Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook: Season 1 Episode 20

Originally aired: 2/7/61
Starring Kenneth Haigh, Audrey Dalton, Alan Napier.
Written by Allan Caillou.
Directed by Herschel Daugherty.

A killer is stalking the English village of Dark Woods and the townfolk, a superstitious lot, are at the end of their rope. Enter Detective Inspector Harry Roberts (Haigh), sent from Scotland Yard (which is actually in London despite its confusing title) on honeymoon with his new bride, Nesta (Dalton). What Roberts discovers is a secret cult that burns women as witches. Nesta seems to be on the menu when she sees a mysterious black dog, invisible to all but witches. Somnia ensues.

JS: Allow me to add:
In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, lived a strange race of people—the Druids. No one knows who they were, or what they were doing, but their legacy remains, hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge...
PE: Another of the Thrillers that really doesn't know what it wants to be: stylish and atmospheric at times, other times boring and filled with grade school theater acting. "Hay-Fork" begins with one of the eeriest and effective openings of the series: an elderly village man, carrying a Hay-Fork and babbling to no one in particular about "all the beasts of the forest" and the "cattle of a thousand hills," shambles through a field at night. He's chased by something menacing and finally run through with his own fork with a nasty "chunk" coda (Don't forget the bill-hook! -JS), all surrounded by druid stones and a menacing Jerry Goldsmith score.

JS: Yeah, yet another winner from Goldsmith, although there were long stretches where we were forced to go without music... I found that playing the opening of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" made for a good gap-filler. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode lacked the odd angles that made the opening particularly captivating.

PE: This episode very much reminded me of a black and white Hammer film. If only the episode had ended there. It's all over the map, mixing in black devil dogs, witch burnings, and murderers who favor farming tools and not really coming up with anything edible. And about that aforementioned devil dog: we're told it's an ominous, frightening vision, but when it reveals itself in the light (I'll be damned if it didn't interrupt Dalton while she was disrobing! -JS) , the poor mutt is more Benji than Hound of the Baskervilles.

JS: Yes, this was easily the least convincing black devil dog I've ever seen. Not only that, but it looks like they utilized multiple mangy mutts to do the trick. I'm not even sure they were the same breed! Strangest of all, how is it that both times I declared my choice for the Babe of the Week, Audrey Dalton shows up in the next episode!

PE: I think Kenneth Haigh went to the world famous "Mickey Dolenz School of Method Acting." When he shows displeasure (which is quite often) he simply rolls his eyes. I was beginning to believe that Inspector Harry Roberts was, in fact, a defective detective like Ironside, Longstreet, or Monk. In this case, some kind of neurological disorder. That, or the boy with the cue cards kept changing positions. It was also tough for me to picture the Los Angeles hillside as an English village.

JS: Listen to you. You sound like a bitter old Englishman, and you're not even an official ex-pat. Stay on the roads, keep clear of the moors, pip-pip, cheerio and all that.

PE: When all else fails, just hit the pause button on any scene with Audrey Dalton and stare at her arched right eyebrow. As Alan Napier once told me about the fiery vixen: "She's dark and pretty like you say but that smoldering down in cider - you never know when the flame'll burn through and then where are ya? I ask ya? Where'll ya be then?" I don't know about the cider part but the rest I buy... I think.

JS: In cider? Do you think maybe he said, "inside her," Pete? I do have to give Napier credit. He so registered as Alfred Pennyworth in his brief role in "The Purple Room" (despite that pre-dating Batman by several years), whereas here I was able to set aside the association completely. And when he is asked the ridiculous question, "Did she talk to herself when she was alone..." he gave the same witty comeback that I did, "I don't know. I was never with her when she was alone." I don't think my wife was impressed when Napier said the same line right after I did, but I kinda was...

PE: Did you happen to notice that Nesta visits the same library we saw Mary Tyler Moore studying at in the now-infamous "The Fatal Impulse." There Nesta meets up with the man who stole Mary's spectacle lenses.

JS: I did! At least this time they had the good sense not to film the back side of the single-width shelves.

PE: My favorite "Thrillah-moment" for this episode: while DI Roberts is on stakeout, waiting for bad guys, his wife is being kidnapped. Luckily for Roberts, the legendary "black dog" arrives to bark a warning to the detective. Roberts at first shoos the dog away but then listens intently to the dog and then dashes madly home to help his wife, the message finally having gotten through: "Uh, hey buddy, yer wife's in deep doo-doo."

JS: Yes, it was a very touching Shaggy & Scooby moment.



  1. This one's ok and I enjoyed the supernatural elements even though the whole thing turned out to have a natural explanation. But the dog was a real scream, or maybe that's the problem because it looked like the script girl's pet who just happened to be around the set. Surely they could have found a doberman attack dog.

    This shows how desperate we are for the horror episodes to really commence again.

  2. I can just imagine William Frye calling Jerry Goldsmith: "Jerry?...this is Bill. We'd like you to try to salvage our latest "Thriller" with your music....."

    And, to some degree, he did. This was the first use of Goldsmith's "wailing" french horn cues for Thriller, and it's a fantastic and eerie sound (and almost uncanny in the perfection of the bending of the pitch...almost as if it were electronically produced).

    I like the obviously fake miniature (and painted) druid ruins in the distance with the fog effect; nice set-up for a spooky tale that unfortunately never gets off the ground after the prologue.

    Neither director Herschel Daugherty or Kenneth Haig were on their game here; Haigh, a normally impressive and respected actor, reminded me too much of Wilbur (Alan Young) roaming the moors in search of Mr. Ed. Too many of these scenes were just plain dull, especially the tavern scene, in which the director simply failed to muster any tension or atmosphere.

    How about the monolithic druid rock formation that kept moving around when the two guys leaned against it during the climatic fight scene? Ed Wood would have been proud. At least Haigh managed to throw a somewhat better punch here than he did in TZ's "The Last Flight" out on the runway (to be fair, OTHER than that lame punch, I'd put "Last Flight" on my top 10 TZ episodes without hesitation).

    I guess there's a moral to be learned from "Hay-Fork"; think twice before you let a cast member write the screenplay (in this case, Alan Calliou).

    I liked the pooch; a real sweetheart.


  3. Location, location, location ... "Hay/Bill" earns Thriller bonus star points for its murky fog and boggy moors ambience. Gradually, we see the Thriller crew becoming comfortable with the concept of "disguising a shitty set with fog (and random dead tree branches)" but in this case the atmospherics are a desperation measure rather than an organic outgrowth of any sort of drama. The reason it disappoints is that the prologue promises so much, and then fails to deliver while the "story" — such as it is — falls to tatters and shards, because nothing in the drama is as good as the ambience. However, evocations of fog-shrouded remote locales with haunted reputations constitute one of Thriller's big continuity pluses. That is, for a series with no continuing characters or recurrent fixed locations, the creepy gothic ambience is itself a through-line you can follow from episode to episode — one that stands in aid of the reputation Thriller ultimately accrued.

  4. Need I add that "The Last Flight" was written by Richard Matheson?

  5. I have to take the opposite position with this one, which I liked a lot. Kenneth Haigh makes me think of the wonderful "Banquo's Chair" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Audrey Dalton is very cute, though no Susan Oliver. Alan Caillou is good, though it seems they used the same stock group when they needed Brits (wasn't he in "The Prediction" with Ms. Dalton?). Alan Napier could read the phone book and I'd enjoy it. The music is great, the story is fun, and the camerawork looked good to me. I have always enjoyed Daugherty's shows--many Hitchcock episodes.

    The scenes where Kenneth Haigh finds the watch and then acts like a moron were pretty silly, but for the most part this was one of the best episodes so far.

    And the dog is a sweetie!

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  7. For me, this one was quite a disappointment. Good opening and then very amateurish all round. I'd have to disagree with PE's comparison with Hammer Films - they only got as bad as this very briefly, around 1970. At times during this episode, I thought I was watching an Ed Wood film: for example, the line (and its delivery) "I myself did not see it. Because it want there." The "Scooby Doo" comparison was spot on. At the end, I almost expected Alan Napier to say "It's a fair cop, guv!". One Karloff.

  8. Salt-

    I was comparing the "look" of Hay Fork to a black and white Hammer film of the late 50s, not the quality. At times, I can be very vague, sorry. I was thinking in particular of X-The Unkown.

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  10. Mediocre, but when you see it after the last four episodes, I appreciated it a little more than those of you who saw it in sequence. That was a real 'la strega' style opening, which unfortunately wasn't truly followed up on. The story in its telling was a tad dull, but there was enough character in it to tie up my attention for 48 minutes. Haigh was convincing enough to me, and i actually found his eye-rolls a nice touch -- dealing with the babbling of these rural rubes would have lost its quaintness quickly with me, too. Dalton, she looked better in the stalking scarecrow episode, but was well casted. Napier was a real gem -- although the changing tone of his hair, from dark brown in the pub back to grey the rest of the show kind of made me think maybe he had also tried out for the black dog part... Six Karloffs...

  11. Hey, and where was Iris Brendel? I didn't see any busty witches afoot... You got me all excited with those photos from the Last ladies of Thriller.

  12. Good atmosphere. There's a Val Lewton vibe in this one, even a Lewton connection with Alan Napier on board. I like Kenneth Haigh's work in everything I've seen him in, Alan Caillou made this one special for me. Why? I dunno. He just did. He brought a tragic dignity to his character.

  13. Great opening as most would agree. What follows just doesn't hold up. Atmosphere and great music (this episode has both) goes a long way for me... but this journey ran out of gas.

    On a side note: I don't know how John and Peter did this... watching an episode a day in chronological order. I bow to you gentlemen. I find it very difficult to watch in order, knowing that there are excellent episodes out there. My hats off to your endurance.

    "1 1/2 Karloffs"

  14. Well, I'm still undergoing therapy. And then we had to jump right in to Outer Limits. Believe me, that was no piece of cake.
    You're the one deserves a bow, Soso. I was thinking you might want to write your own blog: A Thriller an Hour.

  15. I keep thinking that if I just sit through all the bogus crime dramas now, they will be over that much sooner. I think I have been duped.

  16. I kept thinking of Led Zepplin's song, "Black Dog" whenever I heard the reference in the story.

  17. Like so many others, at first I thought this was going to be promising, and then it just falls into an illogical mess. Is it supernatural or not, but in the end I guess not though as many others pointed out they seem to keep changing the rules. The role of the dog being perhaps the best example.

    You know, I'm 20 episodes into this now and I have to say I'm a little underwhelmed. I knew it was going to be bad in the beginning, but it really hasn't picked up that much. Even a universally lauded episode like "The Cheaters" struck me as a little, "meh." I think the best episode was the one with Shatner and the ghost in the glass. But quality episodes so far have been few and far between.

  18. The atmospheric opening was superb and led me to believe that this episode could possibly be the first 4 Karloffer. Alas, it was not to be. I still found Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook quite enjoyable, but the plot was a bit jumbled, some characters were too goofy and the stage set looked a sub junior high theater production.

    Are all English backwoods stocked with superstitious eccentrics and cranks? This group was amusing, but a bit too hay seed and not enough evil for this viewer. I did enjoy Alan Napier's performance. The same cannot be said for Kenneth Haigh. His performance was on the blah side. Audrey Dalton was nice to look at, but also on the blah side.

    All the talk of the black dog immediately summoned the Zeppelin song to the stereo in my head. What a joke of canine! I can't believe that mangy mutt made it to the final cut. They couldn't round up anything more sinister looking?

    With the exception of the ancestry sidebar, connecting the various plot points was rudimentary and I just watched to see the episode play itself out.

    As was mentioned earlier, watching the rock formations move was a hoot.

    I'll hayfork two and a half Karloffs...

  19. There are a small number of episodes I remember seeing either when they aired or in syndication. When this one started, I remembered the opening and introduction (the faces over the boiling cauldron) very well, but that was it. Can't imagine why I turned it off after that strong opening, but maybe I was prescient in those days?

    A very mixed bag. Great opening and score, as so many have already said, then a bland plot. With all of Audrey Dalton's connections to the supernatural, I wanted to see her burst out of that wicker basket surrounded by ethereal flames and turn Alfred the Butler into a toad.

    In Haigh's scenes with Dalton, he seems to be capturing the charming, sophisticated married detective to a tee. Then he turns into a judgmental twit whenever he deals with the townspeople. I know that's the writing, but he sure didn't insert any humor or understanding to make the scenes more palatable. Though I found Dalton warm and winning in "The Premonition," her hysterical scenes here pushed her talents to the breaking point. The focus for me was on the supporting cast: Napier, Doris Lloyd, J. Pat O'Malley et al, who had a grand old time with their plummy roles. It's a good thing the sets were so detailed, as most of them were biting off chunks of the scenery at every opportunity.

  20. I loved this 4 out of 4, #3 out of 67- its one of the last episodes I watched because nobody put it on their top 10 or even worst 10 lists. I found it wholly original, loved the Stonehenge angle, the wicker basket reminded me of the sensation 1973 film The Wicker Man (watch it!), loved the ambiguity of whether or not Audrey Dalton was or wasn't a witch, she's even better and sexier than she was in Hollow Watcher, loved the scene in the bar with the superstituous, ignorant but maybe knowing peasants, reminded me of the great
    opening scene in Hungry Glass. I loved how it walked a tightrope between is it supernatural or isn't it (finally I'd have to say the dog means it is supernatural), has some of the best atmosphere of a highly atmospheric horror series,
    the story all came together for me, so you doubters are wrong, wrong, wrong.

  21. These episodes are being aired on cable's MeTV on Sunday nights at 10 pm. This is a nice blog.

  22. Agree that this was different in many respects from the previous episodes. I'm still trying to figure out how the missus and her husband cracked the case. She was doing research, so to speak, at the records center. Give the Brits/Welch credit they keep impeccable records. Wales-known for producing great barristers and doctors.

  23. The hills and country roads look very Universal back lot, as I'd just watched a Hitchcock hour that used exactly the same places. Still, there was atmosphere to spare in this, and Toto, too.

  24. i thought it was pretty good, but the ending was pretty weak. the detective leaving his bride alone like that was really dumb, and only dumb luck allowed him to save her.why did alfred throw the pitch fork at haigh? dumb. no one seemed to broken up about sir wilfred getting killed defending audrey dalton either. i thought it was funny that after haigh punched alfred the butler, he just gave up. haigh had no weapon on him yet alfred just marched away to his doom after killing his brother. as they were hugging, you'd think he picks up the fork and sticks him or both together. and audrey dalton goes and rubs the old lady's back as she kneels over the dead wilfred after the old hag set her up to be killed! quite a forgiving lady, that nesta. but mom didnt intervene or say a thing to stop the fight though, did she?