Starring Ursula Andress, Alejandro Rey, Jeanette Nolan.
Written by Alan Caillou.
Directed by Ida Lupino.
After being attacked by a group of men and left for drowned, Luana (Andress) is rescued by Tonio de la Vega (Rey). The young man is smitten by the beauty and agrees to shelter her from her grandmother, the witch known to the villagers as La Strega (Nolan). After the old woman curses Tonio, he begins to wonder if letting Luana shack up with him was a good idea after all.
PE: And there they are in the very first scene—Ursula Andress!
JS: And what a lovely pair of eyes she has! Lupino sure has a way of capturing the majesty of the rolling hills of Italy. Of course, her talents aside, fortunately as Luana she doesn't require the acting chops of La Strega, Jeanette Nolan.
PE: From start to finish (with only one minor stumble along the way), this is among the best and most atmospheric of the horror episodes. There's a sense of creeping dread in every scene following the arrival of her majesty, La Strega. And how about that Jeanette Nolan? I'm ready to give her the Golden Karloff for this season's best actress without even seeing the rest of the shows. I thought she was mildly creepy in "Parasite Mansion," but here she's the real deal. Not a cackling old biddy or one of Samantha Stevens' kooky relatives, there's nothing remotely human about the old gal. Had to be influenced by The Old Witch from The Haunt of Fear!
PE: That aforementioned stumble is my Thrillah-Moment: the trio of Luana, Tonio, and his mentor, Maestro Giuliano (Ramon Novarro) go looking for a Sabbat and stumble onto the kids of Glee, rehearsing next week's show in black leotards. The scene is so incongruous with the rest of the episode, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my desire to see some very scary figures writhing around a boiling pot rather than the Denny Terrio Dance Fever squad. It didn't ruin the episode but it was damn distracting.
JS: Welcome to witchcraft through interpretive dance. It definitely does break the tone of the rest of the show, but not irreparably. What I want to know is how come you don't mind Tonio's speed sketching abilities (Italians are known for their speed. -PE)?
PE: Great downbeat climax (and no Karloff epilogue to let us know that the old witch was later arrested and put on trial for her crimes), solid supporting performances, and a teleplay that doesn't drag, compliments of Allan Caillou (who would, years later, star as "The Brain" on the wacky SF TV show Quark).
JS: When you look at this episode, from the introduction of 'La Strega' in the prologue, to her discovery by Antonio, his taking her in, their seeing the old woman, right up through the climax—the pacing is just right, with an excellent payoff. Again, if not for Dark Night of the Black Leotards, I think we'd be looking at a 4-Karloffer. Instead, we have to settle for 37-22-35 Karloffs.
PE: Ursula Andress was just a year away from her star-making role as Honey Ryder in Dr. No.
JS: I prefer her young beauty in this episode over her look later in her career—watch for a special installment of The Lovely Ladies of Thriller later this afternoon.