Sunday, October 17, 2010

God Grante That She Lye Stille: Season 2 Episode 5

Originally aired 10/23/61
Starring Ronald Howard, Sarah Marshall, Henry Daniell, and a magnificent staircase.
Written by Robert Hardy Andrews, based on the short story by Lady Cynthia Alquist.
Directed by Herschel Daugherty.

Burned at the stake as a witch, Elspeth Clewer (Marshall as a brunette) takes a novel turn and curses her own lineage: she'll not rest until she finds a Clewer body to rest in. 300 years to the day, Lady Margaret Clewer (Marshall as a blonde) begins exhibiting anti-social tendencies: she opens windows when told not to, she screams a lot, and leers lustily at her country doctor (Howard). Can her soul be saved?

PE: Nice intro. Immediately had me in mind of one of those Spanish horror films producer K. Gordon Murray used to acquire and make Spam out of. Only problem is that the dubbing here is too good. But do enjoy the prologue. That's about all there is to get excited about.

JS: Wow, twice in just a few days that you and I are coming in at opposite ends of the spectrum. For me this episode plays as a precursor to Dan Curtis' Dark Shadows (and that's a good thing? -PE). If you had told me he sat his team down to watch this episode and take notes for inspiration, I'd believe it. The good contemporary girl possessed by her ghostly relative (with different colored hair so as not to confuse the audience), Henry Daniell providing a blueprint for Reverend Trask, and one has to wonder if Robert Cobert modeled many a haunting melody after hearing Goldsmith's score. Obviously Thriller, with what I imagine was a larger per-episode budget than DS would ever know, features better acting, production values, and visual effects. I know you're not a fan of that show, so it doesn't surprise me if this doesn't do much for you either.

PE: NO, you're right, I'm not a fan of Dark Shadows. But now that you've brought it up, I can see the similarities. That show had just as much lousy writing and acting as this one, not to mention a popular on set staircase. The staircase in "God Grante" must have been a new jewel in the crown on the Universal lot. I think a whole episode of the characters walking up and down those stairs was actually filmed before someone butted in and reminded the director that this was, after all, a story about a witch and not The Jack Lalanne Show.

JS: Yeah, I immediately recognized the staircase, too. Was it in "Premature Burial," "What Beckoning Ghost?" or both? Granted, we got some nice wide shots of the Universal backlot, but I found the production values overall to be quite good this time out. And I was pleasantly surprised by the performances, particularly Henry Daniell and Sarah Marshall.

PE: There's a hell of a lot of screaming going on here.

JS: And that's not a bad thing in a Thriller. I'll admit that since much of my viewing time was comparing this to Dark Shadows, I may be overly kind in my assessment.

PE: It's a Thriller reunion for director Daugherty, writer Andrews, cinematographer Benjamin H. Kline, composer Jerry Goldsmith, star Sarah Marshall, and my yawning, all veterans of "The Poisoner."

JS: You need to stop watching these past your bedtime. First you sleep through "Guillotine" and wake up thinking it's good, and now this. You probably missed one of the best dog performances in the history of Thriller (okay, it's not so much a performance—they just don't do the standard 'sit, Ubu, sit,' shot). Kudos to Daugherty for the complex process shot as the spirit of Elsbeth approaches Margaret as she backs away. You'd expect this to be done with a locked down camera, but here we get a nice pan from the window to the bed, with Elsbeth stepping down stairs. Under the circumstances, the execution of the shot was very impressive, and certainly effective.

PE: In his fifth and final Thriller, Daniell is in fine form as the mysterious vicar. I was never sure if Vicar Weatherford was up to no good and that's all down to that classic face. Henry's performance and the intro (including Boris' jovial comments) are the highlights of "God Grante That I Staye Awake."

JS: Well now I'm depressed. With each new appearance I've grown to appreciate Daniell more and more, so to find out that this is his last is a bit depressing.

PE: Victor Buono pops in for an ultra-short cameo. Here's how bored I was: watch Buono with his cigarette. Other than to light it, the ciggy never touches his mouth. If I could ask one question of the producers of Thriller, it would be: "How much of a kickback did you get from the companies to have all your actors smoke onscreen?" And kudos to Gina Gillespie for insisting on a doll to hold in "Mr. George" rather than a Marlboro. At least there's a respite from the screaming for this one scene.

JS: Funny you mention that. I'm sure some of our illustrious followers can flesh out the details, but I believe the reason the Thriller continuity scripts were posted online (thanks to Ivan Shreve over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for sharing them with us) was due to a lawsuit against tobacco companies. I think numerous series scripts were used as evidence against them.

PE: My "Thrillah moments": The lovestruck doctor looks deep into Lady Margaret's eyes and asks how she's feeling. The Lady's reply: "Like water released from a broken bowl spitting into emptiness." You just don't get dialogue like that on The Twilight Zone. Then there's the cliffhanger just before we go to "sticks" when Lady Margaret (evidently) stabs her nurse to death (accompanied by a scream). When we come back from the commercial ("I'm sure you recognize this lovely theme as..."), we learn that Margaret missed all vital organs by a country mile and barely grazed her nurse's arm. Some dangerous witch she'll turn out to be.

JS: How about the inclusion of biting heads off animals, years before Ozzy Osbourne would bring that into the mainstream. I loved the shot of the nursemaid looking into the birdcage. Just one more example why I think this is a standout episode (I liked when she panted out: "But doctor...they're dead....but, doctor, there's so much blood....but doctor, they have no heads....aaiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee" I think that last bit, the scream, was actually me. -PE)

PE: God Grante That I Don't Have to Listen to the Thrillah Fans Defend This One. And Lucas...I don't want to hear the B-word out of you!

JS: "God Grante That She Lye Stille," written by Lady Cynthia Alquist first appeared in When Churchyards Yawn (Hutchinson, 1931).








OUR RATING:

18 comments:

  1. "When Churchyards Yawn"? Probably while reading the original story, if it's anything like this episode!

    Interesting (if not entertaining) to see the son of Leslie Howard (Ronald) interacting with the daughter of Herbert Marshall (Sarah, of TEENAGE CAVEMAN fame ... I wonder what Dad thought of THAT). The story's a little reminiscent (very little) of BLACK SUNDAY, and Marshall's witch character even looks a tad like Barbara Steele. Jeez, a vampire-witch, castle set, fog, grisly goings-on, and yet it still managed to achieve a "veddy British" veneer of dragged-out dullness. I found it a long, hard sit the last time I tried to enjoy it.

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  2. I had high hopes for this one due to the nice beginning but then it was downhill all the way. I have to admit it put me to sleep twice so maybe I'm missing a couple key scenes.

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  3. God Grante That Thom Sitte Stille!

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  4. I always thought this was the title of a medieval porno flick.

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  5. Admittedly, I have little knowledge of horror/supernatural literature, but something tells me that when the author's name begins with "Lady" ______(ANYTHING), we might be in for a long evening.

    A real snoozer; when almost half of the onscreen action consists of a gentrified lady in-and-around her bed, the material had better be pretty darned compelling; here it is not.

    Still, I like the look and feel of this show, which goes a long way towards compensating for its overall weakness. Great to see Ronald Howard and Henry Daniell reunited in much different circumstances than in "Well of Doom", though I prefer those circumstances by a wide margin.

    BUT--- I really appreciate the fact that "Thriller" (and the new dvd set) once again preserve a great performer of yore in a featured role, in this case, a rare opportunity to see Daniell in a "good guy" straight part. It's especially enjoyable to watch his naturally sinister persona be ultimately revealed as a force of GOOD for a change. Love those close-ups near the end, his distinctive features highlighted by the fireplace glow.

    Good production values, a very cool graveyard set, and another fine score by Goldsmith. Viewing these episodes once-a-day certainly points up the similarities of the music; there was, in fact, only 3 or 4 basic stylistic "models" Goldsmith could use that would fit the very consistent mood of a series such as Thriller. But, as always, JG's score adds immensely to the atmosphere of the show.

    Still, we have now arrived at a point where Thriller definitely "levels off" in overall quality; the real first-class, standout episodes will become rarities. I'd give this one 6 out of 10 less-than-enthusiastic Karloff heads.

    LR

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  6. I gather from assorted TWILIGHT ZONE and STAR TREK photos that Sarah Marshall was "normally" a blonde (I'll bet Mr. Weaver can confirm or deny), which is a shame because the dark-haired witch version of her is ten times hotter. Even I shall admit unashamedly that she does seem to be channeling Barbara Steele in the prologue.

    Let's look at what we have as opposed to what we DON'T have. Gratuitous Sarah Marshall. Henry Daniell and Ronald Howard from "Well of Doom," together again — this time as allies. More screen time for Daniell, always a plus. Tons of cemetery / funeral / boneyard atmosphere. At the center of it all, a rather fragile story of a notably sad kind of haunting (and a particularly sadistic one, considering the way Lady Margaret suffers) , which has the classic air of a "respectable" literary pedigree ... which renders the whole affair a bit on the dry side. No explosions or laser-fights, and nod-off time for viewers needing constant stimulation. (In THRILLER's case, this galvanic need was sometimes served — admittedly — by the commercials, which we can be doubly thankful for not seeing here, except of course for that John Williams thing.) But I'd be willing to bet a lot of that torpor comes from the source material. THRILLER seems to have fired hotter when it stuck to WEIRD TALES.

    And the title is basically the entire story. Starts there, ends there.

    Regardless, if a TV show looked as lush as this every week, I'd still watch it.

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  7. I guess if I have to take something positive away from this episode, it's that we finally get a Bedridden Babe rather than Biddy. Musta been a little more $$ in the budget that week. As far as the rest of the show zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  8. My wife and I must be geeks within horror geek fandom--we enjoyed this episode very much!

    It's no "Doktor Markesan," but it has good production values (for TV then), an effective musical score, and good performances from Marshall and Daniell.

    True, it has people conversing--horrors!--and little onscreen violence or fast-paced action. As DJS pointed out, there are sad and sadistic elements of the haunting, which my wife and I found interesting, even unsettling. And the atmosphere and characters made this episode very watchable and enjoyable for us.

    God grante we may stille enjoy stories like this!

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  9. I enjoyed this one, too - a lot more than Peter did. Which is one of the reasons we decided to split our individual reviews when we took on The Outer Limits.

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  11. One thing that surprised me and my wife Jane was the blood-drinking aspect. Knowing how much TV script writers liked to "cheat" with grisly aspects of their stories back in the day, I half-expected the blood-drinking to turn out to be contrived--a set up by someone (like the evil-seeming vicar) to drive Marshall to madness or death. But no, Marshall's character really did do the horrid deeds. (Killing her own pets instead of a rat or a stray was even more effective in lending a revolting--and "sad and sadistic"--aspect to the tale.)

    Just as surprising is how messy with blood her mouth is--an image that seemed to us to be unusual for American television in the 1960s.

    [I removed my previous comment for overlooked typos.]

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  12. Little side comment here. You've reflected a time or two over Stephen King's glowing tribute to THRILLER -- which is the only reason I know of its existence and bought the DVD set -- so it only seems appropriate to point out that in the novel 'SALEM'S LOT, the epitaph on the late Hubert Marsten's gravestone reads, "God Grant He Lie Still".

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  13. The prologue was the witches tit! Sarah Marshall is back and she's so hot that she's about to spontaniously combust. I was pretty excited to see what awaited me after the wicked old school bon fire gathering.

    Fast forward 300 years and Sarah Marshall is a dull, chaste blonde ready to turn 21. I'm sorry, but Sarah looks closer to 31 and also lost the babe factor she had 300 years earlier.

    I made the mistake of watching this on a Sunday night after a weekend of late night Christmas parties. I almost fell asleep several times during this episode. The next 40 of the next 45 minutes seemed like they were filmed with Sarah in bed.

    God Grante That She Lye Stille reminded me a little of Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook. The small English village and a local doing his duty as caretaker to see that events sowed from generations ago are kept in check. The plot premise is good, and the I love those olde English settings, but the writers failed this episode. Too much static in Sarah's bedroom. There was slight redemption in that the last scenes were done well.

    God Grant Two Karloffs.

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  14. I think I slept through half of it. But who would want to become a witch hunter in the first place if you had to assign your family for the next several centuries to making sure that everyone you convicted didn't come back from the dead? Until one of them arbitrarily pronounces that they can't do it any more.

    It reminded me a bit of "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper", in which a main character pulls the plot more or less out of thin air. At least this time, Ron Howard asks the question we all wanted asked in Ripper: "How do you KNOW all this?" But the explanation ("Oh, I'm descended from the guy who executed her in the first place") didn't really explain how he knew it, it only explained that he wanted to believe it.

    The look and feel was good. And seeing Ron Howard still looking like Sherlock Holmes is always fun. The setup was decent enough, there's just not enough action or payoff. Darn, I wanted to like this one. Maybe I'll watch it again and try to stay awake this time.

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  15. On the other hand, I did find it comforting to learn that the witchcraft trials executed a few actual witches. It's good to know that law enforcement is on their toes.

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  16. Cynthia Asquith, not Cynthia Alquist.

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  17. I enjoyed this one more than most who've posted here, especially the sets and overall look and feel of the episode. Sarah Marshall did look a helluva lot sexier in the opening, though she was an attractive woman even when not being burned at the stake.

    What struck me while watching God Grant, etc. was the smallness of the cast. After the bonfire opening there were seldom more than two actors in any scene. Leaving aside the extras early on how many were in the cast, absent one scene Buono. It was basically Howard, Marshall and Daniell with the two older females to tend to
    Lady Sarah. That was about it.

    Good acting, especially from Mr. Henry Daniell, whose air of moral ambiguity mixed with a diabolical undercurrent was better utilized in anything else I've seen him in save The Body Snatcher (yet another dead hand of the past horror). I thought he was the villain throughout, expected him to do something nasty at the end. Miss Marshall
    was eye candy even why just lying in bed doing nothing. I've always found her sexy as hell in a very unselfconscious way.

    (Odd that the next week's episode featured the daughter of another golden age Hollywood stalwart, Elizabeth Montgomery, this time for fun,--preparing for Samantha maybe--though I found Sarah a more compelling presence. There was a sincerity in her playing, always, that lovely Liz never quite mastered, but I digress.)

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  18. I knew Ronald Howard was Leslie Howard's son but had no idea Sarah Marshall (who I confess I've never liked) was Herbert Marshall's daughter and I'm glad to know that.

    I second the observation that too many THRILLER episodes stinted on cast members and that the claustrophobic chamber effect of just a few actors often hampered the proceedings, rather than enhanced them. But I liked the look and feel of this one, you can tell that in their low budget B&W way they were trying to duplicate the feeling of the Hammer films, and in this one they came within striking distance. I was glad they stayed true to the story and killed of the heroine, I was afraid for a moment that she would live happily ever after with the distinguished doctor.

    It did feel like a VERY long episode.

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