"77 Sunset Strip" Nightmare (TV Episode 1962) Poster

(TV Series)

(1962)

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10/10
Homage to Hitchcock's "Spellbound" and a series highlight
sdiner8226 July 2017
A man cloaked in black pursues a terrified young blonde who, despite a series of surreal obstacles (a giant metal fence, a lace woman's handkerchief, a huge hour glass, an abandoned dark alley, a sharp Florentine dagger), manages to elude him until he catches up with her and plunges the dagger into her back. (This sequence is so realistic it takes you a moment or two to re-focus your vision and realize it's brilliantly animated, not unlike Dali's contribution to Hitchcock's "Spellbound".) CUT TO: A handsome young man waking up in his bed from a horrible nightmare, drenched in sweat, his shaking hands clutching his head. CUT TO: That same man we learn is an artist, talking to his psychiatrist (a bespectacled blonde female of indeterminate age, speaking to him in dulcet though somewhat sinister tones). He tells her he's been having the same nightmare for the past few weeks, following a traumatic incident in his life, the details of which he has no memory, except that he is the man in this recurring nightmare and he is tortured by the fact that he knows it was himself who murdered the alluring blonde victim. After he leaves her office, the psychiatrist picks up her telephone and dials the number of:

Jeff Spencer! Welcome to the latest episode of "77 Sunset Strip", a more-than-welcome return to form following several episodes in this fourth season so mediocre that they're not worth commenting on. And I'm not giving away anything more about the plot except to say it entangles Spencer (at first skeptical about this bizarre situation, then downright sympathetic once he meets and befriends the tortured artist) into a labyrinth of puzzling clues, a creepy assortment of supporting characters, real-life incidents as startling as those in the artist's nightmare, and finally a satisfying conclusion, capped by a double-twist one-minute romantic postscript.

None of this would have worked were it not for the inspired casting and wonderful performances by the entire cast. Despite brief (and unnecessary) cameos by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. & Edd Byrnes, it's Roger Smith's show all the way and, as always, he comes up trumps. (How tragic that Smith's acting career was terminated after only a few more years, first by one, later on by another, nearly fatal illnesses, though his 50-year-marriage to Ann-Margret remains one of Hollywood's most inspiring, mostly untold love stories.) Another highly underrated actor, Peter Breck (soon to achieve TV stardom with "The Big Valley"), is terrific as the tormented artist. Stunning Norwegian actress Anna-Lisa keeps looking younger with each scene as the psychiatrist, and Andrea King (one of Warner Bros.' most popular leading ladies of the 1940s, now an equally fetching character actress) is a hoot as a self-proclaimed friend of the missing (murdered?) girl of Mr. Breck's nightmares, her ravenous appetite for gossip unwittingly providing Jeff with clues vital to his solution of this baffling mystery.

"Nightmare" has such a tantalizing, incident-and-character-filled plot that it easily could have been expanded into a 2-hour theatrical movie. That the cast and crew of "77 Sunset Strip" manage to compress it into a fast-paced 52-minute television episode (without sacrificing the in-depth characterizations and nuances necessary to make such a complex thriller so gripping) is a testament to their professionalism and expertise at their craft.
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8/10
Bad dreams
darbski26 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Pseudo-psycho silliness with Pete Breck the victim of nightmares of a mysterious origin. Enter Jeff Spencer, and a beautiful psychologist to save him from these night terrors. Through a convoluted series of psychosperiments, they finally find the answer and Pete is saved by love. It was one of those deals I just could not work up any sympathy for. The acting was okay, with Breck trying hard to be believable. It is NOT Hitchcockian. In this show, Spencer's detective work is slack at best, and the way the bad guy gets his is simply NOT realistic. They should have spent a little more money and gotten a real stuntman. 8 only.
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