Thursday, February 18, 2021

THRILLER Thursday: COUSIN TUNDIFER

NEW! SEASON 2: COUSIN TUNDIFER

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



Season: 2, Episode: 21.
Airdate: February 19, 1962


Director: John Brahm
Writer: Boris Sobelman
Cast: Edward Andrews, Sue Ann Langdon, Vaughn Taylor, Howard McNear, Dayton Lummis, Chet Stratton.
Music:
Cinematography:
Producer:



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: (Standing in a morgue with a table filled with every murder weapon known to man.)
“An Uncle and a Nephew. No thought of murder? Impossible! May I remind you ladies and gentleman of this sinister relationship once again: Uncles and Nephews. What a trail of blood and evil they have drawn across all the time which we have recorded. Think of the histories you’ve read, books and tales and legends. Hamlet and his uncle Claudius. Richard The Third, the cripple, putting his two little nephews to death in the Tower of London. Evil Uncles, Good Nephews. Evil Nephews, Good Uncles. What deadly poison lurks here? And how strange that even to this day, this relationship has not drawn the relationship it deserves. Our story tonight will tread this tale, with turns and twists and such sudden byways that even my head reels, and for a moment, but only for a moment, I can not even be sure if my name is Boris Karloff. The murder weapon? Well, I can assure you that it can not be found in this cheerful assortment of conventional, but none the less effective ways.
(Opens a morgue body drawer)
The title of our story is “Cousin Tundifer” and our players are: Edward Andrews, Sue Anne Langdon, Vaughn Taylor, Howard McNear, Dayton Lummis, and Chet Straton.
(Closes drawer)
So join me now while the uncle and the nephew in our story, for a contest of murders such as you never even imagined. (Lifts gun) Please don’t be nervous, this little toy isn’t really loaded.
(Aims it at audience and fires... to titles!)



Synopsis: San Francisco: Pudgy Miles Tundefer (Edward Andrews) walks down the street, stopping outside a strip club to admire the poster advertizing the headliner Miss Queenie De Lyte - showing almost all of her assets, then stops at a news stand to flip through a book titled “33 Ways To Get Away With Murder”, all of this is on the way to his Uncle’s lawyer’s office... where he complains that his wealthy Uncle is spending his eventual inheritance like crazy! Buying old houses and having them restored! Lawyer Braystone (Dayton Lummis) has sent Uncle to a psychologist Dr. Marvin... and now he is supposedly cured of buying old houses... this will be the last. What’s left of Miles Tundifer’s inheritance is safe...

(To Karloff)

Miles drives to the Old House being restored (the Munster House) and talks to the contractor (Howard McNear - Floyd the barber from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) and his assistant. The old house has been restored exactly to it’s original specifics from the 1800s - using nails and wood and a fireplace and everything else from the time period. No expense has been spared! The Contractor presents Miles with the final bill - a huge amount! When Miles says he will want to look at the books, the Contractor says that isn’t a problem and goes to talk with his assistant...

And says they will need the second set of books.



Miles looks over the house, which was in the Tundifer family at that time, and it’s like walking into the past...

The vintage rug on the floor rolls out...

And he is in the past. The 1800s! (We get a music cue here that tells the audience something magical has happened.) Period furniture where there was nothing, A table set with food. The vintage window seat box now has a cushion! Miles looks out the back door - and sees a horse drawn carriage instead of cars! How is this possible? Does insanity run in the family? He freaks out, but when he steps off the rug and out the front door - he’s back in present day. He gets in his car and gets out of there!

To a bar. Where he gets drunk. And tells the bartender about his strange experience. The bartender says it sounds like a standard case of teleportation.

Mile goes back to the house... and it changes again the moment he steps on the vintage rug. Maybe he’s not crazy? Maybe it is teleportation?



AT HOME: Miles tells his old Uncle (Vaughn Taylor - Marion's boss in PSYCHO) that he needs to make the final payment on the house restoration - and Uncle tells him that’s the last money he spends on a house. His psychiatrist has advised him to stop living in the past and live for the future! What he needed was to find a woman and fall in love... and that’s exactly what he did! His new fiancĂ© is going to have dinner with them tonight!

If Uncle gets married, the *wife* inherits, not Miles Tundifer!

And the fiancĂ© is... stripper Queenie De Lyte, who his Uncle met outside his psychiatrist’s office!

At dinner, Queenie (Sue Ann Langdon) notes all of the family portraits in the walls - including one that looks very much like Miles. Uncle says, like the painting, that relative was Edgemont Tundifer, who was hung 100 years ago, accused and convicted of murdering several people. The Black Sheep of the family...



Meanwhile, Miles is trying to figure out how to murder his Uncle so that he can inherit before his Uncle marries the stripper and *she* inherits the fortune.

The next day, Miles goes to get the bill for the house restoration to the contractor, and does a little experiment. Once again, when he steps on the rug he is transported back in time to the 1800s. This time, he puts his briefcase on the window seat and when he steps off the rug... the briefcase is gone! He goes outside, tells the contractor that he forgot his briefcase - it’s on the window seat, would he mind going in and getting it for him? The contractor comes back and says it’s not there. Miles makes sure that the contractor looked on the window seat. Not there. Miles enters - empty window seat - steps on the run and is transported back in time 100 years, and there’s his briefcase on the window seat! He grabs it as well as a heavy pestle on the table and leaves... returning to the present.

Not noticing the older couple from the 1800s was watching him when he had stepped into the past.

The book “33 Ways To Get Away With Murder” says that hats should be removed before striking someone with a blunt instrument...

Miles and Uncle return to the house the next morning with the final payment in *cash*.



Miles has his Uncle remove his hat before entering the house for the final inspection... and then clobbers him with the old pestle. Once they are on the rug, they are transported to the past, and Miles hides the body in the window seat... and places the money on top of Uncle’s body. Leaves the house (and the 1800s) and chats with the contractor for a while. Tells the Contractor he should find his Uncle in the house so that he can be paid... and the Contractor searches the house - no Uncle. What?

Police come - search the house, no Uncle. Miles tells them that his senile old Uncle has $50,000 in his coat pocket and is wandering the streets of San Francisco! You must find him before something bad happens!

The lawyer breaks the bad news to Miles Tundifer - without a body they must wait 7 years before he can inherit. He can live in his Uncle’s house - it’s paid for, but can not sell the restored house due to the final payment issue. So he’s broke, but with a roof over his head. He proposes to Queenie, the stripper... who is only interested in old rich guys with a foot in the grave... but she’ll think about it.



Queenie goes to see her Psychiatrist (Chet Stratton)... and we discover that they are a con team! The Psychiatrist convinced Uncle that he needed to meet and marry a young woman, and then had Queenie waiting for him. Now that the Uncle has gone missing, they discuss the possibility of Miles. Maybe there’s a way to make this work?

Queenie agrees to marry Miles, and wants a huge engagement ring and some extra jewelry to tide her over - a small fortune! Queenie is impressed, will probably sleep with him tonight once she gets the jewelry, so Miles has the Jeweler hold the items and he will return with cash...

Miles is going to get everything he wants!

He goes to the restored house, steps onto the run and is transported to the 1800s, goes to the window seat to get the $50k... and not only is the money missing, so is his dead Uncle! What?

That’s when the (vintage) cops jump in and arrest him! The older couple from the 1800s show up with Uncle - head bandaged, but alive! Miles is arrested as cousin Edgemont Tundifer - and we all know what happens next!

The Uncle steps off the rug, returns to present day, and goes out to the car with the $50k where Queenie is waiting. The end.



Review: Whenever Edward Andrews stars in an episode, you know that it’s going for the humorous side of horror or thriller or crime (THIRD FOR PINOCLE, A GOOD IMAGINATION). He was the 1960 version of that suburban guy who probably had a secret subscription to Playboy and a nagging wife. The great thing about an anthology show is that it can provide a variety of types of stories, and horror and thriller genres are filled with comedic takes on the genre. Though these stories aren’t my favorites in the series, they are part of the “Weird Tales” subgenre of horror where scheming characters get punished by fate... and I prefer them to the straight crime episodes from early season one.

Here we get a wonderfully cynical story where every single character seems mostly honest on the outside but has some kind of scheme going - the crazy Uncle being the only character who isn’t trying to con someone. The Contractor has a second set of books, the stripper who seems like an airhead is actually in cahoots with the Uncle psychiatrist (she might be the most clever character in the story), and our hero’s goal in life is to get his hands on his Uncle’s money. What a tangled web they weave when all of the schemers plans intersect.



The fantasy element - time travel via a restored house - seems related to Richard Matheson’s SOMEWHERE IN TIME, with the idea that if all we can see is the past, we can step into that past. The use of a music cue to tell the audience that we have slipped into a different time is a great low budget special effect. Though there are dissolves used in the first time jump, once we hear the music we know that Miles is going back in time without the visual effects. I wonder if the shots of horse and carriage on the streets were left over from one of the period episodes? The time loop idea is fun - with murderous Miles Tundifer looking exactly like his murderer relative... and then becoming him.

Next up, a couple down on their luck tries to live with a wealthy relative...

- Bill

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