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Thriller: The Complete Series
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Now available for the first time ever in any format, experience the complete series hailed as the most frightening ever created for television. Horror legend Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) guides you through 67 unforgettable episodes of suspense, murder and relentless terror, featuring a stellar cast of stars from the golden age of TV. These tales from the minds of such masterful writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch (Psycho), and Cornell Woolrich (Rear Window) include a murderous cursed painting, a supernatural mirror, a demonic tailor's suit, and much more.
Now remastered and packed with hours of exclusive, fascinating extras, Thriller is the ultimate must-have collection for any horror or classic television fan. Featured stars include: William Shatner, Leslie Nielsen, Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth Montgomery, Rip Torn, Richard Chamberlain, Cloris Leachman, Alan Napier (Batman), Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Werner Klemperer Hogan's Heroes), Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island), Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies), Richard Kiel (Moonraker), Marlo Thomas (That Girl), Edward Platt (Get Smart), Marion Ross (Happy Days), Tom Poston (Newhart), Natalie Schafer (Gilligan's Island), Richard Long (The Big Valley), Ursula Andress (Dr. No), and many more.
Image Entertainment's 14-disc presentation of the acclaimed anthology series Thriller is arguably among the most anticipated DVD releases for horror fans and vintage-TV aficionados alike. Hosted by screen legend Boris Karloff, who also appeared in five episodes of the series, and aired on NBC from 1960 to 1962, Thriller immediately earned a reputation as one of the most frightening programs ever broadcast on television--a legacy that endures some four decades after it left the airwaves. Though it featured an all-star lineup both in front of and behind the camera--actors such as William Shatner, Richard Chamberlain, Rip Torn, Leslie Nielsen, Elizabeth Montgomery, Warren Oates, Robert Vaughn, and Marlo Thomas were among its guest stars, while directors included veterans like John Brahm (The Lodger), John Newland (One Step Beyond), and actor-directors Ida Lupino, Paul Henreid, and Ray Milland--the chills of Thriller hinged on its stories. Psycho author Robert Bloch adapted several of his short tales for the series, including one of its most nerve-jangling episodes, "The Cheaters," about a pair of glasses that reveal terrifying truths to the wearer. Twilight Zone scribes Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont also contributed scripts, while others were based on stories by Cornell Woolrich, Edgar Allan Poe, and Conan creator Robert E. Howard; the latter provided the source material for "Pigeons from Hell," the episode widely regarded as the most terrifying of the series, with Brandon De Wilde as a young man who encounters restless spirits and a unique monster in an abandoned Southern mansion. Other standouts include Bloch's "The Grim Reaper," about a cursed portrait that brings death to its owners (including Shatner); "The Purple Room," with Torn as the skeptical inheritor of a haunted house, which viewers will immediately recognize as the Bates home from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho; and "La Strega," with Ursula Andress as a young woman bedeviled by her sorceress aunt.
The 14-disc Thriller: The Complete Series offers all 67 episodes of the series, each remastered and uncut for the first time since their original broadcast. Some 50 hours of supplemental features have also been included; chief among these are 24 hours of commentary tracks by Thriller participants like directors Arthur Hiller and Ted Post and actors Richard Anderson and Beverly Washburn (Spider Baby), as well as genre experts like Tim Lucas, David Schow, Gary Gerani, and Lucy Chase Williams. Episode promos and isolated score tracks by composers Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen) and Morton Stevens all help to underscore why no less an authority than Stephen King declared Thriller to be the best series of its type to ever air on television. --Paul Gaita
We chatted with the late Karloff's daughter, Sara--who runs Karloff Enterprises to preserve, protect, and share her father's memories--about her famous father and the Thriller series.
Question: Thriller has been something of a Holy Grail for fans of suspense and horror and television. It must be a source of considerable pride to see it finally arrive on legitimate DVD.
Karloff: Thriller has always been some of the most popular of my father's TV work. For years I have been receiving inquiries from his fans as to just when the series was going to be released in its entirety and what was holding it up and why Universal would not let it out for the fans to once again enjoy. I, of course, had no real answers to the fan's questions. So I, along with my father's fans, am delighted that the entire 67 episode series is finally being released and that Image Entertainment has done such an exceptional job with the DVDs and all of the extras.
Question: Though your father was best known as a movie star, he was actively involved in television from nearly its inception. Do you recall his feelings about the medium and Thriller in particular?
Karloff: In 1949 my father moved from Hollywood to New York. One of the major reasons for the move was to embrace the new medium of television. It was in its infancy and for those actors, like my father, who were accustomed to "take one," "take two," etc., live television could be terrifying. It was also thrilling and challenging.
My father fortunately was "a quick study" and had had almost 10 years of repertory theater training in British Columbia prior to his arrival in Hollywood. So that all helped him in his new endeavor. He loved the challenge of television and the whole new audience it gave his work. It also brought him an entire new body of work and allowed him to show the breadth of his talent.
My father had two other TV series of his own, Colonel March and The Veil, but Thriller was his favorite. He not only enjoyed his hosting duties and had great fun tailoring each introduction to the episode itself, but he appeared in several episodes. He was proud of the writing and directing by some of the finest writers and directors of the day, but the actors were first rate talent too.
Question: Like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller is fondly remembered by viewers, some of whom saw it during its original network run. To what do you attribute its longevity in the minds of critics and fans, including Stephen King?
Karloff: Thriller was well written, beautifully directed, and had some of the finest actors performing these great shows. As if that were not enough, the episodes were not gory. They were suspenseful and intelligent. They invited the audience along on the adventure; they included the audience in the experience; they did not insult the audience's intelligence as some of today's viewing trash does.
It was the sheer quality of the content of the work of the participants--crew, writers, directors, actors, and my father's hosting--that made this magical package called Thriller and that has given it its long legs and its immense popularity with the fans.
Question: Your father appeared in five episodes of Thriller. Do you have a favorite among these?
Karloff: I really don't have a favorite episode in which my father appeared. I wish, and I think the fans do, too, that he might have appeared in a few more than just 5 out of the 67.
Question: Which aspects of the DVD set do you feel will delight fans the most?
Karloff: As with anything, it will be the new material--the extras on the DVDs that will delight the fans. I wish there were more interviews with the people who worked on Thriller, but Image Entertainment has a beautiful product that the fans have been waiting for for a very long time.
I know my father would be amazed and flattered beyond belief at the longevity and enormity of the legacy he has left and the multi-generational appeal of his wonderful work.
Please thank his fans for their continued interest in his work and his life. He truly was a lovely human being. --Paul Gaita
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OK, I'm going to do some name-dropping now. Here is a PARTIAL list of some of the many players who appeared in those 67 episodes, many of whom were hardly "big names" at the time: John Anderson, Ursula Andress (pre-"Dr. No"), Edward Andrews (who appeared in 3 comedic episodes), Mary Astor, Jeanne Bal, Sidney Blackmer, Larry Blyden, Lloyd Bochner, Antoinette Bower (2 episodes), Edgar Buchanan, MacDonald Carey, Richard Carlson, John Carradine (2), Eduardo Ciannelli (2), future "Time Tunnel" star Robert Colbert, Elisha Cook, Hazel Court, pretty Audrey Dalton (3), Henry Daniell (4), Brandon de Wilde, Ron Ely, "The Tingler" star Judith Evelyn, Jay C. Flippen, Beverly Garland, film noir bad girl Jane Greer, Kevin Hagen, Oscar Homolka, John Ireland, Russell Johnson, Henry Jones (2), Boris Karloff himself (5), "The Bad Seed" star Nancy Kelly, the late George Kennedy, Otto Kruger, Robert Lansing, Cloris Leachman, Richard Long, the always hissable George Macready, Patricia Medina (2), Robert Middleton (2), Elizabeth Montgomery (three years pre-"Bewitched"), Mary Tyler Moore (2), '30s star Conrad Nagel, Reggie Nalder (2), Alan Napier, Ed Nelson (2), "One Step Beyond" host John Newland (2), Leslie Nielson (who starred in that first episode), Jeanette Nolan (2), Warren Oates (2), yummy Susan Oliver, scrumptious Luciana Paluzzi, Nehemiah Persoff, Edward Platt, Tom Poston, Alejandro Rey (2), comedian Mort Sahl, Natalie Schafer (a good three years pre-"Gilligan's"), William Shatner (2), Henry Silva, Torin Thatcher, Marlo Thomas, Ann Todd, Rip Torn, Vo van Fleet, Robert Vaughn (three years pre-"U.N.C.L.E."), Robert Webber, Jack Weston (2), John Williams, William Windom and Dick York. Some of the directors on the show included Arthur Hiller, Mitchell Leisen, Richard Carlson, Ida Lupino (who stylishly helmed no fewer than 8 episodes), Ray Milland and John Newland, although the bulk of the episodes were directed by John Brahm and Herschel Daugherty. As for the program's writers, some names you might recognize include Charles Beaumont (who also wrote 22 "Twilight Zone" eps), Robert Bloch (who wrote 8 "Thriller"s in all) and Richard Matheson. As you can tell, a staggering amount of talent here, both in front of and behind the cameras, with the results being some truly fantastic television.
Naturally, every fan of "Thriller" has his or her favorite episodes, and I suspect that mine are little different than many of the others. As I said, all the episodes have something to be said for them, but of course, some really do stand out from the pack. Here are my top 10 favorites, in chronological order: "The Purple Room," that first horror episode, in which a man and a woman spend a terrifying night in the haunted abode known as Black Oak Mansion; "The Cheaters," a five-part story depicting the ghastly fate that befalls the owners of a pair of ensorcelled eyeglasses; "Well of Doom," a remarkably atmospheric and Gothic hour; "The Devil's Ticket," in which a struggling artist makes an unfortunate bargain with Satan himself; "Parasite Mansion," a largely faithful version of the Mary Elizabeth Counselman short story, highlighted by some grotesque makeup work on Jeanette Nolan; "Pigeons From Hell," perhaps "Thriller"'s most frightening hour, and an excellent adaptation of the Robert E. Howard short story; "The Grim Reaper," in which owners of a particular painting meet shocking demises; "The Weird Tailor," in which a practitioner of the Black Arts attempts to bring his dead son back to life; "La Strega," which finds Jeanette Nolan, again in hideous makeup, playing one of the scariest-looking witches in screen history; and finally, "The Incredible Doktor Markesan," another truly horrific outing, in which a nephew and his wife visit his scientist uncle in a dreary and decaying mansion.
With 67 episodes' worth of wonderful performances, choosing 10 outstanding acting turns is an extremely difficult proposition. But if I HAD to honor 10 terrific ones (putting aside from consideration those featured in my 10 favorite episodes), they might be Susan Oliver, playing a beautiful but manipulative noirish gal in "Choose a Victim"; beefcake wonder Larry Pennell, trying desperately to clean up his older brother's homicide, in "Late Date"; the truly bizarre-looking Reggie Nalder in "Terror in Teakwood"; Robert Middleton, who actually manages to inject pathos into his role of the executioner in the astonishingly suspenseful episode "Guillotine"; Patricia Medina, for her wonderfully over-the-top thesping in "The Premature Burial"; Boris Karloff, for his superb, sly underplaying in "The Last of the Sommervilles" (although his, uh, deadpan performance in the later "Doktor Markesan" episode may just be the finest of both seasons); Jo van Fleet, surprisingly sexy and alluring in "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk"; Nancy Kelly, practically giving a one-woman show in the gripping episode "The Storm"; beautiful Linda Watkins, as a vain Hollywood starlet, in "A Wig for Miss Devore"; and my old heartthrob Luciana Paluzzi, giving a performance of concentrated wickedness, in "Flowers of Evil." But really, these 10 standout performances could easily be replaced by 10 others, the acting turns in these 67 episodes are so uniformly fine.
Further good news regarding "Thriller" today is that it is currently available in a DVD boxed set, a nicely compact affair from the fine folks at Image Entertainment. The 67 episodes reside on 14 discs, and 27 of these episodes feature highly informative, full-length commentaries. The print quality, I should add, is everything that any viewer could reasonably hope for. To watch all these delicious episodes in a row is to realize that perhaps "The Outer Limits"--which would premiere in 1963--has some serious competition for the title "Scariest Television Show of All Time." All fans of macabre horror, Gothic horror, murder mysteries, film noir, ghost stories, Hitchcockian suspense, voodoo and the supernatural are strongly urged to pounce on this one; you're not going to find anything much better....