Originally aired: 12/13/60
Starring: Joe Maross, Beverley Garland, Charles Aidman, Warren Oates.
Written by John Kneubuhl, based on the novel by Fredric Brown.
Directed by Herman Hoffman.
Ray Kenton (Maross) is in big trouble. He’s up to his neck in gambling debt and his wife, Ruth (Garland) won’t bail him out this time. Before his bookie’s boys come to bust his kneecaps, he’s got to figure something out. Ray’s salvation comes in the form of a psychopath (Meade Martin) who’s been preying on the town’s women.
PE: For the first time over the course of Thriller’s first wave of crime thrillers we’re seeing an episode that could easily be a part of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Just about everything seems to click in this show: good acting, a literate script and an O. Henry climax. It also features nice noirish photography by Benjamin H. Kline, who eventually shot 29 Thrillers (His son, Richard Kline, was d.p. on several genre films in the 70s: Soylent Green, The Terminal Man, Battle for the Planet of the Apes [and perhaps most importantly Dino DeLaurentis’ classic King Kong- JS]) As sure as my name is Peter Enfantino, This is a Thrillah!
JS: I think the key ingredient that makes this episode work is the story, courtesy of Fredric Brown. Personally, I found Joe Maross' performance to be a bit over the top - at times he reminded me of John Cazale's whiny Fredo Corleone. I feel like we should mention Warren Oates, but I wasn't particularly enamored with his performance, either. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by Beverly Garland. Turns out she's more than just a hotel owner after all!
PE: She looks just as good in a waitress outfit as she does in a swamp, running from an alligator man. Not many women can say that. (You just did... -JS) Character actor Charles Aidman went on to become "the voice" that replaced Rod Serling on the 1980s reboot of The Twilight Zone. As Ruth's boss George, he comes off as a good guy with perhaps a bit of sleaze deep down. He wouldn't mind it if Ray was floating in the harbor. That would free up Ruth for a few more night shifts. We know it even if Ruth is a little naive. Aidman (and his stunt man) put ups a good fight towards the climax when he rescues Ruth from the claws of the psycho.
PE: Fredric Brown was an author who excelled in multiple genres: science fiction (What Mad Universe, Martians, Go Home), hardboiled crime (The Screaming Mimi, The Lenient Beast, The Far Cry) as well as mainstream (The Office). Knock Three-One-Two (the novel) was also made into the 1975 French film, L'Ibis Rouge (The Red Ibis).