Friday, October 22, 2010

The Closed Cabinet: Season 2 Episode 10

Originally aired 11/27/61
Starring Olive Sturgess, David Frankham, Jennifer Raine.
Written by Jess Carneol and Kay Lenard.
Directed by Ida Lupino.

Lady Beatrice Mervyn (Patricia Manning) murders her husband and then kills herself, invoking yet another one of those puzzling family curses. 300 years later, Evie Bishop (Sturgess) comes to visit her beau at his brother's mansion (the same mansion wherein the murders occurred), only to be visited by the ghost of Lady Beatrice. Is Evie going batty or is she really seeing Beatrice?

JS: The return of the original Thriller Babe of the Week! And this time around, Olive Sturgess was given a little bit more to work with than "The Watcher."

PE: Cut from the same cloth (or rather the same old moldy hunk of shag carpeting) as "God Grante That She Lye Stille." I wonder if Lupino pulled a Roger Corman and had a script written quickly to make use of the sets from the earlier episode? It sure has the whiff of a quickie script.

JS: Yes, it shared some of the same Dark Shadows-esque moments of that episode, including another great (recycled?) Goldsmith score. I imagine there's a great mash up to be made with Sturgess as our living damsel and Sarah Marshall as our ghostly visitor. Lupino really takes advantage of the sets at her disposal here. This episode is literally dripping with atmosphere...

PE: Do we really need to bring up the word "atmosphere?" Sure, this thing has it, most of them do. Set your story in a dark castle or the abandoned plantation and you can't miss. Is it asking too much, though, for a decent storyline rather than this Barbara Cartland/Edwina Noone claptrap? At least we get some decent Thriller babes this go-round to ogle.

JS: Would you rather another dull crime episode? If you're not a fan of ghost stories, clearly you're not going to like this or "God Grante," but I think it's beautifully shot, with great production values. And I'm not just talking about Olive Sturgess.

PE: God Grante This Be The Laste Gothic Ghoste Story Aye Ever Have To Watche.

OUR RATING:

18 comments:

  1. Why is it in all films about curses and witchy vexations, the malediction always has to RHYME, like some moonstruck sixth-grader's love poetry scribbled on the back of a spiral notebook and stained with questionable organic fluids? Stupid then, stupid now, stupid always.

    Having just discovered the corpse of her wastrel son (murdered by Lady Beatrice), Dame Alice, for no apparent reason, pronounces one of the dumbest curses in the history of dumb curses. She arbitrarily sticks all subsequent generations with a death curse based on a riddle that ... isn't. "An end there shall be," says this dotty old loon, "but it will be beyond the limit of man to discover it." Okay, that usually means a woman will unravel it ("Aha! Smartly done! This battle of semantics is over!"), which means Evie. Except Evie accidentally cuts herself and subsequently discovers another idiotic rhyme: 'Pure blood stained by the bloodstained knife / Ends Mervyn shame, heals Mervyn strife." When was this rule added? Okay ... so, then, WHY HIDE THE FRIGGIN' KNIFE? Hell, the goddamned MAID in the prologue could've grabbed the blade, gave herself a quick jab, and voila— no curse. That the Mervyns lasted three hundred years, THIS DUMB, is some kind of miracle of persistent genetics. If Dame Alice had bothered to throw in a bit about the blood of an innocent Mervyn wannabe-spouse cleansing the crimes of a murderous Mervyn spouse, then it might have tracked better. But from the little intel we are given, obliquely, it appears that old Hugh Meryyn was a dick anyway, so the whole curse business seems to be a fatally mis-aimed spasm of mother-love.

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  2. Jennifer Raine might not have been much of an actress, but she was a dynamic and attractive lady in person. She was Whit Bissell's third wife, and I met them both in 1977 and got an opportunity to spend time with them. Her Grandfather was Alan Napier. Her Great-Grandfather was ... CHARLES DICKENS. Whit and Jennifer were married in 1967 (nearly a decade after the death of Whit's previous wife, Dilys Mary Shan Jukes), and he was widowed when she died in 1993. He finished out his days in the Motion Picture Home (the last place I saw him) and died in 1996.

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    1. Wow, thanks for this info, so interesting. While not a beauty, I thought she was very charming, expressive and vivid (more than the leading lady), and having her play the harp at the beginning of one scene was typical of the terrific sense of detail director Ida Lupino brought to this episode.

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  3. << Her Grandfather was Alan Napier. <<

    Welllll ... her STEPfather was Alan Napier ... but Jennifer always shortened it to "He was my father." The real daughter of Alan Napier --

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0629608/

    -- is married to Robert Nichols of THE THING ("You won't be able to shoo our captain south with his heart wrapped around the North Pole").

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  4. Whit Bissell, one of those great, reliable actors who invested a lot of authority to their roles as scientists, lawyers, shopkeepers... who surprisingly, never made a Thriller! Even tho he has quite the sci-fi and some horror track record. Any interesting reflections on meeting Mr and Mrs Bissell?
    It'll help cover up what was a fairly dull, tho nicely photographed, non-Thriller -- which had only the babe factor going for it. At least Ms. Sturgess is a fellow BCer...

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  5. Another show that relies on "atmoshpere" as a crutch to drag itself over the finish-line. In many ways, I'd prefer a nice little, ingeniously-plotted Brit Who-Done-It to "Closed Cabinet", which depends entirely on its physical production to hold our interest.

    I was SURE that our hosts would point out the over-the-top, Gidget-like silliness of Olive Sturgess' performance; I kept expecting her and Jennifer Raine to pop their bubble-gum and giggle as they chatted about the creepy castle, and was SURE that Sturgess, in her best wide-eyed Debbie Reynolds-like manner, would say "Ooh, I just hate these icky spider webs" (or words to that effect) as she prowled through the dungeon. But, alas...t'was not to be.

    Seriously, though...the episode looks great, and Lupino and crew pulled out all the stops in the dungeon scene. The sets were all impressive, and the storm scenes in the accursed bedroom were effective. I especially liked the final sequence, as the ghostly apparition directed the entranced Olive to the cabinet, with the storm and wind raging about, but in TOTAL SILENCE (except for Goldsmith's music); a very effective, dream-like moment.

    Yes, the score was almost entirely a "God Grante.." retread, with those ominous, wailing french horns. Incidentally, as brilliant and ingenious as Goldsmith's scores are, he still owes a LOT to Bernard Hermann; those "wailing" horns, which Jerry first used for Thriller in "Hayfork..", as effective and chilling as they are, were essentially a borrowing from Herrmann's commerical-break-bumper cue from TZ's first season. Of the two composers, I think Goldsmith's music was more technically advanced, more varied, and more "legit" (for lack of a better term)--but no one could match Herrmann's sheer sense of EFFECT and what sort of sound "played" well to the ear, eye, and mind while experiencing his films.

    FIVE-out-of-10 Beach-Blanket-Bingo-Bye-Bye-Birdie-BORIS HEADS for this tale of the squeaky clean, air-headed Olive Sturgess' big adventure in the spooky old castle.

    (PS-- Why couldn't David Frankham have changed into a skeleton again and scared the
    jeeper-creepers out of Olive? Now THAT, my friends, would have been a "Thriller"!)

    LR

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  6. With Maggie Pierce and Suzan Farmer, Olive Sturgess IS one of the more Gidget-y leading ladies of Gothic horror. Olive was also the female lead in the AIP THE RAVEN with Karloff, Price and Lorre.

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  7. "Female lead" if you don't count the late, great Hazel Court...which I most assuredly do.

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  8. Larry-

    I was going to point out the goofy look on Jennifer Raine's face throughout the episode and, believe it or not, how much like Debbie Reynolds Olive Sturgess looked (albeit a somewhat short and dumpy Reynolds :>), but I really believe that if John and I mentioned everything, what would you guys talk about?

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  9. God Grante That This is Virtually a Retread of "God Grante ..."

    ... nice spooky ambience, ghosts, and a lot of stiff upper lips, which at its maxim is still miles better than another teacup-murder-misadventure on that blasted backlot suburbia. Now imagine a weekly "Ghost Tales" series where every episode is more or less inside this corset ...

    ... which brings up an interesting sidelight: that THRILLER, far from being bifurcated between crime and horror, is actually a wild potpourri of period ghost stories, police procedurals, faux-Hitchcocks, straight suspensers, and yes, outright horror tales. Literally, it is akin to a book anthology, which might contain any or all under the umbrella of "thriller." (It would be instructive to break down the shows and see how many fit in each category.)

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  10. David--

    Thanks for putting a positive spin on all of this, which makes it a bit easier to take.

    Here we are, TEN episodes into Season 2, and only ONE of them (Bloch's "Weird Tailor") is really worthy to stand alongside the great string of hits from the last months of Season 1. You would have thought that, having found their groove and a formula that really worked, the THRILLER folks would have stayed with it more consistently. If, as Warren's book suggests, the Horror shows got the best ratings, why in the world would Bill Frye adopt the "umbrella" approach which you (correctly, I think) describe? Why would he not have instinctively gone with more "Weird Tales" scripts, instead of this alternating comedy, Who-Done-It, Victorian horror "Lite", etc approach?

    And so we sit, 5o years later, lamenting his decision. And to make it worse, when we DO get to the real horror shows in Season 2, many of them do not measure up to the great 1st Season stuff; the magic seems to have faded.

    Larry

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  11. I read the original story of this, and it was even more dull, confusing and silly! Painful to plod through. Why they picked this for Thriller when there were so many other good stories in Weird Tales magazine is beyond me!

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    1. Once again, Thriller gives us a good prologue that promises much, but delivers a rather mundane episode.

      The sets on The Closed Cabinet are made up in an extravagant manner for a 60 TV series. The Thriller folks certainly captured the historical mood. Now only if they would have given us a story worthy of the sets.

      The Closed Cabinet wasn't bad at all. I found it more enjoyable and much less dull than the similarly cursed God Grant That She Lye Stille. The players were servicable and Olive Sturgess successfully filled out her role a Thriller babe. Olive also did a nice job of conveying the dream like horror lite atmosphere on the grounds of the cursed Mervyn estate. Incidently, it was fun seeing the entrance of Graves house from The Grim Reaper making a reappearance. I kept waiting for Shat to pull up in his wheels.

      As with many a Thriller, the Closed Case limped home with cheesy olde tyme curse dialog and I can't believe that in 300 years no one thought to turn the knight to open the drawer.

      I'll give two and a half Karloffs (half for the sets) for The Closed Case.

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  12. Utterly with Hynek on this one - why the hell DID noone give that cabinet drawer a wiggle in 3 centuries? "They were too afraid" we are told. Maybe they should have died out...
    Still it is Lupino doing great stuff and gothic and not another lame crime show so a reluctant two Karloffs.

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  13. My biggest question with this episode was also...why did Lady Alice curse her own family? Why not Lady B's family?

    And these are the hardest captchas I have ever seen. I am just guessing at the test ones.

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  14. The outside of the house reminded me most of the village sets from "Guillotine," which I liked much better than most of you. Did no one notice there were few windows at the lower level, making it seem like a medieval fortress, which was just right for this episode.

    So this was just a silly ghost-possession story with a happy, anti-climactic conclusion. I guess the THRILLER producers wanted to be all things to as many people as possible, hence an episode that looked almost as good as a Hammer period thriller, but with gauzy historical romance intentions. Since I am watching these episodes as they unfold on Me-TV, has anything been said about the budgets of the episodes? When a couple in a row came in cheaply, did they splurge on the third? Because that's what seems to have happened here. Did they just decide to give the expensive ones to Lupino because they know she was a skilled director who would bring a sense of detail to her shows? She seems to me by far the best director of the series.

    I enjoyed this despite the let-down at the end. Surprised that tres bland Olive Sturgess is considered "hot" babe material here You straight guys are an easy audience. David Frankham was the best this episode could do for gay male fans, and this series as a whole is lacking male pulchritude, the only exceptions being The Larrys: Blyden's gams in "Choose a Victim" and Pennell in toto in the excellent "Late Date."

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  15. I'm a friend of David Frankham, who appeared in this episode, and have some stories I can share: He LOVED working under Ida Lupino, who was very protective of her actors. He says they would have all jumped off the roof if she asked them to.

    There were indeed script problems, and Ms. Lupino and the actors had to spend a lot of time re-writing the script on the set to make it work. That set back the production, and when the "suits" from the Black Tower at Universal came down to see what the problem was, she angrily told them, "This script should never have gone into production!" When the suits tried to approach the actors, Ms. Lupino stood in front of them with her arms spread and said, "You stay away from my actors!"

    David was good friends with the great Doris Lloyd, who played the mother at the beginning, and felt bad for her that she was starting to have trouble remembering her lines. He remembers loving Ms. Lupino for being very gentle and supportive with Ms. Lloyd in getting that scene out of her, sometimes one line at a time.

    In the episode Olive Sturgess' character talks about meeting an old woman on the train. In reality David filmed that scene! In another sign of Ida Lupino's kindness, she asked David to do a short scene in a train car set with the actress Isobel Elsom. She explained that the scene wouldn't appear in the episode, but if they filmed it the day's work would give Ms. Elsom enough work hours (or something like that -- I'm not sure of the details) to qualify for a medical treatment she needed through the Screen Actor's Guild health plan!

    David liked Jennifer Raine and Peter Forster, who were actually married at the time, saying they were both very nice, friendly people.

    David was excited that some of his THRILLERS were filmed on the "Phantom of the Opera" stage at Universal, and he could see the "opera house" boxes and things covered up. I think this may have been one of those episodes.

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  16. Just watched this last night. Yep, was waiting throughout for it to click, but it just sort of petered out at the end. I am glad that this was an actual supernatural ghost story and not a "Let's-Scare-Olive-To-Death" story, and yet the ghost part doesn't make sense. Just WHY are the men so afraid, if the ghost only showed herself to Olive? If nobody ever stays in the room, then what's scary about the rest of the mansion? The husband and wife pretty much disappear half way through and contribute nothing to the climax.

    I noticed a little gaffe in the beginning: when Karloff is making his speech in front of the candelabra and billowing curtains, for a moment the curtain gets caught on the candle and looks about ready to burn before some unseen hand yanks it away. However, Karloff just kept on going.

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