Sunday, October 3, 2010

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper: Season 1 Episode 28

Originally aired: 4/21/10
Starring John Williams, Donald Woods, Edmon Ryan.
Written by Barre Lyndon based on the story by Robert Bloch.
Directed by Ray Milland.

Someone is killing ladies of a certain profession in New York, and Sir Guy (Williams), who is flown in to assist with the investigation, is sure it's the return of Jack the Ripper, right according to schedule. Question is, can he convince a roomful of doubtful cops before it's too late?

PE: John Wiliams, on loan from Vista Records (“I’m sure you recognize this lovely melody as ‘Stranger in Paradise.’ But did you know that the original theme was from the Polovtsian Dance No. 2 by Borodin?”) is about the only thing worth watching in this bland, padded 44-minute journey to a punchline. There's no atmosphere to speak of. The pacing reminded me of one of those insufferable 4-hour French films about two guys sitting at a table talking...and talking...and talking.


JS: I don't think it's fair to say it's completely without atmosphere. It did seem as if someone else shot the scenes with the blonde gal who looks like Gwen Stefani, because whenever she's onscreen I felt it could pass for the finest noir film.

PE: What's up with the disappearing map board? Was it needed across the lot on a Hitchcock episode? The scene must go on for a full two minutes and all we see are four dopes staring at space and holding up sheets to an imaginary board.

JS: Let's face it, the entire group of actors playing the cops were awful. I did laugh when one made the bold proclamation, "We don't really know who we're looking for. He could even be a woman!" But again, I didn't think the episode was completely without redeeming qualities. I found the whole bit in the strip club amusing—Sir Guy couldn't get in there fast enough once he found out exactly what goes on inside.

Ladies and Gentlemen—Miss Beverly Hills!
PE: I think it was more than he was expecting, based on the way his cigarette went limp in the middle of Miss Beverly Hills routine.



JS: And once her number comes to an end, you get the sense that a fistfight might break out to see who gets to go backstage to make sure she's okay. Of course, someone left the fog machine on a little too long when they exit the club for the quick, unsatisfying conclusion. I will also admit to being a sucker for movies in which coffins are toppled allowing their occupants to tumble out (although for a show that always seemed to push the envelope, I'm surprised we didn't get to see the corpse).

PE: In a bare•bones blog entry last month, I told the heartwarming story of an 11 year-old boy who picked up a copy of Marvel's Journey Into Mystery #2, featuring a comic adaptation of "Yours Truly." That short illustrated story began my obsession with Robert Bloch. That story, a hip, updated adaptation by comic whiz Roy Thomas, does the original justice. It's still a very good read. The original prose version appeared in the July 1943 Weird Tales, and has been reprinted countless times (including a like-titled collection published by Belmont in 1962). Recently, the story was dusted off by Joe Lansdale for yet another comic adaptation, this time for IDW.

OUR COMMENTS ON THE COMMENTARY:
PE: Once again, things are kept spry and entertaining, much moreso than the episode itself. Alan Brennert and David J. Schow do a fabulous job of making all of my notes superfluous. I will point out that David passes up what must be the most risque Thriller inside joke ever: a chalkboard outside a stripper's dressing room that reads "B.J. Call Doris after Late Nite Show." I couldn't figure out if there should have been a period after "call."

OUR RATING:

34 comments:

  1. When the old guy dropped the coffin I thought I was watching a remake of Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES by mistake. Everybody at the gravesite would be saying "but how did that old guy get into the coffin?"

    I'm glad David J. Schow mentioned the Michael Caine version of "Jack the Ripper". I remember liking it 20 years ago, so I ordered it on dvd from amazon.com UK. Only 4 pounds but you need a multi region player.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That blackboard note was left by Gordon (Chris Seitz) from "Late Date," for Doris, Jim Weeks' wife ... but she was already dead.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You'll find the Michael Caine version as "JACK THE RIPPER: THE COMPLETE SERIES" (1988). Nearly every conceivable "classic" Ripper suspect cruises through the plot at one time or another -- one of the things that makes this version so appealing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. For those without an all region player, the Michael Caine Jack The Ripper is also available as a 2-DVD set from the Warner Archive Collection: http://www.wbshop.com/Jack-the-Ripper-1988/1000179813,default,pd.html?cgid=

    ReplyDelete
  5. I remember reading the short story and finding under-welming for such a celebrated tale and much the same can be said of the this episode, when I viewed it a decade back. I think part of the problem lies in the fact that the idea (which is frightening) has been done so many times in numerous ways that it's become mundane and accepted. 'Kolchak' and 'X-Files' this idea again and again. And the story lives only for it's twist and the full-blooded 'Thriller' style is absent. It might have worked as a five minute segment in a multi-part episode but can't sustain 50 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gee, this blog has EVERYTHING!...but I had hoped I'd never see that John Williams infommercial again!

    The literary origins and subsequent adaptations of "Yours, Truly..." are interesting, but the show itself is a dud. The scenes that manage to create a little tension and atmosphere are few and far between.

    I've always liked Donald Woods, ever since first seeing him as Paul Muni's young assistant in "The Story of Louis Pasteur" (1935). His was not exactly a presence to leap off the screen and grab you, and he does his typical low-key portrayal here. But, even for a "who-done-it?" dummy such as me, by the time Act 3 rolled around, I was starting to ask "OK...which one of these 2 guys is really the Ripper?"

    The artists colony stuff was like...a real drag, man; no attempt whatsoever to create any visual atmosphere. The scene with the guy discussing his painting of the blonde woman was SO Dullsville! However, it was fun to see the former "Hungry Glass" hag and future Eula-Lee-to-be ("Pigeons")gal--the always distinctive Ottola Nesmith as the matronly, Grande Dame of the artists (I believe that silly, caustic art critic addressed her as "Rowena").

    Too bad California has so much sunlight, hence the "sun-for-rain" or "dry-for-wet"...whatever...photography for the first funeral scene, which managed to create a slight sense of weirdness. We'll see another example of this disorienting visual in Season 2.

    Again, another unfortunate episode for which the ending could not come fast enough for me. Perhaps the "Thriller" folks decided to cut their losses on this one and save their very best efforts for their next venture into classic TV horror......

    OK: are we doing the scale-of-1-to-10 Karloffs that DJS suggested?? If so, "Yours, Truly" gets a THREE 1/2 rating from me---not one iota more!

    LR

    ReplyDelete
  7. We can all thank Peter for finding that link, which I regret to inform you all will automatically play every time you come to the blog until this post is pushed off the main page. On the bright side, Pete gets $.25 for every record set they sell, and $.50 for every tape set.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here we have all been commenting about how Jack gets away with it in the end without any Hitchcock type hint that he was eventually caught, etc. But if you watch the episode promo for "The Devil's Ticket", it starts off with Boris saying don't worry, that the writer has assured him that Jack got his just deserts. The censors rule afterall?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for inserting a few frames of Gil Kane artwork. That's a nice stroll down Marvel inky pulp lane... But where did i put my 8-track player? I love that commercial and would watch it just to listen to JW's upper crust delivery as a boy...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Count me as a big fan of this episode, which boasts all the visual an dnarrative elements that often allow this show to reach its celestial destination.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Have to throw in my two cents on the trivia front, although dan-o beat me to the punch by identifying Gil Kane. Fun that the director and star of this episode appeared together in Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER, while screenwriter Lyndon made a kind of cottage industry out of similar material. He not only mined the Ripper vein in the 1944 remake of Hitch's THE LODGER (whose star, Laird Cregar, had just done the Bloch story on radio's KATE SMITH HOUR), but also wrote the play THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET, about an ageless doctor whose method of rejuvenation is very similar to the Ripper's. The play was filmed under its own title by Paramount in 1944 and remade by Hammer as THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH in 1959. Finally, as was touched on earlier, intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak met a killer with a strikingly similar m.o. in his second TV-movie, THE NIGHT STRANGLER, after scenarist Richard Matheson decided against using the Ripper out of deference to his pal Bloch---and then darned if the folks behind the weekly NIGHT STALKER series didn't use the "real" Ripper right out of the gate! "They always have a chart."

    ReplyDelete
  12. NOT ALAN BRENNERT'S FAULT! (A Digression)

    I’m on the verge of a rant, here, but I’ll try to restrain myself.

    On Amazon.com, the intrepid “Brent Carleton” crawled up my ass for miscrediting Ottola Nesmith in “Yours Truly.” Under the heading, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper Commentary Gets It Wrong,” he takes Alan Brennert and I to task.

    “But we must correct the commentators of ‘Yours Truly Jack the Ripper,’” charges Brent, “who are guilty of a rather significant error.”

    Okay, where to begin?

    First, the hysterical header, no doubt intended to grab the attention, wrongly suggests that the entire commentary is corrupt.

    Second, “we must?” Is this the royal “we?” The editorial “we?” Multiple personality? Brent’s wife and kids? Neighbors? Pets? Are “Brent” and “Carleton” two different people inhabiting the same corpus? Or is this possibly a much more self-important form of “we” — (you know where this is headed).

    Next, “guilty?” That implies some kind of intention to deceive. Too harsh.

    Next, “rather significant error?” Only if you pronounce it “rawtha” and are standing in your atelier, wearing a smoking jacket, and waving a Meerschaum around.

    No, it’s a MISTAKE, and it’s not Alan’s fault, it’s mine. It’s the verbal equivalent of a typo.

    I assumed Ottola was J. Pat O’Malley’s cohort because she played barely-glimpsed hags with virtually no dialogue in two other episodes, which would have made her the show’s distaff answer to Henry Daniell. No mention of her being in this episode was found in Alan Warren’s book on Thriller, and none of my esteemed collaborators caught the mixup, either.

    Further driven to check with Tom Weaver; Tom affirmed that Ottola in fact portrayed “Rowena” during the avant-garde art competition.

    Brent Carelton’s use of “miscredit” is fair. The rest is so het up that I think I’ve stumbled across the world’s most dedicated and driven Ottola Nesmith fan. “Miss Nesmith … is recognizable by her regal deportment, and highly-pitched, highly cultivated speaking voice,” writes Brent, “and is in any case, nothing like the squat woman playing the street musician.”

    (I’d cite two other cases — “Pigeons from Hell” and “The Hungry Glass” — but that would just be provocative, argumentative, and cantankerous, wouldn’t it?)

    My favorite “flub” in all the Thriller commentaries was one I got to correct. In “The Incredible Doktor Markesan,” I mentioned that nobody published more stories in WEIRD TALES than August Derleth (and his many pseudonyms). Then I found out Seabury Quinn beat Derleth by about five or six stories, and was able to mention it in the commentary for “Well of Doom” (recorded later) … which comes FIRST in viewing order!

    SO WHO IS THIS PERSON? She doesn’t have a name in the script for “Yours Truly,” where she is described solely as “a frowsy woman – black straw hat, shawl – who is playing the concertina.” Being a bit-parter with no lines, no credit for her is apparent.

    Ordinarily, I would caution rabid fans to temper their enthusiasms … but then we might not ever find out who the mystery frowse might be!

    Then I remembered I had made the mistake of dealing with Amazon.com “user reviews” … which is like confusing karaoke with actual singing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Another opportunity blown, sad to say. But it's fun hearing Goldsmith limbering up for ADRIAN MESSENGER. It almost as much fun listening to David tearing into his "user review" critic.

    Love that John Williams commercial. My friends and I have been quoting it for decades. Ranks up there with the Buster Crabbe body-shirt spot ("Get a real corporation up front"!)

    ReplyDelete
  14. John Williams commercial, please no more....I'll tell you who killed Kennedy? let me rest, this is worse the "It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini"...no more.....arhhhhh, over a cliff

    ReplyDelete
  15. "I'm sure you recognize this lovely melody..." if I hear that %$#@&^$% thing one more time I SWEAR I'll kick in the computer screen! (though I love the way that JW gently slaps the phono console before uttering his immortal opening line...).

    Seriously, Dave..don't worry; we all have those moments we'd love to revisit. But your contributions to this project and the genre in general will easily withstand the passing concerns of the user/critics that haunt Amazon (a pastime in which I occasionally indulge--but always using "I", not "we" when rendering my grandiloquent opinions).

    I knew Ottola from a couple of appearances on the "Andy Griffith Show", most notably the Season 3 episode "Rafe Hollister Sings." There's also some good info on Google Images--including a cool shot of her from a 1958 Life Magazine; apparently she was a TV Horror Host in L.A.

    I also have the massive 2-volume set of the Academy Player's Directory from 1964...the big reference book that consists of nothing but head shots of every actor/actress in town back then---well, every one whose agent submitted their photos. It's one of the main sources the studios used for casting---especially for all of those small roles; I use this book to ID many onscreen folk who appear nowhere else. I'm always happy to check it if the need arise (in fact, I think I sent you [DJS] pics of Sasha Harden/Bernard Kates for your OL "Nightmare" credits from this tome).

    We move on.

    Larry

    ReplyDelete
  16. I might add Bloch's story has been adapted once again, this time by Joe R. Lansdale (and Joe L.) as a graphic novella for IDW. I liked the illustrations and my hunch (having never read the original story for shame) is that it's much closer to the source material than anything previously attempted.

    This episode was pretty dreadful, as it seemed they just couldn't...quite...show...a...goddamn pentagram on the floating invisible off-screen blackboard of murder.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and was disappointed by the commentary, which seemed like 45 minutes of saying how boring the show was! I could watch John Williams in just about anything, and the addition of London fog, beatniks, and a strip club make this episode most entertaining. I also love the John Williams commercial and wish I had those records!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I can't believe I didn't think to do this before, as what Thriller collection could now be considered complete without a full set of Music Masterpieces on LP, 8-track or cassette.

    Here's a link to the current search results on eBay so readers can get their own set today! And guess what, they're even more affordable today!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Not a favorite Thriller of mine, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper worked for me as a crime episode. It could have been better written. The actors saved it for me. No surprise with John Williams, amazement in the case of Donald Woods. He was better than I'd ever seen him, which admittedly isn't saying a lot. Still, every little bit helps. The ending caught me by surprise as the episode at last felt like a true Thriller.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I don't know it very well, but I have to agree with Jack Seabrook.
    One genuinely funny line that does stay with me comes from the police detective during the amateur detective's demonstration, but I won't give it away.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I apparently liked YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER better than most. It had everything from flying coffins to John Williams in a strip club (I bet he was a "stranger in paradise" there). Also, it have sufficent THRILLER atmosphere.

    While they could have scaled back the detective conversations, I wasn't bored. Certainly not as bored as the majority of episodes preceeding this one.

    Peter's observation about the John Williams cigarette position at the strip club is hilarious. The funny thing about when Williams and Woods exit the strip club to a smoke filled alley is they did so to get some fresh air. "Ahhhhh", one of them sighs as he breathes in a cloud of toxic smoke.

    "2 1/2 Karloffs"

    ReplyDelete
  22. Of course this suffers for being 60 minutes, it should have been 20, but I do get a certain satisfaction seeing these pulp tales get adapted. As someone said above this story kind of created a genre in itself so it seems kind of old hat, but the basic premise is pretty cool.

    I do think this suffers from bad acting. Aside from John Williams some of the supporting acting, expecially the detectives and the women is pretty terrible. I also had trouble getting my mind around the eccentrics in the artist colony. They seem created of stereotypes that are too dated for me to get a grip on. Like was that goateed guy supposed to be the fifties (early sixties) subtext for gay?

    The sanitized murders, the fully clothed stripper, and the "gee-I-guess-that-is-supposed-to-be-a-prostitute-cause-they-look-like-normal-women" work against this, too. I'm not a fan of gore by any means, but these elements were just too PG for me and worked against the story's atmosphere.

    Still liked seeing the story adapted though. Two Karloffs out of four.

    ReplyDelete
  23. So this episode is the link to that annoying TV commercial. Odd, considering much TV I watched in the late 70s / early 80s, I don't remember it.

    From reading the above comments, I see that this story has made the rounds on various TV shows many a time. Lucky for me, I can only recall seeing this premise used maybe once of twice, so watching Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper was still a fresh experience.

    After the Sir Guy lays out his theory it's immediately on to a game of, "Which one is Jack?". After the one cop admits to his past life in an artist colony, I couldn't figure out if he was a red herring or Jack.

    With the exception of John Williams, the acting in this episode was bellow par for the Thriller series. Goofy cops, badly stereotyped artists and other assorted oddities fumbled and bumbled their way through the 50 minutes.

    The varied, but somewhat ordinary locations and set designs, kept things moving along.

    The always tricky bit of trying to portray a prostitute in a PG medium was dealt with by making her a party girl. The very attractive blond got a call for a late night party and she was excitedly getting ready, until she met the Ripper.

    When we see the painting of young widow with a touch of death thrown in, we know what's coming next. Thankfully, we are invited to a swinging beatnik art contest first.

    Jack has one more murder to go! Lucky viewers that we are, the murder is due to take place at a strip club. Was that Jack Ruby's club that they went to? I was very amused when Sir Guy expressed complete naivety towards these types of places and then was eager to take the plunge all in the name of justice. From the strip club scenes I must say that strip clubs sure have come a long way...so I'm told...I too laughed at the limp cigarette, which brought back memories of an old Married With Children episode with a cigar smoking Al in the hot tub.

    Finally, we're about to find out who the murder is. I admit to me thrown for a loop when our detective went to Mrs. Beverly Hills dressing room and did not murder her. I thought that Jack might be Sir Guy and then was fooled again when detective Jack revealed himself and stabbed Sir Guy. Not the way I thought things would end.

    Now hopefully soon, someone will follow through with Spinal Tap's idea of making a musical based upon the life of Jack the Ripper. You're a naughty one Saucy Jack...

    I'll give Jack Two and half Karloffs.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This episode suffers from the "old men in suits talking endlessly in wood-paneled rooms" syndrome that killed most of British science fiction films in the 50s. In spite of the lurid killings of about 3 beautiful women, it's 80% "slow and dull" content.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I hated this episode. Absolutely the worst moment (maybe of the series): John Williams
    knows for a fact the ripper is going to kill someone that night, he befriends a very sympathetic young single mother and doesn't think to try to stop her when she decides to take a leisurly late night stroll to the hospital???? It boggles the mind.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I remembered this episode very fondly from its original airing. Though there were some disappointments viewing it again (mainly, I couldn't believe the stupidity of the police; one office walks the party girl home and never thinks to check her room), I found the admittedly talky script very literate and often witty ("My daughter has hair like me." "Ah, a natural platinum blonde."). Sure, the artists' scenes are a bit much, but I enjoyed the echoes of the beatniks and artists in Roger Corman's films. I thought there were some interesting comments on femininity, particularly in the presentation of "Second Victim" (Pamela Curran). When she's caught in the police lights, she seems almost emaciated--hardly a glamorized depiction of the world's oldest profession.

    BTW, Hymie the prize-winning bad artist is played by Adam Williams, who played Valerian, the thug with the high-pitched laugh in "North by Northwest," so there's another Hitchcock connection if anybody's counting.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I really liked this one because I wasn`t sure whether or not this was yet another crime drama or an actual supernatural episode. Kept me guessing to the end and the opening bit
    with the song was really fun. Three yours trulys...

    ReplyDelete
  28. I really liked this episode -- and for many of the reasons others find it easy to criticize. By going against genre expectations, "Yours Truly..." is often funny and uniquely strange -- its sanitized surfaces frame alien-like Beatniks and an undercover prostitute. A coffin flies open with a glaring corpse who *does* stare right at the culprit. And yes, we see drone-like police officers making neither heads nor tails of a case they refuse to grasp, but their vague disinterest reflects what I imagine would be true of regular guys forced to hunt a supernatural prowler.

    The modern setting is distinctly antithetical to Jack the Ripper. After the brief “period” opening, we see no cobblestone streets, "Bobbies" or gaslight. No infamous killer in a black top hat carrying his trademark surgeon's bag. And, until the final minutes, no fog.

    Once we leave 1888 London -- and Karloff's jaunty introduction -- the only Britishness offered is from the always-watchable, elegantly-voiced John Williams.

    With suspects that include affected artistes and peripheral perverts, we are given TV’s answer to the “usual suspects”. The story cynically suggests that modernity does not give us much hindsight, and that society itself doesn't get any less unresolved. What better proof than that Jack the Ripper can just as easily run circles around us today as he did in the 1888?

    As for the procedural aspect to the show, I enjoy the clinical rhythm of the actors as they pretend to get closer to solving the case. As suggested in the commentary, the police are like a hive of "Dr, Richmans" from Psycho; they offer a sterile, technical perspective of ghastly, sexually uncomfortable butcherings but their familiarity with horror isn't reassuring. Unconscionable, inexplicable behavior doesn't become better understood, just familiar.

    By the end, we are left with two candidates, and our choices are cleanly delineated. We have John Williams's "Sir Guy" and Donald Woods's "Dr. Carmody" -- one, a British gentleman, and the other, a pleasantly bland psychiatrist. I like Woods's safe, Television-friendly persona; he personifies that rare adult who confidently projects just enough. Neither performer is vying to be the “star”, which serves the tension and the tale’s meaning well.
    When Carmody does not seize an opportunity to kill the stripper, we are left with Sir Guy as the main suspect. Stepping outside together into the fog (which finally smokes up the mis-en-scene), we having everything stripped down to victim and the “man with the knife”.
    When the victim falls out of frame, and then, Jack crouches out of frame with him, we are given the space to fill our minds with a cruel, slasher-style défoulement. Then, rising back into view on the picture tube, we have that gentleman who would never raise our suspicions.

    With television stereotypes, oddballs and stiffs, we see the seams of a ritualized tale, to be told with the same beats of an unholy passion play throughout time.

    3 1/2 Karloffs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoops-Originally aired: 4/21/10? Anyway, the opening scenes were most atmospheric, and from there it went downhill. Agree about the remakes--how 'bout "The Presidio?" Sean Connery. I lived in the SF Bay area, Pacifica, from 1979-1983. Talk about the fog--eh, Moss Beach Distillery"-the Ghost story AKA prohibition - a missed Thriller script to say the least, my San Francisco friends.

      Delete
    2. A better fit-Time After Time - Jack the Ripper in 1979 San Francisco.

      Delete
  29. The ending was a shocker and even up repeat viewings it startles me every time. It's not the best Thriller but far from the worst. The atmosphere is meh but the story and some of the dialogue, the back story that Sir Guy offers, lend this one an air of genuine mystery. If this were an entry in any other mystery or crime anthology of its era I think it would have more fans, but it's a Thriller, and Thriller fans want more. Much more. I dig it, beatnicks and all. Adam Williams,--of all people!--is actually well cast and strangely credible as an artist, something anyone familiar with the actor's work would believe possible

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm surprised this isn't more highly regarded,but i can understand,it had the limitations of it's day,but when i originally saw this (during it's very short syndication run in the early 70's) it really creeped me out,granted that serial killers are almost run of the mill stock characters nowadays,it wasn't like that when i first saw it,and the "unknown" factor about Jack added a little hmmm to the plot...btw,the artist that won the competition,Adam Williams,played a serial killer in a overlooked gem called Without Warning,and his small part in this doubled the creep factor when i watched this episode for the first time in 30 years...it would still be in my top ten,just for the dispatch at the end...i'd give it a three,possibly four if they explained how the killer got to the Blond Party Girl even though they knew Jack would strike again...and am I mistaken,but wasn't this set in Chicago...not NYC?

    ReplyDelete