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If there's a lesson to be learned in this Thriller, it's the old "do as
I say, not as I do", which is stated (somewhat differently) by the
elderly, dessicated looking Dr. Konrad Markesan when his nephew,
accompanied by his wife turn up broke at his door looking for a place
to stay. That this wholesome young All-American couple would consent to
spend the night in such a gloomy, dusty, filthy, neglected, ramshackle
house strains credulity from the outset, but, as host (and star of this
episode) Boris Karloff was fond of saying, "this is a thriller",--so
put on your seat-belts and get ready for a wild ride.
What follows is, as one might expect, a tale of terror, more straightforward than most entries in the series in that it has almost no padding to speak of. It's about what happens when a young couple disobeys the order of their host and venture outside their room at night. They get much more than they bargained for, as uncle Konrad is not only up to no good, he's literally raising the dead. Adapted from a story by August Derleth and Mark Schorer, the episode itself is not particularly well written, and there's little in the way of characterization, but this is a horror story, not a character study. The art direction is superb, worthy of a feature film, and while I doubt that Chas Addams was technical adviser on the show, he may as well have been. The decaying Markesan house somewhat resembles an Addams cartoon, only without the funny stuff.
The director was Hollywood veteran Robert Florey, and he handled his chores brilliantly. From a purely technical standpoint, the episode is flawless. It should therefore come as no surprise that Florey had, fifteen years earlier directed the cult horror film The Beast With Five Fingers, and that fifteen years before that made Murders In the Rue Morgue. Most of Florey's work in films was at the B level, but occasionally he was handed an A assignment. One such came early in his career when Universal gave him the splendid opportunity to direct the first sound version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Bela Lugosi, fresh from his triumph as Dracula earlier the same year, was slated to play the monster. Lugosi was made up as the monster, Florey had some scenes storyboarded, filming was ready to begin, then problems arose.
There are many different versions of what occurred but the end result was that Lugosi, who didn't want a non-speaking part, never wanted play the monster in the first place, was gone, and Florey was yanked off the project. He was replaced by English director James Whale, who, after some shopping around for the right actor to play the monster, chose an obscure British character man named Boris Karloff, and the rest is history. Fast forward thirty years, Karloff, a by now a horror icon of long standing, is set to star in an episode of a TV series he's hosting in which he plays a doctor who resurrects the dead,--shades of Frankenstein here--and whether by luck or design the man chosen to direct the episode is none other than the man who had been assigned to direct the 1931 Frankenstein in the first place. This was the first and only time Robert Florey directed Boris Karloff, by which time the actor was a veteran at playing mad doctors and monsters, who now gets a chance to play a mad doctor who is a monster. So it all comes together in the end: Florey and Karloff working together on the Universal back lot.
To get back on track here: this one's a pip. It moves at a good place, the actors all do good work, with Karloff in particular in fine form. The ending is not what one might expect, runs counter to what was the norm at the time, and should even today provide quite a jolt for a newbie unaccustomed to Gothic black and white horrors.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The popular "Thriller" series hosted by horror legend Boris Karloff ran
from Fall 1960 to Spring 1962 on NBC and made an impact on lots of kids
during its day, including a young Stephen King, who has called it "the
best horror series ever put on TV." Unfortunately, of the 60+ episodes
that were made, only six of them were officially released. This, along
with "The Grim Reaper," "Masquerade," "The Prediction," "The Premature
Burial" and "The Terror in Teakwood" were all issued (separatly) on VHS
in 1996 by MCA/Universal. And sadly, that was it. Even though some
(bootleg) sites offer the entire series on DVD-R, this has yet to see
the legitimate box set release it deserves. "The Incredible Doktor
Markesan" (episode 22 of the second season) was based on a story by
August Derleth and Mark Schorer and was directed by Robert Florey, who
is possibly best known to genre fans for co-scripting the horror
masterpiece FRANKENSTEIN (starring Karloff) in 1931. Florey also made
his mark on the genre by directing 1932's MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE
(with Bela Lugosi) and 1946's THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (with Peter
Falling on hard times and with just 12 dollars in their pocket, Fred Bancroft (Dick York - "Bewitched") and his wife Molly (Carolyn Kearney) decide to visit Fred's reclusive estranged uncle Konrad Markesan (Boris Karloff), hoping for both a place to stay for a little while and possible connections to finding a new job at the local university where Konrad used to work as a science professor. They arrive at his derelict mansion, with its overgrown front yard and cobweb-strewn interior, and find Konrad looking a little disheveled. He claims he'd just recently returned to the home after a long absence, unsuccessfully tries to pay them to leave and then reluctantly agrees to let them temporarily stay in an upstairs bedroom. The only conditions are that they are to stay locked in their rooms at night, not go into his library and not let anyone know he has returned to his home. Naturally, both Fred and Molly find it rather difficult not to snoop around because of Konrad's strange behavior and the fact they see him sneaking off late at night to a swampland cemetery located behind the house. Turns out Konrad is up to something devious... like using a special serum derived from mold found in graveyards to raise the dead!
Most TV programs of the late 50s/early 60s such as "The Veil," "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" teetered on being fantasy, mystery or science fiction much - if not most - of the time. This one however is straight-up horror, with a mad scientist plot line, creepy old mansion setting, fog, cobwebs, a secret lab, coffins and the like. Best of all is that it has zombies! And they're very creepy, very dead looking kind just like the ones featured in classic b/w chillers like CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)! All three of the lead actors are very good, and Karloff gives a superbly creepy performance in this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mild spoiler...I first saw this as a teenager and while I won't give anything away to those who have not seen it, the final image left me speechless. Many years later, I bought the VHS version and it had the same effect! While throughout the episode there is much to recommend: Boris Karloff gives yet another fine performance, he direction by Robert Florey is perfect pitch, it's fun to see a pre-"Bewitched" Dick York on the screen, and while the story plot is pretty far-fetched and not in the least probable; it's that final scene... that look on Dick York's face... ooooh nightmares, my friends,NIGHTMARES!! This, "The Premature Burial", and "Masquerade" are all highly recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Other than "Frankenstein", have you ever seen Karloff in a creepier
role? Man, he is downright spooky here as the Incredible Doktor
Markesan, and just like in all those great horror flicks of the
Thirties and Forties, his character is a scientist who's found the
secret of raising the dead, this time with fluid extracted from the
mold of grapes. I love how writers come up with this stuff.
So this episode of Thriller returns to the 'Pigeons From Hell' house, not to be confused with the Psycho house that was also used a number of times in the series. Fred and Molly Bancroft (Dick York and Carolyn Kearney) are practically penniless, and presume to stay with Uncle Konrad (Karloff) for a spell until they can land a job and pay their own way. Their only obligation is to stay in their room at night, which in Thriller terms means they're going to prowl around any chance they get.
Say, did you get a load of that mouse in the cupboard when Molly opened the door? I wonder how they got it to jump like that, it almost looked like a dance step!
If nothing else, you've got to sample this episode for the makeup job on Professors Latimore (Richard Hale), Charing (Basil Howes) and Grant (Billy Beck). I don't think you can find a better looking zombie trio in television going this far back, and Karloff was no slouch either, although his portrayal was kept a bit more ambiguous until the very end. Too bad about Mrs. Bancroft though, I don't think she ever got over that mouse.
Dick York and Carolyn Kearney play Fred & Molly Bancroft, a newlywed couple who are having severe financial problems, so visit his eccentric uncle Konrad Markesan(played by Boris Karloff) for a place to stay while they find nearby jobs at a college university. They are troubled to find that his uncle looks cadaverous, and warns them to never leave their room at night, even locking it on them, but of course this doesn't deter their snooping, which will lead to a dire fate indeed... Classic episode is a true masterpiece of modern Gothic horror, with a grim atmosphere dripping with portents of doom, and has Karloff's finest television performance. Legendary final twist and end is a bone chilling achievement in horror, and a real gut-punch to the viewer, but carefully foreshadowed to seem inevitable.
It's sad that "The Incredible Doktor Markesan" ended so badly, as up
until then it had been incredibly creepy and gripping. Up until the
end, I was anticipating giving this one a 9, but the ending was just
Fred Bancroft (Dick York) and his wife are broke with no place to go. Out of desperation, they head to Uncle Konrad's house--and uncle that Fred hasn't seen in many years. However, when they arrive, no one seems home and the place looks decrepit and filled with cobwebs. Soon, the uncle arrives (Boris Karloff) and he looks rather cadaverous. He also talks very little and seems a bit zombie-like. However, he does agree to let them stay on one condition--that they NEVER leave their room at night. And, to insure this, he locks them in their room. Naturally, Fred is dying of curiosity and one night he goes for a peek... What he sees, you'll have to see for yourself. Suffice to say that it's really creepy and cool. But, at the very end there is a miraculous ending that seemed cheesy and stupid--sort of like in Dr. No where there was a self- destruct lever just waiting to be pulled!! It's a shame, as up until then it was exceptional.
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