First aired: 10/25/60
Starring Rip Torn, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson.
Written and Directed by Douglas Heyes.
Duncan Corey (Torn) is set to inherit his late brother's house on a valuable plot of land, and there's just one small catch. According to the will, he must spend a night in the house and then live in it for a year, or it will go to his cousins (Barry and Anderson). Determined to land the inheritance, he doesn't let his cousins' warnings trouble him when they bring him to the house for his initial stay. Clearly the sounds he hears in the night are their attempts to scare him off... or are they?
JS: Now we're talking! While not flawless, "The Purple Room" is hands down the best episode in the series thus far. It's creepy, benefiting greatly from the locations (the exteriors at the famed Psycho house on the Universal lot), and a well dressed interior set. There's even a creepy ghost (which the folks at Image were kind enough to include on the episode menu screen)... or is there?
PE: Down through the years, this episode has gained a reputation as one of the “key” horror episodes of Thriller but SPOILER WARNING!! it really has no horror elements at all. Oh, it’s got the scares, but they're more along the lines of the faux shocks you’ll find in House on Haunted Hill (the version starring Vincent Price, naturally) or one of those Lights Out radio shows where you find out that the ghoul is actually the ex-boyfriend seeking revenge for being spurned. That’s not to say this isn’t a good show. It’s well-acted by its two male leads (Patricia Barry is a bit on the histrionic side for my tastes) and it does maintain a modicum of suspense given its limited plot line. Rip Torn gives a solid, at times humorous, performance and Richard Anderson is, well, Richard Anderson. He could very well be on his way to NASA for his big interview with Steve Austin. Many critics, I’m sure, would label Anderson’s acting as cold or wooden. I think that’s just what’s needed in the role of Oliver Judson, who has to shift from seemingly concerned about Duncan’s well-being to devious schemer in just a matter of hours. He has to keep up this facade for both Oliver and the viewer and does so admirably.
JS: Don't forget the great if brief appearance of Alfred Pennyworth (Alan Napier) as the executor of the will. Who'd have thought he'd need to moonlight from his day job at stately Wayne Manor!
PE: So, good acting, but not much in the way of a story. It’s a solid episode but I’m still waiting for that show that makes me say “Here’s why Boris Karloff’s Thriller is so fondly remembered 50 years later.” Time for Scoleri to swoop in and tell me I’m nuts. (He's nuts. -JS)
JS: Jumping back to the ghostly visitor... I'm sure this has been documented in greater detail elsewhere, but it's great to see Universal getting additional mileage out of the goofy looking Phantom of the Opera mask created for James Cagney on the Chaney biopic Man of a Thousand Faces (particularly considering that it looks so little like Chaney's original make-up). I'm curious if an enterprising Aurora monster modeler has ever modified their Phantom kit (which also used this likeness) into a Purple Room ghost...
OUR COMMENTS ON THE COMMENTARY:
PE (channeling Richard Anderson in a very hushed and serious tone): “I was going for an ice cream which is a funny thing to do in Hollywood, going for an ice cream, when I was plucked from my natural demeanor and…oh, see that, see how I twitched my left eye, I learned that from Kubrick….where was I, oh yes, …oh see that, that chair in the corner is the one that Mrs. Bates sat in…I remember reading the script for…what’s this thing called again…I thought big house, black and white, 1960…gotta be Psycho, right?...I thought I was reading for Psycho..."
JS: What Peter is trying to say is that the Richard Anderson commentary track meanders a bit. My suggestion, if you choose to listen to this particular track, is to bear in mind the guy's 84 years-old, and he's talking about an episode of a TV show shot 50 years ago. He seems pretty sharp, but obviously some of his recollections aren't completely accurate. That's not an excuse to berate him. I can only hope I'm as sharp at his (and Peter's) age. (Yeah, for the first time since I've known you, you're right. I'm being a nasty nitpicker. -PE)