Stephen King called it one of the scariest shows ever put on television. Boris Karloff’s THRILLER (1960-1962), an anthology series which featured a new and unique story week after week certainly did have its moment of horror, in fact some might even argue some episodes were capable of creating “sheer terror” in viewers who watched the series in the early 1960s. Personally having seen the series air on Canada’s Scream (now known as Dusk) network, I know it was actually a bit more uneven. Some of the earliest episodes from the series were more dramatic and didn't really fit fully into the horror genre. It seems as though that they couldn't at first decide just what type of anthology series this was to be...there was all kinds of stories early on and not all were actually thrilling although some certainly were. I really think the series was at its best when it delved into Gothic and Southern U.S. style Horror (The Incredible Dr. Markesan [my fave], The Premature Burial, Pigeons From Hell, The Hollow Watcher, The Purple Room, The Hungry Glass etc.). Close behind that would probably be its more entertaining crime stories too (The Watcher, The Fingers of Fear), some good black comedy/horror (Masquerade, A Good Imagination, Cousin Tundifer) and even a scattered focus on psychological disturbed characters (The Twisted Image, The Big Blackout, Rose's Last Summer, Parasite Mansion) and even one particular terrific childhood fantasy episode in Mr. George.
So what were your favourite episodes of Boris Karloff’s THRILLER?
Mine are as follows:
1. The Incredible Dr. Markesan: a young husband and wife (Dick York and Carolyn Kearney) are forced due to a poor financial situation to live with his creepy and bizarre old Uncle (Boris Karloff) in his equally creepy mansion. There's more here though than meets the eye. Very eerie episode.
2. Pigeons From Hell: two young brothers crash their car in the heart of a lonely Southern swamp. Soon in their search for help, they stumble across an eerie and seemingly abandoned old mansion infested with pigeons. They eventually reluctantly decide to spend the night. Almost indescribable horror awaits them!
3. The Hollow Watcher: a ghostly guardian nicknamed “The Hollow Watcher” is said to watch over the inhabitants of Black Hallow, North Carolina and legend has it he will punish evildoers with great and terrible vengeance. Our characters in this story are certainly no exception and seem to incur its wrath!
4. The Hungry Glass: a young couple (William Shatner and Joanna Heyes) buy an old house looking to restore it but find more than they bargained for when townsfolk warn them their new home has “unwanted visitors” and soon are lead into a mystery as to why there are no mirrors to be found in the house, the answer to which could have deadly and dire consequences.
5. The Cheaters: a reclusive scientist (Henry Daniell) creates a special pair of glasses which can serve a very unique purpose. What he sees through the glasses however soon drives him mad. Eventually the Cheaters move from person to person and leaves its own unique mark on each person it touches. Eventually the Cheaters wind up in the hands of would-be great writer Sebastian Grimm (Harry Townes) who hopes they will reveal to him the truth about himself. Is it a truth though he can even bear?
6. The Weird Tailor: A down-on his luck tailor is given a special assignment: create a very unique and special suit for a rich man’s son under strict guidelines. Upon delivery though, the tailor makes a shocking revelation tied to black magic.
7. Fingers of Fear: a very disturbing episode. A child-murderer is on the loose. Another victim has just been found in the local park. The only clue, a piece broken off an expensive porcelain doll. A chilling story that explores the tormented mind of a killer. Good performances enhance this one especially those given by lead Nehemiah Persoff, Robert Middleton and Thayer Roberts.
8. Parasite Mansion: a woman gets lost driving down a country road during a thunderstorm. She soon finds herself in great distress as she hears gunshots fired and she crashes. She awakens to find herself the guest of a family of weirdos named the Harrods, a family holding a secret so terrible they're wary of letting her ever leave alive! Jeanette Nolan completely steals this episode as the terrifying old witch that is Granny Harrod.
9. Masquerade: A young couple (Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery) find themselves caught in a terrible storm and must seek shelter at a nearby hotel runs by a host of kooks (most notably John Carradine) who constantly seem up to no good. Only our couple has a surprise or two in store as well. The hotel set here is the same as in Psycho
10. The Premature Burial: a man who suffers from catalepsy becomes obsessed with insuring he's never buried alive but his wife, with eyes on another suitor, may just have other plans. Creepy and effective with memorable performances by all involved including Sidney Blackmer, Patricia Medina, Scott Marlowe and Boris Karloff.