Starring Nehemiah Persoff, Robert Middleton, Kevin Hagen.
Written by Robert Hardy Andrews, based on the novel by Philip MacDonald.
Directed by Jules Bricken.
A child murderer is terrorizing the Universal backlot and the chief suspect seems to be troubled dishwasher Ohrback (Middleton). Police Lieutenant Jim Wagner (Persoff) and his partner Sgt. Spivak are hell-bent on developing a case against Ohrback when some new evidence leads to doubt in the Lieutenant.
JS: I'd like to take a moment to offer up a Thriller A Day public service announcement. Here's how to determine who's the killer in an episode of Thriller. Watch for a character that looks like Dr. Deadly from the old Aurora Monster Scenes kit. Observe how all the evidence in the world points to him. Police sketch. Murder weapon. Throw in a couple of eye-witnesses that place him at the scene of the crime. Then, and only then, can you be sure the killer is someone else that has not yet been introduced.
PE: What I want to know is why the director never thought to wake Persoff from his nap. Was the actor paid for his five days of sleep and mumbling? Through the first 22 episodes, I can easily point to this performance as the weakest of any "major" star to appear in Thriller. His idea of a punctuation to a delivered line is to get up from the table (sometimes while the other character is still talking) and walk out. To be fair, by the end of the episode, I could understand why Persoff kept nodding off.
JS: I was beginning to wonder if he thought they were still doing rehearsals when they shot his scenes.
PE: When a witness is brought in for questioning, he admits to seeing Ohrback in the park where a girl is found murdered, in the middle of the night, unsheathing his hunting knife, with a maniacal grin on his face. "There was something creepy about him." The man declares. Hmmm. Let's go over the checklist...
JS: Call me crazy, but I thought they were actually getting clever, and it would turn out that the witness was actually the killer, and he was setting up old double-ugly to take the fall. But no. Let's spend a few reels setting up the obvious suspect and worry about introducing the real killer later.
PE: How many times was the description "Big fella...ugly...like a monster in the movies" bandied about by different characters?
JS: In all fairness, if the shoe fits...
You've gotta love Ohrback's co-worker. The guy jokes about how Ohrback looks exactly like the police sketch, drives a car that exactly matches the description of the killer's, and yet he does not think to contact the police. He doesn't even say anything to the cops when they show up to talk to Ohrback!
PE: My favorite Thrillah moments: a kindly hispanic hunting knife sheath-maker is interviewed by the police. He admits to having made a sheath for Ohrback's mighty spear but doesn't want to get him in trouble because he's such a nice guy. Later, when asked to identify Ohrback, the man steps up to him and says "Yes, this is him. I SPIT ON YOU!" and does so, cursing Ohrback.
Later, Cathy (Lt. Wagner's daughter) comes home with a friend, Little Joan. (I think her name was just Joan. -JS) Cathy explains to her father that she was going to go to the park with Joan but she'd rather shoot the bull with the old man ("Have you busted any big, ugly, monster-movie dudes lately, pop?"). As Joan turns to walk out, she says goodbye to Cathy, the Lieutenant and his wife, and walks out the door with a huge "Next Victim" sign attached to her.
JS: That's not the worst of it—Wagner then proceeds to watch Joan walk down the street towards the park, turning away just as she stops to get into a stranger's car.
|Might these be "The Fingers of Fear" from the title?|
JS: Yeah. When Igor lies on his prison cot and drools as he talks about "liking little girls" and crying about his broken teddy bear—best let him spend his golden years behind bars, regardless of whether or not he's responsible for this specific crime being investigated.
I think my favorite bit was the one Spielberg (or Benchley) stole for Jaws. Aside from the fact that I couldn't figure out what the hell would draw tourists to his small town (Perhaps the Tram tour? -PE), I did chuckle when Persoff mumbled, "We better catch somebody and kill 'em before we lose the tourist trade." My wife was upset that he didn''t run his fingernails across the chalkboard, first.
PE: You gotta love those 1960s police labs where they're always boiling something in a beaker.
JS: If not for that new-fangled scientific evidence, they would have thrown out the other physical evidence that led them to the real killer.
PE: As much as Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score made a bad episode bearable ("Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook"), Pete Rugolo makes this bad show even worse with his annoying sounds. I would say the only highlight to this show is its bizarrely abrupt climax. It's a great scene but it's approximately 10 seconds in a 47 minute barrel of blah.