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 Posted:   May 28, 2020 - 9:01 PM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

THRILLER by Brian Clemens was a rather peculiar endeavor. Conceived to be broadcast in U.S.A. as well as U.K., THRILLER was nonetheless shot on video tape with an atypical runtime duration of around 65 or 66 minutes per story which, with commercials, could fill a 90-minute time slot.
After a brief prelude to ‘hook’ the audience, each segment was divided into 3 Acts approximately 20 minutes each. Also, every episode had a story by Clemens. Most were scripted by Clemens himself, but due to production schedule deadlines some teleplays were ‘farmed out’ to several other TV industry professionals such as Dennis Spooner (The Baron). While marketed as murder mysteries or horror, the series’ material ranged through other areas like espionage, black humor, gangsters, occult or farce. There were 3 producers over 6+ production blocks, with the number of stories per block fluctuating between 4 & 9. First 5 were made in 1972 but not shown until ’73, with the final season shooting wrapping up in ’75 to be broadcast in 1976. Interesting to observe that THRILLER’s cancellation paralleled the demise of Hammer Films production.
Brian Clemens and Laurie Johnson went on to make The New Avengers.

Upon revisiting this series and by now having watched each episode 2 or 3 times, I find much of my faves to have been either written by Terence Feely or directed by the series’ 1st producer John Sichel.

Below are my top dozen episodes, which represents around the 25% of the series which I’d rate with ‘4 stars’:

1. “Someone at the Top of the Stairs”, directed by Sichel
2. “Won’t Write Home, Mom – I’m Dead”, teleplay by Spooner, direction by James Ormerod
3. “Spell of Evil”, teleplay by Feely, direction by Sichel
4. “Kiss Me and Die”, Feely & Sichel
5. “A Killer in Every Corner”, directed by Malcolm Taylor
6. “Kill Two Birds”, directed by Robert Tronson
7. “Screamer”, directed by Shaun O’Riordan
8. “A Place to Die”, teleplay by Feely, direction by Peter Jefferies
9. “Sign It Death”, Feely & O’Riordan
10. “Death in Deep Water”, directed by Ormerod
11. “I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill” O’Riordan
12. “If It’s a Man – Hang Up” O’Riordan

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 12:48 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

We discussed this in tales of the unexpected thread.
Im a big fan. Watched these avidly in 70s and again some reruns in the early 80s. I had an aunt who lived over the road and she loved these too so id go over and watch them with her. Weird memory but her n my uncle always used to have fruit Club choc biccies n left one out for me. So i always think of this series when i eat one now!

My fave was Sign it death with Francesca Annis. Fancied her. Im the girl he wants to kill. And there was one where a witness is taken by police to remote cottage but the killer turns out to be one of the coppers! Z, which one is that?

Killer in every corner was interesting too albeit a bit mad. Don henderson n Patrick magee? Im sure id remember more if i watched any again. Was there one, Killer with two faces?

You are right, the whole lot is on youtube
I was looking for the theme but heres intro to one you mentioned, with short theme at the end. Plus the memorable ATV ident.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HCIDwPs34Ns&list=PLrMirJYcD8W6uA-BTaHPHUJSFf8ZZX3Po&index=45&t=0s

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 1:34 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

I haven't seen any of these Thrillers since their original run, and subsequent repeats until about the late '70s. It's a funny thing, but even at the age of twelve I was never particularly "thrilled" (well somebody had to say it) by any (many?) of the episodes. I do remember liking the VERY Herrmannesque theme music, and the fish-eye lens titles are an enduring memory, but Thriller left me as cold as Tales of the Unexpected.

The problem for me (yes, it's my problem and I have learned to live with it) is that even with the best of scripts, video tape kills everything dead. I can think of very few dramas which can create any kind of atmosphere at all when shot on tape. It's fine for Fawlty Towers, but all of the much-lauded series from the past which have used video died on the Top of the Pops studio floor for me.

The Onedin Line (well, maybe that wasn't that great to start with, but my gran loved it), The Six Wives of Henry VIII... it was like visiting Madame Tussaud's. Blake's 7 with it's video "flares" always reminded me of Top of the Pops special effects. And the brilliantly scripted and performed I, Claudius had no more atmosphere than Up Pompeii. So yes, perhaps it's a good night out at the theatre or at a pop concert, but I need my visuals (and sound - those creaking floorboards!) to be in some way cinematic, and video is the antithesis of cinema, even when it's "kinetic" (you see, I know what I'm talking about).

For all those reasons I've always much preferred the earlier Journey to the Unknown(s), or the ITC series such as The Baron, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions etc. Even when the scripts were weak they showed a certain panache in their visual styles. There was always a certain magic there, and I always did prefer style over substance anyway.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 1:46 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

And there was one where a witness is taken by police to remote cottage but the killer turns out to be one of the coppers! Z, which one is that?


Oh, this is #12 on my list. Carol Lynley in "If It's a Man - Hang Up". I first saw these about 15 years ago, & this is the one I remembered easiest because Lynley wears a skimpy nightie and one scene is shot from behind her level with her thighs & it appears as though she is bare- nekked!
This might have been censored initially. Wasn't Margaret Whitehouse chief censor in mid-'70s?

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:00 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

She wrote in and complained about everything...did she ever have a job?

Thanks for info.

I thought that many of the Thrillers had a touch of giallo about them, not quite the stalk n slash of halloween but there were a few of lone women being menaced.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:01 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)


Killer in every corner was interesting too albeit a bit mad. Don henderson n Patrick magee?


Yes, Patrick Magee playing Pavlov's dogs with the criminally insane!
I consider this one to have gotten the best score by Laurie Johnson. A rather agitating 'tick-tock' ostinato score demonstrating that Johnson could write as skilled as Jerry Goldsmith's work on TZ or Karloff's THRILLER.

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:09 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

I recall at the time thinking the musical scores were always very effective in these Thrillers.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:16 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

Was there one, Killer with two faces?

Yeah, Donna Mills' 3rd appearance along with Ian Hendry playing twins. Not a fave of mine, but still OK.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:33 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

Hi, Graham.

Seems as though you will not be giving this THRILLER any further chances of redemption.

Being a fan of Hammer horror, though, you might be interested enough to view "Spell of Evil". It has both Jennifer Daniel and Edward de Souza in it along with Diane Cilento. The reason this episode is my 3rd favorite is because it's THRILLER at its most Hammeresque.
Sichel elevates the studio tape 'look' with a lot of color in lighting, sets, wardrobe, etc.

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:51 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

Was there one, Killer with two faces?

Yeah, Donna Mills' 3rd appearance along with Ian Hendry playing twins. Not a fave of mine, but still OK.


Thanks.


Looking at my tv themes cassettes from that time i recorded some title music for Look back in darkness, kiss kiss kill kill, im the girl he wants to kill , killer in every corner, cry terror, killer with two faces, mirror of deception dial a deadly number , screamer, if its a man, hang up.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:54 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

Hi, Graham.

Seems as though you will not be giving this THRILLER any further chances of redemption.

Being a fan of Hammer horror, though, you might be interested enough to view "Spell of Evil". It has both Jennifer Daniel and Edward we Souza in it along with Diane Cilento. The reason this episode is my 3rd favorite is because it's THRILLER at its most Hammeresque.
Sichel elevates the studio tape 'look' with a lot of color in lighting, sets, wardrobe, etc.


I'll give a few episodes another chance, Zardoz, for archaeological reasons. I did go back and watch the Tales of the Unexpected episode which Jehannum recommended ("The Flypaper") and was very impressed by how powerful it was. But yeah - bleak, downbeat, grimy... too much like real life to float my fantasy boat. All helped by the video look.

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 2:59 AM   
 By:   BillCarson   (Member)

I do know what Graham means about videotape dramas, pale colour and their hissy sound. But I claudius was so good i could forgive it anything. However It does rather date the programmes and they do suffer because of it.

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 3:14 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

I liked 'File it Under Fear', the one about the librarian (Maureen Lipman) and the old man (John Le Mesurier).

The DVDs have the extended US introductions, which are hilarious. The one for the aforementioned episode has an actor who is clearly not John Le Mesurier. Oh, and it completely spoils the story twist.

 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 4:20 AM   
 By:   johnjohnson   (Member)

Amazon Prime US has the series.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 7:57 AM   
 By:   (Member)   (Member)

I haven't seen any of these Thrillers since their original run, and subsequent repeats until about the late '70s. It's a funny thing, but even at the age of twelve I was never particularly "thrilled" (well somebody had to say it) by any (many?) of the episodes. I do remember liking the VERY Herrmannesque theme music, and the fish-eye lens titles are an enduring memory, but Thriller left me as cold as Tales of the Unexpected.

The problem for me (yes, it's my problem and I have learned to live with it) is that even with the best of scripts, video tape kills everything dead. I can think of very few dramas which can create any kind of atmosphere at all when shot on tape. It's fine for Fawlty Towers, but all of the much-lauded series from the past which have used video died on the Top of the Pops studio floor for me.

The Onedin Line (well, maybe that wasn't that great to start with, but my gran loved it), The Six Wives of Henry VIII... it was like visiting Madame Tussaud's. Blake's 7 with it's video "flares" always reminded me of Top of the Pops special effects. And the brilliantly scripted and performed I, Claudius had no more atmosphere than Up Pompeii. So yes, perhaps it's a good night out at the theatre or at a pop concert, but I need my visuals (and sound - those creaking floorboards!) to be in some way cinematic, and video is the antithesis of cinema, even when it's "kinetic" (you see, I know what I'm talking about).




I tend to agree with you. The videotape style is too limited and cheap-looking
and that reminds me the odd case of The Twilight Zone that ventures into videotape
during season 2 and none of these segments are memorable.

Other 1970's way out British shows tried the videotape format:
Doctor Who and it succeeded in: thanks to actor Jon Pertwee.
Orson Welles' Great Mysteries: rather uneven.

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 10:02 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

even with the best of scripts, video tape kills everything dead.

Suppose a quality script is made 'twice' - one version on film and one done in studio on tape - with the same cast, same sets & same director.
Would you dislike the videotape version while simultaneously praising its filmed version even though all the artists involved present the same content with their interpretations equivalent in both versions?

 
 
 Posted:   May 29, 2020 - 10:45 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

even with the best of scripts, video tape kills everything dead.

Suppose a quality script is made 'twice' - one version on film and one done in studio on tape - with the same cast, same sets & same director.
Would you dislike the videotape version while simultaneously praising its filmed version even though all the artists involved present the same content with their interpretations equivalent in both versions?


I may expand on this later, but the short answer is yes.

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2020 - 1:59 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

I actually watched "Spell of Evil" yesterday afternoon. Wrong time of day - siesta time, and it's bloody hot, so I nodded off. But I then had to go out to the chemists and the supermarket and when I retook it I was wide awake. It wasn't very good either asleep or awake.

As Zardoz mentions, it does seem to have some Hammer ingredients in the storyline, plus Jennifer Daniels (looking much more fetching here than she had done ten years earlier in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) and Edward De Souza (looking rather more dishevelled than he had done ten years earlier in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE), plus Diane Cilento fresh from THE WICKER MAN overacting outrageously. What's not to like?

Indeed, with those ingredients it could have been a hoot, or even a chilling minor classic - but the videotape format kills it stone dead. So yeah, I'm flogging a dead donkey with this argument, but that's how I see it. Videotape might be fine for news reports, game shows, comedies and Coronation Street, but for anything which requires a suspension of disbelief it's fatal. And video is rarely chosen for its aesthetic value but rather for budgetary reasons. There will be exceptions, but that I think is (was) the rule.

There are moments in "Spell of Evil" which, thanks to the videotape format plus the inevitable fashions of the time (clothes, hair, moustaches) reminded me of Monty Python sketches. Particularly the amusing seduction of geeky office boss prat Jeremy Longhurst at the hands (and hair, and bling) of Diane Cilento. It "could" have worked on film, much as the shameless overacting of Robert Hardy and Patrick Magee in Hammer's "interesting failure" DEMONS OF THE MIND "works" because disbelief is just about suspended by the filmic atmosphere (on videotape, those shouty scenes between Hardy and Magee would have come across as a Two Ronnies sketch), but in this case it all misses its mark by a mile. And to see Cilento later summoning up the demons is on the level of a pantomime. In fact it's worse than a pantomime. It's like watching one's mum rehearsing for a pantomime, right there in front of you in the living room. That's the effect video has on me.

Zardoz, sometimes your form of questionong reminds me of the many times I've stood in front of judge accused of murder and arsony. "Do you or do you not admit...?" You asked me if I would "dislike the videotape version while simultaneously praising the filmed version". Are you only giving me those two options? As I stated last night, the short answer is yes, but I wouldn't have to automatically dislike one and "praise" the other. A huge amount of filmed material is average at best, so there's nothing to praise there. But it would always look and sound better than the video "twin" in your hypothetical scenario.

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2020 - 8:15 AM   
 By:   ZardozSpeaks   (Member)

Lots to discuss regarding Graham's post, so I'll respond to it in separate sections.
Of all 43 THRILLERs, I thought that "Spell of Evil" would have the most to 'offer' Graham and this is why I recommended it to him. Upon reading his feedback, though, I shan't recommend further any other episode.
I am unsure now if Graham will be able to like any of these segments.

I actually watched "Spell of Evil" yesterday afternoon. Wrong time of day - siesta time, and it's bloody hot, so I nodded off. But I then had to go out to the chemists and the supermarket and when I retook it I was wide awake. It wasn't very good either asleep or awake.

As Zardoz mentions, it does seem to have some Hammer ingredients in the storyline, plus Jennifer Daniels (looking much more fetching here than she had done ten years earlier in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) and Edward De Souza (looking rather more dishevelled than he had done ten years earlier in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE), plus Diane Cilento fresh from THE WICKER MAN overacting outrageously. What's not to like?

Indeed, with those ingredients it could have been a hoot, or even a chilling minor classic - but the videotape format kills it stone dead. So yeah, I'm flogging a dead donkey with this argument, but that's how I see it. Videotape might be fine for news reports, game shows, comedies and Coronation Street, but for anything which requires a suspension of disbelief it's fatal. And video is rarely chosen for its aesthetic value but rather for budgetary reasons. There will be exceptions, but that I think is (was) the rule.


There is a 1972 serial by Nigel Kneale entitled "The Stone Tape" - but no doubt Graham will consider it 'stone dead' because it was shot on videotape.
Yeah, videotape was basically for sports coverage and sitcoms, but the BBC used it for almost everything.

 
 
 Posted:   May 30, 2020 - 8:37 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

I watched The Stone Tape about a year ago because I knew of its high reputation and I like Nigel Kneale's writing. But yes, I thought "Good ideas almost ruined by an unforgivingly cheap look which renders it all deeply unatmospheric". Stone dead, good one.

Slightly off-topic, but my parents, grandparents and neighbours (perhaps all normal people, come to think of it) could never tell the difference between film and video. So they would be channel hopping (BBC1 to BBC2 to ITV, then back again) and ask me to check the newspaper to see if they were watching "The Onedin Line" or "Moby Dick" ("Oh, that looks like Gregory Peck. He looks awfully young for it to be The Onedin Line.")

 
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