Starring Howard Morris, Rosemary Murphy, Pamela Curran.
Written by Boris Sobelman, based on short stories by Joseph Payne Brennan.
Directed by Ida Lupino.
Two stories concerning the fragile and troubled relationships that men and women endure each and every day in Thrillerville. In the first, screw-up Myron Sills (Morris) thinks he's finally gotten rid of his wife, rock climber and naturalist Lavinia (Murphy), when he pushes her over a steep cliff into a deep pool. But in reality, she's harder than, well, a rock. In story #2, librarian Alice Quimby (Morris again) is passed over for a promotion in favor of Dr. Wilfred Bliss (Murphy). After enduring harassment from Bliss for far too long, Ms. Quimby gets her own little sweet revenge.
PE: I knew there would be trouble when I saw the same mountain view where the "Attractive Family" offed one of their victims. For gosh sake, isn't it time for rails on that cliff?
JS: The day they put safety rails in Thrillville, it's time to pull the plug on... Oh. I guess this is just about it. In that case, leave nature as you found it, I say.
PE: This is an interesting experiment in that director Lupino has the same lead actor and actress in two separate short dramas. We're always complaining that these damn things are padded. Here I think Lupino does a good job (for the most part) keeping our interest and adding an unexpected twist or two. As far as Howard Morris goes, it's a tale of two actors in one body. In "Murder on the Rocks," I found him to be annoying and hammy, way over the top, whereas in "Mr. Bliss," I found him to be restrained and intriguing. Sure, his character is an extreme, a nasty piece of work who revels in treating others like servants, but he keeps it on an even keel and doesn't resort to the sort of Shatner-esque emoting he displays in the first story.
JS: If the goal was just to show off the acting range of her two leads, then sure, Lupino succeeds. But I find it harder to get excited about the stories, which aren't on par with Thrillers best.
PE: Rosemary Murphy is top-notch in both her roles. A strong, almost manly (I hesitate to use that word that rhymes with "pike") woman in control of the situation who suddenly finds she may be mistaken about her loving husband and his dinner trips. When she makes her return trip from the pool (in a brilliant fade-out from Myron celebrating with a drink, believing he's murdered his wife to a close-up of the worm tied and bound, a ghoulish Lavinia hovering over him), she's more than a bit unhinged and genuinely terrifying. Miss Quimby is the other end of the scale, mousy and matronly, pushed to the limits but keeping her cool, even in the act of murder. If it wasn't for Jeanette Nolan's performance in "La Strega," Rosemary Murphy would have my vote for "Best Actress" of the second season.
PE: I know John is upset that Lupino couldn't find a place for a skeleton in Lavinia's trophy room or Miss Quimby's library. It wouldn't have taken much, true.
JS: That's okay. It's not the first time Ida let me down.
PE: Lupino plops a big red cherry on top of a Thriller career. There's a fabulous scene in the library vault when Dr. Bliss is bouncing from wall to wall, realizing he's trapped. It's shot from above and perfectly illustrates the claustrophobia and terror the man feels. We feel.
JS: You want claustrophobia, I'll loan you The Descent. A high angle shot alone does not a best director make. Lupino has done far better than this.
PE: We've had many disagreements on this blog between you and I and the audience but I think we're all united in saying this is the worst Thriller epilogue in the series' history. It takes the Hitchcock "...but she didn't get away with it..." sigh that Hitch was saddled with to a new low in stupidity.
JS: No argument there. In past episodes, you would have docked an entire Karloff for such a mis-step. It would appear your review here is predicated on switching channels before Boris returns.
PE: "The Lethal Ladies" is based on the stories, "The Pool" and "Goodbye, Dr. Bliss" by Joseph Payne Brennan. It's a shame that the Thriller powers-that-be didn't discover Brennan's work earlier. Like Robert Bloch and August Derleth, Brennan's stories (a mixture of mystery and horror) would have made an easy transition to the small screen. Two paperback collections of Brennan's horror stories are readily available on the net: Nine Horrors and a Dream (Ballantine, 1958) and The Shapes of Midnight (Berkley, 1980), the latter with an introduction by Brennan fan Stephen King. I'd love to see someone collect Joseph Payne Brennan's scarce small press magazine, Macabre, which he edited and published for 23 issues from 1957 -1986.