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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well how could you not be creeped out by an episode titled 'Parasite
Mansion'? This was a Thriller made to order with a perfectly moody
atmosphere that found itself right at home in the middle of a fog
enshrouded Southern swamp. It gets off to a bizarre start when Marcia
Hunter (Pippa Scott) loses her way on a back woods road and winds up
getting shot at. Losing control of her vehicle, she winds up
unconscious and later awakens in a dilapidated old house with a family
that might have invented the term dysfunctional.
The story makes good use of horror elements the first time we meet young Lollie Harrod (Beverly Washburn), when in her presence a pendant dances in the air and causes Miss Hunter some fright. That fright turns to horror when cuts suddenly appear on Lollie's arm, and the panicked girl believes she'll be taken away from her home and family. I was taken aback somewhat when I heard the term 'stigmata' used to describe Lollie's condition. This is about the earliest film treatment I've seen using that as a topic, something I would have considered taboo for early 1960's TV.
I'm not really sure what to make of the story's resolution given old Granny's (Jeanette Nolan) resemblance to a witch which she played to the hilt. It turns out she learned to master the technique of levitation, and kept her family under her thumb using the power to instill fear and distrust. That, and Victor Harrod's (James Griffith) liberal use of home made corn liquor. I guess you have to use a little bit of your imagination to figure out what happened to Granny because she simply walked off screen and into the bayou. Maybe she just wandered around for a couple of years until turning up as a mountain witch in a fourth season episode of The Twilight Zone titled 'Jess-Belle'. That was another cool story with a supernatural element, and trying to pick one over the other is probably a toss up.
Pippa Scott plays a schoolteacher named Marcia Hunt, who is traveling along an old country road on a dark and stormy night when she is knocked unconscious, and later comes around in an old mansion owned by the Harrod family; eldest son Victor(James Griffith) and his two younger siblings Rennie(Tommy Nolan) and Lollie(Beverly Washburn). Then there is Granny(played to the hilt by Jeanette Nolan) who delights in telling her that the house is haunted by an unseen 'parasite' that terrorizes poor Lollie mercilessly, and Marcia becomes determined to uncover the sinister secret of this crazy home... Entertaining episode has good cast and atmosphere though does bog down in too much talk; still worth watching though.
Pippa Scott plays a schoolteacher held captive in a decrepit Southern mansion (familiar from "Pigeons from Hell") by the Harrod family. The eldest (James Griffith) is an alcoholic doctor, with two much younger siblings, a boy (Tommy Nolan as Rennie) and a girl (Beverly Washburn as Lollie). Then there is Granny (Jeanette Nolan), a cackling old hag who reveals that an invisible force (the 'parasite') is tormenting the Harrods, especially the long suffering Lollie. Objects levitate and blood welts appear on the poor girl, who fears that the authorities will soon be coming for her. Jeanette Nolan really chews the scenery, playing a similar role in "La Strega," while Pippa Scott and James Griffith would both later appear on separate entries of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. Tommy Nolan previously appeared in "Child's Play." Beverly Washburn (born 1943) had an extended juvenile career, including an episode of WAGON TRAIN opposite the late Lou Costello ("The Tobias Jones Story"). She also appeared on STAR TREK ("The Deadly Years") and did feature films such as the 1964 cult production "Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told," opposite Lon Chaney Jr.(a personal note: I adored her). The recent DVD release includes Beverly's own insightful commentary on this episode.
As the first season draws to a close, Thriller's offerings have become more sophisticated. Better writing certainly is evident. There is real atmosphere in this one and a fun plot. A pretty young woman is driving to New Orleans in a bad storm when shots are fired at her and she loses control of the car. While unconscious, she is taken to run down house peopled be a pack of depressed and violent characters. One of them is responsible for her staying alive. He is taken with her beauty but is terrified of what goes on in the house. There is one woman who goes by Grannie. It is Jeanette Nolan and she is almost a prototypical witch. She controls everything, including a psychotic young boy and another sibling, a girl who is kept in a room. The pretty prisoner begins to explore, getting closer and closer to a spirit that seems to pervade the place. She is kind and cares about the young people. Anyway, this is nice episode that keeps our attention throughout.
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