Friday, September 17, 2010

Knock Three-One-Two: Season 1 Episode 13

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.

JS: Up to the point when he comes flying through the door, I couldn't help but think of  Greg Brady (Barry Williams) every time he was onscreen. And as stuntmen go, let's not overlook your boy Meade Martin's. I haven't seen a brawl like that since the old Republic serials.

Knock Three-One-Two

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).



  1. I've always liked Beverly Garland, Warren Oates, and Fredric Brown, so this episode was enjoyable. Did anyone else notice how depressing and seedy the bar was where Garland's husband(what a loser!) meets the strangler? If I frequented a dump like that I'd probably start hatching up a plot to kill someone also.

  2. great episode , Bev Garland was a pretty hot cookie in her time ...Fredrick Brown yeah pretty good writer/storyteller I always had a soft spot for Martians ,go home ( I thought there was going to be an adaptation for that story I wonder what happened..My favorite film adaptation of his work is Screaming Mimi with Anita Ekberg she was superfine in that offbeat film..I still have a copt of that one from tnt
    a shame it never had a proper release but it is pretty offbeat..

  3. As long as you're doing NOIR, you might as well do it right. A solid, STYLISH episode that contains many of the requisite elements for this type of moody drama: dark urban streets, open hotel window w/neon sign and dead blonde in bed, a desperate little guy in a phone booth pleading for his life with thugs, dark alleys, dive restaraunts and bars, etc...and let's not forget the dim-witted newsboy character. And it all works quite well in this show. The action bogs down occasionally but overall, "Knock 3-1-2" plays like Citizen Kane compared to the previous episode.

    I particularly liked the intense scene between Joe Maross and Beverly Garland in the alley outside the restaraunt, especially the lengthy close-up of both characters in profile. Nice acting and directing. Beverly Garland was a terrific actress with great poise and conviction. This show was shot at the same time she filmed her role as Maggie, the sultry, sensuous nightclub singer in TZ's "Four of Us are Dying", in which she practically burned up the small screen with Ross Martin.

    RE: "3-1-2"---the excellent "noir-ish" visual atmosphere throughout is undermined only by the apartment interior (for the big final fight scene), which is lit, like most early "Thriller" home interiors, like a sit-com set; why couldn't it have been darker? This would have at least obscured the obvious use of stuntmen for the fight. However, I loved the way that Rugolo's score accompanied the shot where the hood (Meade Martin), in an almost ritualistic way, picked up the unconscious Beverly G. and carried her into the bedroom, as the orchestra plays a sombre, dirge-like version of the "Thriller" theme, with a subtle bongo rhythm underneath.

    Well done.


  4. "Screaming Mimi" (directed by OUTER LIMITS alum Gerd Oswald) DID get a DVD release -- overseas, unfortunately, for R1 dischounds.

  5. I agree with y'all...a very enjoyable episode from beginning to end, although I'd disagree with PE as I thought Warren Oates was great as an aspiring sociopath/newsboy. I couldn't believe that was the same actor from Dillinger and Alfredo Garcia.

    That fight scene was way physical, too...the kind where after the director yells "Cut!" the stuntmen start punching each other for real.

  6. Far from the best Fredric Brown on TV (see the Alfred Hitchcock episodes), but welcome nonetheless. Not sure about this being filmed at the same time as The Four of Us Are Dying--wasn't that 2 years earlier?

  7. Jack--

    OOPS! You're right---"Four of Us" on TZ was filmed in fall of 1959 (1 year before "3-1-2').


  8. Brown's best work in terms of TV adaptations was Star Trek's "Arena" - that show had me on the edge of my seat when I saw it as a kid.

  9. By far the best episode of the series so far. I thought the scene between the salesman and Warren Oates in the police station at the end was a little long, in fact, I wondered where it was going for awhile, but everything else was pretty great. This moved forward better and faster than any of the episodes so far. And it did have kind of a gloomy fatalistic atmosphere that made it more modern than some of the previous episodes, like that one with R. Chamberlain that has the serial killer. That was kind of goofy whether by intent or not. This was dead serious. Hopefully we're starting to see a turning point here. Lucky #13.

  10. The salvation for this episode can be summed up in two words... BEVERLY GARLAND.

    Beverly and the nice little twist at the end with Warren Oates makes this slightly better than the most of the previous THRILLER crime dramas. But I am still amazed at how bad these crime dramas are. How this series survived is beyond me. I think I need to watch the Kardashians for a reality check.

    I'll give it "1 1/2 Karloffs".

  11. Where is the horror? I thought this series would be shifting towards spooky tales by now. That said, I don't mind the crime dramas as much other posters. So far for me, Mark of the Hand was the only episode that was a waste.

    Knock Three-One-Two is one of the better crime dramas. The acting is good, the mood is effectively downcast and the plot contrivances are minimal. This viewer was fully engaged for the entire duration of the running.

    Joe Maross and Beverley Garland acted splendidly, plus Beverley provided the requisite Thriller eye candy. It was chilling to see sad sack Ray lose out to his gambling addiction where to bail himself out he had to concoct a plan that involved sacrificing his wife. We've all known or heard of a Ray type of person who is forever asking for another chance and and perpetually blowing that chance again and again.

    Meade Martin looks and style appear to be patterned after James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause. Meade doesn't reveal much, but you get the feeling that he's a 1960 version of American Psycho, Patrick Bateman. Unfortunately, for Meade, he was 25 years too early for Huey Lewis and the News!

    Warren Oates was creepy as the mentally twisted news boy. You just know that in the end his murder wish will come true.

    The one person I wasn't sold on was Charles Aidman. His character, while necessary to the story, wasn't written or acted particularly well. I will second the WTF comments about his climatic fight scene with Meade.

    I'll knock two and a half times for this Thriller.

  12. My new favorite episode (until we get to the ones I remember more vividly) and the first one I remember watching as a child. Loved the alley scenes with their noir photography, particularly when Joe Maross gets beaten up by the thugs. I also loved that the killer was handsome and not some sniveling human demon with running sores. That really plays on expectations.

    But the highlight for me was Beverly Garland, one of my favorite B-movie actresses. Between bad timing and Hollywood myopia, she never got the career she deserved. Her scenes in this are much more skillfully played than you'd expect from someone who looks that good in a slip. And the script gave her a surprising amount of range.

    I checked this episode on IMDB, where it has an 8.6 star rating out of ten. I'll second that.

  13. #28 out of 67 for me, 2.5 Karloffs, idea is kind of unlikely
    but its well done, best thing about it for me was Warren Oates performance, I saw a blog not being impressed with his performance, but I was utterly convinced, plus I liked his crappy apartment.

  14. Maross is great as a creep and a loser who's willing to sell out his own wife to get out of debt, Beverly Garland looks great (when I see them together, I can't help but think of the recent spate of sitcoms like King of Queens or Still Standing, both of which feature a guy married to a babe who's way out of his league), and Charles Aidman and Warren Oates are pretty much playing the characters they'd played on dozens of TV series at that time (Aidman as the everyman character, Oates playing a slow-witted dullard, albeit one who comes to life at the end). I thought this played very well. The killer, Meade Martin, looked VERY familiar--I thought it was a young Keir Dullea, but not seeing his name in the credits, I was puzzled, till I read the previous comments.

  15. Love the noirish scenes, marred slightly by the un-noirish interiors. And, given that it's TV, I forgive them the day-for-night location night shots.

    Oates is great. In fact, when have I ever seen him disappoint?

    The one scene that keeps me from being more enthusiastic is when Maross is chatting up our serial killer (who looks like Rusty Godowski, the sodomized-by-Racquel-Welch acting student in Fox's 1970 disaster epic "Myra Breckinridge"). Could he be more obvious in putting Beverly Garland on the end of a giant fish hook? "You see, my wife, who lives at 312 Covington, insists that I show good-looking strange young men this cheesecake photo of her as I describe the not-so-secret code that will get her negligee-wearing ass to open the door without asking for a confirmatory voice response to 'Who's there?' . . . ." Could he be more obvious in borrowing dialogue from the "How to spot a Homosexual" 1950's training film? "I can't stand drinking alone. Can't stand being alone, for that matter. Are you married?"