Starring Ronald Howard, Henry Daniell, Torin Thatcher.
Written by Donald S. Sanford, based on the story by John Clemons.
Directed by John Brahm.
Robert Penrose (Howard) and his butler Jeremy Teal (Thatcher) are kidnapped by the ghoulish Moloch (Daniell) and giant Styx (Richard Kiel). Teal is murdered and Penrose is taken to an underground dungeon, where he finds his fiance, Laura (Fintan Meyler), gagged and bound behind bars. Penrose must find a way to get out of the dungeon before Moloch can hatch his evil plan.
JS: Wow! Talk about a pleasant surprise. There's something to be said about going into an episode with no expectations. While not perfect, this is a great show from start to finish.
PE: Why is it that when the best Thriller episodes are debated, I've never heard "Well of Doom" discussed? Looking very much like Lon Chaney in London After Midnight, Henry Daniell is suitably creepy, the lines and valleys on his face (is it me or does his face seem to be melting?) more hideous than some of the monster make-ups in these shows. The peril facing Penrose and Laura seems real at all times until—SPOILER ALERT—well, crap, it not only borrows Chaney's look from London After Midnight, it also cops its climax.
JS: That aspect didn't bother me too much. It was just cool to see a man in a beaver hat chewing up the scenery like one could only imagine Chaney doing. One more thing about the ending - I have to take back what I said previously about Quentin Tarantino lifting the ending to Reservoir Dogs from the climax of "Man in the Middle." Clearly he got it from "Well of Doom."
PE: Never before have I seen such a perfect dramatization of a "shudder pulp." Being that the story came from one of the oft-derided mystery/horror pulps of the 1930s (the May 1936 issue of Thrilling Mystery to be exact), it's not too much of a stretch. The show literally smells of pulp paper and typewriters hot to the touch. It's also probably the only time you'll ever get to see Richard Kiel in a tutu.
JS: That reveal of Kiel was pretty darn effective - seeing him towering in the fog. What amazed me in this episode was that despite it being clear that they were walking through a fog enshrouded soundstage, it doesn't take away from the atmosphere that is built up. I was even willing to forgive Torin Thatcher's pratfall in the moors.
PE: Composer Jerry Goldsmith adds yet another feather to his cap. His score amps up the tension twenty-fold.
JS: I'm beginning to feel bad for Pete Rugolo, who had good and bad days working on Thriller, because frankly listening to one Goldsmith track after another, he sure makes the job seem effortless. Then again, look at Goldsmith's body of work. If he's written a bad score, somebody please point it out, just so I can say I know what bad Jerry Goldsmith sounds like. In this episode in particular, you get cool, elaborate scenes sans dialog, with only the score to carry them, and they work perfectly.
PE: For those interested in reading the original story (and not wanting to fork over lots of dough for a moldy old rag that could become dust at any moment), the issue of Thrilling Mystery that contained "The Well of Doom" was recently reprinted by John Gunnison's Adventure House. You can order it here.
JS: I was left with one lingering question when all was said and done. Do you think Penrose's buddies still had the bachelor party without him?
OUR COMMENTS ON THE COMMENTARY:
PE: Gary Gerani and David J. Schow deliver, in my opinion, the most entertaining and informative commentary yet. For this blog, I watch the episode first then watch it again with commentary. I'd like to thanks Messrs. Gerani and Schow for making my job on this particular show that much harder. Most of my notes ended up in the bin since most of my observations were voiced during the boys' party in front of the tube. I swear I had "This is just like London After Midnight" and "this reeks of shudder pulps" before I listened. No, really.
JS: Two words I would use to describe this commentary - unbridled enthusiasm. My favorite commentaries have always been those where it's clear the participants are having a good time (John Carpenter & Kurt Russell, anyone?), and that's definitely the case here. I personally can't wait to read David J. Schow's Adventures of Moloch and Styx.