Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thriller Thursday: Knock Three One Two.

Knock Three One Two.

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 1, Episode: 13.
Airdate: Dec. 13, 1960


Director: Herman Hoffman
Writer: John Kneubuhl based on the novel by Frederick Brown.
Cast: Joe Maross, Beverly Garland, Charles Aikman, Warren Oates, Meade Martin.
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: Benjamin H. Kline.
Producer: Maxwell Shane.




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “A compulsive killer of women stalks a town. This man has seen the killer. He doesn’t know it yet, but as sure as my name is Boris Karloff he will meet the killer again and will recognize him. You or I would turn him in, but this man uses the murderer for a most bizarre purpose. Knock three one two, that’s the name of our story. And our principle players are, Mr. Joe Maross, Miss Beverly Garland, Mr. Charles Aikman, and Mr. Warren Oates. Knock three one two. That friendly knock will cause a lovely woman to open the door with terrifying consequences. Let me warn you ladies, if you hear that knock in the next hour, do not open your door. Just sit there and enjoy the tingling suspense of this thriller.”

Synopsis: This overly convoluted tale begins with gambling addict Ray (Joe Maross) making calls from a corner phone booth, trying to find *someone* to loan him the money to pay back the mob so that they don’t break his legs... with no luck. When he walks back to his car, a preoccupied MAN (Meade Martin) bumps into him, then continues on without an apology. Ray grumbles something, gets into his car and drives away... just as a dead woman is found in the apartment the Man just left! That Man was the Silk Stocking Strangler, the killer everyone in the city is afraid of... so afraid that Ray and his wife Ruth (Beverly Garland) have put extra locks on the door and have a knock code: 3, 1, 2 to make sure she only unbolts the door to her husband and not the crazed killer.



After Ray knocks the code, Ruth lets him in... and he begs her to give him the money to pay off his bets. He’s afraid this time they will really hurt him. She says last time she gave him money from her savings account he just gambled it away. She tells him never again, her $8k savings account went down to $6k, and now she has to work harder to bring it back up to where it was. Ruth is a waitress on the night shift, Ray is a liquor salesman. Ray keeps asking for money, says they might even kill him this time, she says no and goes to work...

On the way she bumps into Benny (Warren Oates) who is mentally challenged and runs the local newsstand, a friend of both Ruth and Ray’s. Benny tells Ruth that he’s done it again... killed another woman. He thinks he is the Silk Stocking Strangler. Ruth asks him where he was at the time of the last murder and Benny says he was working. Ruth tells him he *couldn’t* be the killer... and the last time he confessed to the police they said he couldn’t be the killer. Benny still wants to be punished for these crimes. Ruth tells Benny to forget about this nonsense, and that they both need to get to work.



Ray can’t find anyone to give him the money, accosts Ruth at work... and her nice guy boss George (Charles Aidman) breaks it up and comforts Ruth. Along with the Benny character, the George character is another somewhat pointless complication. George is in love with Ruth and wants her to leave Ray, but Ruth is still in love with Ray.

When Ray leaves the restaurant he’s followed down a dark alley by the mob guys he owes money to: they beat the crap out of him and give him 24 hours to get the cash... or they’ll kill him. By some amazing coincidence, Benny walks down that same dark alley later and sees beat up Ray, takes him to his little apartment where he takes care of his wounds and offers him some soup with pieces of chicken in it. Benny tries to convince Ray that he’s the Silk Stocking Killer, but Ray also does not believe him. Benny tells Ray about the latest killing... and Ray realizes he was *right there* and that the Man who bumped into him had to be the killer. He knows what the killer looks like! Once Ray is okay, he leaves to try and find the money again.

Ray ends up in a bar asking the owner for an advance on his order, gets shot down... and then notices the Man who bumped into him sitting at the bar... the Silk Stocking Killer! Ray sits next to him, strikes up a conversation... and now we’re in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN territory. This is the great part of the story, which is kind of lost in the all of the subplots. Highsmith’s third novel, THE BLUNDERER, is about a man who attempts to make his wife’s death appear as if it is the work of a serial killer... only to have the serial killer confront him. Here we get a similar story, as Ray shows the Silk Stocking Killer a picture of Ruth in a bathing suit to get his interest, then tells him their address and the knock code for the front door... and that his wife will be home alone all night.



When the Silk Stocking Killer leaves (to murder Ruth) Ray asks the bartender to pour him another drink. The bartender mentions they will be closing at midnight tonight instead of 2am... because the place is empty. Oh no, there goes Ray’s alibi! He begs the bartender to stay open later, the bartender gives him a funny look. He’s the only customer in the place!

So Ray calls Benny and tells him if he goes to the police *right now* and turns himself in for the murders, and has the police call him *right away* at this bar pay phone, he will come down and tell the police that Benny is the killer. Benny says “sure” and Ray goes back to the bar waiting for the phone to ring.



Meanwhile, the Silk Stocking Killer watches as George pulls up in front of the apartment and then walks Ruth to the door. They almost kiss. The George gets back in his car and drives away... and the Silk Stocking Killer comes out of hiding to kill Ruth. He knocks the code on the door, she unbolts and unlocks the door and opens in wide... then screams when he attacks her.

Ray gets the call from Benny, goes to the police station where he tells the two detectives that Benny *didn’t* do it (which pisses off Benny) and Benny needs mental help and can the police institutionalize him? Ray drags it out as long as possible to make sure he has an alibi: in the police station with the two detectives investigating the murders. He’ll be free and clear, Ruth will be dead, and he’ll be able to get the money from her savings account right away. The perfect crime!

George decides to turn around and go back to Ruth’s place for no apparent reason, and ends up finding the door open and the Silk Stocking Killer attacking her. George kicks some psycho ass, then calls the police.



When the detectives leave the room to take the call, Benny gets mad at Ray for betraying him... and *murders* Ray. When the detectives find out the name of the woman being attacked by the Silk Stocking Killer when he was captured, they realize it’s the wife of the man they have in their interrogation room, go in and find him dead. The end!



Review: Another episode based on a novel, and I suspect the novel did some fancy footwork to remove all of the coincidences. Compressed into less than fifty minutes, all of these strange coincidences stick out like a sore thumb! Plus, there are some things that the writer should have caught: Benny couldn’t have done the killings because he works every night until 2am... yet Ray calls him *at home* and needs him to be at the police station from 12 to 2am... how is that possible? The super locked apartment door that requires that knock code? George kicks it down in street shoes! There are a bunch of things like this in the episode that just make no sense at all.

There is a nice little conversation about Gambling Addiction, a public service message in the middle of the episode; and I think that’s a good thing. This was a genre show, and they managed to include a real social issue in the story without it seeming forced onto the story... it’s Ray’s motivation for needing the money bad enough to have his wife killed. No matter what your genre, you *can* have a serious issue in there... genre movies don’t need to be stupid.

Beverly Garland was beautiful, and played a blue collar waitress well. Though she had been a B movie star, she spent most of her career on the small screen... then retired to run a hotel a couple of blocks from where I live now. I did my 2 day classes there for a while, in the cinema decorated with posters from all of her movies.



Warren Oates is freakin’ Warren Oates! He did two episodes of THRILLER, and so many TV shows that I’m sure he couldn’t remember the number. Mostly westerns like THE RIFLEMAN ands RAWHIDE and THE VIRGINIAN and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, but he did every other genre and pops up in THE TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS. Shows like this is where a young actor could earn a living while working on their craft, and Oates is completely convincing as this mentally challenged newsstand employee.

Charles Aidman is another actor you’d instantly recognize as “that guy from every TV show in the 70s”, but here it’s kind of strange casting since the character has an ethnic last name... and this isn’t an ethnic guy. I wonder if that was even a plot element in the story originally, Ruth and George’s romance would be forbidden... but this serial killer brings them together. That’s not in the episode.

The actor who plays the Silk Stocking Killer is some pretty boy in a leather jacket, unlike any serial killer I have ever seen. He’s more of a juvenile delinquent from a fifties film! Truly odd casting.

The other problem is Ray sending the Silk Stocking Killer after Ruth in the first place... how can he know that the psycho will go there and kill her? What if she isn’t his type? Again, coincidences kill this episode. It does have some suspense, but the story is not well plotted. Not one of the good episodes, but not the worst. Next week’s episode stars Mort Sahl as a TV writer who knows too much... and talks too much.

Bill

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