Monday, November 8, 2010

Man of Mystery: Season 2 Episode 27

Originally aired 4/2/1962
Starring Mary Tyler Moore, Jon Van Dreelen, Walter Burke.
Written by Robert Bloch, from his story.
Directed by John Newland.

Everyone who's trying to spill the beans about tycoon Joel Stone (Van Dreelen), Man of Mystery, is turning up dead. Sherry (Mary Tyler Moore), a nightclub singer and object of Stone's affection, should realize something's up when he invites her to a dinner party full of dummies. Literally.

JS: You can't go wrong when you populate a dinner table with manikins. And who wouldn't want to date a gal who was cool with that? Talk about freaky! That one scene certainly gives this the feel of a horror episode.

PE: Yeah, it's a creepy scene but it makes no sense whatsoever. Why the hell would she stay? She's intrigued? She's with a goof who dines with dummies and wont go anywhere without the little guy who'd love to look up her skirt. This is bad Bloch. The whole thing leads to a very unsatisfying and ridiculous climax and I'll tell you why in a few minutes...

JS: This episode has its share of twists and turns, and I was pleasantly surprised how it all worked out. How many episodes of Thriller have we watched where we knew exactly where the episode was going after the first reel?

PE: You mean counting this one?! I knew the horse jockey was behind the whole thing from the get go. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. I know 'cuz I figured it out!

JS: Nice to see Stone has his own Thriller Babe scrapbook. I did have to wonder if all the gals in that were residing in the where-are-they-now file. The fact that Jill (Mercedes Shirley) was still around until she met with Sherry's other would-be paramour, Lou (William Windom), would seem to indicate misfortune only falls upon the squealers.

PE: SPOILER ALERT!! So, you're buying that Windom (who's uncharacteristically awful in this), who's so in love with Mary T.M., takes the cash and shoves her out the window so that he can be the next ventriloquist dummy for Stone? I ain't buying it. Even with all his dopey Jerry Lewis mannerisms, Lou seems like a good guy and is, at the least, genuinely in lust with Sherry. To continue with the Jerry Lewis comparison, Windom is a geeky, hyper schlub until he takes his new job and suddenly (ala Lewis in The Nutty Professor) he's Buddy Love, suave and debonair.

JS: Newland does a fine job with this, and does us the added favor of staying behind the camera this time out.

PE: I can picture Newland behind the camera with his quellazaire (look it up) and his Robertson Moffat bathrobe, sighing "Cut...yes, beautiful!"

JS: While we can argue whether Mary Tyler Moore looks like a million bucks, I think we can all agree she's an easy ten grand (and she can carry a tune! Let's see Jeanette Nolan sing a torch song -PE), as Boris points out in the opening. Walter Burke also makes for a great, creepy deaf-mute (or is he? -PE).

PE: Boris makes a rare Hitchcockian after-show appearance.

JS: Somehow I knew that was going to get under your skin.

THE COMMENTARY:
JS: Another winner from Blamire and Schow. There's plenty here to learn about regular Thriller scribe Bob Bloch, and where else can you find out which cast member went on to star in ReAnimator! (And it's the last commentary in the set—that can't be good news, can it? -PE)

OUR RATING:

11 comments:

  1. Yet another incompetent & ludricous segment by Bloch...

    It's almost beyond comprehension that someone could write such gibberish after 25 years of penning fiction! It's almost child-like in it's feckless motivations, it's lack of characterisation and of events triggered by anything resembling people. Instead, we have puppets moved around on the author's whims to head towards a double twist ending which must have seemed self-satisfying pleasing. Accept it was all done so. so much better and at half the length in 'The Glass Eye'.

    Hitchcock once said, or one of his staff, that the reason the adapted so many stories rather than go for originals was because writers would usually keep the best stuff for their personal fiction and knock out anything for the easy money from television. How right he was.

    I've just read a terrific piece on Detective Pulps by Walker Martin. It's amazing that with all of the 100s of stories to choose from in 'Weird Tales', 'Imagination' the "Shudder pulps", anthologies and the great supernatural fiction of the 19th and early 20th century (Blackwood, James, Harvey, Jacobs, LeFanu, ect) that they couldn't have come up with something better than this.

    For those aching for a little more of the fantastical, or just a little curious - here is the sole surviving episode of 14 episodes, of the TV show 'Out of this World' from the early '60s, hosted by Karloff.

    Little Lost Robot
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dK_XqMiOZU

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  2. PS: It's of historical interest only!

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  3. Wow...I love this episode. I don't have any problems with the motivations...the real Stone ruins women's lives by having the fake one procure women for him, which the fake one finally rebels against when they both fall for Sherry, who doesn't openly reject the real Stone by ridiculing him within earshot. (The fake Stone wants to get her away from him, knowing what's coming after he "finishes" with her himself.) It's really compelling, I think. I like "The Glass Eye" too, but where I didn't see this one coming (sure, you knew Walter Burke was the murderer, but why?), the long shots of a stiff Tom Conway and the obvious "human" movements of the dummy gave that one away immediately.

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  4. Bobby J, I'm glad you like my articles on collecting detective pulps. I can't believe I've been at it for decades...

    The "Man of Mystery" episode just about finished me off because it was so predictable. I'm glad they at least avoided the happy ending. I think I'll try the dining room table with the dummies trick on my wife since she's tired of my pulp collecting friends.

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  5. Although often clumsy, the storyline managed to hook me after the dummy scene, where I could see that MTM and 'Stone' may have been a match. Yes, I figured out early that Lucas was the real mccoy -- but the ending where Windom's bub, although hot for MTM, could trade his lust-from-a-far for a chorus line of diamond chasers was a real interesting twist (and rang true to me). At times it just seemed too coincidental that 'lucas' was on the scene so quickly for the drunk writer and the wanna-drink former paramour, but i suppose there's a lot of content Bloch and Newland wanted to squeeze in. However, the dialogue wasn't prime Bloch, though it had its moments.
    Six and a half dummy Karloffs...

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  6. Hey, guys----

    WALTER BURKE RULES!

    Unlike most participants in the this blog, I'm just a simple guy who knows very little mystery/pulp fiction and, probably like most people who watched "Thriller" during its initial run, was just happy to go along for the ride, and didn't deny myself the fun of the show by dissecting it from the opening scene. When I first caught up with "Man of Mystery" (mid 80's), I figured Walter was far more involved than was apparent, but was totally unprepared for the big reveal in Act 4.

    This episode moves along nicely, features interesting characters and fairly snappy Bloch-esque dialogue. The dummy scene has always struck me as gratuitous...it's pretty forced, but, hey this IS Thriller/Bloch, so I'll take what I can get (though one wonders why the faux Joel Stone would actually HAVE those dummies around his mansion; or maybe he ordered out for them, just for the occasion).

    All of this leads to the great--and I really mean GREAT--acting of Walter Burke, my all-time favorite character actor, and a man whose true Thespian gifts were all-too often subverted by roles which tried to cash in on his odd appearance. Thankfully, Bloch and Thriller once again provided an opportunity for a truly fine actor to shine: powerful but subtle delivery---minimally "acted" for the camera, great physical stance and presence, with a talent for elocution second to none in the profession. Way to go, little guy--at least you'll get some belated recognition on this blog. (PS-- anyone who's interested should track down an episode of Ben Casey entitled "The Firemen Who Raised Rabbits", wherein Wally plays a totally legit, straight, non-quirky character, a bed-ridden lawyer who is wheeled in for a big courtroom-style confrontation in Act 4, leaving no doubt as to the man's stature as an actor; or - just put on TZ's "Big Tall Wish" and watch a true pro "work" his scenes as Ivan Dixon's trainer).

    Great commentary by DJS and Larry B, two guys who really appreciate this episode (Dave can remind me: seems to me that when I asked Bloch about "Thriller", he responded that he wrote this episode especially to showcase Walter B).

    I understand the criticisms of our other commentators about this show, and I don't disagree with some of them; but here is Bloch doing an original crime show very late in the game, a very entertaining, generally intriguing and somewhat creepy show that culminates in one of the freakiest (attempted) love scenes of all time: MTM and the FABULOUS, MALIGNED, and OVERLOOKED WALTER BURKE!!

    For that alone it gets EIGHT-and-one-half KARLOFFS from me.

    LR

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  7. Good...some more love for "MoM"! The creepiness of the attempted love scene is multiplied when it sinks in that all the other women "belonged" to Burke too, and that they didn't know he was a real man until after van Dreelen had "finished" with them. I think most people miss what's going on here, why Jill was so broken...these guys are turning exploitable showgirls into their own private harem. Considering what must have been going on in that mansion, a set of dummies is probably the least bizarre thing you'd find. It's a great showcase for both Burke and van Dreelen (how about that scene just before the dinner party, when Burke shoots JvD that look after he says "It seems a shame to put her with the others"!).

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  8. Wish we had the time to produce more commentaries. We felt that we had covered the show pretty well with our blend of commentaries. Personally, I was a bit concerned that we had done too many and that they would ultimately become dull and repetitive; after all how much can be said about one show...even an anthology? Looks like I was wrong. It seems that we could have done more according to the very positive and gracious response from this blogs commentators. I loved putting them together and contributing to the the tracks as well. But I'm especially grateful to my squad of actors, directors, historians, and filmmakers. Every one of you did a great and thorough job, and I really appreciate your bottomless enthusiasm for the project. I hope we can all do it again some time in the future. Also... kudos to Pete and John for their boundless energy getting their reviews and comments posted each and every...A THRILLER A - day!

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  9. And Steve--
    Don't forget to take a bow yourself. We're all looking forward to your next project, that long-awaited LOVE BOAT boxed set with commentaries by every guest actor. You're an ace, Steve!

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  10. MoM with MTM. All we needed was an M&M product placement. The prologue left me thinking that this would be another Thriller crime yawner, but as the story slowly unfolded I was drawn into the mystery of the man.

    Since I gave up my Mensa membership I have been blessed to watch episodes such as MoM and not figured out the twist until it appeared. Yes, it was obvious that Lucas was the killer and had some sort of bizarre inside connection with Joel Stone, but I couldn't figure out (actually didn't try to hard) what it was. This allowed me to just sit back and watch the goofiness unfold. I enjoyed the extended nightclub love song they allowed Ms. Moore to sing. A cheery little number that jokingly portended the events ahead.

    I enjoyed Mary, Jon Van Dreelen and Walter Burke's performances. Sure, some of it was a bit campy in that early 60s spy style, but it all worked for me.

    Viewed today, the scenes where the headless Lucas Stone would do the dirty deed are pretty cliched, a bit comical and certainly not scary.

    The whole scene leading up to and including the dummy dinner was a weird and a bit disjointed. I'm not sure if it worked. It certainly made you wonder about what type of activities were going on inside Mr. Stone and Lucas' playboy mansion. Did they invite Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson over for some dress up games?

    I was hoping that our our Joel Stones made the business trip to Iran and we would be treated to a cameo by the Shah, but nope, fake Joel Stone had other ideas. I loved those flannel hunting duds that JS donned. He looked about as convincing as Mitt Romney in flannel.

    Twist one. Did the real Joel Stone watch Mad Love one too many times? He looked like he stole Peter Lorre's creep sauve seduction techniques.

    Twist two. Sure it was hard to believe, as it didn't seem at all in character for Lou, but evidently money does talk...

    Two and a half Karloffs for Man of Mystery.

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  11. Has this one ever been rerun on Me-TV? I've always wondered if MTM herself has been stopping this one from being rerun, but the current cycle finally included her S1 appearance, "The Fatal Impulse", so there's hope this time around. As Me-TV is finishing out 1961 now, it should get back to this episode's place in the cycle again in a few weeks.

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