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Roy Huggins ("Cheyenne","Maverick", "77 Sunset Strip", "The Rockford
Files") was the uncredited executive producer of this entertaining
hour-long anthology series from Universal.
The story editor was Anthony Boucher, who wrote the weekly Crime section of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
The two-part opening episode was "The Case Against Paul Ryker". Lee Marvin played army Sgt. Paul Ryker, who was being court-martialed for treason during the Korean War. Vera Miles played his beautiful wife. Bradford Dillman was his JAG defense lawyer who has an intense flirtation with Miles. Peter Graves was the prosecuting attorney. The rest of the cast included Lloyd Nolan, Norman Fell, Murray Hamilton and Charles Aidman. Lee Marvin was the stand-out in this terrific cast. A fine legal drama/mystery that was later turned into a series called "Court Martial" with Dillman and Graves.
Another good episode (from a story by Robert Altman) had Mickey Rooney as a sadistic sheriff tracking down innocent fugitive James Caan with a pack of vicious dogs.
Jack Kelly ("Maverick") was a Las Vegas gambler trying to make a killing at the poker table in "The Name of the Game".
Cornel Wilde played a middle-aged man with amnesia in "Doesn't Anyone Know Who I Am?".
Jack Kelly played a man who hires an assassin to kill him so that a woman he has wronged will get the insurance money-but then changes his mind in "Kill Me On July 20th". (The story was by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne.)
"Rapture at Two-Forty" was the well produced pilot for "Run For Your Life", where Ben Gazzara played a lawyer with only one or two years left to live. The romantic interest was played by lovely young Katherine Crawford, who was Roy Huggins' daughter.
Herschel Bernardi played a small town lawyer who is dying of leukemia. Bernardi defends young Dean Stockwell, who is accused of murdering his wife. Stockwell doesn't want to live.
Jack Warden (without toupee) is superb as a Hemingway-like newspaperman/novelist who tells his New York psychoanlayst about his relationship with revolutionary/gangster Telly Savalas. This was an amazing pilot for a series with Warden. Sidney Pollack directed a script by David Rayfiel ("Three Days of the Condor"). The pilot was produced by Leslie Stevens ("Stoney Burke", "The Outer Limits") and Jack Laird ("Ben Casey", "Kojak"). Apparently the series would have been called "The Watchman".
Roy Huggins cast some of the stars of his Warner Brothers shows in "Kraft Suspense Theater": Clint Walker of "Cheyenne", Jack Kelly of "Maverick" and Roger Smith and Edd Byrnes of "77 Sunset Strip". Other former Warner Brothers contract players Huggins used in this series were Robert Conrad, Philip Carey, Peter Brown, Lee Patterson, Richard Long, Andrew Duggan, Diane McBain and Julie Adams.
Other guest stars included Donnelly Rhodes, Gary Lockwood, Brian Keith, Richard Conte, Tippi Hedren, Jeffrey Hunter, Gig Young, Peter Lorre, Tina Louise, Richard Crenna, Tom Tryon, Jack Lord, Robert Ryan, Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Nancy Kovack, Anne Helm, and Ronald Reagan.
John Williams wrote the suspenseful theme music.
KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATRE was one of the great television anthology series
that came out of the early 1960's. For the two seasons that it ran on
NBC-TV,this was one of the few suspense programs that was produced in
color,which the Peacock network's majority of shows were at the time.
This was produced by the great Roy Huggins(whose name is uncredited
here)who was behind some of the greatest shows ever produced for
television("Cheyenne","Maverick", "77 Sunset Strip", "The Fugitive",
"Run For Your Life", and "The Rockford Files") in arrangement with
Roncom Films and Universal Studios. A total of 59 episodes were
produced for NBC-TV from its premiere on October 10,1963 until July
1,1965. The theme music composed for this series was done by one of the
greatest of all Hollywood composers to do scores for film and
television......the maestro himself, John Williams.
And with other anthology series that were around during the 1960's,almost every program featured a self-contained episode with its own cast. Roy Huggins,also brought a wealth of talent to this series,including casting some of the stars from his Warner Brothers shows to be in some of the episodes for Kraft Suspense Theatre. Stars like Jack Kelly("Maverick"),Ebb Byrnes("77 Sunset Strip"), Ty Hardin("Bronco"), Clint Walker("Cheyenne"),Roger Smith("77 Sunset Strip"), Troy Donahue ("Surfside Six"),and Robert Conrad("Hawaiian Eye").
Several episodes from this series were brilliant including the premiere episode(which was a two-parter)titled "The Case Against Paul Ryker". The episode starred Lee Marvin as Paul Ryker,a soldier who is being court martialed for treason during the Korean War. Vera Miles played his wife,Bradford Dillman was his JAG defense lawyer who had an intense flirtation with Ryker's wife. Peter Graves was the prosecuting attorney. Marvin's performance in the role is astounding here. However,the 1968 theatrical film "Sergeant Ryker",starring Lee Marvin was actually a two-part made for TV film that first aired on Kraft Suspense Theatre is based on this episode,which Universal Pictures released as a theatrical feature with newly added scenes.
Some of Hollywood's greatest appeared in several episodes here:
Cornel Wilde("Doesn't Anyone Know Who I Am?")
Jack Kelly("Kill Me On July 20th")
Lloyd Bridges("A Hero For Our Times")
Leslie Nielsen("One Step Down",with Gena Rowlands, "The Green Felt Jungle")
Jack Lord("The Long Ravine")
Richard Crenna("The Long Lost Life of Edward Smalley",also starring James Whitmore and Phillip Abbott)
John Forsythe("The Kamchatka Incident","The Sweet Taste of Vengeance")
Brian Keith("The Cause of Anger")
Ronald Reagan("A Cruel and Unusual Night")
Ben Gazzara("Rapture at Forty Two",the pilot episode for the "Run For Your Life" TV series)
Telly Savalas("Watchman", "The Eye of the Tiger")
Philip Carey ("My Enemy,This Town")
This is a terrific program. It's on a rerun channel in my area (ME TV), and what a treat. It is truly excellent on every level. Perhaps its competition on other channels at the time caused it not to run as long as it otherwise might have. The actors and acting are top level. The plots are ingenuous and well executed. The sets and settings are high quality. You have variety with each program. It manages all this without offending the sensibilities - showing it can be done. For any mystery/somewhat thriller aficionado, I would think this one would rate high. If DVDs of this are available, they would well be worth pursuing. You have the variety and reliability. Excellent offering.
I barely remember the show itself except as more serious competition with the first season of "Thriller" which at the time was more detective, pulp, noir kind of material. I distinctly remember the opening credit sequence with the abstract images floating eerily about a stylized shadow of a pursued man with one of the best themes written for television. John (Johnny) Williams rules.
In 1947, I "Kraft Theatre" debuted on television and it stayed on the air until 1958. Well, this isn't exactly true. Instead of being canceled, it was renamed "Kraft Mystery Theatre" and remained that until, oddly, it was renamed "Kraft Suspense Theatre" in 1963 and played for two more seasons until the Kraft shows came to an end. That is a very long run and today you can see many of the later episodes of "Kraft Mystery Theatre" and "Kraft Suspense Theatre" on YouTube...and they are worth finding. Each episode was a self-contained story with all sorts of action and plot twists that sometimes made them marvelous. But, like any anthology show, it did have some disappointments as well- -a few terrible episodes. Don't give up if you try a few and you aren't hooked...there are some real gems among the shows. And, most importantly, they're fee to watch and have usually aged quite well.
I remember this TV show being released in France during the late sixties and far more recently on minor channels. Yes, this TV series was very unusual, as were CHEVY THEATRE or BOB HOPE PRESENTS...Dramas, thrillers, crime...Very surprising plots, although not every one may be worth for my own taste. For this series, for instance, some episodes bored me to death; some looked like a PEYTON PLACE intrigue with expected results. And if there is something I hate more than anything else in this kind of stuff is f...expected results, expected endings. In big screen movies, OK, I agree, but certainly not for small stories like these ones I am talking about now. I crave for sad, ironic, ambiguous or "open" ends and not happy endings. I don't think suspense was the master link of this TV show.
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