Revisiting Thriller with Boris Karloff: Season 1, Episodes 27-32

It’s time for another deep dive into the Thriller TV series from the early 1960s, with your host, Boris Karloff! In today’s post, we’re breaking down season one, episodes 27 through 32. Let’s get to it.

Episode 27: “Late Date”

Based on a 1935 Cornell Woolrich story called “The Corpse and the Kid,” this episode was actually a darkly hilarious, comedy-of-errors-type story, but centered around the headaches of body disposal. Man, covering up a murder is a real pain in the ass, amirite?

Herschel Daugherty has directing duties again this time around (he was also at the helm for episode 17, “The Poisoner,” and episode 20, “Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook”), and the tale also features some rather well-known TV actors, including Larry Pennell (Dash Riprock from The Beverly Hillbillies) and Edward Platt (best known as the Chief on Get Smart, though I instantly recognized him from the 1959 flick The Rebel Set, which I saw numerous times on MST3K).

So what we have here is Edward Platt’s character, James, who has just strangled his wife Doris to death after an argument, and is still in shock about it. James’s brother Larry (Larry Pennell) comes home to their beach house right after the deed is done, and although it seems evident that James didn’t mean to kill Doris and feels really bad, Larry tries to calm him down by saying she was a two-timing floozy anyway who really had it coming, and that because they’re brothers, no way is Larry going to allow James to take the fall for this.

Larry immediately comes up with a plan having to do with the train that James came to town on, which is way too complicated to get into but involves the specific kind of train ticket and the day that James would normally be on the train. Larry tells James to take the train back to the city on the down-low and be seen by as many friends as possible, so everyone will think he was out and about in the city on Thursday night as usual instead of at the beach house killing his hussy of a wife. While James is doing that, Larry says he’ll get rid of Doris’s body.

A shell-shocked James agrees to this plan and skedaddles to the station, and there then ensues an amusingly grim series of events revolving around Larry trying to cover up the murder. While Doris is still sprawled upstairs across her bed, some other relative or friend who presumably lives here (seriously, I’m not really clear on whose house this is or how all these characters are related to one another or which ones of them actually live in the beach house) comes home to change clothes, and by the way, she also wants to go in Doris’s room to swipe some of her perfume. I think this young woman is maybe Doris’s stepdaughter…? Anyway, it’s obviously not a great idea for her to go into Doris’s room, since Doris is, y’know…not exactly among the living anymore.

Larry tries to thwart her from going in the room using the lamest excuses possible, and the poor bastard is clearly not a criminal mastermind, because he stutters and comes up with all these painfully contorted justifications, and it’s just excruciating to watch because you feel kinda bad for him; I was actually yelling at the screen, “What are you doing?!? Haven’t you seen CSI?!?” He luckily gets saved by yet another random motherfucker showing up at the house and leaning on the doorbell (this might be the stepdaughter’s boyfriend), and then he gets a phone call from Doris’s side piece, Sid, which gives Larry the brilliant idea to tell Sid that Doris will meet him later at a nearby club.

He then rolls Doris up in a carpet like a corpse burrito, hefts it out of the house on the pretense of taking it to get cleaned because he spilled ink on it (and Jesus Christ, has anyone in real life had this many nosy-ass neighbors or random passersby wondering WTF he’s doing?), and figures he’ll stuff it in the trunk of Sid’s car while Sid is parked at the club waiting for the never-arriving Doris. A lot of shit goes wrong and he almost gets caught a bunch of times, but he eventually succeeds in this convoluted plan.

When he gets back to the beach house, though, his brother James has already returned, saying that once he came to his senses and realized what he had done, he thought it would be best to not take the train back to the city and just turn himself into the police, because there was really no excuse for killing Doris, even if she was a two-bit ho. I thought the twist of the story would be that James had already called the cops and confessed to the murder, making all of Larry’s labyrinthine struggles pointless, but in a twist of a twist, it actually turns out that Sid, pissed that Doris hadn’t shown up for their “appointment,” drove like an asshole and went careening off into a ravine, and the car caught fire, killing him and burning Doris’s body so much that it was impossible to tell that she had already been strangled. The cops come to the house to tell James the bad news that his wife has been killed in an accident. So essentially, Larry and James got away with it.

But because we evidently can’t have murderers (and corpse disposers) get a free pass for their foul deeds, James follows the cops when they leave the house, presumably to tell them what he did, and Larry is right behind him. I think the whole thing would have been better if the guys would have just shrugged and been like, “Sweet! We pulled it off!” I mean, all of that effort had to amount to something. But I guess the censors maybe wouldn’t have allowed that back then.

Incidentally, in the short story this was based on, Larry is actually James’s teenage son, instead of his similarly-aged brother, which would have given the tale a whole different dynamic, and maybe made it seem more harrowing (not that it isn’t harrowing as it is, because the suspense literally never lets up for a second). With Larry being an adult, it comes across more like a black comedy, as he gets in deeper and deeper and keeps having to stammer and bullshit his way out of every situation, at one point even standing there talking to two acquaintances with a dead woman rolled up in a carpet that’s slung over his shoulder. That said, this is still a really entertaining episode, and even though it’s bleakly comical, considering all the ridiculous hoops this hapless dude has to jump through just to dump a stiff, it’s still really tense, and a master class in plotting.

Episode 28: “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”

This episode was based on the popular 1943 short story by Robert Bloch (who wrote Psycho and loads of other iconic things); this same tale was also adapted for radio in 1944, and was likewise the partial inspiration for the episode of the original Star Trek series called “Wolf in the Fold.”

Directed by famous actor Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, Dial M for Murder, The Premature Burial, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes), the story uses the real Jack the Ripper murders as a jumping-off point for a somewhat supernatural tale about the elusive serial killer actually being an immortal who perpetrates a series of killings on a regular schedule as sacrifices to ensure that he lives forever. I think this concept has been done a bunch of times since then, but as far as I’m aware, it was a new idea back in the 1940s, when the story was written.

The beginning of the episode has Jack completing his 1888 series in London, and then the story jumps ahead to 1961. A series of homicides that are identical to the Jack the Ripper murders have been taking place in New York City, and though Captain Pete Jago (Edmon Ryan) and police psychologist Dr. John Carmody (Donald Woods) are on the case, they’re mystified as to why they can’t catch this guy.

In their desperation, they agree to listen to the possibly crackpot theories of a Scotland Yard psychologist named Sir Guy (John Williams), who has been studying the Ripper murders for years and has become convinced that the same man is responsible for a vast swath of murders that take place every two years and eight months, in various cities around the world. The police scoff at this idea; how could the same dude who killed women in 1888 also be murdering people in 1961? What would he be, ninety? But Sir Guy is most insistent, and furthermore believes that the pattern and manner of the killings are ritualistic, offerings to some dark force, and designed to maintain the killer’s immortality.

Since Sir Guy is able to accurately predict when the next murder will take place, the cops start taking him a little bit more seriously, though because they haven’t quite figured out where the killer is going to strike (because the Ripper targets murder sites according to a different symbol each time around), multiple women get killed anyway.

Because they believe that the Ripper is hiding out amid the bohemian artist community—which was a common thread running through all of his former series of crimes—the cops keep a close eye on several suspects, including an artist who paints his girlfriend with dead flowers in her hair not long before she turns up dead; a beatnik with a ridiculous beard who’s really into funerals; and an art critic who savages everyone’s work with the barbed wit of Oscar Wilde.

The story also teases that perhaps Sir Guy himself might be the killer since he’s the one who seems to know so much about the crimes; and the additional possibility that the Ripper might be a woman is also floated at one point (which is, I admit, where my mind was going).

I have to say, though, that the reveal of the killer did genuinely surprise me, though I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m a dummy or because this was just a really well-plotted story; I guess it could be a little bit of both. The best thing about the twist ending that—spoiler alert—the police psychologist Dr. John Carmody was the killer all along is that it’s not just a twist for the sake of it; if you go back and watch the story again and pay attention to all the interactions, the clues were there the entire time. The story was so skillful at misdirection that the reveal threw me for a loop. That’s just great storytelling, and there’s a reason this is one of the most beloved episodes of the series; the acting is great, the suspense is fantastic, and the mystery keeps you guessing right up until the very end.

Episode 29: “The Devil’s Ticket”

Another episode based on a Robert Bloch story, this one was also a lot of creepy fun. We start the proceedings at a pawn shop, where the proprietor, Spengler (Robert Cornthwaite), is gloating over a big-ass pile of money, but also seems kind of nervous, as though he’s expecting someone he doesn’t want to see. And sure enough, a sinister fellow eventually comes calling, accusing the pawnbroker of being a miser and claiming they had a deal. Since you know the episode’s title, you can probably guess what that deal entailed, and in due course, the pawnbroker gets pulled into a back room and screams in agony as smoke billows out from under the door.

We then cut to the dumpy apartment of down-on-his-luck artist Hector Vane (Macdonald Carey) and his wife Marie (Joan Tetzel). Poor Hector hasn’t had a gallery showing in two years, and he’s taken to pawning most of their shit to make ends meet; they’re eating a sparse dinner of soup at a dining room table with no chairs, nicely illustrating their poverty. Since he’s already hocked pretty much everything, he decides to take one of his paintings—a still life of a pair of old shoes—to the pawn shop we saw earlier to see if he can get a couple of bucks for it.

When he gets to Spengler’s place, the old pawnbroker is gone, but a new guy who won’t give his name but is obviously Satan (John Emery) admires the painting, saying that he likes its realism; he thinks people should face reality, not like all those abstract artists with their silly beards and non-representational bullshit. Mr. Satan doesn’t want to buy Hector’s painting, but he does offer to give him a deal for his soul: he can put his soul in hock for a ninety-day period, and in exchange, Satan wants Hector to paint him a picture, though he doesn’t specify exactly what the picture should be of. Hector is obviously reluctant, but he’s also broke as shit, so he takes the pawn ticket for his soul, not really believing any of this stuff is real.

But as soon as he gets home, his ecstatic wife informs him that his agent called and managed to get him a one-man showing at a prestigious uptown gallery. Though he still doesn’t quite believe the soul-pawning dude was the actual Devil, he’s pretty happy with how things are turning out.

And over the next few weeks, Hector and Marie’s life completely changes: his gallery show goes swimmingly, and all his paintings sell for astronomical prices. People start hailing him as an artistic genius, and he’s basically raking in the cash. He and Marie move into a swanky mansion with crystal chandeliers and leather sofas galore. Through it all, though, Hector hangs on to his shabby old artist’s studio, and his moth-eaten old overcoat, though for the life of her, his wife can’t understand why. Well, the reason for keeping the studio is so that he can meet his mistress Nadja (Patricia Medina) there, and the overcoat…well, you find that out later on in the story.

Hector at first attempts to be slick by painting a still life for his Satanic benefactor, but the Devil don’t play that, and when Hector then tries to paint him a landscape, he doesn’t want that either. He basically tells Hector, in fact, that he wants a portrait; and not only that, but whoever he paints the portrait of will have their soul burn in Hell for eternity in place of Hector’s. This seems like some fine print that maybe should have been disclosed before Hector signed on the dotted line, but this is the Devil we’re talking about here.

Panicked, Hector is unsure what to do, and his mistress, who he claims to love much more than he does his wife, is threatening to fuck off to Mexico without him if he doesn’t leave his wife and marry her instead. Hector finally decides that in order to be with Nadja, he’ll use his wife Marie as the subject of the Devil’s portrait, thus damning her forever. Marie, pathetically, is happy that Hector is paying attention to her again, completely unaware of his ulterior motives, and when he finishes the painting, it’s the best thing he’s ever done. But when Nadja comes to the house and sees it, she gets super pissed that Hector wouldn’t paint a portrait of her, and she tells him that it’s very clear he loves his wife because of the way he painted her. Nadja, not the most mature person, slashes up the portrait, completely ruining it, and stomps off.

Hector now has only two days before the Devil comes for his painting; if Hector doesn’t paint somebody, the Devil will take HIS soul instead. At last, he gets a devious idea. Two days pass, and Satan shows up to collect, at which point it’s revealed that Hector has actually painted a portrait of the Devil himself! Checkmate, Old Splitfoot! Satan seems a tad nonplussed by this development, as he’d never been outsmarted by a mortal before, but it does seem as though he’s going to be a good sport about it and let Hector out of the bargain. All he has to do, says the Devil, is give him back the pawn ticket, and he’s free to go about his life. But remember what I said about Hector not wanting to get rid of his tatty old overcoat? Yeah, that’s because the pawn ticket was in the pocket. And remember how Marie was always nagging him about why he kept the nasty old thing when he could easily afford a new one? Yeah, she went out and bought him a new one, and burned the old coat, and the pawn ticket along with it. The Devil cackles with glee, telling Hector that women are often Satan’s greatest allies (hey, I resemble that remark), and then he takes Hector’s soul back down to the Bad Place. Never try to fool the Devil, kids.

This was another really entertaining story, and John Emery really crushed it as Satan. I actually didn’t foresee that Hector was going to paint the Devil’s portrait until like a minute before he revealed it, so that was a great twist, and the gut punch about the pawn ticket was also fantastically set up. Robert Bloch was really on fire here, and incidentally, this episode was I think the first time he had actually adapted his own short story for this particular series.

Episode 30: “Parasite Mansion”

Another episode directed by Herschel Daugherty, this one was based on a 1942 story by Mary Elizabeth Counselman, a prolific author who published loads of stories in Weird Tales in the 30s and 40s, including one called “The Monkey Spoons” that I actually read a while back. This was another episode that had supernatural elements, so we can definitely see how Thriller was taking more of a turn in the horror direction, though it still had most of the elements of a crime show as well.

At the beginning of the story, the beautiful Marcia (played by Pippa Scott, who I recognized from her later role in the classic 1974 TV movie Bad Ronald) gets sidelined by a detour on a stormy night, and after ending up kind of lost out in the swampy darkness, her car gets shot at and she wrecks. While she’s unconscious at the wheel, a sketchy-looking dude and an old woman peer in the window at her.

Marcia later wakes up in a bed, clad only in her underwear (which… hmmm) and it turns out that she’s been taken in by a strange family, the Harrods. Drunk-ass grown man Victor (James Griffith, who I recognized from The Amazing Transparent Man) tells her that his kid brother Rennie (Tom Nolan, who also played the kid from episode 2, “Child’s Play”) was the one who shot at her, but that it was a mistake. Cackling Granny (Jeannette Nolan) informs Marcia that they’ve gone through all her stuff and know that she’s a teacher at a fancy-schmancy boarding school in Shreveport and that she was going to New Orleans to marry a man when she got waylaid in the swamp. The pair also tell their captive that the mansion doesn’t have a phone and that her car is busted up so she can’t leave or call for help.

Even though Marcia has a bit of a concussion, and Victor put some stitches in her head so probably gave her an infection with his grubby-ass fingers, she’s not down with this “you can’t leave” nonsense, so as soon as the coast is clear, she puts on her clothes and attempts to sneak the fuck out. Unfortunately, gun-happy Rennie is posted outside and tries to blow her away the second she sets foot out the door. The kid misses, luckily, but it’s made pretty clear that Rennie doesn’t think Marcia should be allowed to leave the mansion alive because she’s like one of those people who came and took his mother away.

Marcia, who has a degree in psychology and works with children, actually has sympathy for the boy who shot at her and uses her knowledge to ingratiate herself with Victor, who obviously had a soft spot for the pretty lady from the start. She tells Victor that she totally understands why Rennie would be afraid of being taken away, but Victor implies that there is much more to fear in this house than just CPS coming to round up the kids for their own protection.

Later on, Marcia attempts to escape again, and during her explorations around the mansion, she finds a hidden room containing a terrified teenage girl named Lollie (Beverly Washburn of Old Yeller and Spider Baby). Lollie is also afraid that Marcia has come to take her to an institution just like her mother, but Marcia is kind and empathetic, and Lollie soon relaxes. Marcia then gives her a jeweled brooch, but quite unexpectedly, the brooch flies out of her hand and hits the wall of its own accord, then blood appears on the girl’s arm. As Lollie wails in fright, Granny pops her head in, cackling as usual, saying that “he” is really mad and that Marcia better shuffle her fancy little behind back to her room before some worse shit happens.

Marcia tries to talk to Victor about what she saw, telling him that Lollie might be exhibiting stigmata and that it’s likely caused by the excessive fear in the house and perhaps fervent religious belief. She believes, in other words, that it’s psychosomatic. Though Victor asks her to explain the flying brooch, Marcia tries to come up with a rational explanation, basically saying that maybe she threw it herself without realizing it. Victor pooh-poohs all this sciencey bullshit, saying that the Harrod family has been cursed with an “invisible parasite,” otherwise known as a poltergeist or a demon, for as long as he can remember, and they’re all afraid of what the thing will do if they make it angry.

As if in demonstration, the demon makes a big show of throwing shit around and abusing the children and Victor while everyone is gathered at the table for dinner. Marcia, who is likewise scared but also sympathetic toward Victor and the children and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, notes that Granny seems to be the only person in the family not scared of the “demon” and never hurt by it.

Later on, Marcia wakes up in her room to find Rennie standing over her with a knife. She freaks out, but then Rennie starts to cry, saying he doesn’t want to kill Marcia. Granny busts in and excoriates the boy, lamenting that she’ll just have to do the deed herself, and it’s revealed that in fact the Harrods are not cursed by a demon at all: Granny is just a telekinetic witch who has been controlling the family for her own sick amusement and gain ever since marrying into it many years ago.

During the ensuing struggle, an oil lamp gets knocked over and sets Granny on fire, and the screeching old bat goes tear-assing out of the house and burns to death in the swamp. Marcia tells Victor that Granny was the one fucking with them all along, and now that the witch is dead, they can actually live normal lives instead of being cloistered out here, living in mortal fear all the time.

This was a really good episode; it was spooky and atmospheric, and the mystery kept twisting and turning throughout the runtime. I particularly liked the character of Marcia, who was compassionate, intelligent, resourceful, and badass, and singlehandedly saved these poor people from their own misery. It was pretty clear as soon as the paranormal angle was revealed that Granny had something to do with the situation, mostly because she was such an asshole who got so much joy out of seeing other people suffer, but the predictability after that point wasn’t a strike against the story, because to be honest, I wasn’t actually expecting this to go in a supernatural direction at all at first; I thought it was going to be like an Old Dark House setup, where some malformed relative was locked away in the attic or something. This story played with those ideas but subverted them a little bit. I actually think this might have been one of my favorite installments of the series so far.

Episode 31: “A Good Imagination”

This is another episode that was based on a short story by Robert Bloch (who also adapted it for television), and it was also directed by John Brahm, who also helmed several episodes we’ve already discussed, including “The Watcher,” “The Prediction,” “The Cheaters,” “The Merriweather File,” and “Well of Doom.” We’re returning to a more crime-based scenario here too, with a heaping helping of Edgar Allan Poe and a thread of black humor.

Smug book dealer Frank Logan (played by Edward Andrews, who was in a million things but who was immediately recognizable to me as Grandpa Howard from the John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles) is getting pretty tired of his wife Louise (played by Patricia Berry of Kitten with a Whip fame) screwing around behind his back. So tired, in fact, that at the beginning of the story, he enters the apartment of his wife’s latest paramour Randy Hagen (William Allyn), using the key he found on Louise’s dresser. Frank is actually supposed to be on a business trip out of town, but he used a fake name to fly home real quick and deal with this matter while still having an alibi. Man, remember when you could just get on a plane giving any old name? Holy shit, the crap they used to let people get away with.

Anyhoo, Frank horribly murders Randy offscreen using one of Randy’s own collection of medieval weapons, then stages the whole thing to look like a robbery/home invasion gone wrong. He then flies back to his book dealer’s conference in Philadelphia as though he never left.

Louise is upset by the loss of her bit on the side, but she tries not to look TOO upset in front of her husband, pretending she barely knew the guy. Frank talks to Louise in his oh-so-condescending manner, low-key implying that he might have killed Randy without actually admitting it outright. Frightened and not really wanting to go to the cops and have her affair exposed, Louise consults her brother about what she should do. It so happens that her brother Arnold (Britt Lomond) knows a private investigator named Joe Thorp (Ken Lynch), and Joe agrees to do some sleuthing.

It doesn’t take too much legwork to uncover Frank’s little secret identity airplane flight, but rather than taking the proof to the authorities, Joe actually goes to see Frank personally at his fishing cabin and tries to blackmail him for $10,000. Not long afterward, Arnold also shows up at the cabin, but turns out Frank has already poisoned Joe, and then does the same to Arnold, placing both corpses in a fishing boat and pushing it out into the lake, making their deaths look like a terrible accident. Frank is so sure of his own intelligence, because he’s such an avid book reader and all, that he completely keeps his smirking cool throughout all of these multiple murders, which makes me feel a lot sorrier for Louise and more understanding toward her dalliances, because oh boy, is Frank an insufferable sociopath.

Under the guise of helping Louise recover from the trauma of losing her brother in a “boating accident,” Frank buys a remote house in the wilderness and installs Louise out there without a car so she can’t leave. Frank is still working in the city and only comes to the house on weekends. The cabin is stuffed with books, but Louise isn’t much of a reader, so she’s afraid she’s going to be out of her mind with boredom, but then a hunky local handyman named George Parker (Ed Nelson of Peyton Place and Night of the Blood Beast) shows up to fix her chimney, if you catch my meaning. No, he literally does show up to fix the chimney, but almost immediately, Louise latches onto his manly pecs, and the two of them become entangled. They spend pretty much all their time together during the week while Frank is in the city.

Of course, Frank suspects what’s going on but pretends he doesn’t, though he quickly sells the house when his suspicions are confirmed. After he overhears Louise and George talking about stealing the money from the house sale and running off together, Frank puts his diabolical plan into action, which entails having George over to seal off a section of the basement, then after the job’s finished, tell him that Louise was actually trapped in there Cask of Amontillado style and that he’s now accessory to murder.

George freaks out and takes off running to tell the cops about this, but Frank was actually counting on that. Turns out Frank hasn’t killed Louise at all; she was in town shopping while all this was going on and has no idea what happened. On her way back to the cabin, in fact, the police stop her and ask her to identify herself, which mystifies the fuck out of her. When she gets home, Frank tells her that George went crazy and told the fuzz that Louise was walled up in the basement, so the cops were just confirming that she was still alive. Louise is all, “Huh, I wonder why George would think that,” after which Frank, unsurprisingly, actually does brick Louise up in the wall, now that her living status has been established with the authorities.

And it all would have gone perfectly too: Frank would have gotten rid of his two-timing wife in a way that was unlikely to be discovered, and George would be considered a nutcase because he had insisted the shit happened before it actually had happened. Open and shut. But yeah, you knew Frank wasn’t going to be allowed to get away with his murderous scheming, and in this case, he totally shouldn’t because he’s such an intolerable douche. Just as he puts the finishing touches on the wall trapping his wife, George and the cops stroll in. The officers are all, well, George’s police-appointed psychiatrist thought it would help his delusions if he could actually see Louise alive, so all you have to do is produce your wife, who we know is alive because we just saw her a little while ago. So…where is she? Frank glances back at his freshly-mortared wall, and you can almost hear the Price Is Right losing horn.

This was another fun episode, and especially entertaining for bookworms, as Frank, as annoying as he is, did actually warn people what he was planning by referencing particular books, which of course his victims hadn’t read. Frank is actually a great villain overall because you just love to hate him, especially because he thinks he’s so much smarter than everyone else but ends up getting tripped up by his own supposed cleverness. Robert Bloch was really the gift that kept on giving to this series, wasn’t he?

Episode 32: “Mr. George”

This episode, another more crime-oriented one though it definitely has ghost story elements, also has something of an impressive pedigree. It was directed by the legendary actress, singer, director, writer, and producer Ida Lupino (who also helmed episode 25, “Trio for Terror”), and based on a short story by the equally legendary August Derleth, written under the pseudonym Stephen Grendon.

In the tale, we’re following a little girl named Priscilla (played by Gina Gillespie of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), who still interacts with her family’s lawyer, Mr. George—who was also implied to be in a relationship with her widowed mother and thus was something of a father figure. Mr. George has sadly passed away, as has Priscilla’s mom, but since Priscilla still claims to speak with Mr. George on the reg, she doesn’t seem too broken up about it.

There’s kind of a big problem, though. The house Priscilla lives in with her relatives (which I’m pretty sure is also the Munsters house) was owned by Priscilla’s wealthy mother, and the estate is set to go to Priscilla when she comes of age. But since she’s still a child, the trust set up by Mr. George and Priscilla’s mom is being overseen by a judge. This means that Priscilla’s adult cousins—Adelaide (Lillian Bronson), Jared (Howard Freeman), and Edna (Virginia Gregg)—are going to have to make do with a somewhat paltry monthly allowance, when previously they were used to living high on the hog with Priscilla’s mom’s money. All three of them are pretty put out about this, especially when they know that Priscilla’s inheritance is worth a cool half a million bucks.

The stern and forbidding Edna isn’t even pretending to give a fuck about propriety, openly talking to her siblings about what a shame it would be if some deadly “accident” were to befall poor little Priscilla. Jared makes a big show of being very appalled by this talk, but the childlike and mildly impaired Adelaide seems open to the suggestions of her conniving sister.

Edna, not wanting any outside witnesses to her scheming but also not willing to do her own dirty work, dismisses the housekeeper and then tells Adelaide about a case she heard recently whereby a couple of kids suffocated after they hid in an old trunk in an attic and the lid fell down on them, hint hint. Adelaide takes the bait, luring Priscilla up to their own attic and telling her that Mr. George (who all the siblings think is just a figment of Priscilla’s imagination) is hiding in the trunk and Priscilla should totally crawl inside and check it out.

But because Priscilla isn’t an idiot, and because the ghost of Mr. George is absolutely real (though invisible) and is watching out for the kid, he warns her what’s going on, and Adelaide ends up getting her neck crushed by the trunk lid her own self, in a bit of poetic justice.

Shortly afterward, another, much less shitty relative—George’s sister Laura (Joan Tompkins)—comes to visit, to express her sympathy for Adelaide’s “accidental” death. Edna and Jared are real assholes to her, projecting their own venality onto the lovely and pure-hearted woman, and she goes away, but not before befriending Priscilla. Laura’s brother George told her all about these three grasping shitheels before he died, see, so Laura is checking up to make sure Priscilla is okay because she doesn’t trust these motherfuckers as far as she can throw them, and rightly so.

Anyway, Edna is pissed that her first plot didn’t work out, so the second time, she enlists Jared—who I guess wasn’t as offended at the idea of offing a child as he initially seemed—to “accidentally” bash Priscilla in the head with the heavy swing in the front yard. But again, the ghost of Mr. George intervenes, and Jared ends up getting his own head caved in by the swing, which is apparently made of titanium or some shit.

Laura comes to the house again, not only to convey her condolences for Jared’s death, but also to very politely tell Edna that the judge who oversees the trust has granted Laura custody of Priscilla, and she’ll be returning the following day to take the child away with her. Edna will still be getting her monthly allowance, and will still be permitted to stay in the house, but oh no, that’s just not enough for her. The second Laura leaves, Edna decides she’s gonna take the kid out herself, and tries to rig it so that when Laura returns to pick her up, the excited child will rush down the staircase and trip on a wire Edna has planted there.

But again, it’s Mr. George to the rescue, as his ghostly voice tells Priscilla to take the back stairs, and Edna ends up tripping over her own trap and breaking her neck at the bottom of the staircase. My favorite thing about this is that Priscilla is so happy to be going with Laura that she just hightails it out of the house and meets Laura at the streetcar outside, without even bothering to go back into the house to say goodbye to Edna or anything. So the sour old battle axe presumably just lies there and mummifies at the bottom of the staircase I guess, which is a fitting end for her really.

As Priscilla gets on the streetcar with Laura, she hears Mr. George’s voice one last time, as he says that his work here is done and he has to say goodbye. Priscilla says she understands, and the streetcar takes her away to her happy new life. The door to the now-empty house opens and closes by itself, implying that Mr. George went inside and is gonna haunt the joint forever.

This was also a pretty great episode; not scary, but fun and kind of sweet. I really liked the friendly ghost angle, and it was very satisfying seeing these terrible relatives get their due comeuppance. Priscilla was also an appealing character, just a happy little girl who wasn’t all that aware of how evil her cousins were, but just went about her life with ghostly Mr. George. Additionally, this episode also boasted a great deal of visual interest, with lots of unusual framing and shot angles that really enhanced the storytelling.

Six more episodes down, thirty-five to go…I am, in fact, almost at the halfway point! Stay tuned for the next six sometime in the coming weeks. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

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