Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Big Blackout: Season 1 Episode 12

Originally aired: 12/6/60
Starring: Jack Carson, Charles McGraw, Nan Leslie.
Written by Oscar Millard, based on the novel by Don Tracy.
Directed by Maurice Geraghty.

Recovered alcoholic Burt Lewis (Carson) becomes enmeshed in a nightmarish web of mistaken identity and bad television writing. When several thugs come to town looking for mystery man Bill Logan, Burt Lewis seems to be the man to go to for information. Because he spent two full years in an alcoholic stupor, Burt isn’t exactly sure he knows the full story. Could Bert really be Bill or vice versa? Suddenly the bodies start piling up as the bad guys cut a wedge through town looking for Logan. As the sheriff (McGraw) tells Burt: “everybody you look for seems to get dead.” When the thugs kidnap his wife, Midge (Leslie) and their cute daughter Budgie, Burt knows he better do something fast.

PE: At the 17:00 mark, Midge breaks down and cries. I knew just what she was feeling. There were still 28 minutes left in this snoozer. I thought at times the drama was going for a “Travis McGee” feel but McGee was never this hollow.

JS: I kept hoping that Burt was going to open up a can of whup-ass on his old pals, A History of Violence style. But as you suggested, he must have grabbed the snooze-ass by mistake.

PE: I love the scene where the cops, who suspect Burt of murder, hand him the weapon and ask if it’s his. Obviously, forensics was out fishing and Andy and Barney were running the evidence locker. Burt turns the gun over and over in his hands and gets a kind-of scrunched-up grimace on his face. You get that a lot in this episode. Try to imagine Claude Akins portraying Lon Chaney, Jr. (and there's a bottle of whiskey not too far away to complete that thought!).

JS: They try to get him to fess up to owning it by saying, "We can trace it, you know..." Maybe we're not giving them enough credit. They managed to get their primary suspect's fingerprints on the murder weapon. The LAPD would be proud.

PE: Another nice touch is that Midge, obviously concerned about her husband’s sobriety, keeps a bottle of liquor out on a tray and begs him not to drink from it.

JS: How about when she decides to hide it in a cupboard, while he watches.

PE: I’ve saved the best for last. The final ten minutes of “The Big Blackout” contains the clumsiest expository I’ve ever been witness to. An amazing amount of important events happen off screen but, don’t worry, we have Burt to tell us what has just transpired.

JS: Amazing amount? How about all. For once I can honestly confirm that you're not exaggerating. It's like when you're watching a movie in which the characters are watching a movie. And the one they're watching is better than the one you're watching.

PE: If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s The Bates Motel opening our drama. Director Geraghty is best known for writing and directing westerns on TV and the silver screen. Watch for a very young Ron Harper (Alan Virdon on the Planet of the Apes TV show! -JS) as the youngest of the knee breakers.

JS: I almost didn't catch that - one of the many reasons why you always want to pay attention to the credits of these shows! Of course it's easy to miss him, as he's almost always sharing the screen with Humphrey Bogart.

OUR RATING:















If you're still reading this, and you're thinking (which we do not endorse, recommend, or approve of), "Hold it there, chief - didn't we just read their insightful comments on Episode 10 yesterday?" You would be correct. We skipped right past Episode 11 - "The Fatal Impulse" - hoping you might not notice, but for a good reason. Peter felt that this particular episode deserved something more, something special, something... live. Think of it as an audio Daily Double, coming very soon to A Thriller A Day... Stay tuned!

16 comments:

  1. Pathetic. Inept. Like a bad high-school play.
    Almost as bad as "Mark of the Hand"; at least here we got some scenic variety in the cheezey rear-projection scenes out on the high seas.

    I assume that Maxwell Shayne---the savior/producer of Thriller's future crime episodes, was JUST brought on board for this one. So this turkey was already in production, probably with cast and director already hired.
    Pitiful script AND direction; at least a competent director could have given the episode some sense of style (Mitchell Leisen's work in "Girl with a Secret" now becomes that much more impressive).

    Jack Carson, whom I usually like in his light comedy roles (he was always fun in his late 40's films with Doris Day) simply can't stop his stupid face-scrunching, grimacing (to quote our hosts) and silly double takes; THEY DON"T WORK HERE, JACK---SAVE 'EM FOR YOUR NEXT COMEDY ROLE! A recitation of the outrageous plot holes and contrivances in this show would bore everyone almost as much as this episode itself.

    Rugolo's score is particularly annoying---all brass and winds, with some percussion. I find it dreary and intrusive (just wait 'til Goldsmith and Stevens start writing their STRING-based scores...)

    CHECK OUT 23:21' in "Big Blackout"---the cops have just left the house (was Charles McGraw doing an imitation of Froggy from "Our Gang" with that guttural, gravel-y voice?), and Carson spots the liquor bottle on the table. Rugolo actually quotes "How Dry I Am"--I kid you not--- in a somewhat "freaky, far-out" distorted version, played by the vibraphone and clarinet, while the cellos provide some "hallucinagenic" chromatic scales underneath; I almost burst out laughing.

    And how about the beat-up girl friend at the end? They all just let her lie there with big old welts, bruises, cuts, etc---not even a band-aid in sight---while she provides the show's boffo conclusion.

    Bottom-of-the-barrel. Do you guys give QUARTER Karloffs?

    LR

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  2. Oh Ye Who Know Not of the ultimate film noir coolness of Charles MacGraw, diss not the man, for his spirit will rise, come to your home, and make you eat your own face. He ALWAYS talks like that.

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  3. I just checked out McGraw in a 1st Season "Untouchables" episode. As was the case with "Big Blackout", he was in-and-out again of that guttural vocal thing. I thought it was more noticeable (and distracting) in "Thriller, since he was playing a supposedly good guy....not a sinister, violent guy as in "Untouchables".

    But I'll consider myself warned; better go lock the doors and pull down the shades (as if that would help).

    LR

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  4. My favorite cast member was "Chubby Johnson." I don't know what part he played, but I just like repeating that name.

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  5. Jack--

    The Chubster appeared in the role of "Charlie", the little scruffy, bearded hospital patient/friend of Jack Carson who asks him to smuggle in some booze.

    Examples of Vintage Chubby include his roles (with Arthur Hunnicutt) in the "A Feud is a Feud" 1st-season episode of Andy Griffith, and as the stage-coach driver who gets abused with a bull-whip by a Doris Day in "Calamity Jane" (1953). He also did lots of Westerns.

    LR

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  6. not only we get Charlie McGraw, Thriller regular Paul Newland, and impossibly young Ron Harper, and Bogart lookalike Robert Carricart (he even calls someone "shweetheart" in his best Don Adams voice) here, we also get Jeanne Cooper (Michael Gough's wife from Cohen's "Black Zoo") and George Mitchell, who is famous for being the first Sheriff Paterson on "Dark Shadows" (later replaced by Dana Elcar) AND also as the "old man" kept in the sterilized hospital in "The Andromeda Strain".

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  7. I enjoyed The Big Blackout. It was a neat, dark minimalist crime drama, didn't feel at all like a Thriller, more like a "chamber" noir, small scale suspenseful.

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  8. This is my least favorite episode so far. I had my own blackout when I nodded off about halfway through this disaster.

    Notice how about half the episode consists of Jack Carson talking on the phone? Exciting huh? No redeeming value for this viewer. It was a struggle just to stay awake.

    "0 Karloffs" and that is being generous.

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  9. This episode is the dive bar on the Thriller strip. Reading the comments above, I see that my fellow bar hoppers do not like those dark, dingy dives. I confess that I have a special place in my heart for these barfly type of episodes.

    I brushed off all of the plot holes and bizarre character acts because what I found fascinating was that alcoholism was the key facet in the plot. I didn't think alcoholism existed until Betty Ford discovered it back in the early 80s. Wasn't it every man's duty back then to get sauced on a daily basis? I wonder if this episode caused anyone to seek help for their drinking problem.

    I'll admit that I had no idea what the Blackout would eventually light up, but I enjoyed the weird mix of domesticity mixed in with a hangover, wise guys and a doll from the wrong side of the tracks. I half expected a "Hangover" style montage over the ending credits...

    I take one and a half shots of Karloff for my Blackout...

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  10. I've always liked Jack Carson's serious work (he kicks butt in "A Star Is Born"), but he's really at wits end to make this sorry mess work. And I could have lived a long and happy life without ever seeing his bare chest.

    But I loved Jeanne Cooper. It's nice to see Kay Chancellor from "The Young and the Restless" (and the mother of Corbin Bernsen), in younger, hotter days. There wasn't nearly enough of her, particularly since she turned to be the episode's key character--off-screen.

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  11. Not bad. I liked the AA sub-theme ahead of its time.

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  12. Lewis' lawyer announces he paid bail, and then confirms with sheriff that there are no charges - bail with no charges ?

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  13. Seems to patronize alcoholism and AA lesson sounds faux to real AA. How the hell do you leave a bottle whiskey lying around the house for your recovering husband? I guess that happens.

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  14. Good actors are caught up in a half-witted script that doesn't do much for the viewer, except leaving HIM to search the liquor cabinet for the nearest bottle of booze...I agree with all the above comments. It's always nice to see Charles McGraw in anything, and another future 87th Precinct actor, Ron Harper, is present here, but the script undermines everyone here.

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  15. Even though I haven't seen it a great number of times, to me Jack Carson is more than anything the semi-comical swinger character in MILDRED PIERCE, who (even though they had to be a little subtle about it) spends the whole movie trying to get Joan Crawford's character in bed.

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  16. "Try to imagine Claude Akins portraying Lon Chaney, Jr."
    ...............................................
    One of my favorite quips on the entire blog. When he grabs the whiskey bottle, he carries it into the room with his wife and baby, who looks up from the crib. His wife then remarks about how the baby was famished, and I half expected him to put the whiskey bottle up to its lips!

    "Directed by Maurice Geraghty." (That's not a pseudonym of Ed Wood, by any chance, is it?)

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