Starring Boris Karloff, Phyllis Thaxter, Martita Hunt.
Written by Ida Lupino and Richard Lupino.
Directed by Ida Lupino.
Rich old biddy Celia Summerville (Hunt) welcomes her nephew, Rutherford (Peter Walker), the titular last of the Sommervilles, even though he's been known to spend her money on gambling and other vices. Her niece and veritable slave, Ursula (Thaxter) becomes tired of waiting for Celia to kick off and talks Rutherford into easing her into an early grave.
JS: Lupino starts things off strong with an creepy scene with a woman dragging a body off to be buried. Where's Larry Pennell when you need him!
PE: "The Last of the Sommervilles" goes down in history as the first prime time drama to feature, in the role of Celia Sommerville, a female poodle.
JS: And what a dog she was! (Or is that Martin Short in drag? -PE) Everything about her was over the top, which made it difficult for me to initially get engaged in the show's first few reels of this episode.
PE: One of the wildest rides of the 43 Thrillers we've viewed so far. The first 15 minutes had me constantly hitting my snooze alarm to wake me up. Then—boom—the damn show turns into a twisting maze that leads to an unpredictable finish. No coincidence here: the turnaround begins the moment Boris Karloff shows up. Boris turns in a strong supporting turn as the lecherous Dr. Farnham.
JS: Shemp Karloff! I will admit it's nice to see him given a different kind of role to play for a change.
PE: I think this is Karloff's best work in Thriller so far. He's a leering skirt-chaser, but not a hammy pop-eyed perv as some of these things were played, and it just seems to elevate everyone around him. Tell me I'm wrong. This show goes from 0 to 3 stars just that quick.
JS: You know they have medicine to treat your bipolar disorder.
PE: Just as the drama picks up when Karloff shows, so do the performances of Thaxter and Walker (both of whom seem to sleep walk through their roles pre-Boris). Ursula has a fabulous gleam in her eye planning a murder while Rutherford talks a good talk but doesn't fool us. He's not entirely comfortable with doing away with Auntie Celia and the proof is in the pudding when the shocking murder goes down. And a brutal kill it is, despite the fact that it's handled, for the most part, off screen.
JS: I don't think it's Boris showing up that got you so excited—it's no coincidence that's also about the same time Aunt Celia (Hunt) is finally off screen. I actually thought Rutherford and Thaxter were fine throughout the episode (with the notable exception of Rutherford's comeuppance - clearly he comes from the point and shoot school of firearm training). I think the finest performance may come from the uncredited, off screen leaf thrower who is called upon a couple of times this episode.
PE: And how about our final scene? Sheer genius. Karloff (still in full Farnham duds) stops at the gate of the now-abandoned Sommerville estate and reveals the fate of Ursula, one of those "she got it in the end even if we didn't show it to you" Hitchcock epilogues. You can almost see the fading of the Farnham character into the Boris Karloff, "host of Thriller" persona (which is an act as well) as he's addressing us.
JS: So you're praising this episode for something you've routinely criticized in the past? (I'm not praising the "justice wins" aspect but how it's handled, you ninny. -PE) Some times I don't get you, Enfantino. Not a horrible episode, but it's flaws keep it from being the three-Karloffer you want to think it is.OUR RATING: