Revisiting Thriller with Boris Karloff: Season 1, Episodes 21-26

All right, after my abortive last post, where I was only able to review episodes 19 and 20 of Thriller, someone informed me that pretty much all of the episodes in the series are on YouTube, an obvious platform which for some reason I had forgotten to check. So I’m back in business with another six-episode extravaganza!

Episode 21: “The Merriweather File”

Directed by John Brahm (a German filmmaker who was also responsible for the excellent 1944 Jack the Ripper film The Lodger, among many other things), and based on the novel by prolific American journalist and crime writer Lionel White (who had several of his works adapted to film in the 1950s and 1960s), “The Merriweather File” was a really intriguing murder mystery with all kinds of double crosses and plot twists.

At the beginning, we’re drawn right into the story as a sleeping woman named Ann Merriweather (played by Bethel Leslie) is apparently targeted for death by a shadowy figure who breaks into her home, turns on the gas, and seals up the doors and windows. Ann wakes up before the gas can kill her, though, and when she sees that the potential murderer has stuffed a child’s rubber ball into the hole in the broken window in the back door, she proceeds to freak the fuck out.

Ann’s husband Charles (played by Ross Elliott, who started his career in the infamous Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938, incidentally) is out of town, so Ann calls on her neighbor, friend, and lawyer, Howard Yates (played by James Gregory from The Manchurian Candidate) for help. Although she tells Howard that someone is trying to kill her, she prevents him from calling the police, because she doesn’t want her husband to find out all this home invasion and attempted murder business. During this exchange, it’s also established that Ann tried to commit suicide three years before, after she accidentally killed their son by backing over him in the driveway. Howard recommends having Charles’s gun at the ready just in case someone breaks in again, and also advises her to get a guard dog.

Charles Merriweather returns home, and buys his wife a dog when she asks for one. It’s the couple’s anniversary, but Ann begs off doing anything special, saying she doesn’t feel all that well; she encourages Charles to go play cards with the guys, which he does.
The following day, Charles is driving along and gets a flat tire; he tries to replace it with the spare, but he can’t get his trunk open because he can’t find the key. A cop stops to help and calls a mechanic, who pops the trunk for him, but wouldn’t you know it, there’s a random guy’s dead body in the trunk that Charles insists he knows absolutely nothing about. A likely story.

Since Howard is a lawyer, he agrees to represent Charles during the ensuing investigation. Charles swears up and down that he didn’t kill the dude in the trunk, and in fact doesn’t even have any idea who the hell the dude is. The problem is, though, that Charles only has an alibi up until the bar he was at closed; after that, he gets real cagey about where he was and what he was doing. After some prompting from Howard, Charles finally confesses to Howard that he’d been with another woman, and didn’t say anything because he didn’t want his wife to find out. Because he won’t tell the cops that he’d been getting some trim on the side, he remains in custody.

Meanwhile, Howard is trying to convince Ann not to stay in the house alone, but she insists she’ll be fine, because she has the dog to protect her now. But strangely, the dog remains silent as someone breaks into Ann’s house again that night, and appears to be searching for something. After Ann wakes up and scuffles with the intruder, the mysterious person runs off.

Later on, cops find Charles’s gun in the garbage, which was the same gun used to kill the guy in the trunk of the car, whose name, it turns out, was Jake Carver. Charles is still adamant that he doesn’t know the guy and didn’t kill him, but Howard finds out where Charles’s mistress Virginia lives, he goes to her house and discovers that not only does she readily admit to having an affair with Charles, but she also very clearly knows Jake Carver, the murder victim, because there are pictures of the two of them together.

Charles then finally fesses up that he did know Jake, and by this point his lawyer Howard is understandably having a meltdown because of Charles’s constant fibbing. Charles says that Jake was his bookie and he owed him $3,000, and this checks out because on the day he came home from his business trip, he withdrew three grand from his bank account, and the same amount subsequently appeared in Jake’s. But now the cops are convinced that Charles and Virginia worked together to kill Jake, and after all the circumstantial evidence is brought to bear at the trial, Charles ends up getting the chair for murder, even though he stands firm by his assertion that he didn’t kill Jake and pleads vociferously with the jury to find him innocent.

I won’t spoil what the real solution of the mystery is, but suffice it to say it’s a great deal more complicated than it initially seemed. The whole thing is laid out in a scene at the end, which takes place three years after Charles’s execution. The only thing I will say about it is that I felt as though the story was almost trying to exonerate Charles somewhat, even though he was pretty much still guilty, just not exactly of the thing that he got convicted of.

I actually quite enjoyed this one, as I really like murder mysteries, though I’ll admit I had to watch it a couple of times to make sure I got all the details straight, because the plot was a tad convoluted.

Episode 22: “The Fingers of Fear”

We go a few shades darker with this next episode, as it concerns a serial killer who targets little girls. It was based on a short story by Philip MacDonald, adapted for the screen by Robert Hardy Andrews, and directed by Jules Bricken.

At the beginning of the tale, a teacher supervising her students at recess stumbles across the body of a dead child in the bushes; we learn via exposition that this little girl is the fifth victim of a murdering brute dubbed the Mad Dog Killer who’s been terrorizing the community. Also discovered at the scene is an unusual piece of porcelain, which is found to have broken off the leg of an expensive Italian doll.

The newspapers the following day feature a composite sketch of the suspect, which happens to look exactly like a chubby, balding dude named Ohrback (Robert Middleton), who works washing dishes at a diner.

Not long after, Ohrback is spotted throwing a knife into a lake by a little boy who was out fishing. The kid retrieves the knife and also has a really good description of Ohrback’s car to give to police. Not only that, but another witness comes forward subsequently and says that he saw the same car the kid described, in the park where several of the victims disappeared, and he even got the license plate number, which matches the plate on Ohrback’s dirty black sedan.

And as if all this wasn’t damning enough, Ohrback then makes himself look even more guilty by repainting his car and taking it to a used car lot to trade in for a new vehicle. He also asks a friend to give him an alibi for the time of the murder. When the man is brought in for questioning, both the fishing kid and the guy who got the license plate number identify Ohrback as the creepy dude they saw skulking around the park around the time of the girls’ disappearances.

There is one pretty big stumbling block, though. The latest victim of the Mad Dog Killer was found to have some of the murderer’s blood on her, and it was a very rare blood type. Ohrback, it turns out, doesn’t have that blood type. But because Ohrback fits pretty much everything else having to do with the case and the public are pressuring the cops to catch the murderer because the killings are suppressing the tourist trade, the authorities figure they’re just gonna pin it all on Ohrback, whether he really did it or not. One of the investigators, though, Lieutenant Wagner (Nehemiah Persoff), thinks they’ve got the wrong man.

And it so happens that he’s correct. Matter of fact, poor Ohrback actually ends up helping the authorities solve the case because he remembered seeing a man in the park with a rare, beautiful doll like the one whose broken leg was found with one of the victims.

This was another solid episode, structured like a police procedural almost, and with way grimmer subject matter than I was expecting from a show aired in 1961. The actual dude who’s the killer is doll-obsessed and creepy as fuck, and it’s really unsettling watching him interacting with his latest target, a little girl named Joan (who was played by Terry Burnham, who also starred in the earlier Thriller episode “The Mark of the Hand,” by the way).

Episode 23: “Well of Doom”

Another more horror-adjacent installment, but with something of a Scooby-Doo resolution, this one was also directed by the aforementioned John Brahm, and based on a short story by John Clemons. It also stars Jaws and Eegah himself, Richard Kiel!

We’re following a man named Robert Penrose (played by Ronald Howard), who’s going to be getting married soon to his fiancée Laura (played by Fintan Meyler) and is on his way to his bachelor party, accompanied by his butler, Jeremy Teal (played by Torin Thatcher). On the remote road at night, though, a giant of a man looms up out of the darkness, and when the car stops, the big fella reaches into the vehicle and grabs the driver. Another man is also present, who looks rather ghoulish and also seems to be telling the giant what to do.

Robert thinks this is all a prank at first—he is heading to his bachelor party, after all, and he figures one of his friends is giving him some good-natured ribbing—but it soon becomes clear that these two weirdos are dead serious when the giant apparently kills the driver, and he and his creepy boss force Robert and Jeremy back into the car then climb in after them, holding them at gunpoint. The spooky dude in charge tells Robert that he’s actually the Devil, better known as Moloch (played by Henry Daniell), and that he’s got a few bones to pick with Robert. Moloch and the giant (whose name we eventually learn is Styx, and who is obviously portrayyed by Richard Kiel) essentially kidnap Robert and Jeremy.

After that, there’s a brief flashback where it’s established that Robert suspected that his best man Charlie might try to pull some funny business, and Laura jokingly tells Robert to be careful at his bachelor party or they’re all liable to end up in jail. There’s also a bit of back story explored between Robert and Jeremy, who it seems have just reconciled after a bitter feud some time ago.

We then return to the abduction already in progress. Moloch shoots a pistol in the car to prove that the gun is real, and Robert basically tells Moloch that he can have all his money if he’ll just let he and Jeremy go. Moloch isn’t having it, though, telling Robert that all the money he has isn’t enough. Moloch takes the kidnapped men to a crumbling, forgotten old ruin that’s apparently part of Robert’s estate, and he does some seemingly magical shit, like lighting some torches just by snapping his fingers, and knowing some information that only Robert is supposed to know. Robert and Jeremy decide to tackle Moloch, but the old devil points at Jeremy, and the old man seems to keel over dead, at which point Robert accepts that there must be some supernatural shenanigans afoot.

Moloch tells Robert that he’s being punished for some shady shit his father did, and he basically is admonished to sign over all his worldly goods or Moloch is going to kill both him and Laura—because as it turns out, Moloch and Styx had abducted her too, and are keeping her prisoner in this dungeon down here, which also contains a very deep well, hence the title of the episode.

Robert has a plan to jump into the well and pretend to kill himself, but as it turns out, Styx simply picks him up and throws him into the well. He survives the fall, though, and when he manages to climb out, he discovers that Moloch and Styx are not at all what they seem, and that his supposed friend Jeremy might know more about this deadly scheme than he’d been letting on.

This was another pretty fun one, and really benefited from its foggy, faux-English setting with all its gloomy stone houses and dungeons. I liked the initial ambiguity over whether the kidnapper was actually the Devil, or even whether the whole entire thing was a prank, though I think the story would have been a bit more suspenseful if it had been told in chronological order, rather than the flashback structure it employed. The sequence where Robert was trying to escape from the dungeon seemed like it went on a tad too long, but overall, this was another decent installment, though it was probably my least favorite out of the six episodes I watched.

Episode 24: “The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell”

The next installment featured THREE (count ’em) actors I recognized from movies that were featured on MST3K episodes (to be fair, they were all in tons of things otherwise, but still): there was Robert Vaughn from Teenage Caveman (and also The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Kathleen Crowley from The Rebel Set, and Russ Conway from The Screaming Skull. It was written by Donald S. Sanford (who also penned teleplays for the previous episodes “Well of Doom,” “The Cheaters,” “The Prediction,” and “The Watcher”) and directed by László Benedek (Death of a Salesman, The Wild One).

In a sort of take on a Jekyll and Hyde story, Robert Vaughn plays the titular Dr. Cordell. He and his colleague/girlfriend Dr. Lois Walker have been working on chemical experiments that are meant to help the military by testing the effects and antidotes for various types of nerve gases. At the beginning of the tale, though, Dr. Cordell releases an unusually volatile gas into the sealed laboratory, and even though his gas mask is theoretically supposed to protect him from all known gases, it fails, and he kinda dies there for just a few minutes.

After Dr. Walker and the head of the project, Dr. Brauner (played by Robert Ellenstein from North by Northwest) air out the lab, they’re able to revive Dr. Cordell, who seems totally fine, other than a headache. His associates send him home for the day, though, just to be on the safe side. When he gets there, he’s seemingly sent into a frenzy by the ringing of the little bell in his parakeet’s cage, and his housekeeper looks at him like he’s lost his marbles. He’s able to recover after he silences the bell, but the next morning, he sleeps really late, and is only awakened by his housekeeper banging on his door and saying it’s almost noon, and Dr. Walker has been trying to call him all morning to ask where the fuck he is and if he’s ever planning on coming to work. He gets up, reportedly feeling great, but then his housekeeper screams, and it turns out that someone has murdered the poor little parakeet in cold blood. GODDAMMIT, LEAVE THE LITTLE ANIMALS ALONE!!!

Anyway, Dr. Cordell keeps telling everyone he feels fantastic, but he’s starting to get a little grumpy and snippy with folks, and he’s also becoming increasingly obsessed with finding out what exactly the mystery gas was that was able to penetrate the defenses of his gas mask, since he figures if his team found it accidentally, then maybe their enemies could too. Dr. Walker helps him in his studies, but she’s starting to worry about him, as he’s working in the lab for hours and hours without eating or sleeping and he’s getting grouchier by the second.

One evening, after Dr. Walker finally leaves at ten p.m., leaving Dr. Cordell to it, a pretty female student wanders into the lab by mistake, thinking it’s the library building. Cordell is real douchey about it, insisting she shouldn’t have been able to just walk into the lab because the door locks automatically; but she’s all, don’t blame me, bro, it’s your broken door. He apologizes and points her in the right direction, but as she walks away, there’s a jingling sound; turns out she’s wearing little bell earrings. Cordell is sent into a rage again, and he apparently goes after the girl, strangling her to death and leaving her in the bushes (I thought it was subtly implied by later dialogue that he’d raped her as well, but of course they couldn’t really come out and say that in 1961, so I’m not entirely sure). The next morning, he wakes up with no memory of what happened, but one of the girl’s bell earrings is lying on his nightstand.

So essentially, whatever this gas was causes some kind of loss of morality, or triggers a psychotic rage in response to a particular stimuli; in Cordell’s case, obviously, it’s the sound of a bell. The lead investigator on the case suspects Cordell pretty much immediately, because the first murdered woman was seen (by Dr. Walker) heading toward the lab building when it was known that Cordell was still working in there, and the detective also finds it suspicious that Cordell had a maintenance guy out to fix the lock on the door the day after the girl was killed.

The rest of the story has Cordell Hyde-ing out at every bell sound and killing a few more women while the police close in on him, and there’s also a race against time aspect regarding whether he’ll be able to figure out what the instigating gas is so he can warn others about its effects before he kills his girlfriend in one of his fugue states.

I liked this one a lot; the acting was good, the story was straightforward but kept the tension going all throughout the runtime, and I also really enjoyed elements of the score in places (which I don’t usually notice so much, but for some reason stood out to me in a positive way in this episode). I think this installment benefited from being very simple and focused; there weren’t a lot of complicated plot twists or subplots, so we got to concentrate just on the harrowing tragedy of Dr. Cordell’s downward spiral and how it affected those around him. Good stuff.

Episode 25: “Trio for Terror”

It’s an anthology inside an anthology! This episode is actually three episodes in one, comprising a trilogy of adaptations of stories by classic horror, suspense, and sci-fi writers. Directed by the iconic actor, director, writer, singer, and producer Ida Lupino (who I recently talked about in regards to one of her late-period roles in the terrible 1976 film The Food of the Gods), this episode starts off with a very brief tale called “The Extra Passenger,” based on a story by sci-fi and fantasy writer Nelson S. Bond, who wrote for tons of pulp magazines back in the 1930s and 1940s.

The narrative is set in 1905, and centers on a guy named Simon (played by Ida’s cousin, Richard Lupino), who at the behest of his money-grubbing girlfriend, plots to kill his wealthy (and supposedly half-mad) uncle Julian (played by Terence de Marney) to get his inheritance quicker. Simon’s plan involves taking a train, surreptitiously climbing out of his compartment at a stop near his uncle’s mansion, sneaking into the mansion and murdering Julian, then catching up with the train farther down the line so by the time the train stops again, it’ll look like he never got off, thus giving him an alibi.

This might actually have been an okay plan, and it seems to go well at first; Simon gets off the train without anyone seeing him, manages to sidle into the mansion undetected and into Julian’s study (where he sees a rooster tied by its foot to an astrological sundial type thing, and his uncle magically making roses appear inside of a glass cloche), and clobbers his uncle with a big wooden pestle, killing the old man instantly. At this point I was wondering why Simon went to all the trouble of pulling all that subterfuge with the trains, though, because the dude isn’t even wearing gloves; I know forensic science wasn’t really up to snuff in 1905, but the cops would have still found Simon’s fingerprints all over the place, including on the body and on the bloody murder weapon, which he just dropped back into the mortar where he got it from.

Further compounding the idiocy, he then drives his uncle’s car to a spot close to where he needs to pick up the train again, and doesn’t even bother to hide it. I mean, I’m not a murderer myself, but I’ve seen enough true crime shit to know that’s a rookie mistake right there.

Simon is able to get back on the train, and when the conductor comes around again, he’s cool as a cucumber, saying he must have just dozed off in his compartment. So far, so good. But then, quite suddenly, another dude is suddenly in the compartment with him, even though there was very clearly no one in there seconds ago.

Long story short, Simon’s uncle Julian was a warlock, and he sent a lich (essentially his own reanimated corpse) to get revenge by turning into a giant rooster (and no, I’m not kidding; the rooster in his study was his familiar) and tearing Simon’s murdering throat out. The cops investigating the scene are baffled by the fact that Simon was killed in an empty compartment by what was clearly “a fighting cock.” Oh, the indignity.

Next up, an adaptation of a story I was actually pretty familiar with, “A Terribly Strange Bed” by Wilkie Collins. In this one, a man named Collins (played by another familiar face to MST3K fans, Robin Hughes of The Thing That Couldn’t Die) is at a bar with his friend looking for some new kicks when a lady of the evening recommends a nearby island inn and casino that’s totally on the up and up, you guys, and never mind all those pesky old rumors about bodies turning up in the surrounding waters. The friend has another engagement, but Collins is totally game and heads on down there.

Once at the casino, he parks himself at the roulette table and starts drinking, but to his delight, he also starts winning. Like, a lot. You know something sketchy is going on, because several of the other patrons keep giving each other meaningful glances, but Collins is too schnockered to notice. He wins a fortune, and two of the guys who run the place help him bag up his winnings. They even offer him a room at the inn for the night, because he’s too hammered to be running around loose. Collins gratefully accepts.

In the middle of the night, though, Collins happens to startle awake and see that the canopy of the bed he’s sleeping in is slowly lowering itself onto him via a very large screw in the ceiling; this whole setup was presumably engineered to suffocate the sleeper. Collins rolls out just in time, then grabs his bag of money and escapes through the window.

Now totally sober, he goes to his friend’s house to tell him what happened, at least mollified by the fact that due to his vast winnings, he never has to work again. But—sad trombone—the murderous scam artists at the casino thought of that, too, as the bag contains nothing but a cannonball and a bunch of scrap paper.

In the original story, the narrator (whose name was actually Faulkner) brought the authorities to the place and all the culprits got arrested, but the Thriller story ends with the reveal of the fake money in the bag, leaving the criminals without comeuppance.

The third story, “The Mask of Medusa,” was based on a tale by the legendary August Derleth, who not only founded the publishing company Arkham House, thus popularizing the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but also wrote extensively in the Cthulhu Mythos himself, as well as producing many classic works of cosmic horror.

This story is more prosaic, however, as it deals with an unapprehended serial killer known only as the Leighton Strangler. Police don’t know what the man looks like; they only know that he wears black kid gloves like the villain in a giallo flick. We the audience know who he is, though: a shifty looking mofo named Shanner (played by Michael Pate), who, while evading said authorities after his latest crime one evening, slips into the storefront wax museum attraction of one Mr. Milo (played by John Abbott). Shanner is freaked out at first because he only sees the figures in silhouette and thinks a bunch of real people are staring at him, but he calms down after the friendly Mr. Milo pops out and explains what the deal is.

Mr. Milo doesn’t know this dude is the murderer either, and since Shanner actually seems really interested in the figures, Milo starts to show him around. Shanner comments that all the figures are really lifelike, and notices that they aren’t actually made of wax, but something more cold and solid. He also notices that the whole museum—which houses only a dozen figures—has a sort of “chamber of horrors” theme, but all the figures are murderers who were only suspected of their crimes or were never caught.

Once Mr. Milo mentions that he used to be a Greek scholar, you can sort of intuit where this story is going, and indeed, he eventually reveals that Medusa the Gorgon was a real historical person (monster?), and that her head was actually capable of turning people into stone if you looked at it. Matter of fact, Milo says, he happens to have her head on the premises, and that’s how he turned all these suspected killers into exhibits. Of course Shanner doesn’t believe him, but you can imagine what happens when Milo eventually finds out that Shanner is the Leighton Strangler.

This episode was also loads of fun; I liked that it was three completely different stories, but they were all thematically linked by their pulp magazine origins and their opening acts being set in the same pub. The fact that the stories were so short meant that none of them could wear out their welcome. While the stories—particularly “The Mask of Medusa”—were somewhat predictable, it was still an entertaining trilogy with some effectively creepy imagery and some solid acting performances.

Episode 26: “Papa Benjamin”

Thriller goes voodoo with this episode, based on a short story by seminal crime writer Cornell Woolrich and directed by Ted Post (Hang ‘Em High, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Magnum Force). It stars John Ireland (another actor I recognized from an MST3K movie, Roger Corman’s Gunslinger) as an American bandleader named Eddie Wilson, who’s spending some time in the Caribbean in order to revitalize his flagging musical mojo.

At the beginning of the story, Eddie staggers into the local police station, hands the cops a pistol, and says he just killed a man. After the officers ask him the very reasonable question of what exactly the hell it is that he’s talking about, he says he shot a dude named Papa Benjamin (Jester Hairston), who was killing him. So, self-defense? Not exactly; Eddie then (probably unwisely) tells the cops that Papa Benjamin was actually killing him with voodoo.

We then go into a flashback, as Eddie talks about arriving in the Caribbean a year before to play some shows with his band (which also features his wife, a singer named Judy, played by Jeanne Bal). Eddie’s quite successful financially, but artistically, he’s having a hard time, believing that his new stuff isn’t any good, and that he’s stuck in a rut.

One evening before a show, though, he catches his drummer Tommy Statts (Henry Scott) playing some awesome, strange rhythms on the stage, and Eddie is excited by the sound of it, though when Statts snaps out of it, he can’t remember what he was playing, and he seems kinda spacey in general, which Eddie and Judy attribute to Statts’s wife Ann having died not long before.

But soon afterward, Eddie finds a severed chicken foot near the stage during a rehearsal, and following the intriguing sound of drums, he stumbles upon a voodoo ritual, at which his drummer Statts is also present. Papa Benjamin thinks Eddie’s a cop and threatens to kill him, but Statts vouches for him, and Eddie thinks fast and says he’s there because he wants to join up. Papa Benjamin does a ritual that initiates him into the sect, but afterward, Eddie tells Statts that he doesn’t really believe any of that voodoo nonsense; he’s just interested in appropriating some of those sweet, sweet voodoo rhythms into his own work. Statts, who is a true believer, is horribly offended, and tells Eddie that he basically just signed his death warrant. Then he stalks off, never to return, calling Eddie a “dead man” over his shoulder.

Some time later, Eddie has composed a piece called “Voodoo Rhapsody,” and his agent comes down with some Broadway people to see the show. It seems to be making a splash, but then Eddie passes out in the middle of the performance, and the next morning in his apartment, he finds a voodoo doll under his pillow.

Eddie goes back to New York, but his health begins to suffer; he doesn’t show up for most of his engagements, and passes out at shows when he does make an appearance. He stops performing the voodoo song, but his deterioration continues, and his agent is warning him that theater owners are canceling some of his shows because they’ve heard about his problems. If things keep going the way they are, his agent says, he’s eventually going to go broke.

His wife Judy is also starting to have second thoughts about their relationship. Eddie finally tells her about the voodoo curse, and she seems supportive, but doesn’t believe voodoo is real; she thinks he’s just having a mental breakdown. She gives him an ultimatum: go to a psychiatrist about his delusions, or she’s leaving him. He doesn’t think a shrink will help him, so she sorrowfully dumps his ass.

Eddie decides he has to go back to the Caribbean to get Papa Benjamin to lift the curse, but Papa ain’t having it; he tells Eddie that Eddie took a solemn oath to join the sect even though he had nefarious motives, and Papa don’t play that. So Eddie empties his pistol into the stubborn old coot and beats feet outta there.

We then come back to the present, with Eddie in the police station telling them this tale of woe. The cops ask Eddie to take them to where Papa Benjamin’s body is, but of course when they get there, it’s gone, and the room is empty of of all the voodoo accoutrements that were there just a couple of hours before. It looks, in fact, as though no one has lived here for quite some time, which ties in with the detective’s earlier assertion that the practice of voodoo has been illegal for fifty years.

Eddie is slapped in a hospital, and his agent flies down to see him; obviously, everyone just thinks he’s completely delusional. Eventually, after he recovers, he goes back to New York and reconciles with his wife, and it seems as though his career is getting back on track too. His agent has even booked a gig for him and his band back at that same club in the Caribbean where he found the chicken foot before…

Everything’s fine until a bunch of people in the audience start yelling for him to play “Voodoo Rhapsody” like they were requesting “Free Bird,” and after some hesitation, Eddie complies. The band plays the entire piece through, seemingly without trouble, but unsurprisingly, the voodoo curse wins the day, as Eddie drops dead at the piano while the audience are applauding. The camera then pans over to a voodoo doll beneath the piano.

This was another solid episode; I guess because it was 1961, I was expecting it to be kinda racist, but it actually was relatively respectful, at least for the time. Yes, it did posit the existence of voodoo curses that killed people, but it did portray the believers as committed to their faith as the followers of any other religion; and to be honest, Eddie was depicted as kind of a dick for wanting to “steal” the music and lying to Papa Benjamin in order to gain access to it, and then making bank off the rhythms he ripped off from the sect.

Even though there weren’t really any twists in this one either, it was still another entertaining installment; I haven’t read the short story it was based on, but from what I could determine, this adaptation did take a few liberties with the source material, such as adding in the wife character, leaving the fate of Statts ambiguous (he died in the story), and removing most of the story’s underlying metaphor about voodoo being a stand-in for drug addiction. But all in all, another effective episode.

Stay tuned for six more episodes whenever I get around to watching them, and until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.


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