joe, a surly and imposing agent of death!

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Finlay Currie who believed at first in Karloff's surgical demonstrations
Finlay Currie as Superintendent Matheson who believed at first in believed at first in Karloff’s surgical demonstrations.

Adrienne Corri (Doctor Zhivago 1965, A Clockwork Orange 1971, Vampire Circus 1972, Madhouse 1974) as Rachel : “Some day you’ll wiggle that bottom of yours just once too often.” speaking to Yvonne Romain (Circus of Horror 1960, Curse of the Werewolf 1961, Night Creatures 1962), as Rosa. Carl Bernard as Ned, the Crow and Francis De Wolff as Black Ben –all dwellers of The Seven Dials.

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Corridors of Blood lobby card featuring Yvonne Romain as Rosa and Christopher Lee as Resurrection Joe

Buxton Orr  (Fiend Without A Face 1958, First Man Into Space 1959, Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, Doctor Bloods Coffin 1961 and The Snake Woman 1961) is responsible for the music– a dark and threatening score that underlies some of the more disturbing scenes. Cinematographer Geoffrey Faithfull, (Village of the Damned 1960, Murder She Said 1961, Panic 1963) has done a marvelous job of creating a shadowing world lit with menacing ambiance.

Absent is the traditional monster terrorizing the villagers in the picture, it is more centered around the doctor/scientist who is at the heart of the narrative and his scholarly & personal struggle to find answers hidden in the world of science and medicine. The film opens with the inhabitants of The Seven Dial’s tavern hearing the bell ringer summon the doctor to surgery. The whole effect is very reminiscent of a darkly melancholy Lewtonesque panorama. Once the bell peels throughout the town, even the butcher stops his very aptly to the scene, hacking away at the meat on his table in order to follow to hospital and the operating theater. The camera close up on the door might as well say ‘welcome to hell.’

The Bell Ringer- the film has the look of a Lewton piece

Continue reading “Movie Scientist Blogathon 2016- The Menacing Altruism of Boris Karloff!”

The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”

The Grim Reaper -aired (13 Jun. 1961)

Directed by Herschel Daugherty and adapted by Robert Bloch from a story by Harold Lawlor it concerns a 19th century painting and it’s fatalistic legend The Grim Reaper created by a morbidly obsessed painter Henri Radin. Radin who hangs out in graveyards and paints “still lifes” at the morgue, creates this cursed painting and then proceeds to hang himself. Again, much like with “The Cheaters”, who ever the painting falls into the hands of seems to doom them to a tragic or violent death.

The wonderful Henry Daniell  plays Henri Radin’s father who comes looking for his son, only to find that he’s hung himself, leaving his morbid portrait of death behind.

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Fifi D’Orsay and Henry Daniell open The Grim Reaper

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“last month he did a painting at the morgue His model was a corpse he called his painting… -still life-“

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CapturFiles_15 his last picture and he finished it Perhaps the picture finished him
Pierre Radin-“His last picture… and he finished it” Toinette-“Perhaps the picture finished him”

Boris Karloff presents the evening’s tale of terror standing in front of the infamous painting.

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“Yes the painting did finish it’s morbid creator but I can assure you that our story is not finished. Oh no… it’s only just begun… (He walks over to the painting and swipes the scythe getting blood on his hands) Blood!… think of that, this paining is over a hundred years old and yet real blood still glistens on the scythe of the grim reaper. Which by no mere coincidence is the title of our story for tonight. How strange indeed that the immortality sort by our mad artist should assume the form of death. But even stranger are the fearful consequences to these others… whenever the grim reaper’s scythe drips blood… You’ve seen the harbinger of evil. Someone is in mortal danger as sure as my name is Boris Karloff.”
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“Ah… stay where you are, I’ll join you”

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“Is everything alright Aunt Bea?”
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“Isn’t it the ever lovin’ end (referring to her hearse) the only one who drove it was a little old corpse from Pasadena.”
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‘let’s not let all the fresh air into the house”

Fast forward to the present day Natalie Schafer “Lovie Howell” from Gilligan’s Island plays famous mystery writer Beatrice Graves who has a penchant for the dramatic, drives a hearse and lives at Grave’s End, a Charles Adams style mansion she uses for publicity. She purchases the cursed painting in order to garner some attention from the press. She also has a preference for lecherous husbands and has now married her 6th, a smarmy actor Gerald Keller (Scott Merrill) 20 years younger who is constantly chasing her after Bea’s lovely secretary Dorothy Lyndon (Elizabeth Allen) who looks like a Hitchcock blonde in this episode.

William Shatner plays Bea’s nephew Paul Graves who reads about his eccentric aunt obtaining the cursed painting. He arrives hoping to convince her that she’s in mortal danger, having made the fatal error of bringing this cursed monstrosity into her home.

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In actuality Paul is plotting to kill her and blame her death on the painting~ His eccentric Aunt Bea is a lush who waves him away as if swatting a fly and dismisses him for being “the worlds oldest eagle scout”. In realty Paul is setting everyone up using the legend of Radin’s painting to cover his murderous plans to become the recipient of Beatrice Grave’s inheritance until the painting decides to hold court and wield it’s bloody justice with it’s scythe. There are some authentically chilling aspects to this episode. The subject of Stigmata is injected into the plot, as part of the legend holds that the painting bleeds whenever someone has been chosen to die. Dorothy understands Stigmata to be a religious phenomena Paul tells her “No it’s not a religious painting unless the man who painted worshiped death”

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CapturFiles_41 that old story about the curse has been running in the sunday supplements for years
Paul tries to warn Bea about the curse-Bea tells him-“That old story about the curse has been running in the Sunday supplements for years”

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CapturFiles_45 every time someone is about to die the painting starts to bleed- oh you're making this up

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Natalie Schafer is wonderful as Aunt Bea modulating between being a sympathetically fragile, sensually self destructive and tragic character then she emerges as vitriolic and sulfurous as the great Medusa quite imposing as a figure of the Monstrous Feminine.

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“Here’s to you old buddy buddy”

Many of Thriller’s female characterizations were very complex and well developed. Medusa as archetype has historically been seen as the archetype of “the nasty mother” Bea Graves having wed a man young enough to be her son. While Medusa symbolizes sovereign female wisdom and female mysteries Bea being a “mystery’ writer, understands her predicament and walks into the flames of desire anyway. She is universal Creativity and Destruction in eternal Transformation. She rips away our mortal illusions. Bea has no illusion that her husband loves anything more than her millions but she desires him anyway. In this case Bea knows that she is on a self destructive path and seems to embrace it willingly. “To me death is no more than a business partner”

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We never see the actual Reaper step out of the painting, in the way he was used in the literal sense in Fritz Lang’s 1925 masterpiece Metropolis where you see him step forward swinging his scythe. With this episode’s adaptation of the myth, It’s the sound and glimpse of his scythe cutting through the air in volatile swipes that create the slashing, nightmarish effect.

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“In English lore, death is often given the name the “Grim Reaper” and shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe, and wearing a midnight black gown, robe or cloak with a hood, or sometimes a white burial shroud Usually when portrayed in the black-hooded gown, his face is not to be seen, but is a mere shadow beneath the hood.”

In some cases, the Grim Reaper is able to actually cause the victim’s death, leading to tales that he can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted in order to retain one’s life. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving only to sever the last tie from the soul to the body and guide the deceased to the next world and having no control over the fact of their death. image at bottom ; dance of death. psychopomps”

The origins of the Grim Reaper go back far into the past and he was known by many names. In old Celtic folklore he was known as L’Ankou, sometimes called Father Time. To the Greeks he was known as Cronus and the Romans called him Saturn.

Don’t be grim, I’ll be back with more Thrilling episodes! MonsterGirl

The Hungry Glass [Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller] “Oh leave me alone won’t you, leave me alone… with my mirrors!”

“A beautiful face in the mirror, a pitiful old face at the door, could they have been one in the same” ” And sometimes its better not to see too deeply into the darkness behind our mirror; For there live things beyond our imagination as sure as my name is Boris Karloff “

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The Hungry Glass aired Jan 3 1961 ~

Written and Directed by Douglas Heyes (Kitten With a Whip ’64) from a short story by Robert Bloch (Psycho) with music by Jerry Goldsmith & Pete Rugolo. The episode stars William Shatner and Joanna Heyes (wife of Douglas) as Gil and Marsha Thrasher. Russell Johnson and Elizabeth Allen as Adam and Liz Talmadge Donna Douglas (Ellie May Klampet-The Beverly Hillbillies) as Young Laura Bellman and Ottola Nesmith as Old Laura Bellman. Heyes also directed the iconic Twilight Zone episode Eye of the Beholder which also featured Donna Douglas as the ‘ugly’ girl.

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At first we see the young and audaciously cute Donna Douglas as young Laura Bellman,fanning herself like a peacock in the myriad of mirrors. There is a themed waltz accompanying her, which reprises itself later on in the episode, a delirious little melody that merely hints at dementia. Then, a sea captain with a hook for a hand comes rapping on the door with his metal claw, in the company of several of the town folk, “I know she’s in there, she’s always in there with her cursed mirrors!”

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“Oh leave me alone won’t you, leave me alone… with my mirrors!”

Once the door is open only partially to reveal the very grotesquely painted face of Old Laura Bellman, wearing white gloves , her lips smudged in presumably bright red lipstick, like she had just drank the blood from a freshly killed carcass. The exaggerated outline distorting her already sagging and wrinkled mouth.“Oh leave me alone won’t you, leave me alone… with my mirrors!”

Boris Karloff once again steps in to introduce the evening’s story dressed in black cape and top hat in front of a very ornate mirror holding a lantern.

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“A beautiful young face in the mirror…a pitiful old face in the door…could they have been one and the same? Some people say that mirrors never lie…others say that they do, they lie, they cheat, they kill….some say that every time you look in one…you see death at work. But most of us see only what we want to see…and perhaps it’s best not to see too deeply into the darkness behind our mirrors…for there live things beyond our imagination as sure as my name is Boris Karloff…”

William Shatner gives a very compelling albeit high-strung performance as a photographer Gil Thrasher who, with his wife Marcia (Joanna Heyes) have purchased a house that is purported to be haunted by the locals–(remember Shatner as airplane passenger Bob Wilson in Twilight Zone’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet-10/11/63 or his superstitious Don Carter trapped in a small Midwestern diner at the mercy of a bobble head diamond eyed devil napkin holder who serves out 1 cent per question fate in… Nick of Time -18 Nov. 1960 one of my favorite episodes in the series)

The previous owner of the house was Old Laura Bellman, played as the quintessential hag by Ottola Nesmith, (The Wolfman 1941 & Mrs Lowood,Highcliff Headmistress in Val Lewton’s 1946 The 7th Victim ) who locks herself away in the house and spends all her time gazing at her own reflection in her palace of mirrors.

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Ottola Nesmith
photo of seated, Ottola Nesmith in Lewton’s The 7th Victim with Kim Hunter far right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CapturFiles_20 "And it never struck you curious to find nary a looking glass in all of it?"
“And it never struck you curious to find nary a looking glass in all of it?”

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After having met the caustically provincial locals of Cape Caution New England, who warn the couple “that tarnation property comes full equip with visitors, nary a looking glass in the whole of it” Gil and Marcia move into the house on a very stormy night. Soon, they and their two new friends Russell Johnson and Elizabeth Allen as Adam the realtor and wife Liz Talmadge who sold them the place at a suspiciously low cost, begin to see apparitions in various windows of the house. There are no mirrors when they first move in because they’ve been removed and secretly hidden away and padlocked in the attic. Seems the local superstition holds that not only is the house unlucky but the Bellman place has had its share of nasty accidents all having to do with broken mirrors, and a couple of people were killed by shattered glass. Adam Talmadge explains that the locals have worked themselves up to believe that these people were actually murdered by the mirrors with malice of forethought.

The four get into their station wagon and amuse themselves while speculating about the lack of mirrors  meaning the house was previously owned by vampires, superstition and a series of mysterious accidents

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“That old bird inside had us thinking the place was built by vampires”
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Gil says to Adam “The truth now…the people who built that place—where were they from?”
Adam answers, “The Bellmans? Pennsylvania, I think…” “You sure it wasn’t Transylvania?”
Adam tells him “The mirrors…so that’s what the old coots were bending your ears about”
Gil says “Now, look…I’ll admit that you warned us that the roof leaks and the cellar floods and the shutters go bang, but what’s this about no mirrors?”
Adam jokes, “Didn’t I tell you why you got the place so cheap?”
Gil responds, “Yeah, you said the local characters think the place is unlucky”
Adam earnestly, “Well, unlucky because of the broken mirrors. Gil, you have no idea how these people can build up a story. Seems that there were some nasty accidents up there years ago. Couple of people killed by shattered glass, so now the yarn’s been worked around to where they actually murdered by the mirrors… with malice aforethought…”
Marcia pipes in, “Seems logical…”
Gil says, “Sure…some mornings when I’m shaving, the guy in the glass looks pretty deadly, especially with a razor in his hand” Adam getting out the car, “Well, I hadn’t thought about it, but, I’d better get you some sort of mirror, at least until you get settled” Marcia tells him, “Never mind, there’s one in my traveling case”
Gil teases, “Oh, Marcia couldn’t live without her mirrors”
Marcia replies, “What woman could?”
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Adam-“Didn’t I tell you why you got the place so cheap?”Gil-“You said the local characters think its unlucky”
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Liz-“Well oh well.. early mausoleum”

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The jovial couples arrive at the Bellman house which in the dark of the storm still appears to be a showplace with the vastness of the ocean view as the center attraction. The Thrashers start to imagine all the things they will do to fix up the grand old house, Marcia is a decorator. Suddenly Liz catches sight of an apparition, a ghostly figure reaching for Marcia in the window. Liz screams and startles Adam into dropping the celebratory bottle of champagne, the broken glass cutting his hand, a small homage to the history of the odd accidents that plague the Bellman place.

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“When you let out that blasted howl… I cut my hand”

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Adam annoyed at Liz for harping on the incident says “Oh Liz drop it… She tells him “But he had a hook, a hook for a hand”

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Once the visions start, Korean war vet Gil is driven half crazy by suspicion and fears that it’s his post traumatic stress disorder,“When I had the fever in Korea, I saw things you wouldn’t believe… They said I was delirious -but what I saw was real!”

Or thinking that maybe it was the power of suggestions brought on by the collective hysteria of the local superstitious gossip. Various incidents occur where Gil, Marcia and even Liz see ghostly images floating in the glass, but everyone keeps justifying it somehow. Although Marcia feels very unwelcome in the house and Gil truly knows that something is not right, they decide to stay and try and make it work, regardless of the bogeyman in the looking glass.

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Until one night while Gil is down in his dark room developing some film. he actually captures the image of a little girl who we find out later, had gone missing while playing by the house years ago.

The Hungry Glass, dealt with themes that were so ahead of their time for that era on television~ Shatner’s character is struggling with a form of Post Traumatic Stress disorder from the effects of war, and the idea of narcissism as a devouring entity that can feed on itself. A life force. like the classical myth that vanity = death and is capable of sucking you into a mirrored void is absolutely chilling.

The effectively imposing New England house on the cliff that no one will rent, somewhat like the house in 1944’s The Uninvited.The idea that a woman could manifest an actual malevolently life force because of her obsession with her youth and beauty. The haunting as it were, works on so many levels in this episode. There’s a claustrophobic quality, in terms of feeling like everything is hurling towards being sucked into the mirrored void, the voyeuristic quality of feeling like you’re being watched by the ghostly inhabitants of the reflective world that gazes back at us.

Mirrors are usually used to create gateways or portals, or for divination purposes. When a mirror breaks it can symbolize such things as a loss of beauty or innocence, foreshadow a loss in general, a spell or dream being broken. In the case of Old Lady Bellman, her tragic obsession with her beauty created a conduit between life and death. Her loss of youth, the end of life.

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“Well Well now Marcia, you’re not afraid of mirrors are you? Why should you be, you have nothing to fear, not yet anyway. Not for a few more years”

While Gil is looking at his child specter in print through a magnifying glass, Marcia is exploring the attic when she stumbles onto the pad locked door. She breaks it open and discovers dozens of mirrors that had been hidden away. They stare back at her like thousands of eyes from an insect’s gaze flashing at her. This is where Laura Bellman’s waltz motif begins to play again. Marcia has opened Pandora’s box. She starts an outer monologue “Well Well now Marcia, you’re not afraid of mirrors are you? Why should you be, you have nothing to fear, not yet anyway. Not for a few more years”

Again, the emphasis on loss of youth and beauty. Gil finds her in the attic amidst all the mirrors. She tells him it’s like a funhouse. Well it sort of is, since everything about the idea of looking at yourself is distorted in this episode. Gil tells her he doesn’t even like to look in one mirror let alone fifty, and Marcia tells him

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“That’s because you’re not a woman, mirrors bring a house to life ” Gil responds, “Well you ought to know you spend half your life in one”
Marcia says “Alright I’m vain, foolish and female and I like mirrors”
Gil“And they like you baby”

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In the story of The Hungry Glass the legend that circulates amongst the locals is that Jonah Bellman built the house to be a show place, he said he’d make it a jewel box (again a reference to symbolism often used in paintings where the theme is Vanity) As retold by Adam Talmadge–

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“He’d pull the sunlight and silver off the sea. He built it for the most beautiful bride, the most desired woman in New England. He was madly in love with her, she was madly in love with herself. It was more than Vanity though it was a tragic sickness. She didn’t belong to him, but only to her own reflection. He died of a broken heart and so the years passed and the house and servants grew old, but Laura never grew old, at least not in her mirrors.She was very old and very ugly painted and powdered like a bad job of embalming. Her nephew brought a doctor to the house who said she belonged locked away in a mad house. but her nephew decided to keep her there, locked in her room away from her mirrors. She was still able to find herself in the window glass. One night she danced herself right through it. That is how she died. But the story goes that she still lives on in her mirrors; because there had more of her living there then in her own body.”

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This is where I leave off… I won’t spoil the story for you by giving away the ending… this time.

The symbolism of vanity

The idea that mirrors are a living realm unto themselves and yet another thread running through The Hungry Glass is the idea that narcissism and Vanity are not only inherent in woman but isolated to the female gender, and certain male’s assumptions that women are fixated on their own image~ I find it an odd contradiction that The Narcissus myth was a male gazing at himself in the water!

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“All Is Vanity” by C. Allan Gilbert
Suggesting an intertwinement between life and death.
All is Vanity by Charles Allan Gilbert carries on this theme. An optical illusion , the painting depicts what appears to be a large grinning skull. Upon closer examination, it reveals itself to be a young woman gazing at her reflection in the mirror.

Some excerpts taken from Wikipedia Vanity ;

During the Renaissance, vanity was invariably represented as a naked woman, sometimes seated or reclining on a couch. She attends to herself in the mirror. The mirror is sometimes held by a demon. Often, vanity is portrayed by the figure of death himself.

Seven Deadly Sins. Hieronymus Bosch depicts a bourgeois woman admiring herself in a mirror held up by a devil. Behind her is an open jewelry box. A painting attributed to Nicolas Tournier, which hangs in the Ashmolean Museum, is An Allegory of Justice and Vanity. A young woman holds a balance symbolizing justice; she does not look at the mirror or the skull on the table before her.

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Vermeer’s famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring 1665 is sometimes believed to depict the sin of vanity, as the young girl has adorned herself before a glass without further positive allegorical attributes.
The Narcissus Myth as portrayed by Waterhouse is a reflection on the nature of intimacy and Vanity
Narcissus Myth

In many religions vanity is considered a form of self-idolatry in which one rejects God for the sake of one’s own image and thereby becomes divorced from the graces of God.

Given all these different references to Vanity, The Hungry Glass, with it’s focus on the female gaze and the correlation with beauty,obsession, life and death, is a very layered concept within a very simply haunting story on the surface.

MonsterGirl- Beware of mirrors and their contents!

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