Saturday, October 2, 2010

Late Date: Season 1 Episode 27

Originally aired: 4/4/61
Starring: Larry Pennell, Edward Platt, Jody Fair.
Written by Donald S. Sanford, based on a story by Cornell Woolrich.
Direced by Herschel Daugherty.

Larry Weeks (Pennell) comes home to find that his brother James (Platt) has murdered his cheating wife. James is set to call the police but Larry talks him out of it, convincing him that he can dispose of the body and avoid prosecution. Getting rid of a body is not so easy sometimes.

PE: A 45-minute tour de force by Larry Pennell (the spittin' image of a young Frank Frazetta) as the brother with a skewed heart of gold (Poor kid couldn't even afford a T-shirt in his size! -JS). From the moment Larry Weeks tells his brother, James, that he's going to take care of everything because James had been so good to him when he was younger, I was convinced we were looking at another tired re-working of Cain and Abel. What we get instead is a harrowing night of "Jesus, how hard is it to get rid of a corpse?"

JS: What I loved was how decisive Larry was about taking charge, and immediately you find out that he's a bit of a buffoon, and perhaps not quite ready to pull off the crime of the century, let alone a simple corpse disposal. I love when Helen's boyfriend Gordon calls and Larry stammers around making excuses to keep him away from the house.  I do think Gordon, a real hep-cat, has some great lines, such as, "You better step closer to the phone, fella—I'm not getting through to you!"

PE: I'm still a little hazy on all the relationships. Helen is the step-daughter of James Weeks and that would make Larry her uncle? Why does there seem to be a little hokey-pokey going on between the two? And do they all live in the same house? And where the heck is this block on the Universal lot?

JS: Yeah, I'm with you there. It could take several Weeks to figure out if you're not paying attention. :) In some ways I think this crime episode is a perfect comedy of errors. Larry gets in and out of one predicament after another, all of his own making (he's no much of a liar). If you're like me, you'll find yourself laughing throughout as he bumbles through town with a dead body in a rolled up carpet over his shoulder. And considering all the funny moments, the one person I had expected to laugh at (Platt was famous for playing 'Chief' on Get Smart) was a straight-man right through to the end.

PE: Jerry Goldsmith, once again composing a score that's better than it should be, is one of this show's MVPs. Had Goldsmith even taken a look at the rest of the shows on TV at the time? Did he realize that, outside of a few mavericks like Henry Mancini, most TV music was as disposable as the shows themselves. No one in 1960 Hollywood could foresee the billions to be made in re-runs, and then later home video, so they pumped out junk on a nightly basis. So why was Jerry Goldsmith putting thought into every one of his scores? This one has some bits and sounds that he'd revisit on The Planet of the Apes.

JS: The only other thing I wanted to point out was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride courtesy of Doris' latest boyfriend. Kudos for keeping up with the particularly active rear projection. For those of you with big screens, you may want to consider watching this particular episode on something smaller...

PE: As much as I loved this show, I wish it had been about thirty seconds shorter. That final bit (you'll know it when you see it) is the equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock coming on after the wife has just fed the murder weapon to the cop and gotten away with murder to tell us not to worry, the cop threw up the leg of lamb and noticed the skull and brain fragments and wifey's off to the pen. I always turn a deaf ear to Hitch after the bad guy gets away with it and you'd do well to turn this episode off at about the same time. Still a great episode, best of the crime shows, that's fer sure.

JS: Here's where you're wrong, old-timer. That's the perfect coda for this particular episode. It's just been ruined by misuse (maybe you should get out of the basement more often—there is life after Hitchcock).

PE: "Late Date" is based on Cornell Woolrich's story "The Corpse and the Kid," which first appeared in the Dime Detective pulp from September 1935. In the story, James is actually Larry's father, making Helen his step-sister. Woolrich's biographer, Francis M. Nevins, Jr. states in First You Dream, Then You Die that "of all the stories Woolrich published in 1935, this is the one that points most clearly to the kind of work that was to make him famous." It was reprinted in the Woolrich/William Irish collection, Somebody on the Phone with the retitling "Boy With Body." Woolrich saw 31 stories published in Dime Detective including "It Had to Be Murder," basis for Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window.

JS: I want to know how our pal Steve Mitchell got his name in the credits on this one...

A NOTE TO OUR CRITICS:
Due to overwhelming complaints, we have decided to dispose of our 4 Karloff rating system and go to a broader scale to make everyone happy. Instead of Karloffs, we will rate each episode with a number of crazy lines. Fortunately, there is no upper limit so we can each decide what the rating means to us. So for our first episode under the new system, we rate "Late Date" 7 crazy lines! Everyone happy now?


Just kidding. We're keeping the Karloffs.

This has been a test of the emergency Thriller rating system. If this had been an actual Thriller rating emergency, Boris Karloff would have risen from the grave to let you know. Please remember that the Karloff ratings do not represent the opinion of Boris Karloff himself, nor the other fine folks who frequent the blog. It is solely the opinion of the authors. You're invited to submit your own by posting a comment below.

OUR RATING:

24 comments:

  1. Our hosts state that "crazy lines" will replace the crazy Karloff rating system and they give this insane episode 7 crazy lines. The entire THRILLER production crew called these lines "sticks". Therefore this show gets 7 crazy sticks. I personally think the lame, unbelievable ending ruined the show.

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  2. Actually, Walker, I stole that from an illustrious Amazon reviewer, who said of Thriller:

    (...) I know that they started out the series Thriller as a crime themed show the acting is great but there really is not much horror involved in this series it might be the way the show comes on with the crazy lines on the show don't really care for that also the music score is not very scary I really should not prejudge this show till I watch a little more but I needed to express my feelings on receiving it and also the price for this series is rather pricey knowing this is a long time coming to DVD I guess it is expected to be high (...)

    What can I say, in the early days of ATAD it gave us the inspiration to go on. Not to worry though. You've seen the last of our crazy line/stick ratings.

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  3. PART 1 -
    Now wonder Hitchcock was concerned---this show absolutely proved that Thriller could best him at his own game---and on his onw turf, too!
    A fine screenplay adaptation by Sanford, first-rate direction from Herschel Daugherty (something of a Hitchcock protege himself, who challenges the master here with his razor-sharp work), and moody, striking camera work by Ray Rannahan. And, oh yes...Mr Goldsmith at his finest.

    I love the house...those striking street shots with the brilliant sky (was this backlot...or did they actually film in this house and not on a soundstage?) The interior--all that white woodwork, the bannister, etc..practically leaps off the screen, especially with all of the contrast-y shadows, which deepen as night falls. The great night photography...the skyline, the Paradise Club..all beautifully captured and totally evocative of the classic noir style.

    The fun, engaging and informative commentary by Dave Schow and Larry Blamire basically says all that needs to be said about the show itself; yeah, I was disappointed by the ending, but that's what they had to do to get the show made and broadcast.

    The plot twists and continual close-calls create and maintain a truly Hitchcockian tension throughout; the bed-room/bathroom scenes are deftly described by DJS as "a French bedroom farce with a dead body!" Boy, that Larry Weeks had to think quick...and often...which he does in a not-entirely convincing manner, another aspect of this film that adds to the tension; you KNOW that if he gets caught--even if he gets rid of the corpse---that the circumstantial evidence is going to be overwhelming---it just keeps piling up!

    It's amazing to realize that, just as Thriller was gathering critical mass and entering its brief but white-hot glory period, that "Late Date" could actually hold it's own alongside the horror episodes. Credit the creative control of William Frye; when we read in "The Hungry Eye" that Frye walks on the set at the end of the day, complains that there is too much light on the set and demands that the scenes be re-shot, you KNOW what kind of hand-on guy he was; this excerpt makes absolutely clear why Thriller looked and felt the way it did; it was Frye's vision, which controlled every aspect of production.

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  4. Part 2-

    A few miscellaneous observations --

    Re: Ed Platt - mention should also be made of his role as the kindly wizard/high priest dude in George Pal's "Atlantis" (also filmed late '60/early '61), where Ed struggled to help the hero AND maintain his own dignity while all around were losing theirs.

    RE: Richard Reeves - Last summer I did a big study of Irving Berlin's WWII stage show/film "This is the Army" of which Reeves was a cast member in real life. You can catch a few shots of him in the film version as one of the young dancing gentlemen who woo their comrades-in-drag during the "Ladies of the Chorus" number (I am NOT making this up).

    RE: Jerry Goldsmith: The reason he was able to turn out masterful scores every time for these shows (which everyone though would end up forgotten) comes down to 2 words: genius and integrity. Check You-Tube, where you can see a lengthy (2 hour?) on-camera interview with the composer that he did late in his life (I think he was ill when this was filmed). Listen as he describes his work in early television; it will provide further insight into the man's true creative brilliance.

    His "Late Date" score, as Larry Blamire observes, is quite similar to TZ's "Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room" (R.I.P. Joe Mantell this past week). The TZ score was (amazingly) written for FOUR players only (piano, guitar, percussion, and flute(s)). His "Late Date" score sounds like it used four flutes, piano, harp and percussion which included tympani in the big spots, but mostly Latin instruments: bongos (and their offshoot the "Boo-bams"), plus maracas and claves, both of which provide those curious "ticking" sounds (maracas featured prominently in the TZ score). There are clear similarities between a lot of his stuff (these two scores, the "Poisoner"/"Grim Reaper", "Well of Doom"/"Terror in Teakwood"),
    but anyone who listens to the You-Tube interview will immediately understand the situation. And , to provide some perspective, Bach and Vivaldi, faced with their impossible, crushing deadlines, often re-cycled earlier works..sometimes note-for-note. Genius, all the same.

    Hey, I just realized that EVERY Thriller episode of Season 1 has its own, individually-composed score; what a luxury this must have been, especially for an hour-long series!

    LR

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  5. When I first saw Scoleri’s lines above, I misread them as “the early days of ADHD,” meaning Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which certainly describes the quotation.

    Oddly enough, I was just thinking of suggesting John and Pete EXPAND the ratings system to a 1-to-10 scale, which might lend a better read on the “temperature” of each episode in relation to the others. I’ll stop thinking about that, now.

    What I’ll suggest instead is that anyone interested enough to comment might also give THEIR OWN assessment in terms of a rating. That way, by the end, we might have some kind of interesting group consensus as to what the best episodes are.

    John and Pete and I also discussed polling the readers of ATAD outright — each of us give a Top Ten, and say why. And while I despise the whole list-making, five-stars-or-no-stars, thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down school of reductionism (“does it rock or does it suck?”), in this case it might yield a good guideline of, say, ten shows for non-initiates that are a must-watch.

    Quibbling over the ratings as John and Pete see them is the direst waste of discussion space. Each post to the site should contain INFORMATION that enhances the cumulate.

    I dislike the denouement of “Late Date,” too — mostly because it’s a TV cop-out. The short story ends at exactly that thirty-second mark described by Pete and seconded by Walker Martin. But it doesn’t destroy the show for me — in fact, it suggests A SEQUEL in which Larry Weeks must now continue to deploy his wiles to get them out of the fix caused by brother Jim’s misplaced conscience and big mouth!

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  6. Larry, from his backseat position, manipulates the cops to crash their patrol car coming around dead man's curve (because, according to Thriller, every curve in Los Angeles is high up on a mountain). Larry and Jim manage to survive the crash but they now have to dispose of the bodies AND the patrol car. Larry's game.

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  7. You were so close, Peter. Jim actually doesn't survive the crash either, so Larry has three bodies and the patrol car to ditch. His T-Shirt, thankfully, remains unscathed.

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  8. You know that shot in the very beginning where Larry crouches down beside Jim on the stairs? It begins with his head out of the shot, and looking at the T-shirt, all I could think was, wouldn't it be a crapper if he came down into frame ... and he WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN?

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  9. And, not that Blamire and I didn't scrutinize this episode to within an inch of its life, but watch Jody Fair when she goes into the bathroom.

    She's popping a zit ... that isn't there.

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  10. Well man, after being a big fan of this episode for years it does my heart good to see it getting some props. Glad you guys dug it--and good further comments, Larry R.

    I'm glad Mr. Larry Weeks is no deft super-criminal; his "regular guy" resourcefulness makes us even more tense for his situation.

    One thing re: music--not to take away from the brilliant Goldsmith mind you (never! never!)--but I have to say I actually think the late 50s/early 60s was a boon in TV scoring. Leaving behind the canned stuff of the early/mid 50s we now find film music giant Hugo Friedhofer soulfully scoring every episode of The Outlaws (every one original music--nheard of!), easily the most downbeat western of the period. That was in 1960, and so was John(ny) Williams' theme for Checkmate, one of the most kickass in TV history. Legendary Bernard Herrmann was scoring some Have Gun Will Travels (many tracked with his CBS library music) and then some Richard Boone Show eps (a brilliant anthology/ensemble series now forgotten). Of course, Mort Stevens was no slouch on Thriller--some of its best scores, I'd say.

    Add neglected Fred Steiner for some really unnerving Twilight Zone music (as well as CBS library cues). Leonard Rosenman bringing some atonality to the small screen with his groundbreaking Combat music (after his striking theme for The Defenders), and who can forget Dominick Frontiere apparently siphoning notes from another dimension in his unforgettable Outer Limits work. And on and on...

    Enjoying the blog, Peter and John--keep it up!

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  11. In this digital era I probably could have inserted my name into the credits of this episode as it is a fave, but, sadly this was/is not the case. The STEVE MITCHELL in this show was a character guy who seemed to work from time to time in the 50'S & 60's. He appeared on my radar when I was soaking in the credits for an I SPY episode entitled: "THIS GUY SMITH," when it was originally broadcast in 1968. I was tickled, of course, to see my name on TV even though it was not me. Occasionally, I hear myself on TV which isn't half bad. Enjoying the reviews and interviews guys! Thumbs up!

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  12. Sandwiched between two "supernatural" episodes, "Late Date" emerges as the superior entry... Thank God, because THRILLER needed at least ONE crime episode that everyone rallies behind. I find the debate about the ending fascinating, and thank you, DJS, for revealing how the original story itself ends (..."30 seconds earlier"...). Ironically, I kinda do agree that the twisty "No, we've got to give ourselves up anyway, even though we just pulled off the perfect crime" coda seems entirely right for such a bizarre, intentionally one-note, serio-comic tale. After all poor Pennell has been through, it's a pretty hilarious conclusion -- and this is a black comedy, after all (a la TROUBLE WITH HARRY, THE BUSY BODY, etc.), more than a grim noir, in spite of how it was photographed. And even Dave's suggestion of a sequel is distantly hinted at as LP enters the police car... we can tell this lovable wacko might be hatching yet another "scenario" to save the day and help his clueless brother!

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  13. When I saw that this was another crime episode I was expecting the worst, but it sucked me in. I really liked the score and was hoping poor Pete Rugolo finally dashed off a good one, but no such luck. Watching this made me wonder what Ed Platt looked like with hair. The commentary was terrific--in my opinion, commentaries by people who are "experts" are much more entertaining and interesting than those involving creative people who worked on the show (or film).

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  14. this was the worst thriller by far, so bad that it's beyond 'so bad its campy good'; the ridiculous explanations that everyone accepts, like carrying a carpet for miles to the all-night carpet cleaner; i missed the 'plot twists'; that one scene runs for five minutes with him just carrying the carpet, no dialogue at all; and could they have found two more dissimilar-looking actors to cast as brothers?

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  15. I respectfully disagree that this was one of the better crime dramas. I could have been, but doesn't deliver on it's intentions. Instead it slowly deteriorates into a disappointing anti-climax.

    Larry Pennell plays the annoying goofball brother who fits the thick-necked-body-building-jock stereotype to a tee. It was uncanny how the producers found two actors (Larry Pennell and Edward Platt) who looked so much alike as brothers.

    My favorite scene was when the cheating wife's high heel shoe (she's already wrapped up in the carpet)slips off her foot onto the ground. Pennell jams her shoe back in and then proceeds to stuff both ends of the rolled carpet (dead babe still inside) with pillows. It looked like he was making a giant taco.

    My childhood memories of THRILLER are destroyed by all this lame crime dramas.

    "1 1/2 Karloffs".

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  16. I'm glad someone else mentioned the relationships. We're told upfront that Jim and Larry Weeks are brothers. Gordon identifies Helen as Larry's sister. Larry identifies Doris as Helen's mother. And Doris is now the late Mrs. Jim Weeks. I rationalized it as Gordon's hepcat way of referring to all women as sisters (instead of saying niece or step-niece). But since PE has reported Larry and Helen as step-siblings in the source story, I think that Gordon's line must be a holdover from an earlier version of the story which had Larry as Jim's son (which would explain the casting). Reminds me of Star Trek's "Shore Leave" where Barbara Baldwin's character seems to named Mary Teller one moment, and Angela Martine the next.

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  17. Of course, now I've listened to the commentary track and found they pretty much covered the confusing relationships.

    The commentary was perhaps scarier than the episode. "We're with Larry. We want him to get away with pinning it on Sid." Since Jim's trip home from the city was out of the ordinary, it would seem he made trip because he knew about the infidelity. Even if he had left immediately, he had all the time on the train to think. This sounds likes premeditation. Even if the murder wasn't premeditated, divorce the woman, don't end her life. So, while I can appreciate the dark humor in "Somedays, you just can't get rid of a body," I'm definitely not rooting for Jim and Larry.

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  18. Again, I find myself a bit underwhelmed while others say this is great (as opposed to the last voodoo episode which I kind of liked and everybody else blasted). The confluence of events in this was almost comical and really seemed convoluted to me. I was surprised when I saw Woolrich wrote this. And I smelled the revised ending a mile away. Dumb and not credible. But that's not Woolrich's fault.

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  19. Wadda ya know, another Thriller episode that centers on infidelity.

    I share the confusion about the family relations. I don't know why the writers chose to change the father and son relationship between Jim and Larry to a not to believable brother and brother scenario.

    Despite those crooked and entangled branches on the family tree, the plot intrigues soon made me forgot all that.

    As posted earlier, this episode was really a one note score, but it was written and played very well in my opinion.

    Edward Platt conveyed a believable sense of guilty conscience in his deathly act. Larry Pennell was perfect as the role of the simple, but fiercely loyal younger brother. After these two main characters were sketched out, the rest of the show was basically a long Hitchcockesque scene of "Get rid of the effin' body!". Sure, most of the situations Larry got himself involved in were comically convoluted, but the acting, camerawork, and musical score made the whole thing work.

    The last 30 seconds sucked big time! As morally sound (for a wife killer) as Platt made Jim out to be, I still wasn't convinced by Jim's last act.

    When Larry gave me the carpet and I dropped it, two and a half Karloff heads rolled out...

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  20. I think in the hands of a Hitchcock all the little delays as Larry Pennell plotted to get the body out of there and had to deal with things like falling shoes and that strange truck driver would have generated almost unbearable suspense. In the hands of Herschel Daugherty it was just tedious. It didn't even get silly enough to border on absurdity (imagine a Roman Polanski with a story like this). Yeah, the score's great, and I love Doris's ditzy teenaged daughter and her dizzy boyfriend. It was like Doris and her boyfriend in miniature. But the car crash was rather broadly telegraphed (I was hoping he'd crash into the taxi) and the finale ludicrous.

    Or maybe I'm just bitter that Larry Pennell never took off that t-shirt. What a wasted exercise in objectification!

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  21. I'm surprised, I thought this episode would be almost universally lauded. Only 3 Karloffs? No its a 4 out of 4
    asll the way, #6 of 67 on my list. I bought every bit of it, it was brilliant. Maybe some viewers just aren't willing to rate a non-horror episode that high. If it were an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, it would be the best of that entire series.

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    Replies
    1. "If it were an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, it would be the best of that entire series."
      ........................
      There, there, just settle down and take it easy. I want you to put down the remote and slowly step away from the television.

      Don't panic, the men in the white coats are your friends and are going to take you to a nice, quiet place where lots of people have similar delusions...er, reasonable assertions.

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  22. In reference to Peter's question about where this was shot on the Universal backlot, the house was on Industrial Street, located behind the more familiar New England Street that forms part of Court House Square. The Paradise Club was actually the To Kill a Mockingbird school shot from behind. The school was then located at the end of New England Street, "between" (though farther back) the Courthouse and New England Street.

    G. Giblin, author, Alfred Hitchcock's London

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  23. Jolly good CMAC!
    The best crime thriller yet and others have referenced Hitchcock with good reason. Equally comical and suspenseful and only marred by the last act.
    I will give this a three only because I havent seen this series before and live in hope that something brilliant deserves full marks. (Still better than giving a three to The Guilty Men...do you think our hosts will ever recant???).

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