Thursday, September 23, 2010

Man in the Cage: Season 1 Episode 18

Originally aired: 1/17/61
Starring Philip Carey, Diana Millay, Eduardo Ciannelli.
Written by Stuart Jerome and Maxwell Shane based on the Novel by John Holbrook Vance.
Directed by Gerald Mayer.

Noel Hudson (Guy Stockwell) is forced at gunpoint to smuggle heroin for some very bad men in Tangier. En route to the drop off point, Noel gets the better of his escort and steals the heroin. He then disappears from the face of the earth and it's up to his brother Darryl (Carey) to come lookin' for him. The older brother hangs out in seedy bars and is, for a very short time, kidnapped and placed in a cage.

JS: Blink and you'll miss the cage.

PE: The title should have been "Man in a Cage for a Very Brief Time."

JS: I'm not exactly sure what happened here, but I suspect someone secretly switched our brand of Thriller with Folger's Crystals, and I did notice...

PE: After just 18 episodes, we've had ghosts, faux ghosts, psychos, mad bombers, kidnappers, and men who ride too close to each other in cars, but "Man in the Cage" gets my vote for Biggest "WTF?" It's not the worst (that would still be "The Mark of the Hand"), it's not the most boring ("Worse than Murder," anyone?), it just doesn't belong here. We shouldn't be reviewing this because it should never have been aired as a Thriller. (But it is, and we will. That's what we do. -JS)

PE: If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a rip-off of the James Bond series but the first film, Dr. No, was still almost two years away. We've got intrigue, a Blofeld look-alike (no cat, though), and danger in far off lands (well, the Universal backlot and surrounding areas, at least). Sounds like Bond. One thing we get in "Man in the Cage" that was blissfully absent from the James Bond series is the kid sidekick known as Slip-Slip (or was it Jar-Jar?), played by Barry Gordon, who wore out his welcome very quickly in the Enfantino household. Gordon, the child actor grew up to be Gordon, the prolific TV veteran and has been seen in several shows (usually playing the funny Jewish guy), most recently as Larry David's rabbi on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

JS: Viewers who did not appreciate the charms of "The Fatal Impulse" will probably not get too excited about this one either. Call me crazy, but despite it's non-Thriller-ness, in our house we found it reasonably entertaining. Like that episode, it held our interest throughout, and at times had us rewinding to revisit some of the  humorous bits, like the frighteningly unnatural  photo of Noel and "T-Bone."

PE: I thought it was interesting that Noel Hudson (Guy Stockwell) is introduced as if the episode will revolve around him (and, in a way, it does), he disappears five minutes in, and we never see him again. The central character then becomes his worried brother Darryl (Carey), who searches the back alleys of Tangier to find his younger sibling. We finally discover the fate of Noel (handled off-screen much like the laughable "The Big Blackout.") but, by this time, Guy Stockwell had moved on to greener pastures (regular gigs on "Adventures in Paradise," "The Richard Boone Show," and a guest appearance on the has-been heaven known as Fantasy Island) and so, I assume, didn't have the time to film his last scene.

JS: Consider that a Hitchcockian MacGuffin, like Janet Leigh in Psycho.

PE: I gotta say that as a follow-up to his classic "The Fatal Impulse," director Gerald Mayer lets us down by filming this one pretty straightforward. Imagine if Darryl Hudson had tried to find his brother in the bars of Tangier dressed as a woman or if Slip-Slip had accidentally stepped on an explosive device and blown right out of his flip-flops? I kept waiting for some magic "Thrillah moment" to happen but alas... On the plus side, there is the girl known as "T-Bone" (and yet you fail to mention the bartender's explanation that she's called that because "she likes big, thick ones." - JS) and a funny scene where Darryl gets a phone call at a bar and all around are listening to his conversation until he hangs up the phone and they all look the other way in a sit-com style.

JS: I actually didn't feel let down by Mayer. Sure, it's not as wild and crazy as "Impulse," but it's got its share of goofy bits that keep things interesting throughout.

PE: I've not read the novel (by science fiction author Jack Vance) but it won the Edgar for the Best First Mystery Novel the same year the episode was aired.



  1. As long as "Thriller" was continuing to produce crime dramas, why not take a trip to some exotic, dangerous foreign locale for the sake of variety? It definitely makes for an entertaining and occasionally almost-"thrilling" experience, as the series intended.

    I found that most of the sets, etc were convincing and detailed enough to make the action believable. Rugolo's "mid-eastern" score was also good, especially with that out-of-tune sitar-type instrument that was prominently featured.

    Phil Carey delivered a far more solid, UNaffacted performance than I've usually seen from him; he simply did the manly a rather one-dimensional way...but it worked for me. The plot contained enough twists 'n turns to keep us engaged as we followed him through this most perilous and unpredictable adventure.

    Barry Gordon, like him or not, was a very talented kid, and I did not find him at all annoying (which is usually the case with these obligatory cute-street-urchin-jack-of-all-trades-who-knows-everyone-in-town-and-tends-to-play-both-sides-against-one-other roles). Lots of colorful and eccentric characters populating the landscape, including a bland, seemingly OK car salesman, the nutty old bearded dude who only knew two words of English ("YOU DIE!"), a kindly, wise, no-nonsense police chief, and an amusing French clerk at the Gide d'Etape hotel (charmingly played by the versatile Thann Wynen).

    Also, the torture victim scene (looks like his eyes were burned out----man, those guys are MEAN!) was pretty gruesome for 1960, and very well staged, lit and directed. (I totally agree with our hosts in their observation that director Gerald Mayer's handling of this show is a VAST improvement over his "Fatal Impulse"; maybe Maxwell Shayne sat him down and said "C'mon, Gerry; let's get serious".)

    On the lighter side, I must shamefacedly admit that the dual implication with the "T-Bone" thing escaped me; must be my advancing age.

    And so, having dramatically raised the bar with their new horror shows, I'd say that "Man (briefly) in the Cage" justifies Thriller's decision to continue to produce crime dramas as well.


  2. Here's where THRILLER lost me back in '61. At least "The Poisoner" had a gothic atmosphere and the suggestion of mysterioso horror; this was more like CHINA SMITH or some other "foreign intrigue" TV melodrama from the period... HONG KONG without Rod Taylor's indispensable presence. Whatever it was, it came from an entirely different creative planet than "The Cheaters" or "The Hungry Glass." Viewed today as an out-of-place oddity, one may find some minor pleasures in "Man in a Cage," but, believe me, it was a big step backward for us newly-minted THRILLER fans in 1961. Better we should head over to the Loew's Oriental for that double feature of GORGO and THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN...

  3. I had to laugh when I read Gary Gerani's statement above about "Man in a Cage" being devoid of the qualities we were expecting in a horror or thriller anthology show. It was ok but like Gary says it was more like CHINA SMITH and a real big step down compared to "The Cheaters" or "The Hungry Glass".

    The only horror in this episode involved T-Bone, Slip-Slip, and the truck that took like two seconds to find. If only Eduardo Ciannelli had shot and killed Philip Carey instead...

  4. Let's face it, no one is watching every episode of Thriller in hopes of coming across "Man in a Cage." This would be a subpar episode of any early 60s adventure series.

  5. Comment to Gary Gerani... funny thing is that I watched this episode the same day I saw THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN on THISTV.

    The title is misleading and the episode blows.

    "0 Karloffs"

  6. Barry Gordon did a fantastic job playing the young version of the messed-up Bobby Darin character in 1963's Pressure Point, a very underrated film. I didn't realize he grew up to be Larry David's rabbi! I'll have to the get out my Curb dvds and check that out.

  7. What happened? After the last three episodes I thought Thriller set the cruise control on horror highway.

    Man in a Cage is not bad. The exotic (for it's time) local adds a spice of interest. Hints of the future James Bond franchise also appear on screen.

    Philip Carey does a good job of conveying the desperation and bewilderment of brother Daryl. Goofy characters and enough side turns keep things interesting.

    Daryl's discovery of his brother is a bit anti-climatic, but at that point he's become a plot after thought to Daryl's survival ability.

    I laughed pretty hard at the "she likes big, thick ones." line.

    I'll put two Karloffs in the cage...

  8. For a while I actually thought that this may end up a horror episode after all as what you thought looked like a Blofeld copy, appeared like an Aleister Crowley lookalike to me. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Still, I found it enjoyable enough and in actual fact much better than THE POISONER which (despite being based on a true story) was actually laughably unrealistic.

  9. I had high hopes for this episode early on, but it lacked the sublime silliness of "The Fatal Impulse. I laughed out loud a few times--the furtive glances away as Phillip Carey hung up the phone, the quick discovery of the truck after Carey said you could hide a truck there for years--but it was mostly pretty dreary.

    To me, it was an attempt to do "Casablanca" in peacetime. Barry Gordon was fun, but my favorite was Eduardo Cianelli, who shambled in for two scenes and kicked some royal acting butt. I wanted him to pull out a knife, though, and start screaming "Kill for Kali!"

  10. Like “Man in the Middle” the coming attraction for “Man in the Cage” features an unaired scene. As Philip Carey is being forced into the cage he shouts, “You devils! You devils!” Hokey but entertaining.

  11. I liked it but I as I watched it I had this nagging feeling I grabbed the wrong DVD set - it was like Thriller does Danger Man. I kept waiting for Patrick McGoohan to show up.


  12. Interesting, in a 1940's B-movie kinda way...replace Phil Carey with someone like Bogart and replace the rest of the cast with the usual Warner Bros. contract players, and you really can't tell the difference.

    I liked it, in spite of that, and the fact that they pretty much use standard villain actors like Theo Marcuse (who played this same villain on every damned show of the period, and probably would have continued doing so had he not been tragically killed). Barry Gordon was OK...he was about 12 years old in real life but seemed a little younger...he's in his mid-'60's now and still seems like he's at least a decade younger. I would say this is one of the better crime episodes.

  13. I rather enjoyed The Man In the Cage this, the second time around.. The familiar Uni back lot was probably used for foreign intrigue type stories during the world war and also, after alterations, provided a nice back drop for some Arabian Nights type romps popular during that period.

    Phil Carey was no Jon Hall, and fond as I am of Theo Marcuse I can see any number of other old-time actors of an earlier time doing just as nicely (Dan Seymour, Douglass Dumbrille), and while Mr. Ciannelli could have been in an earlier version, too, I think George Zucco, somewhat quirkier and more ambiguous, would have been better casting.

    But this was an episode of a TV show intended to entertain, draw the viewer in, provide little jolts, some romance, some comic relief. I'm not usually a fan of Barry Gordon's acting but he did just fine in this one. His little street Arab could have been, had the story been rewritten (and done better, more originally) a kind of Greek chorus or semi-official narrator so long as they kept his "cuteness" in check. He was a nice antidote to the squaeaky clean Disney kids of the same period. This little dude knew his way around the block.

  14. Does anyone else think that Phil Carey is a dead ringer for Phil Hartman from SNL?

    1. Also one for Charlton Heston. To me, at least.

    2. Having just watched it a 2nd time, i kept thinking he reminded me of someone, looks and voice. Then i realized it was Phil Hartman from SNL!