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]”

The Cheaters [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] ‘Know thyself’

The Cheaters~aired December 26, 1960

Directed by John Brahm, and adapted by Donald S Sanford from the short story by Robert Bloch which appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, The Cheaters concerns an odd pair of spectacles which allow the wearer to read people’s thoughts. Inscribed on the inside is Veritas The Latin word for The Truth.

In Roman mythology Veritas (meaning truth) was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue. It was believed that she hid in the bottom of a holy well because she was so elusive.

“The Cheaters” also lay bare the frightening and often hideous true nature of someone’s soul hidden behind their façade. Their Anima Sola or The Lonely Soul, as Jungian psychology considered it.

n.

1. The inner self of an individual; the soul.
2. In Jungian psychology:

a. The unconscious or true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the persona, or outer aspect of the personality.


The Anima Sola or Lonely Soul is a Catholic depiction of a suffering person — almost always a woman — in chains amidst the barred prison doors and flames of Purgatory, the place where sinners go while awaiting final judgment.The Anima Sola is taken to represent a soul suffering in purgatory, usually, if not always, a woman. The woman has broken free from her chains in the midst of a prison (barred doors) and is surrounded by flames, representing purgatory. She appears penitent and reverent, and her chains have been broken, an indication that, after her temporary suffering, she is destined for heaven.

In the case of The Cheaters, I think that the soul’s chains are the corporeal body that binds the true inner self. The funny yellow glass that van Prinn has invented through alchemy allows the boundaries to be crossed over in order to see the actual soul suffering in it’s physical purgatory.

Karloff introduces this memorable episode, his words linger on the edge of air so melodically like a soft sermon as the preamble to The Cheaters

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“When a man shuts himself off from his neighbors, when he conducts mysterious experiments… there’s bound to be talk. There were those that whispered that Old Dirk van Prinn was a sorcerer or worse… He might not have been remembered at all had not his research led him to the discovery of a most unusual formula for making glass.”

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Fade in Henry Daniell’s who makes a brief appearance as Dirk Van Prinn, the alchemist/inventor of the spectacles or “the cheaters” Locked away in his primitively rustic laboratory, we see him tinkering amongst the flasks of liquid and scales, a pair of pliers in his hand as he finishes setting the “yellowed old lenses” in the wire frames. He has discovered a peculiar formula for making glass!

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The house keeper Mrs. Ames brings him a package annoying him with an offer of some nourishing soup since he hasn’t had a bite all day. Irritated by the intrusion he just wants her to leave him alone. Mrs. Ames keeps peaking around him trying to catch sight of his mysterious room. He tells her goodnight.

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Jerry Goldsmith’s evocative score teems with eerie delight as the strings pluck and trill out macabre musical strokes and a piano tinkles with flute embellishments that flutter as after thoughts as he sits himself in front of the large mirror by candle light.

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He tries on the spectacles and stares at his own reflection the camera blurs our vision momentarily. van Prinn is horrified by the image he is gazing at. As we view his face in close up, it distorts as he becomes more frightened by what he sees looking back at him in the mirror. The camera closes in on his tinted spectacles and the look of abject fear in his eyes.

The music becomes a frenzied climax as the scene trades with a black background and a few low piano notes held as Boris Karloff walks on screen to tell us about the evening’s terror tale.

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“Dirk van Prinn hanged himself before dawn… His story might have ended there if he had had the courage to smash those spectacles. But like many and other scientists he couldn’t bare to destroy his own creation. Too bad…because years later others tried them on.
In The Cheaters, our story for tonight a junkman named Joe Henshaw played by Mr. Paul Newlan. A little old fashioned lady named Marion Olcott played by Miss Mildred Dunnock ( Aunt Rose Comfort in Baby Doll ’56) Her nephew Edward Dean played by Mr Jack Weston. And finally a man who discovered the real purpose of the spectacles Sebastian Grimm played by Mr Harry Townes.
What they saw through those yellow gold lenses they never forgot, and neither will you my friends because as sure as my name’s Boris Karloff this is a thriller”

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I’ve always been struck by Henry Daniell’s unusual facial features that often lend to many of the sinister roles he’s played in the horror film genre. He’s somewhat like a Faustian marionette, with a wooden like grimace frozen in extreme sardonic glee. I particularly loved him in one of my favorite classic campy films of 1959 The 4 Skulls of Jonathon Drake Daniell’s make-up for the Well of Doom episode bears a striking similarity to Lon Chaney’s character in Tod Brownings, London After Midnight 1927

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Lon Chaney’s fright make up in London After Midnight

One hundred years later the spectacles are found by Joe Henshaw junk man, in a hidden compartment of an old rotting,dust covered desk in Prinn’s abandoned house.

The Cheaters includes wonderful performances by Paul Newlan as Joe Henshaw, the down on his luck junk dealer who discovers the cheaters in more ways than one, when he stumbles onto the spectacles at the old Bleaker Place where van Prinn did his experiments.

Continue reading “The Cheaters [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] ‘Know thyself’”

The Hollow Watcher [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “It’s because it isn’t quite dead”

The Hollow Watcher aired Feb 12 1962

“For the sightless eyes of the Hollow Watcher see more than you might imagine” –Boris Karloff

American Gothic by artist Grant Wood

The Hollow Watcher was written by Jay Simms, the man responsible for bringing us the screenplay of The Killer Shrews 1959. This is American Gothic. The mood is perfectly inhospitable and eerie with a poignant score that creates an atmosphere of queasy desolation.

Directed by William F. Claxton. The episode stars Audrey Dalton as Meg O’Danagh Wheeler, Warren Oates as Wheeler, Sean McClory as Sean O’Danagh and assorted members from the Andy Griffith Show. Sandy Kenyon, Denver Pyle as Ortho Wheeler,Norman Leavitt, Mary Grace Canfield as Ally Rose and then great character actor Walter Burke as Croxton.

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A Backwoods hollow, rife with superstition, folklore and omens. Abuse, murder, greed and rural righteous retribution for sins delivered by a legendary wielder of the law The Hollow Watcher. Black Hollow’s name for the bogeyman. A very homespun scarecrow. A straw man. A stitched guy on a stick, who watches over the simple people of Black Hollow from up on a hill. If any of the town folk should transgress they would surely be at the mercy of either ‘claws, feet or teeth’ of The Hollow Watcher. Do stuffed men have teeth I wonder?

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The town of Black Hollow is filled with characters that are nosy gossips who seem almost gleeful with the idea that someone might fall out of grace within the old fashioned laws watched over by this bucolic straw avenger. There’s a pervading fear anyone might become the next victim of their rustic beastie which lurks in the fields by night. The towns people are also ethnocentric bigots who are suspicious of all outsiders or foreigners. The locals refer to Meg as ‘that fancy woman’ putting her in way that separates and admonishes her for her difference

The abusive father, the general store’s proprietor Ortho Wheeler is perfectly cast, by Denver Pyle (Briscoe Darling on The Andy Griffith Show )

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Denver Pyle as jug playing Briscoe Darling the quintessential hillbilly patriarch on The Andy Griffith Show

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the townsfolk are reading a letter addressed to Meg…

Ortho doesn’t approve of his son Hugo’s new wife. To Ortho, she’s “mail order baggage” The perfect hypocrisy of this self righteous and sexually repressed small town brutality is illustrated when Ortho in a rage, savagely rips Meg’s dress then proceeds to tell her “Your nakedness is an abomination before the lord.” Typical of a patriarchal figure to damn the female subject of his gaze and project his own inner conflict onto them. This kind of religious fanaticism breeds an inverted frenzy that comes across like moral zealotry.

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“Your nakedness is an abomination against the lord”
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“I buy you a newspaper and what do you do the first thing You send off for this mail order baggage here
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“Any man who allows himself to be beaten by another will remain husband to me in name only”

Hugo Wheeler thinks he has married a virgin mail bride from Ireland. An innocent lass whom he can dominate sexually, although Audrey Dalton who plays Meg successfully holds him at bay throughout the episode which adds to the tension. Hugo remains husband in name only. Warren Oates  plays Hugo who enacts his carnal frustrations with such a subtle volatility that we wish mercifully that Meg would at least grant him entry to a mere kiss.

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Ortho says, “Do you want your wife to see this?” – getting his lickin’

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Hugo has been emasculated by his brutish father, and so he seeks out Meg’s physical attentions to help boost his nerve to fend off his daddy’s assaults and to bridge the gap between weak young farm boy and his rightful claim of manhood. After Ortho tells Hugo, “come to the barn and get your lickin’ Hugo asks Meg, “If I stand up to daddy, things will be different?” His identity seems to hinge on this. Ortho thrashes his son into a bloody swollen heap who passes out from the beating, in the meantime Meg cracks Ortho in the back of the head with a very large farm implement and kills him.

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“Me I whooped daddy?” “Aye and so sound that he went hootin’ over the hill vowing he’d never return again”
Hugo-“I’ll be moving my clothes into your room tonight”
Meg- “Hugo Wheeler you’re a shameless man with evil thoughts”
Hugo-“I have a feeling I’ll be welcome on a dark night. We raised a hand against our elders. Hollow Watcher gonna peering in on us”
Meg-“Oh… go on with your spook”

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“I wonder how many of you have had the urge to eliminate one of your in-laws oh come now chances are it has occurred to you at least once, but after a moments thought you decided against becoming a murderer. Of course I wouldn’t presume to ask if you made the right decision. But I would however be interested in your reason for refraining. Was it respect for human life?Fear of the law?… or terror of the unknown?… The wrath of a demon such as the Hollow Watcher. For the sightless eyes of the Hollow Watcher see more than you might imagine. Even now they can perceive the leading players in tonights story”
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“Well I certainly don’t need the Hollow Watcher to tell me that you’re skeptical, but as sure as my name is Boris Karloff… the people who live in Black Hollow believe in him…The beliefs of simple country folk can create forces that’ll certainly surprise you… perhaps even frighten you… to death”

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Sean O’Danagh (Meg’s real husband) arrives and tries some of the local hooch from Mason who runs the general store for Otho when he’s away… and he’ll be away for a long time

What Hugo doesn’t know is that Meg already has a husband Sean who has killed a woman in back Ireland for her money and has now come to America to reunite with his bride who plans on doing the same to Hugo.

She has stuffed his daddy body into the scarecrow that sits atop the hill, hoping the locals will find the body and blame him. No one goes there but field mice and copper headed serpents.Even the carrion birds, seem to sense the evil deed what’s been done and stay far away from that straw man in the field. Meg says, “It’s because it isn’t quite dead” The Black Hollow bumpkins suspect that either Hugo and his curious foreign witch like bride have offed Ortho or that The Hollow Watcher has plucked him out because he was “mean enough”

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Sean tells Hugo and Meg about his poor wife’s untimely demise under the wheels of a wagon back in Ireland
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Hugo offers Meg’s ‘brother’ Sean a place to sleep in his barn while he helps out with the chores around the place

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The pathologically fragile Meg who clings to her rag doll as if it were the child she’s never had, is in actuality awaiting her real husband, the dapper Sean who eventually arrives and begins to masquerade as her brother in order to swindle her woefully boorish and crude husband Hugo Wheeler out of his inheritance. Unfortunately, she has no idea where Ortho’s fortune is hidden.

Meg eventually starts to descend into subtle madness because she finally believes in Hugo’s “spook” and that The Hollow Watcher is a thing that sneaks around in the shadows getting closer and closer, casting judgment upon her and waiting in the darkness to exact his revenge. As Boris says in the beginning she’s afraid of “The wrath of a demon such as The Hollow Watcher”

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“Oh Sean something awful is happening here and dreadful horrors are upon us…
And when it was done I stuffed his body into the old scarecrow, thinking the scavenger birds would find it and Hugo would be blamed. The place was too obvious for even these bumpkins to find” 
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Sean says, “Too obvious what do you mean?”
“Well it stands in a field that’s laid fallow now for two years, no one goes there except for field mice and copper headed serpents
Why do you suppose the carrion birds ignore it?
Because… because it isn’t quite dead…
But it is there Sean it is… It gets closer and closer… I can see it there up on the hill at twilight”

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Although, the ending of this episode is slightly anti climatic because we eventually see the scarecrow confront the weary Meg and it’s simplistic presence could be considered laughable, coming closer and closer it’s burlap painted face peeking through the window pane. It clumsily follows her up the stairs, {my Grandma Milly could have out run it!} Still, The Hollow Watcher has a wonderfully creepy American Gothic quality to it. And really, how could you make a simple straw man terrifying in the 60s. The effect at the end exposing Ortho Wheeler’s skeleton is pretty striking…

The sweetly sad melody written by Sidney Fine and William Lava sounds much like American composer Aaron Copeland and really adds a very moving dimension to this bleak and eerie story.

I love the cameo appearances from the Andy Griffith Show regulars, which adds to the home grown rustic feel of the episode. Makes me sort of want to break into a rousing section of “Sourwood Mountain Old Man Old Man I want your daughter- hey, ho, diddle-um day.” Mary Grace Canfield has a brief appearance as Ally Rose a homely plain town girl, (although It always bothered me that she was often cast as the ugly girl. I thought she was adorable and I wonder how it must of made her feel when ever they would send out a casting call for a homely girl and her agent would say Mary Grace there’s a role for you. Isn’t that awful really. It truly pains me.

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Ally Rose says to Sean- “You sure are pretty”

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“You know seldom has such loveliness covered such silver a tongue”

Sourwood Mountain
Chickens a-crowin’ on Sourwood Mountain,
Hey, ho, diddle-um day.
So many pretty girls I can’t count ’em,
Hey ho, diddle-um day.
Old Man Old Man I want your daughter
Hey ho diddle um day
Bake me bread and tote me water
Hey ho diddle um day
My true love’s a blue-eyed daisy,
She won’t come and I’m too lazy.
Big dog bark and little one bite you,
Big girl court and little one spite you.
My true love’s a blue-eyed daisy,
If I don’t get her, I’ll go crazy.
My true love lives at the head of the holler,
She won’t come and I won’t foller.
My true love lives over the river,
A few more jumps and I’ll be with her.
Ducks in the pond, geese in the ocean,
Devil’s in the women if they take a notion.
RG

Nathaniel Hawthornes short story Feathertop is about a scarecrow created and brought to life in seventeenth century Salem, Massachusettsby a witch in league with the devil. He is intended to be used for sinister purposes and at first believes himself to be human, but develops human feelings and deliberately cuts his own life short when he realizes what he really is. In the Japanese mythology compiled in Kojiki in 712, a scarecrow appears as a deity, Kuebiko, who cannot walk, but knows everything of the world.

The Scarecrow is one of the most familiar figures of the rural landscape not only in the United Kingdom but throughout Europe and many other countries of the world. His ragged figure has been recorded in rural history for centuries. His image has proved irresistible to writers from William Shakespeare to Walter de la Mare as well as to film makers since the dawn of the silent movie. Yet, despite all his fame, the origins and the development of the scarecrow have remained obscured in mystery.

Earliest known written fact about scarecrow’s written in 1592.Definition of a scarecrow – That which frightens or is intended to frighten without doing physical harm.Literally that which – scares away crows, hence the name scarecrow.

 

MonsterGirl bids you howdy!

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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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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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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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.

Ottola Nesmith
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

CapturFiles_25 that old inside had us thinking the place was built by vampires
“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?”
CapturFiles_29 didnt i tell you why you got the place so cheap-you said the local characters think its unlucky
Adam-“Didn’t I tell you why you got the place so cheap?”Gil-“You said the local characters think its unlucky”
CapturFiles_31 Well oh well early mausoleum -liz
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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CapturFiles_39 when you let out that blasted howl I cut my hand
“When you let out that blasted howl… I cut my hand”

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CapturFiles_44 oh liz drop it… but he had a hook, a hook for a hand
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!

Thriller with Boris Karloff: 14 Episodes in Brief

1)The Purple Room-airdate October 25,1960-Rip Torn inherits Black Oak Mansion from his recently deceased uncle, but with one condition;he must live in the house for one full year. Patricia Barry and Richard Anderson (The Night Strangler , The Six Million Dollar Man) play his cousins who lure him into spending one night in the haunted Purple Room! Black Oak Mansion makes use of Universal’s Psycho house.

2) Fingers Of Fear-aired Feb 21 1961-This disturbing and psychologically progressive episode deals with a child killer.It opens with a stark and chilling scene of an elementary school teacher chasing a ball (bouncing balls are usually foreboding of an impending shock! )from the playground only to discover the body of a mutilated little girl in the shrubs. The police start looking for an overweight brutish man, and a mentally ill man fitting the description starts to fear that he will be arrested for the crime. This starts a series of events that are filmed with a taut and thoughtful narrative until the shocking climax where the real murderer is caught. The final scene is quite disturbing when the killer violently attacks a doll, thinking it is a little girl. Directed by Jules Bricken, but could have been filmed by Sam Fuller. Highly recommend Fuller’s The Naked Kiss.

3)The Ordeal of Dr Cordell airdate March 7 1961-A doctor, Frank Cordell, played by Robert Vaughn ( The Man From U.N.C.L.E)trying to find the cure for nerve gas accidentally stumbles onto a chemical vapor that stirs a murderous uncontrollable rage in him, every time he hears a bell. This episode taps into Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 short story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde as Cordell modulates between these dueling personalities.

4) Parasite Mansion airdate April 25 1961-Pippa Scott plays a woman who wrecks her car, then gets shot at and faints only to awaken in an old dark house inhabited by an extremely strange family that are beset by the fear of a family “secret” in the form of violence that has plagued their home and family for three generations. Poltergeists,telekinesis,stigmata,alcoholism, insanity, backwoods vengeance and family dysfunction all play themselves out at the hands of Granny brilliantly acted by the incredible Jeanette Nolan, Beverly Washburn as Lollie ( Spider Baby ).Written by Donald S. Sanford and directed by Herschel Daugherty.

5) Mr George airdate May 9 1961-After a little girl loses both her parents, she is left in the care of her last remaining relatives, a sociopathic provincial trio who plan to kill her for her inheritance. But the child has a special guardian, a ghost named Mr George who is watching out for her safety at every turn.Written by Sanford, and directed by Ida Lupino. Virginia Gregg, Howard Freeman and Lillian Bronson as Adelaide the simple minded sister apropos of a Tennessee Williams character. The musical dynamic to this episode in particular is it’s own character within the plot. it seems to guide the narrative masterfully through a childlike lens.

6) Terror In Teakwood airdate May 16 1961-A concert pianist obsessed with being the greatest living pianist, takes extreme measures to improve his abilities.Guy Rolfe (Mr Sardonicus) plays Vladimir Vicek the tormented musician who goes to drastic and unholy ends to achieve greatness.Hazel Court plays Leonie his beautiful wife. Directed by Paul Henreid. Bette Davis’s love interest and doctor in Now Voyager. Perhaps my favorite film of the great Ms Davis! The theme is very reminiscent of The Hands Of Orlac . Also stars Charles Aidman.

7) What Beckoning Ghost airdate September 18 1961-Judith Evelyn plays Mildred Beaumont, a woman, yet another concert pianist, recovering from a heart attack,goes downstairs one night hearing a funeral dirge, and has a vision of her own dead body lying in repose in an open coffin.She faints and upon awakening is told by her husband and sister that she has started having memory lapses and hallucinations. Are they trying to drive her crazy or to her grave? Written by Donald Sanford from a story by Harold Lawlor first published in Weird Tales (July 1948) and directed by Ida Lupino. photo right Reggie Nalder from Terror in Teakwood.

8) The Premature Burial airdate October 2 1961-loosely based on Poe’s story, Sidney Blackmer (Roman Castavet the patriarchal warlock in Rosemary’s Baby ) plays a cataleptic man who suffers a seizure and is mistakenly buried alive. His doctor friend Boris Karloff breaks into the crypt and saves his life. After being revived by the galvanic battery! Blackmer becomes obsessed with this never happening again. However his young wife Patricia Medina and her artist lover Scott Marlowe are more interested in his inheritance. This episode has a wonderfully morbid tone to it.

9) The Weird Taylor airdate October 16 1961-Writer Robert Bloch brings this macabre story to life directed by Herschel Daugherty.

An abusive husband and bitter man, a tailor is asked to make a special suit of clothes for a wealthy man. The tailor doesn’t know that the man has accidentally caused his son’s death during one of his black mass rituals.The father’s only goal now is to bring his son back to life and having paid one million dollars for a rare book on sorcery which has the formula for creating a suit that if worn can bring back the dead!.George Macready is wonderful as the mournfully obsessed father.Henry Jones is Erik Conrad the angry tailor who doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.

10) God Grante That She Lye Stille airdate October 23 1961-In 1661 a woman is burned at the stake for being a witch. She swears that her spirit will avenge her death. 300 years later,a girl descendant from the witch returns to her ancestral home and begins having to fight off the ghost of the witch who is now trying to possess her very body and soul! Henry Daniell plays Vicar Weatherford the descendant of the man who burned the witch 300 years prior.

11)Masquerade airdate Oct 30 1961-A young couple, a writer and his droll wife are on their honeymoon down south after being caught in a thunderstorm, stop at a house to seek shelter. This episode is laced with a lyrical quality and much campy humor.What they find, is a bizarre family led by John Carradine ( love him!) Jed Carta who taunts the couple with local stories about the Henshaw Vampire. Is the family a family of vampires?cannibals or just a bunch of psychopaths who kill wayward visitors for their valuables?Tom Poston as Charlie Denham, and Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched)as Roz Denham.The banter between the cast is so enjoyable. Pictured here John Carradine as Jed Carta sharpening his butcher’s knife.

12)The Return Of Andrew Bentley airdate Dec 11 1961-in 1900’s Ellis and Sheila Corbett arrive at the home of his Uncle Amos an occult enthusiast, who reveals that he is dying and plans on leaving everything to them as long as they remain in the house, never to leave and to keep vigil on his crypt in order to protect his eternal slumber from the mysterious Andrew Bentley and his minion demon that follows him around like a ghoulish pet.Written by Richard Matheson and directed by John Newland who also plays Ellis. Antoinette Bower is Sheila and Reggie Nalder is Andrew Bentley. Nalder is another actor with a very distinct face.

13)The Remarkable Mrs Hawk airdate Dec 19 1961-Mrs Hawk runs a pig farm. Best hogs in the county.She also goes through handy men like Kleenex. They all seem to disappear without a trace. When the last hired hand to go missing, it stirs curiosity in his friends,so they set out to investigate the goings on. Turns out that the lady is the Greek Goddess Circe who is masterful at turning men into swine! John Carradine plays “Jason” Longfellow, Paul Newlan as Sheriff ” Ulysses” Willetts and Jo Van Fleet as the remarkable Mrs Hawk. Directed by John Brahm and written by Donald S Sanford. The original script http://www.geocities.com/emruf7/hawk.htm

14) The Storm airdate January 22 1962-Nancy Kelly ( The Bad Seed’s mother ) as Janet Wilson after finding the body of a dead woman in the trunk in her cellar, is then stalked by a killer during one terrible stormy night! Directed by Herschel Daugherty.

A few other of my favorite episodes are~Dialogues With Death, Well Of Doom ,The Last of The Summervilles , Hay Fork and Bill-Hook, What Beckoning Ghost,A Wig for Ms Devore and The Closed Cabinet!