Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Good Imagination: Season 1 Episode 31

Originally aired: 5/2/61
Starring Edward Andrews, Patricia Barry, Ed Nelson.
Written by Robert Bloch, based on his short story.
Directed by John Brahm.

Frank Logan (Andrews) has a big problem with his adulterous wife Louise (Barry). But maybe it's not a big problem after all because Frank has a good imagination. That imagination enables him to find new ways to off her paramours.

PE: And the first to go is special Thriller guest star Robert Goulet.

JS: Thanks. I had to go and double check the credits to confirm you were joking. I did see Glenn Strange listed, and after scanning back through the entire episode looking for him, I gave up and read on the IMDB that his scenes were supposedly deleted. Hopefully our illustrious peanut gallery can fill in the exact details... (They may be too busy preparing the "Ten Karloff Heads or Die" rally in Griffith Park -PE)

PE: "A Good Imagination" creates laughs where it's supposed to and amidst those laughs are a couple creepy scenes, chief among them when Louise finds out what Frank has up his sleeve at the climax. The film, fairly bright through the episode, turns dark and grainy, almost noirish (of course, I'm hoping that's the way it's supposed to look and that I didn't stumble on yet another flaw in the set!). It's a great scene. The Frank Logan character could be played broadly and hammy (did I say the word Shatner? No.) since this is essentially a "dark comedy," but Edward Andrews does a superb job of making the character believable. Andrews has one of those immediately identifiable faces and he's done tons of TV work in all the usual suspects: Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Wild Wild West.

JS: Andrews starred in one of my all-time favorite Twilight Zone episodes, "You Drive." That's the one where he runs over a kid and leaves the scene, but his car doesn't let him get away with it quite so easily. It freaked me out as a kid. There's something about the way he delivers his lines, like when he tells George (Nelson), "You're wrong there George—there are rats everywhere..." Speaking of which, good to see Ed Nelson back for more. Is it just me, or was handyman George the twin brother of handyman Charlie in "The Cheaters"?

PE: Though I liked the episode, I couldn't help thinking this was not a Thriller. With its' bleak sense of humor, it would have been better served up on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I'd have preferred Bloch to work on something that would fit in well with the gothic sensibilities of "Parasite Mansion" and "Well of Doom." In some alternate Thriller universe, Bloch wrote produced scripts for "Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...," "Shambler from the Stars," and "The Opener of the Way."

JS: I thought Morton Stevens score fit the tone of the episode perfectly, with lots of percussion and a Vic Mizzy-like playfulness.

PE: "A Good Imagination" first appeared in the January 1956 issue of Suspect Detective Tales. Suspect was one of the short-lived crime digests that populated the newsstand in the 1950s. It lasted only 5 issues and then became Infinity Science Fiction (a magazine that Bloch also sold to). Though it didn't last long, it did manage to snag some of the day's big writers (Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Richard Prather). "A Good Imagination" was subsequently reprinted in Bloch's Terror in the Night and Other Stories, an Ace paperback "double" (the other side being Bloch's novel, Shooting Star, and then again in 1977 in the Mysterious Press collection, The King of Terrors.

OUR RATING:

15 comments:

  1. I'm just back from the Ten Karloffs or Die rally and I think you guys are in trouble. By the way, since we are just about all bookworms here, how come you didn't stress the great book references. Come to think of it we are ALL bookworms, right?

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  2. My problem with this episode is the wife's stupidity. She pretty much knows the husband killed her lover--how could she not, with Edward Andrews' mugging and Bloch's sadistically jokey dialogue?--then her brother and a private eye die in an "accident," following which the husband moves her to the middle of nowhere. And yet by then she only expresses mild annoyance (with no concern for safety) before taking up with a handyman?

    The earlier murders are fun, but Bloch's adding them to pad the script to 50 minutes results in a discordant episode. The original short story and that great added twist ending would have made a great "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

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  3. Me, too. I practically lost my voice at the Ten Karloff rally; the crowd extended all the way back to the Washington Monument.

    "Good Imagination" features the ubiquitous Edward Andrews in an awesone performance; the guy just REVELS in this kind of role--MAN was he good! I'm sure Bloch was delighted with his performance. And even though I don't care for his generally dork-y businessman, cream-puff screen persona (I love it when he gets slapped around in some of those "Untouchables" espisodes), Andrews was positively brilliant and totally in command of this show; a fascinating performance to obeserve, from start to finish. (And he was considered LEGIT, too; he plays Lee J. Cobb's next-door-neighbor in the 1966 Broadway Archives production of "Death of a Salesman", along with "The Cheater's" Mildred Dunnock as Lee's wife (I think she created the role onstage in 1950).

    We'll be seeing more of these black-comedy crime shows as "Thriller" progresses, especially those starring Andrews.

    Morton Stevens, who was really working overtime for Thriller at this point in 1961, gives us the first of his "parody" scores, with twittery piccolo and grunting contra-bassoon, lots of xylophone, cymbals, etc. It's fun--in moderate doses.

    OH,-- I almost forgot! 6 out of ten Karloffs, since it is still a rather minor episode.

    LR

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  4. As my introduction into the actual tv show -- i've been reading along as i waited for the mailperson to deliver my package, asking somedays whether or not i should have got the mother-in-laws instead... But i must say i was bowled over by the clever story, great acting and awesome music. Andrews, who was recognized for playing many a blustery boss/neighbour, positively cascades menace from his meek but rambunctious beady eyes. I loved the pace and could feel that this was a complete Bloch work. I had no problem with the relatively dense wife; she's meant to be totally selfinvolved and shallow, just as her lovers were painted thinly. Terrific feel to the whole show - especially the music. I use to scoff when dvd packages boasted 'isolated music scores' but from what i was reading about this series, about Stevens' contributions here, and my sneak peak at the next episode (nifty Goldsmith in a ghost story of sorts!) i'm all over it.
    Eight Karloffs from this thriller virgin!

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  5. "Eight Karloffs from this thriller virgin!"

    Just what we need, another rabble rouser. Has Schow been on the phone with these guys, Scooter?

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  6. Love it or wince at it, double-entendre dialogue and hideous puns were Bob Bloch’s bailiwick, and his background in advertising lent his fiction a parade of sad little men (“little” in the sense of “unimportant”) who worked anonymously, “losing hair and adding stomach” (as he described the protagonist of “That Hellbound Train” – which would’ve have made a great Thriller, by the way), until they encounter the opportunities of crime or the supernatural. Thriller’s bifurcated identity very much reflects Bob’s own pendulum-swing between crime stories, the conte cruel, science fiction and the supernatural, leaving equal room for a ghost story, perhaps, or another doublecross.

    Paradoxically, “That Hellbound Train,” part of Bloch’s devil’s-deal sub-canon, won the Hugo Award in 1959 for Best Science Fiction short story. This permits a small aside to the notion that ALL of this stuff is, essentially, “modern fantasy.” The interweave of genres traditionally denoted by the clunky moniker “science fiction, fantasy, and horror” are all really the same thing. Robert Silverberg once famously noted that if people were confused as to whether “speculative fiction” was in fact “science fiction,” just toss in a robot or a spaceship — done. It’s all furniture for what should be called, simply, fantasy, or even better, “fiction.”

    For the purposes of Bob’s fiction, Edward Andrews is the near-perfect Blochian protagonist, bespectacled and beleaguered, ultimately the architect of his own undoing. This is in sharp contrast to his flamboyant portrayal of Mr. Braine in WILD WILD WEST’s “Night of the Big Brain,” where the ham is sliced thickly indeed, and Andrews appears to be having a ball playing a super-villain so smart that he installs himself in a fabulous, steam-powered, artillery-festooned wheelchair in order to conserve his energy for thinking!

    A big SEVEN out ten Karloffs, easy.

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  7. I agree with the better than average rating for this funny episode, which held my interest from start to finish. Andrews is always delightful, and I'm sad that no one thought to mention Patricia Barry's status as a Thriller babe. This really would have worked perfectly on the Hitchcok show, but if it's an example of the upcoming Thriller "crime" episodes, I want more!

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  8. I always enjoy Edward Andrew's performances. He always add that quirky charm to his dark performances. An entertaining THRILLER episode throughout.

    "3 Karloffs"

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  9. I'm surprised no one's mentioned (because it's too obvious?) that the final shadow on the wall before fade out resembles the famous Hitchcock silhouette. That, in conjunction with the music, seems to scream, "Whoops, wrong show!" Perhaps Hitchcock saw this episode and it was the genesis of his ire. :)

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  10. [SPOILER] This is totally a homage to Hitchcock. I liked it. Andrews makes the episode. He was really creepy, menace lurking under a pleasant exterior. I though the addition of material was fine. I never felt the episode was plodding or marking time. And I was glad there was no cop out at the end and the wife really did get murdered.

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  11. After watching the prologue I would have bet my paycheck that I'd be doling out one Karloff to A Good Imagination. He kills playboy Goulet with an axe. Shocking!

    Edward Andrews, as the uber imaginative vengeful killer Frank Logan, totally carries this episode. Everything about Edward is spot on. His voice, his delivery, his mannerisms, his facial movements are all perfectly intertwined to create a bookish, suburban sociopath.

    Patricia Barry does a fine job as the bored, sexually frustrated housewife. Ed Nelson plays the young, dim witted townie hunk to a tee (shirt).

    It's fun to see Frank relish the challenge of each spouse engendered obstacle laid before him. You can sense Frank rubbing his hands together and letting that "Good Imagination" churn for a bit, and then getting on with the dirty deed.

    Frank sure does encourage some comradery drinking. Hell, I would have been easily suckered in by Mr. Logan with his immediate offers of a drink.

    As with so many other Thriller episodes, I'm intrigued by the shameless cheating action going on. As soon as George arrives, you know that it's only a matter of minutes before Louise is all over him. With Frank away all week, those two horn dawgs must have worn themselves.

    Those last scenes are pretty clever. The way Frank keeps asking a buzzed George if he hears that noise is just so deliciously evil. I confess that I thought Louise was already behind the wall and the scene would quickly wrap up. Instead, we get a nice and very imaginative twist of the revenge knife. The ending reminded me a bit of Val Lewton's Bedlam.

    Three Karloffs for this very imaginative Thriller.

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  12. Loved it! Witty script and score and great overall ensemble, particularly Edward Andrews. This is one I vaguely remember seeing before, but I could sworn the ending had the bookstore clerk (Mary Grace Canfield of GREEN ACRES) blackmailing him into marrying her. I'm sure I've got that confused with some other show but can't remember which one.

    BTW, it's nice to see Ed Nelson move so effectively from small, quirky bit to stylized support to this more human character. He's a much underrated actor, I think because once he made his name he moved into a series of drab leading roles. I'll always remember him getting decapitated in ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and selling his soul to the devil to turn into animals in some really dreadful film I have on DVD somewhere.

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  13. Good episode. #23 on my list out of 67. Edward Andrews really puts this one (and Third for Pinnocle over), for some reason I didn't care for him in Tundifer. Very witty dialog and characterization overcome a pretty ordinary plot in this one. I'm very impressed with Ed Nelson's many varied roles in the series, also this is the best of Patricia Berry's 3 performances in the series. 3 out of 4.

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  14. I'm seeing a consistent pattern with these Thrillers. Either they're padded, turgid bore-fests (like Papa Benjamin , or they're flawed gems that you really want to like, but find yourself having to ignore glaring flaws.

    This is one of the latter. Edward Andrews performance is superb. The dialogue is great. But the story itself doesn't ring true. As Stan observed earlier, the wife's stupidity is a problem. She knows Ed killed her lover, and the detective she hired and her brother die in a freak poisoning/boating accident, and she just lets herself be moved out into the middle of nowhere, then tempts fate even further by having a fling with a handyman.

    The stupidity is contagious. Ken Lynch is a competent enough detective to get the goods on Andrews in a matter of minutes, but too stupid to know how to blackmail someone. (What, you mean you DON'T go meet them in an isolated cabin without telling anyone where you're going, and drink whatever they offer you?) Everyone knows you hold the meeting somewhere public, and have the evidence in your safe deposit box, ready to go straight to the DA if anything happens to you. How do you feel sorry for someone like that?

    Andrews himself suffers from it in the teaser. He goes to the apartment to kill Goulet, but doesn't seem to have a weapon ready to do the job. Instead, despite planning the crime out in great detail, he gives Goulet plenty of advance notice about what he's going to do, and then goes for a weapon conveniently placed on the wall. Why didn't he have that ready beforehand? Did he bring a weapon at all, or did he count on Goulet having a weapons collection on display?

    I also had a problem with the fact that Andrews is not just a timid guy who got pushed beyond his breaking point. His first reaction to anyone who displeases him seems to be to do away with them. How did someone that unbalanced stay out of trouble this long, whether his wife was faithful or not? He's extremely unbalanced, and not because of things that happened in the story. It's just a happy coincidence.

    For that matter, why does he take no action against his wife after the first affair, but plan to murder her after the second one? Or why not just leave her? He doesn't really seem to care about her that much.

    And why go through the bit with the handyman in the basement? To drive him crazy? He couldn't have known that would happen. He said it was to establish an alibi, but this makes little sense. They were planning to leave that night anyway. If both were gone the next day, everyone would have assumed that she left with him. Wherever he goes next, the question will come up of what happened to his wife. Presumably he plans to say that she left him, but it won't do him any good for someone in his last place of residence to be thinking that he murdered her. Why put that idea into anyone's head at all?

    By the way, is Ed nailed at the end or not? From the look on his face, you'd think so. His wife's car is in the driveway, so he can't claim that she never made it home. But if he says she went out for a walk and didn't come back, it's not clear that the jig is up. Some of these stories would have been improved if Karloff had come back on at the end, like Hitchcock did, to tie up those loose ends. In fact, many Hitchcock episodes ended with the villain apparently triumphant, until Hitch explained how they were done in, when showing it in the body of the program would have been anti-climaatic.


    The result is a flawed gem. I really, really want to love this episode, but the story just isn't seaworthy. There's not just one leak, there are several. The Hitchcock episode that "A Good Imagination" most reminds me of is "De Mortuis", with Robert Emhardt in the Andrews role. Emhardt's performance is not as good as Andrews' is, but the story is fundamentally much sounder, which makes it a better episode.

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    Replies
    1. Caught this episode on the continuing ME TV reruns last night. I agree with the review below--the references to books not covered in the reviews above.

      Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs
      26 July 2008
      Bookseller Frank Logan, inspired by reading the classics, starts using them to resolve the personal problems in his life. While devouring "Lady Chatterly's Lover" and "Crime And Punishment", he murders his unfaithful wife's lover with a medieval mace then cryptically taunts her with what he's done. Alarmed at what her husband is hinting at, she confides in her brother who, in turn, enlists the aid of a private detective. Engrossed in "An American Tragedy", Frank kills both men and makes it look like a boating accident but in the meantime, his promiscuous spouse has taken up with a young stud as Frank begins perusing Edgar Alan Poe's "The Black Cat"...

      Over-the-top classic TV episode that goes THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR one better. The Robert Bloch story, directed by John "The Lodger" Brahm, is amusingly macabre with a decent body count and an ironic comeuppance; Edward Andrews as Frank is both funny and chilling.

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