Brian Clemens' Thriller (1973 - 1976)

Willie Oleson

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Episode 31.

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An insanely twisted story about a Perfect Crime Goes Wrong, although a big part of it depends on the unethical methods by one of the police officers that manipulates the suspect's behaviour and actions.
This particular issue is being addressed in the episode itself - several times, actually - but being upfront about it still doesn't take away the idea of convenient plotting, especially in the last reveal.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the ping-pong of blackmail and upperhand, and the mistaken identity aspect that (in retrospect) made the murderous husband's evil scheme totally redundant is simply mind-blowing.
Gary Collins makes his second American guest appearance in the THRILLER series, and while I was watching him it suddenly dawned on me that he looks like a cross between Dynasty's lawyer Andrew Laird and The Colbys' lawyer Garrett Boydston.
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Factoring in the plotholes that were necessary to create this story...and also the assumption that this kind of twisty-turvey TV narrative may not have been so commonplace in the early seventies...

Oh what the heck.

9/10
 

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Episode 32.

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Oh my, this was a confusing episode!
Not because of what happens on screen, but because all that eerie imagery that suggests that the viewer is watching a supernatural storyline proves to be completely irrelevant.
In a nutshell, it's about murder for the purpose of identity theft.

A young American woman visits her cousin (or was it half-cousin) who's living a bohemian life in a charming and secluded little village in England (….).
This cousin has been away from his family for more than a decade, and the only contact he has with his rich mother are the monthly allowances of 10.000 dollars.
This also means that the young woman doesn't remember exactly what her cousin looks like, but there's another reason why she visits him.
Her fiancé had been travelling Europe before she did, and she expected him to stay with her cousin at the time she'd arrive, but they all claim he's never been there.
And that explains the death sequence in the pre-intro scene, or at least part of it because it was such a bizarre sequence.

And it's exactly all that bizarreness that suggests that we're dealing with an occult story about sacrifices or a pact with an evil ancient entity.
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But it's not.

"Cousin" Alan is played by the Euro-sexy actor Oliver Tobias aka Alexis Carrington's stud in THE STUD.

I wonder if the Swiss-born actor was considered for the role of Peter De Vilbis or Jeremy Van Dorn. Maybe I shoulda/coulda this on the Dynasty forum.

The confusing themes notwithstanding, I must say that the sets and scenery look wonderfully atmospheric.

8/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Episode 33.

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Two convicts, a psychopathic murderer and a notorious rapist, are on the loose and the police has sealed off the entire area, determined to find these most dangerous men.
The convicts decide to use the mansion of Dr. Hanson and his wife as a hideout, and this is the beginning of what looks like a traditional hostage scenario.
However, this episode's pre-Thriller theme-introduction-scene suggested that there was something funny going on in the Hanson's house, that is to say, before the the convicts took over the mansion.

In the meantime, an American journalist is on her way to the Hansons because she has a meeting with Mrs. Hanson regarding her exquisite and extremely rare collection of movie posters.
When she arrives, the doctor tells her that his wife is out of town and probably had completely forgotten about the appointment.
The young woman likes to stay anyway because she has arranged for her boyfriend to pick her up after the interview, and the taxi was already gone. Besides, interview or not, she could still examine that elusive movie poster collection.

The killer (hiding his gun) pretends to be the butler, while the rapist is upstairs with the wife who's now lying on the bed, bound and gagged.
He needs something little and sharp to fix the radio stolen from a police car (and killing the police officers in the process) and when he tries to open a locked closet the doctor's wife becomes hysterical, to the point where she tumbles off the bed.
Because something else is happening this doesn't go any further and he manages to fix the radio anyway.

They're all in the bedroom listening to the radio except for the journalist who's still exploring the exquisite collection, but she wanders up the stairs while doing so and that's when she hears the noise of arguments coming from the bedroom.
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But before she can become involved in the hostage itself, the police arrives and arrest the convicts. All's well that ends well.
No.

The doctor goes upstairs to free his wife, but there's a strange look on his face when he enters the bedroom. The wife looks frightened.
He returns downstairs with the terrible news that his wife is dead, murdered by the notorious rapist!!
The police and ambulance leave the property, and then suddenly the doctor knocks the journalist unconscious. His wife appears and asks why he had to do that.
But...but...she's supposed to be dead in the ambulance! What the devil is going on here?

The criminals are also in the ambulance (a bit contrived but necessary for the plot) and keep insisting that they have nothing to do with Mrs. Hanson's death.
When he accidentally sees the face under the blanket he exclaims that she isn't Mrs. Hanson at all! But one of the policemen who knows the Hansons can confirm that it is indeed her.
The reveal of the fabulous twist is explained in a conversation between Dr. Hanson and the blond woman (who was supposed to be the Mrs.).

They had murdered his wife, gotten away with it and now they'll never going to be suspected because one of the convicts "did it".
Since the journalist is a witness, and likely to find out who the real victim is, they decide that she has to die too.
He has told the police that she had left shortly after them, but one of the policemen had noticed her suitcase in the hall - and she was supposed to wait for her boyfriend to pick her up.
They arrive just in time to save the innocent American guest star from the evil couple.

This story reminds me of one of my favourite twists in Sons & Daughters, with an alleged theft and replacement with fake jewelry accidentally covering up the actual theft and replacement with fake jewelry that had happened years ago. The woman who owned the jewelry never had any reason to suspect that the jewelry in the safe were fake, at least not until the burglary-went-wrong happened.
The initial plan was to simply steal the jewelry, which would get the real thief/jewelry-faker off the hook who was now being blackmailed by someone who knew about it.
But the mess created by the new burglar (who didn't do it) had given her an even better alibi. Wonderful stuff! And this episode too!

10/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Episode 34.

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A shady organisation uses an exciting vacancy ad to lure young and pretty women to their fake office, and then they're taken to the headquarter (a mansion, of course) where they are instantly killed.
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Of course it's fun trying to figure out what's going on, but when it's revealed that their identities are given to look-alike spies without any details about the why and what it comes across as a half-baked story.
None of the characters are entertaining, performances are wooden or hammy or irritating (or a combination thereof) so, all in all, quite disappointing.

4/10
 

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Episode 35.

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Good grief, this was exhausting - but not in a fun, exciting way.

An American pianist is touring England in the 1960s and during a bank raid his wife is killed and he loses his sight.
Ten years later he returns to England to perform for a select audience during the engagement party of the daughter of a wine baron.
Most of the action takes place on the same set and there are many supporting actors/extras so that must have been interesting to film.
We don't know any of these characters and we never will, so it's all about the blind pianist and his female assistant.

He recognizes the voice of the robber who killed his wife (apparently the money was well spent, the robber is now part of the upper class) but he doesn't know exactly where he is.
The assistant wants to help him to find this man but she doesn't know how because she can't see what he's hearing, and besides, all the guests are talking.
So at least the episode title makes sense.

Anyway, this goes on and on for a while and eventually the mystery robber (they only show his shoes) tries to kill the pianist when he's alone in the wine cellar.
This also goes on and on for a while - the robber/killer can't find him (??) - and eventually the blind pianist outsmarts him and knocks him unconscious.
Hurrah, the end credits!

1/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Episode 36.

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Not the most typical British setting (I think) but at least it's not yet another mansion.
A young woman is going to investigate the disappearance of her fiancé who's suspected of embezzlement. She's the American Smart Cookie character eventhough she looks kinda feverish and bewildered in everything she says and does. She's played by Robyn Millan, I don't know if that explains anything but I thought I should mention it.

The motel is not like the American ones with individual entrances, the doors open out onto the central hall with the check-in desk (and the kitchen behind that).
This results into bizarre and hilarious sequences with characters sneaking in, out and about in plain sight.
It's a crime-mystery story, not very suspenseful and one of the twists makes no sense at all.

Never mind that because the highlight of this episode is the very first Thriller/The Brothers crossover. I had almost given up hope but here she really is, Gillian McCutcheon aka Julie Lane.
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She plays the real embezzler and the one responsible for the killings.
The introduction scene seems to be unconnected to this story, except that someone in the motel is being murdered.

6/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Episode 37.

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The daughter of a writer/professor/writer suffers from sleepwalking (I assume that is the right terminology).
In her sleep she goes to the attic and then enters a mysterious room where an old man is murdered, although it appears to be a murder from the past, like, 18th century.
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She thinks it was all a dream and that she hadn't been there at all, but the whole point of sleepwalking is that you not just dream it but actually go to another place, in or outside the room or house.
And as it turns out, there is a hidden passage, to be entered via a closet (!). If buildings are connected then he must be a neighbour of the writer/professor.
But the only one who knows him is the boyfriend of the maid, and he's also discovered the room (??) and he's after the old man's hidden treasure.
I think at this point I lost the plot, but anyway he killed the old man but couldn't find the treasure. The final mini-twist - the only thing I really liked - is that the treasure is a valuable stamp collection, not money or gold.

Many of these THRILLER stories depend on the strength of the twist, but if the best stuff happens in the last 10 minutes then it also means I've been watching 50 minutes of film that wasn't particularly entertaining.
Nightmare sequences (even if they turn out to be real, like in this story) is also not what makes a good thriller because there's nothing extraordinary about nightmares being frightening.

4/10
 

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Episode 38.

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It's like a list of Dynasty episode titles.

Pretty young women are being murdered, well, quasi-strangled because Thriller doesn't want to show violence. And that's not necessary for a good thriller story but sometimes I think it could have enhanced the episodes if they had shown a little bit more.
The maintenance guy in an apartment building appears to be the culprit because they show his strange behaviour i.e. collecting pictures of women with babies (although none of the victims are pregnant, as far as I recall).
But these kind of things are usually intentionally misleading so I immediately assumed it wasn't him. Of course it's possible that a writer would anticipate that assumption and then surprise us with an un-surprise.

But the whodunit isn't the most interesting part of this story.
It's the character played by Caroll Baker, a wheelchair-bound rich American who's staying inside her apartment while her husband is away wining and dining some potential customers. The wife is the one with the money, but he wants to prove himself (yeah, right).

There's also a heatwave going on so all the English people, including the ones living in that apartment have gone vamos a la playa.
The air conditioner stops working and it appears that the mysterious killer has entered the apartment under false pretences.
This episode does a great job with atmosphere, a slight discomfort and irritation gradually turns into anxiety and paranoia, but without the hysteria as seen in so many other Thriller episodes.

The serial killer who pretended to be a delivery guy now pretends to be a new resident, although at that point it's not clear if he is the fake delivery guy. Well at least it rules out the freaky maintenance guy because he doesn't have to sneak into the building.
But anyway, a friendly chat between new resident guy and Caroll Baker becomes awkward and annoying, there's still no real reason to be afraid but there's a lot of tension - and I like tension.

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The ending is very rushed: the husband pops up out of nowhere and tries to strangle his wife "they'll blame The Strangler!" but the fake delivery guy/fake neighbour/real Strangler kills him and then he also dies because of head injuries caused by the American woman. The police arrives end credits.

8/10
 

J. R.'s Piece

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Episode 36.

Never mind that because the highlight of this episode is the very first Thriller/The Brothers crossover. I had almost given up hope but here she really is, Gillian McCutcheon
Oh, she got a nice death on Blakes7, when the floor of the ship came up and she slid down it screaming, moments before the Liberator (the ship) exploded. The first time that Blake was permanently killed off, prior to his next death. They killed off three regular/former regular cast members that week and another in the next episode. Although she loses points for clearly not actually touching the computer screen when she is supposed to. Although she gets an extra point for causing the lead to experience a drug-induced and electronic dream version of the previous lead.



Ever seen the two Brian Clemens movies that predate Thriller, yet have a similar style?
 
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J. R.'s Piece

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No, I haven't. Is it in the style of a good Thriller episode?
The first is And Soon the Darkness (1970). Directed by Robert Fuest, who was a designer for The Avengers early on and returned as a director of several final series episodes. Including Game, which features people being bumped off in giant versions of board games. Story and screenplay by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, before they had a falling out after Brian created a show called Survivors (where most of the world’s population gets wiped out) and Terry pinched the format and put it on tv. And Soon the Darkness stars Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice and Sandor Eles. Where two young women go cycling in the French countryside but one goes missing...

The second is See No Evil (1971). Brian Clemens wrote it. Elmer Bernstein did the music. Starring Mia Farrow, Dorothy Alison, Robin Bailey and Diane Grayson. Brian Rawlinson (among many things was one of the stars of ITC’s The Buccaneers) is in it. And Paul Nicholas. And Norman Eshley, Who was the carnation killer in the first episode of Thriller to be filmed. I just watched him together with Dudley Sutton committing murders on Department S and then watched them together as gangsters on Randall and Hopkirk Deceased. Anyway, young blind woman, residing in the country gets pursued by a killer. Michael Elphick is in the movie. And Scott Fredericks, who played psychostrategist Carnell on Blake’s 7 and Kaldor City. And actor/stuntman Max Faulkner.
 
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Episode 39.

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This episode brings us to the world of opera.
A once-successful opera singer with lots of gambling debts is married to an up-and-coming opera singer (it happens to actors, why not opera singers) and he decides to fake his death by killing a drifter (and then he puts he his ring on the drifter's finger etc etc).

Several years later, his widow played by the beautiful Susan Flannery, has become the most successful opera singer of her time, but she tells her agent that the concerts in England will be the last ones because she's going to marry. The agent is devastated.
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But then her presumed dead husband returns, and he wants money for…what was it...to disappear I guess, so she could still legally marry the other man.
But she tells him that blackmail is never going to end and she pushes him away. He falls down the stairs and dies. In a moment of panic, she hides the body in a cupboard.
When she returns to the house he's no longer there.

The first husband didn't die when he fell down the stairs, that was fake, part of the scheme. I've already forgotten the details but the point was that the agent had something to blackmail his star to continue her concerts for ever and ever.

The first husband was really killed by the agent, so that makes him the man who died thrice.
I found it all rather transparent and I think it would have been more interesting to tell the story from the POV of the villains.

5/10
 

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Episode 40.

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American guest star Gary Collins returns, this time as an American actor who's not being very successful in England. He doesn't even have enough money to travel back home and his friend no longer wants to lend him money.
At first I thought they were a gay couple, but they're not.

Meanwhile, a woman who suffers from nightmares calls a psychiatrist because she can't stand it anymore. But she misdials, and it's the American actor who answers the phone.
That's when I knew I was going to like this story.
He tries to explain that she got the wrong number but she's hysterical and wants him to come over immediately, no matter what it costs.
The actor understands that this woman is willing to pay a lot of money for "his" expertise, and decides to pose as the psychiatrist she was trying to call. How I love the impostors!


The woman's nightmare is always about the same man, she stabs him and then he falls down the stairs.
But! then it turns out that this man is real, because his sister hasn't heard from him since four weeks and she's starting to worry. She asks a private detective to have a look in the house he resided in the last time she heard from him.
It turns out to be the house of the neurotic woman, and the man was her sister's boyfriend. The plot thickens.

The fake psychiatrist keeps treating his patient and promises it'll all be over soon - of course he has no idea what he's doing. He gives her pills (but they're sweeteners) to calm her nerves, that's a good one!
His very straight friend, who's appalled by this dastardly scheme, throws him out of the apartment. American actor offers to move in with the sisters because "she's become his most important patient". This intensive treatment comes with a special price tag, of course.

He and the lovely-pretty sister (who had been dating nightmare-man) are getting along just fine, and eventually it becomes a romantic relationship.

The private detective arrives and is stabbed to death, but they only show the hand and knife. If the story was going to tell why this neurotic woman is killing men then they would have shown her face. But they've already done that episode - the screamer.
Anyone who's seen the 1985 mini-series MAELSTROM (from the novel by Michael J. Bird) is going to figure out that the lovely-pretty sister is the crazy murderer.
But would I have guessed in 1976? C'est la question.

Actor-psychiatrist goes to the cellar to get another bottle of wine, and then he discovers the bodies. It's really creepy when he suddenly realizes he's seeing the face of a dead person wrapped in plastic.
The crazy psycho sister attacks him, but then the missing man's sister and the police arrive, and the fake psychiatrist barely survives.
"It'll take him years in a mental hospital to overcome this horrific attack".

It's also explained that the neurotic sister with the nightmares had promised her parents to look after her psycho sister. But she was so extremely protective that she became her sister's conscience, and after the first murder (because the boyfriend had ended the relationship) she developed the guilt that her sister didn't have.
And that's why she started to believe that she had killed him, as it recurred in her nightmares.

A good episode, and I think Gary Collins would have been a very handsome American president.
Actress Gemma Jones gives a very strong performance. Do I know her? She looks like a cross between Shelley Duvall and Shelley Long.
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9/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Episode 41.

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No American guest stars this week, but we do have Gabrielle "Jill Hammond" Drake! But she plays an American woman who's visiting Europe, and now she's in England. How strange is that, huh?
The scenery and the many characters in all shapes and colours add to feel of holiday.


A bunch of gangster are chasing after Charlie, an ex-prisoner. It's got something to do with money that's been hidden somewhere. Not very original but there are other things to enjoy in this episode.
There's also a mystery man walking about (they only show his legs and arms), a dirty handsome drifter, an alcoholic doctor and the couple who own the filling station.

So, all in all, it's a real potpourri, and I had no idea how they were connected or where they were going. Sometimes a car turned up, stolen - maybe not. It all seemed so random, but strangely enough it made me feel very relaxed. It was a very seventies episode.

But the whole point was to let all these characters come together in the same place, and then it turns into a hostage story.
The mystery man turns out to be the dirty drifter in an undercover assignment. I'm not sure why, but whatever.
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Also starring Stephen Yardley with a George Hamilton tan.

I have nothing more to say about this episode, it's only good when you watch it.

10/10
 

Willie Oleson

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Disc 15 - which contains the last two episodes - fails to play on my computer, but I found them on YouTube. Episode 42 features another guest appearance by Joanna Pettet and also the enigmatic Tony Anholt (aka "Charles Frere" in Howards' Way).

Anyway, this was an interesting journey and I'm glad soapchat has given me the opportunity to share it with all the THRILLER fans worldwide.

:)
 

J. R.'s Piece

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Episode 40.
Actress Gemma Jones gives a very strong performance. Do I know her? She looks like a cross between Shelley Duvall and Shelley Long.

9/10
Gemma Jones was the lead in The Duchess of Duke Street
Disc 15 - which contains the last two episodes - fails to play on my computer, but I found them on YouTube. Episode 42 features another guest appearance by Joanna Pettet and also the enigmatic Tony Anholt (aka "Charles Frere" in Howards' Way).
:)
Bradford Dillman was in the last one. With Ian Bannen and Suzan Farmer. Bradford Dillman had starred in ITC’s BAFTA award-winning Court Martial series, filmed at Pinewood Studios. With Peter Graves, on his third ITC series. Guest stars included Anthony Quayle, Special guest star Sal Mineo, Dennis Price, Dennis Hopper, Joan Hackett, Cameron Mitchell, Susan Hampshire and Donald Sutherland. It was a Roncom-ITC series. Bradford Dillman had previously been a guest lead in an episode of ITC’s Espionage.

Tony Anholt was also Paul Buchet in ATV’s subsidiary ITC’s The Protectors, with Robert Vaughn and Nyree Dawn Porter. And Tony Verdeschi in the second series/season of ITC’s Space:1999, appearing with Catherine Schell. Brian Clemens wrote for The Protectors.

 
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J. R.'s Piece

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Episode 41.

View attachment 21141

No American guest stars this week, but we do have Gabrielle "Jill Hammond" Drake! But she plays an American woman who's visiting Europe, and now she's in England. How strange is that, huh?
The scenery and the many characters in all shapes and colours add to feel of holiday.


10/10
Strange? Oh, Anthony Quayle played him. Lots of English actors played Americans in tv shows I like and lots of Australians play English and Americans in shows I like. Bradford Dillman said that on Court Martial, the union Equity put limits on the number imported American guest stars allowed to fly to the UK. So that Americans were frequently played by English actors and Canadian actors living in England.

Lt Ellis!

 
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