Thursday, July 06, 2023

THRILLER Thursday: A Good Imagination

Good Imagination.

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

Season: 1, Episode: 31.
Airdate: May 2, 1961

Director: John Brahm
Writer: Robert Bloch adapts Robert Bloch
Cast: Edward Andrews, Patricia Barry, Ed Nelson, Britt Lomond.
Music: great whimsical score by Morton Stevens
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Producer: William Frye

Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Crime and Punishment. That in a nutshell is our story for tonight. Except instead of a neurotic student and his nemesis, our play is about a beautiful wife with an intemperate taste in men... and her discerning husband whose reservations will stop at nothing, not even murder. This good man however is not an ordinary killer. He has flair, imagination, a good imagination. That’s the name of our play. And our players are: Patricia Barry, Ed Nelson, and Edward Andrews as the injured bookworm. Join us now as we watch this bookworm turn... to murder.”

Synopsis: Handsome Randy Hagen (William Allyn) sleeps in his luxurious bachelor apartment... and is awakened by a noise. A door slamming? He walks into his living room, which has been ransacked. What? “Louise?” Meek Frank Logan (Edward Andrews) pops up from behind a table, “Louise isn’t here, I’m her husband.” Randy wants to know what’s going on, Logan says it’s obviously a case of burglary. “You tried to steal my wife. How do you think I got in here? With that key that you gave her.” He holds up the key in a gloved hand and says he knew about them all along. Randy asks what he wants, Logan replies that he must not have a very good imagination. “It will appear as if burglars broke into your apartment and you were killed trying to defend yourself.” Randy says “Don’t shoot me!” and Logan replies that he doesn’t have a gun, carefully puts his glasses in his pocket and grabs a medieval mace off a display on the wall, chases Randy into the bedroom and beats him to death. Comes out, puts his glasses back on, picks up a fallen copy of “Crime And Punishment” and sets it on the table before he leaves.

Louise Logan (Patricia Barry) comes home from Randy’s funeral and finds Logan in the living room reading a book. He says he came home early from the book convention, it was dead. Logan does a great job of needling her, asking how well she knew him. Why she felt the need to go to his funeral. How he died. “He was the type you’d expect to be shot by a jealous husband,” Logan says... and his wife turns white. Then Logan hands her the key to Randy’s apartment, says he found it on her dresser but it doesn’t fit any of the doors in the house. Louise grabs the key and leaves...

Louise tells her lawyer brother Arnold (Britt Lomond) that she suspects Logan may have murdered Randy. Arnold doesn’t believe someone like Logan is capable of murder... he’s a bookworm! Arnold agrees to hire Private Eye Joe Thorp (Ken Lynch) to look into Randy’s murder off the record.

Thorp comes into Logan’s bookstore pretending to be a customer, but Logan outsmarts him and gets him to admit he’s a Private Eye. That’s when Thorp turns the tables and says maybe they can make a deal... Thorp knows Logan took a flight out here from the book convention on the night Randy was murdered... and took a flight back to the convention a few hours later. He demands $10k for his silence. Thorp will meet Logan at 8pm at brother in law Arnold’s fishing cabin... Arnold will be there at 9pm and Thorp will tell him everything if Logan doesn’t show up with the money.

9pm, Arnold shows up at the cabin... and finds Logan sitting inside. Logan pours Arnold a drink and explains that Thorp demanded $10k to keep his mouth shut, and Logan gave him the money. Arnold is shocked, “He just took the money and ran?” No, he’s out back in a boat waiting for you. Arnold downs the drink, and Logan takes him out back to the dock where Thorp sits in a boat... dressed in fishing clothes. Arnold accuses Logan of killing him, and Logan explains that he’s just unconscious from the drugs I put in his drink, and yours. Carefully takes off his glasses and puts them in his pocket, then puts semi conscious Arnold in the boat with Thorp, rows the boat to the middle of the lake and capsizes it... swimming back to shore.

After Arnold’s funeral, Logan buys a house in the country so that Louise can escape the memories of her brother’s death in that fishing accident. No one around for miles. Logan will be working in the city, but come to the country house for the weekends. She’s stuck there alone... no man for miles.

Knock on the door... it’s local hunky handyman George Parker (Ed Nelson) wondering if Louise needs any work done? One thing leads to another and...

Logan comes home unexpected. George pretends to be inspecting the fireplace for repairs and leaves... but Logan suspects.

At the end of the summer, Logan decides to sell the country house... and George and Louise hatch a plan to steal the money from the house sale and run away together.

Logan asks George to help him brick up a section of the basement where rats might congregate before they hand over the house to the new owners. George asks where Louise is, Logan says she went into town to get the money for the house sale. When George has finished bricking the section of the basement, Logan hands him a beer. George asks if Logan is going to have one, and he says he never drinks around firearms. Logan has a gun, plays with it, puts it in his pocket. Gives George another beer and they examine the wall. The mortar has set, Logan asks if George can hear that noise behind the wall. Like a mouse. Then Logan tells George that he and Louise have separated...

Logan tells George that Louise was alive when he put her in the section, but George killed her when he walled her up in the section. Hasn’t George read Poe’s “Cask Of Amontillado”? Oh, that’s right... George doesn’t read. But George *does* freak out and runs away, as Logan laughs!

That night Logan is reading in the living room... when Louise comes home. Twist! She says a state trooper stopped her on the road to check her I.D. but wouldn’t tell her why. Logan says he knows why and it has to do with George. He was supposed to come and wall up that section of the basement... but never showed. Logan had to do it himself... would she like to see?

On the way down to the basement, Logan says that he got a call from the police that George had burst into the police station and accused Logan of murdering Louise and walling her up in the basement. Logan told them his wife was in town, which is why the state trooper stopped her on the road. Obviously George has gone crazy. When Louise breaks down, Logan takes her to the wall... which now has the bricks removed. She thought he had bricked the wall himself. Logan carefully takes off his glasses, puts them in his pocket, and says he will... “My alibi will be set, and so will the cement.” He finished walling her in the basement when...

The police chief shows up... with George! They thought if George could see Mrs. Logan again, he’d snap out of this strange delusion he has that she’s bricked up in the basement. Can Logan bring his wife to the door???

Review: One of the great things that both THRILLER and HITCHCOCK did was often tell stories from the *villain’s* point of view. We get to be mean and nasty and evil for a half hour or an hour and then go back to being nice people afterwards. All of use have dark fantasies, and these shows allowed us to safely explore them (without actually bricking our spouse inside a wall). Villains always seem to have more fun than heroes, so it’s fun to pretend to be one for an hour.

And this is an *understandable* villain. We can relate to him. He’s clever and witty and well read (this began as a short story by Robert Bloch, so readers were the primary audience for the story), and always several steps ahead of everyone else. If we aren’t that person, we’d all like to be that person. And whether you are quoting Bugs Bunny or Vizzini from THE PRINCESS BRIDE most people are morons. Here we have a cheating gold digger wife who seems to never learn her lesson. One lover dies under mysterious circumstances and she just keeps bleeding her husband dry as she searches for another. The people Logan kills aren’t innocent by a long shot... and also aren’t very bright. What’s fun about this story is that Logan *warns* his future victims ahead of time using book references, but they aren’t readers so they fall into his traps. Had they been more clever and better read, they would probably have survived!

The script is filled with the clever wordplay that Bloch is famous for, as I mentioned in an earlier entry his short stories and novels are filled with lines like “He cut off her scream... and her head.” He dances with language, finding dark puns and finding words that connect two different thoughts. The dialogue in this episode is fun!

One of the great elements of this episode is the perfect crime at the end, which is like an intricate chess game and requires George to go to the police and accuse Logan of murder while Louise is still alive (and the police can find her). There’s a stageplay by Lucille Fletcher (SORRY, WRONG NUMBER) called NIGHTWATCH (first staged in 1972) which does something similar, turning the only person who might be suspicious of the missing victim into a crazy lunatic by having them witness a false murder and make accusations... which are easily proven false because the victim is still alive at that point. This is also used to some extent in Hitchcock’s VERTIGO and DePalma’s BODY DOUBLE where a witness tells the police about a *false murder*. This is a great device, and in this case not only helps Logan get away with the murder but also gets revenge on George by making him look crazy.

This is a fun, dark episode with some great suspense and a twist ending. Next week we have a charming story about a little girl and her best friend... who happens to be dead.


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