Gotta love The Shatner. He's been one of my favorite actors for years, since I was a kid and I never missed an episode of Star Trek or any of the Twilight Zone episodes he was on. He actually did quite a bit of TV back in the 60s — Thriller is a horror fan's fave, but the Boris Karloff hosted anthology series wasn't widely shown in reruns, so I didn't see it until recently.
Here's a great chance to revisit some classic William Shatner. He's in two of the 10 episodes in the new "Thriller: Fan Favorites" 2 disc set coming soon from Image Entertainment. Beautifully restored, each of these stories look like a million bucks. They're presented in a high-def transfer making for a silvery, warm black and white picture, with deep blacks yet amazing details (even in the night scenes, the 60s ladies' fur coats can be seen in hair-by-hair detail). The sound is also very sharp — but the mix is partial to the music; I kept having to adjust the volume back and forth so I could hear the [quiet] dialogue, then would have to turn it down when THE LOUD MUSIC SWELLED. It was incredibly annoying and irritating.
The Hungry Glass (Season One, Episode 16): William Shatner, Russell Johnson and Donna Douglas. A married couple moves into a house that is haunted by images reflected in glass and mirrors. Shatner plays a photographer who captures ghostly images which develop in his eerie dark room in the basement, while his wife spends most of her time upstairs in the attic playing with the myriad of mirrors… a "fun house" it is not!
The early 60s was a great time for psychological horror — when The Hungry Glass aired, movies like Psycho, Black Sunday, and Peeping Tom were capturing the imaginations of audiences who loved a good scare with smarts. Unlike the Universal monster movies or the low budget shock fests being produced by Roger Corman and the like, certain movies — and TV shows like Twilight Zone (1959) and Thriller (1960) — were commanding the attention of more cerebral viewers. Based on a story by Robert Bloch, The Hungry Glass is as good as any movie and it plays out just like a feature. Very, very engrossing and well done mystery, suspense and horror. William Shatner may not be as over the top as one might hope, but then again that's what lends gravitas to the proceedings.
The Grim Reaper (Season One, Episode 37): William Shatner and Natalie Schafer. A cursed painting dooms those who possess it. Shatner plays the concerned nephew of the picture's latest owner — celebrity party-girl mystery author and camp-queen — trying desperately to get her, or anyone, to take him seriously on his warning.
Another great story by Robert Bloch. This one is definitely more Shatner'esque, with the wiliness and occasional histrionics, and the characters are more broadly drawn. While it may not be as scary as The Hungry Glass, it's just as fun. (It reminds me a bit of the Night Gallery series, what with the haunted painting theme.)
Before every episode kicks into gear, host Boris Karloff introduces each person as both the actor and their character and gives a little teaser as to how they might be tortured in the next hour. He seems to relish it!
Good, old-fashioned, fun, frightening stuff. Highly recommended DVD (and certainly preferable to the overwhelming 14-disk Thriller entire series boxed set which came out a couple of years back).
The Purple Room (Season One, Episode 7): Richard Anderson, Rip Torn and Alan Napier. Unscrupulous relations set out convince a man that the mansion he just inherited is haunted.
The Watcher (Season One, Episode 8): Richard Chamberlain. After a psychopath murders a lone teenager, he next targets a young couple.
The Cheaters (Season One, Episode 15): Harry Townes and Jack Weston. Based on a Robert Bloch story. A pair of eyeglasses gives the wearer more than just better sight, but it comes with a serious price tag.
Well of Doom (Season One, Episode 23): Richard Kiel. A wealthy man is held captive by a sorcerer and his minion.
The Prisoner in the Mirror (Season One, Episode 34): Lloyd Bochner and Marion Ross. A magic creature escapes from a mirror and inhabits the body of a historian, wreaking the proverbial havoc.
Pigeons from Hell (Season One, Episode 36): Brandon DeWilde. Two brothers with car trouble spend a terrifying night in an abandoned Louisiana mansion.
The Weird Tailor (Season Two, Episode 4): Henry Jones and George Macready. Based on a Robert Bloch story. Trying to retrieve his son from the clutches of death, a man commissions a suit that's to die for.
The Incredible Dr. Markesan (Season Two, Episode 22): Boris Karloff and Dick York. A young couple is forced to stay with a creepy uncle, and dark secrets surface.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson