A billboard for THRILLER in Tulsa,
Oklahoma in 1962.
|Henry Daniell, Karloff's co-star
in the classic THE BODY SNATCHER, appeared in three THRILLER
episodes including "The Cheaters."and "Well
of Doom." Bottom: past Dracula John Carradine as a southern
vampire in "Masquerade"
After its shaky beginning,
Thriller drew enough viewers to last a full season, and
was picked up for another. Making
guest appearances were some of Karloffs past co-stars such as John
Carradine and Henry Daniell. It was on Thriller that Karloff
met and became friends with Robert Bloch, who wrote several episodes,
in addition to the novel Psycho. In 1981, Bloch told me,
"He was a fine and intelligent actorand never, except in The
Lark [the 1955 Broadway hit with Julie Harris] did he really get
much opportunity to demonstrate his capability for serious drama. He
told me this was his best role. What he probably would have liked was
to have starred in a play for Londons West End, but, he told me
ruefully, he was too old for such a grind." According to Evelyn Karloff,
her husband was offered a run in London of Arsenic and Old Lace,
but was indeed too far along in years to handle it.
Another of Karloffs
acting assignments on Thriller was in "The Premature
Burial", based on the Poe story. Douglas Heyes, who directed
it (his credits included some of the best-remembered shows of The
Twilight Zone) recalled, "One thing I noticed, having been
brought up to think of him as the Monster or in some hideous make-up,
was that he was a strikingly handsome man. He had style, elegance, and
wonderful soulful eyes, which illuminated all his characters and set them
apart from the over-gruesome ghouls you see today."
Scenes from "Premature Burial"
with Boris Karloff as a physician whose friend is buried alive by
his scheming wife.
had a sequence in which his character had to climb a flight of stairs
to a balcony, and I was going up with him on a crane. We had some truly
inept guys working the crane, and though Boris did his part of the scene
perfectly every time, the camera kept blowing the shot due to technical
difficulties a euphemism for screwing up. Karloffs legs were
killing him, but he went up and down that long staircase again and again,
never complaining or blaming anyone until we got it right. His greatest
lamentation was to murmur on occasion with a gentle sigh, My, my,
this business does eat into your day!.
The first issue of the Thriller
comic book dated October 1962.
was inevitably compared to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Not
only were the formats of the shows alike, but they were both on NBC, and
at one time, aired on the same night, back to back. After the second year,
Thriller was considered very successful, but the network
had run out its commitment to Hubbell Robinson, and canceled it. However,
there may have been more to it than that. Thriller was the
first hour-long series of that type, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents
was a half-hour. When he chose to expand his show, Thriller
was no longer available.
In the time since,
Thriller has been in and out of syndication, and enjoyed
something of a rebirth, to the pleasure of horror fans then and now. Among
that legion is Stephen King, who appreciated the show for a number of
reasons. In Danse Macabre (1981), his entertaining overview
of horror in popular culture, King termed Thriller "probably
the best horror series ever put on TV."
John Abbott adds another victim
to his sculpture gallery by revealing the head of the legendary
Medusa in "Trio for Terror."
A fascinating photo of Karloff making
a return visit to the Universal make-up department. At far right
is the Medusa head created for the THRILLER episode "Trio
For Terror". Also on the table is a Mr. Hyde mask from
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, a cast
of Glenn Strange used for created his head appliances for
AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN,
a lifecast of Karloff done in 1953 to create the mask he wore
as Mr. Hyde, the Mummy mask worn by Eddie Parker in ABBOTT
AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY and the disembodied head from
one of the final Universal horrors of the '50s, THE THING THAT
COULDN'T DIE. Barely visible on the top shelf in the background
are design sculpts from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON,
THE LAND UNKNOWN and THIS ISLAND EARTH.