Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Prisoner in the Mirror: Season 1 Episode 34

Originally aired 5/23/61
Starring Lloyd Bochner, Marion Ross, Henry Daniell.
Written by Robert Arthur.
Directed by Herschel Daugherty.

Professor Harry Langham (Bochner), while in Paris, discovers the lost mirror of the infamous Count Alexander Cagliostro (Daniell), painted black decades before. Removing some of the paint, he catches a glimpse of the beautiful Yvette Dulaine (Patricia Michon), who has been trapped in the mirror by the evil Cagliostro. Convinced he can free Yvette from her prison, he brings the mirror back with him to America with disastrous results.

JS: This is another unique episode in that there's a prologue, a Karloff intro, the episode begins (or so you think), and you get Karloff again—all before the Thriller sticks appear. What immediately hooked me in this episode was the transformation of the man into a skeleton in the pre-credits sequence. Sure, skeletal hands are unintentionally silly looking, but I didn't let that bother me. I can only imagine how creepy this was to a kid in the 60s!

PE: Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Mrs. C was a Thriller babe! And co-habitating with two men in a reverse-gender Three's Company! What would Richie and the Fonz have to say about Mrs. C's younger, more lusty self? And isn't it the whip cream on the top of the sundae when Bochner toasts Mrs. C with "Happy Days"?

JS: Yeah, that was a pretty wild coincidence. Henry Daniell does a fine job, though I must admit his role in "Well of Doom" was so good I think it overshadows this performance here.

PE: I've seen enough bad acting in this series to know how wrong Lloyd Bochner's "first I'm this guy, then I'm that" character change could have gone. Instead, Bochner rises to the occasion, no scenery chewed here, and gives a bravura performance. Cagliostro's personality comes to the forefront and the nice but nerdy Langham is gone, confined to the mirror and another Bochner. I'd have to list him in my nominees for Best Thriller Performance.

JS: I can't argue with that. I liked the scenes where he's so interested to get back to the mirror he literally ignores what the other people around him are saying and doing. At one point, when he's conversing with Yvette, there's a knock on the door and he gestures to the lovely gal in the mirror to hang on for a second. The scene could have devolved to a comedy skit at that point, but Bochner sells it so well it seems perfectly natural.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

PE: You all should have watched this episode for your homework already but if there are some stragglers, you want to steer clear. Are they gone? Good. So tell me how the heck the ending of this show made it past the "happy ending police" at NBC? I'd have to search long and hard to find something (outside of the "Hitch," that is) broadcast during this era that was this downbeat and grim. First, good guy Harry is trapped in the mirror while Cagliostro strolls the docks killing and generally having a good time in the professor's body. Then the Count murders Mrs. C when she finds out the truth about his night out (Nice lighting in this sequence! - JS) To top off Harry's real bad day, Cagliostro and Bob Denver/Jerry Lewis have a tussle and the mirror is destroyed, trapping Harry in mirrorland forever (albeit with the woman he was obsessed with in the first place—how bad can that be?)! He can't even get out to clear his bad name.

JS: Great music, and I also thought they did a very simple yet effective handling of the 'inside the mirror' sequences.

PE: Writer Robert Arthur, at the time of this broadcast, was a prolific author (he wrote several stories that were adapted for Hitchcock, including the classic "The Cadaver") and the ghost editor for several of the Hitchcock prose anthologies. He also wrote ten of the "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" series of children's books.

OUR RATING:

16 comments:

  1. I also was wondering how this episode got by the censors. The ending was very downbeat. Another excellent show. Did anyone else notice we are now officially past the halfway point in our THRILLER adventure? This is episode # 34 of 67.

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  2. That beginning was absolutely spellbinding -- the skull's appearance came completely out of the blue and from that moment on I was locked in. Bochner and Daniell were terrific - altho i did laugh out loud in that very brief shot of Lloyd playing mime against the imaginary mirror (thankfully, they cut away before he did his favourite tree - a maple because he's another one of thriller's great Canadian connection)...
    I have to admit the ending didn't seem such a unconditional downer, as Cagliostro would finally be caught. Eight and a half Karloffs!

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  3. Cool show, full of great images and concepts. With a little sharper handling, it could have been one of the THRILLER classics. It's pretty damn good even as it is. Guess "The Hungry Glass" was such a success that some kind of conceptual follow-up was inevitable, and this is it. The nefarious Count Cagliostro has popped up in many a fantasy tale, including various TV episodes... I believe Dick Gautier played him in a WONDER WOMAN show! And damn it, where's a decent DVD release of 1949's BLACK MAGIC, with Orson Welles having a field day in the role?

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  4. I was greatly encouraged as I read our hosts comments on this episode; they loved it! So, imagine my surprise on discovering that they only awarded it 2 and 1/2 of those things..... oh, well, ours is not to question.

    I love this show and almost everything about it. From the opening cafe scene with the simple Nouveau grill-work door/window to the final stark fade-out, it's filled with great ideas, images, situations: the tomb of Yvette, the antique shop, Lloyd B. sitting in the dark in his room staring at the mirror, the fairy-tale ambience as Yvette appears and lights the candles....all extremely well-done.

    For some reason we missed this on its initial run back in '61; I caught it on its summer rerun, and the opening scared the %^#*& out of me! The gradual shadows that engulf David Frankham, the increasingly diabolical look on his face, etc....strong stuff for a 10-year-old back then.

    Lloyd Bochner's performances always have...umm..perhaps just a slight whiff of HAM about them, and I'd say the same for his Cagliostro persona. However, to be fair, it's mighty tempting to overplay this sort of thing. Basically I think he pulls the overall role off very well. Marion Ross is great as the slightly daffy, befuddled, but hot-to-trot fiancee (I still don't understand their relationship and that of her brother; are they all shacking up together or WHAT?)

    Much cool tension in the final build-up; the fight scene in the room, with the real Lloyd collapsing within the mirror is a GREAT concept and beautifully staged. Very impressive and unexpected conclusion.

    I only wish that Herschel Daugherty had called for another re-take of Jack Mullaney's incredibly limp "You killed my sister" line; (Uhh..Jack,..could we try it again, with a little more feeling this time?).

    Another wistful, romantic waltz score by Morton Stevens, with the stark strings and tolling chime lending a touch of solemnity to the final fade-out. Nice going!

    9 out of 10 floating Karloff heads.

    LR

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  5. If you happen to have a lot of spare time on your hands, do a freeze-frame/slo-mo advance on the final shot of Lloyd Bochner's face turning into the skull; it's pretty darn cool, and gives an idea of the care that went into this relatively simple effect.

    LR

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  6. Another fun episode that doesn't bear too much thought. Check out Jack Mullaney as the simpleton in "The Belfry" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He sure looks like someone who would have been in a Roger Corman movie around this time, but apparently not.

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  7. I agree that this is a pretty cool episode. Not the best and certainly not the worst. Henry Daniell is always a pleasure to watch, although this is not his best performance.

    I was pleasantly suprised and impressed with Marion Ross. She IS a babe and does a nice job in this episode.

    "2 1/2 Karloffs"

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  8. A nice creepy prologue, complete with a sweet 60s FX skull transformation, starts The Prisoner in the Mirror with a positive reflection.

    I loved The Hungry Glass and was eager to view another mirror themed episode.

    Like the Cheaters disturbing prologue, this prologue functioned as a history device to peer into the source of madness.

    Once the action forwards to the present, things drag for a bit, until the mirror comes on the stage. I too was preplexed on the living arrangements between Mrs. C, her brother and her financee. All we needed was Potsie and Fonzie to stop by.

    Lloyd Bochner does a servicable job as the future groom and mirror obsessive. It's a treat to see Marion Ross early in her career and she plays her part adequately. It's Henry Daniell who steals the show as Count Alexander Cagliostro. Daniell oozes aristrocratic evil. Once he sweet talks the Professor into switching places, Daniell splendidly conveys the demon unleashed. I love the of the blonde in the bar. Was that what all ladies of the evening looked like back then?

    While viewing the mirror scene, I kept thinking, "What do the two of them do there for 100 years?" It looks like a small place and, outside the obvious, there doesn't seem to be too much to do.

    Daniell's reign of terror is over soon and as Mrs. C gets offed we are treated to what's got to be the worst line delivery in the Thriller series as Mrs. C's brother announces her death with the same tone and disappointment of someone who isn't getting the dinner they hoped for that evening.

    Yup, the ending lands on a down note, but IMO, it works in the episode's favor.

    I look into the mirror and see 3 Karloffs.

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  9. This is a fun episode and though it has some structural flaws it moves quickly. Lloyd Bochner rarely go to use his stage training in Hollywood, but this role was an exception, and he pulls out a little from his background in Shakespeare once Cagliostro took over his body. The murdered blonde, described by the police detective as a "waterfront girl" was played by Pamela Curran, the streetwalker/party girl in "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper." Many have mentioned the problems with Jack Mullaney. He was primarily a light comic actor, and the big emotional discovers didn't seem to sit well with him. Was I the only one who thought that brief scene with Bochner in the professor's office read a little as if the two guys were a couple. Then again, they all live together.

    The flaws in structure were having Karloff return to fill in plot points after doing his introduction and the unanswered question of how Cagliostro and that acting-challenged Frenchwoman wound up in the mirror. I think this would have benefited from a structure like "The Cheaters," with vignettes set in the 18th and early 20th centuries before moving to a principle plot involving Bochner.

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  10. Thank you Frank Miller - I kept trying to figure out the intro as well..why did the first killer leap to his death (except to add to Thrillers bodycount of people flinging themselves off into oblivion)? Wouldn`t that have been Cagliostro? And wouldn`t the guy he inhabited be in the mirror too? And yes where did the Frenchwoman come from?
    Despite this, fun from a 21st century mindset to see a young
    Marion Ross - a Thriller babe for sure...

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  11. I didn't think Harry and Yvette were trapped in the mirror room forever. I concluded that, when the mirror was broken, the spell would also be; the room would cease to exist; and Harry and Yvette would be released (to their deaths, of course).

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  12. As far as the first "killer" is concerned, that was the innocent man whose place Cagliostro took (much as he later took Harry's place). Cagliostro releases him from the mirror so that he will be framed for the murder of the girl. He then kills himself, as there is no way he can clear himself.

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  13. For some reason I can't explain this episode bothered me for a long time. This gave me the second most nightmares after the Grim Reaper. I didn't see most of the few scary second season episodes, so maybe an old fart of 63 can still be scared again!

    Alessandro Cagliostro - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alessandro_Cagliostro

    Count Alessandro di Cagliostro was the alias of the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo, an Italian adventurer. The history of Cagliostro is shrouded in rumor, propaganda, and mysticism.

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  14. I agree-special effects weren't as good as you could get back then, but for an impressionable youngster the reply above rings true-why is the scull/skeleton so scary? A prime evil fear back to the druids or further back to the?

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  15. Well, in PSYCHO, the final image is of a skull superimposed on Anthony Perkins' face and that is bone-chilling. Here, not so much. But it was a neat episode, lots of fun, ambitious for this show and with a fair amount of atmosphere.

    What is is about "Mirror" stories that so grabs me? I love the mirror-themed story in DEAD OF NIGHT, and 'The Hungry Glass' is one of my favorite THRILLER episodes.

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    Replies
    1. "The Cheaters" is yet another great "mirror" episode.

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