Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Grim Reaper: Season 1 Episode 37

Originally aired 6/13/61
Starring William Shatner, Natalie Schafer, Elizabeth Allen.
Written by Robert Bloch, based on the short story by Harold Lawlor.
Directed by Herschel Daugherty.

Paul Graves (Shatner) has come to the mansion of his aunt Beatrice (Schafer), a wealthy mystery writer, to plead with her to rid herself of her newest acquisition: an infamous, cursed painting of the grim reaper by Radin, an artist who hung himself after finishing his masterpiece. Legend has it that when its owner is about to die, the painting bleeds!

PE: Hard to imagine, in today's television world where 16 episodes constitutes a season of Lost, that Thriller's first season was comprised of 37 episodes!

JS: I'm pretty pleased that we've made it this far, and what a reward we received for sticking through the first season! From an excellent pre-credit sequence starring our pal Henry Daniell, to Boris' fine intro (did he really wipe the blood on his pants!?), to the arrival of Shatner at the mansion with a gryphon filled fountain and hearse parked out front, what's not to love. And it only gets better as it goes along.

"I got you, Enfantino!!!"
PE: Not even the histrionics of the SHAT ("That's why...my aunt...died...if there was only some way...i could...prove it...to...you") can sink this one. There are just too many good things to choose from: perhaps the best script Robert Bloch ever wrote for TV, solid acting all around, in particular from Natalie Schafer (just three years and change before that fateful three hour cruise) who succeeds in winning us over with Aunt Bea's strong but sympathetic character, shadows and that Thriller ambience. And then there's that painting, of course.
A face only a mother could love...
JS: I love how in every shot, the Grim Reaper's skull is lit. Even in the firelight sequences, that seemingly grinning skull got better treatment than a Hollywood starlet. Perhaps the effectiveness of this image explains my longstanding fear of Anthony James smiling chauffeur in Dan Curtis' film Burnt Offerings.

PE: Let's get back to Bloch for a moment, as he was really starting to get his groove going as far as episodic horror was concerned. Of course, this would come in handy later as he became "king of the horror anthology film," responsible for The Skull (1965), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), and Asylum (1972), as well as dozens of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock (17 shows!), Circle of Fear, Journey to the Unknown, Lock-Up, Night Gallery and Darkroom.

JS: There's a great line (I don't know if it's from the original story) that certainly felt to me like Bloch. Keller, upon hearing the reading of the will, basically says to Paul, "Now let's all take a moment while I rub this in—I get everything!!!" From which point on you know his just desserts are less than a commercial break away.

PE: My Thriller moments this episode had to be, you knew, The Shat! There is more sweat on The Shat's face in this episode than ten spaghetti westerns laid end to end. I love the scene where Big Bill holds out his bloody fingers to the rest of the cast. A suspenseful scene to be sure, so why can't I help looking at The Shat's face (where, honestly, it appears as though he's holding back a projectile vomiting) and letting out a giggle. Thank God there's that painting behind him. But I'm a fair guy and I'll give the master thespian his due: when the big reveal comes, when William is at his typewriter and confronted by Keller (Scott Merrill), he's a dominant force in the scene and I can almost, but not quite see, how someone might possibly think the guy can act (in a high school play, mind you). He's a mean mutha... (Shut yo mouth!) ...I'm talkin' 'bout Shat!

JS: If I had to pick one in this fine episode, it would be how calmly everyone was enjoying a drink after Shatner just found blood on the Reapers scythe! Even the Scooby Doo gang would have been the hell out of there at that point. Of course, they had all changed their clothes, which likely would have been required after the previous scene.

PE: "The Grim Reaper," written by Harold Lawlor first appeared as "The Black Madonna" in Weird Tales, May 1947. Lawlor wrote 29 stories for Weird Tales from 1943 to 1953 and yet remains relatively unknown. He also wrote "The Terror in Teakwood" and the upcoming "What Beckoning Ghost?"

JS: I think I speak for many fans of this particular episode when I say how come there has never been a reproduction of the Grim Reaper portrait? You can bet it would find a place of honor in our house. Until it starts bleeding, that is..

PE: Thriller ends its first season on a high note, no, make that the highest note—the best Thriller of Season One.

JS: Will it turn out to be the best of Thriller, period? Only time will tell as we make our way into Season Two!

"The Grim Reaper" reproduction by DB Jones
PE: Usually this is the place where we tell you how good the commentary is (have we ever said less?), how Ernest Dickerson helped viewers understand the ins and outs of cinematography, how David J. Schow brought an "unbridled enthusiasm" to the conversation and how refreshing it is that Tim Lucas finds moral tones and ambiguous shades in everything that moves and a lot of stuff that doesn't move (to be fair, Tim never used the B-word in this commentary, we're just yanking his Bava-esque leg). But we here at A Thriller a Day try to deliver the truth to you, our loyal readers. We don't shy away from controversy (in fact, John "Don't call me Boba" Scoleri was the first to break the news nationwide that someone in the Lucas administration (George's, not Tim's) had said that someone had told him that they might have heard that George would be digitally removing the infamous Luke-Leia kiss from the forthcoming 3-D re-release of Star Wars because "a brother slipping his sister the tongue is kind of icky").

So when we were told by an inside source that, despite his name listed as commentator, Gary Gerani was not invited to this Hollywood Powwow, we smelled a rat. Said source told us that Image had "screwed up by listing Gary and that all involved were 'sorry'." We here at A Thriller a Day don't take second-hand news as gospel, so we went right to the injured party himself and found that, indeed, there is more here than meets the eye.

PE: Gary, You're awful quiet on that "Grim Reaper" commentary.

Gary Gerani: (pauses to regain his composure) It's just that I'm a humble and timid soul by nature. Being gagged by Mr. Ponytail (David J. Schow -PE) didn't help.

PE: Did you miss the bus to David's house? (Note: for those of you, unlike John and I, who don't have backstage passes, David J. lives on the Universal backlot street used so many times in Thriller. His house can be seen in the background of "The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell." It's the place with the hunks of meat hanging on the porch. -PE)

GG: There is no bus to David's house.

PE: Was it just hard to get in a word edge-wise with Lucas and Schow? I noticed poor Ernest didn't talk much either.

GG: That's Ernie and me in the corner of the room, playing chess.

PE: Any truth to the rumor that Schow "accidentally" erased your track?

GG: Schow's been after me for years. Fantastic Television messed with his head big-time, in ways that neither one of us fully understands.

PE: Tim Lucas hinted to me in private that it has something to do with the fact that you think William Shatner is a "God" and David considers him a "dog." (I'm on the fence who to side with on that one. -PE)

GG: I've heard David praise this fine thespian on a number of occasions, and at least once in a commentary (Incubus -PE), where the poor bastard actually deserved it.

PE: Well, John and I just wanted to tell you know that we think that this would have been your best commentary—if we'd heard it—not that your other ones were sub-par.

GG: Um, thanks!

PE: So there you go. Dissension in the Thriller ranks? You be the judge. John and I will just keep our big mouths shut and try to keep the peace.



  1. This is my favorite episode of the first season and earns 4 out of 4 and 10 out of 10 for a total of 14 Karloffs. Bloch really improved the short story which instead of a skeleton in the painting had a black madonna. I'm with you wishing that I could hang a copy of painting in my house. I'll pass on the original because of the blood dripping on the floor.

  2. A classic episode with one hell of a brilliant central gimmick; the climax is unforgettable and Goldsmith scores with another terrific...err, score. Still, the show is padded (I won't support nor condemn the notion that "Reaper" might have worked better as a half-hour entry), and it should be noted that this episode's visual look, other than shots directly relating to the painting, is notably bland and conventional, more CHECKMATE than THRILLER. Some may argue that this was done deliberately so the painting shots can register more powerfully; perhaps. But it still means we're sitting through visually flat dialogue scenes for a good deal of the show, and much of what is discussed is conventional murder-plotting melodrama. Taking nothing away from the importance of "Grim Reaper" and its lasting, undeniable impact (mostly because of a few great 'painting' moments and the ending), it is just a tad overrated in my view, and those who cherish it seem curiously oblivious to its very apparent bland stretches. Three and a half Karloffs out of four (the episode itself), and four out of four (the climax).

  3. As you guys keep helpfully pointing out, they had five days each for shooting. Maybe the more elaborate set-ups just came at the cost of other scenes being shot more conventionally. As it is, I'm always amazed at what they accomplished.

    As a little boy, I used to sneak late-night viewings of "Thriller" when it was syndicated on a local station. I was eight years old, huddled close to the TV in my dark bedroom, with the sound turned low so as not to wake my parents.

    I cannot tell you what an impact this episode made on me under those circumstances. The name Robert Bloch certainly registered, even at that age, and it made me a fan of his for life.

  4. No finer tribute than how my wife, after watching this episode, refused to go upstairs unless i accompanied her. That was one scary ending... and while you could see the showdown over the old lady's riches coming down, the nephew's speedy actions seemed almost rushed. I wouldn't say there's much padding, because I loved the pace, but I wouldn't have minded a moment more of denouement. Great cast, frighteningly turned, I would have been so pumped for the second season had i been around at the time. The show was really hitting its stride -- but can they top it? 10 out of 10...

  5. Call it padding, but one of the best scenes is the long dialogue exchange between Paul and Aunt Beatrice, thanks mostly to Natalie Schafer's skill, at first unsuspected, then later ignored as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND washed away cognizance of everything else.

    It is an odd counterpart -- a reflection, if you will -- of the equally long scene WITH NO DIALOGUE AT ALL in "Hungry Glass": Shatner developing the photograph. Padding for sure, but effective padding put in the right place, all the most valuable for the fact Shatner doesn't say anything for a long stretch of film.

    I can't emphasize enough (so I won't) how good Schafer is in this episode. Once she's dead and the cops swarm in, the story feels overpopulated, but it wisely sticks to the house and the pivotal trope of the "bad room" ("Don't go in there!"), unlike "Pigeons," which diluted its own impact with its need to wander around. In "Grim Reaper" the back-and-forth is all offscreen.

    Re: Bloch Apocrypha — It is noted in the commentary that Bob Bloch recalled a scene actually depicting the Reaper leaving the painting, and further that such a scene never existed, was possibly misremembered from "Hungry Glass," and if it had been filmed, NBC would have used it no matter how cheesy it might or might not have been. In another post, I further noted that no such scene is in Bloch's script — the way we see it in the episode is exactly the way it was written. The myth is amplified by the presence of a shot of the empty frame that looked to me like a lockdown shot, that is, preparatory to a double exposure that never followed. There ensued much unrecorded discussion of what such a shot might have looked like. I submit that the only way it might have worked would have been to see the painting from the side (ie., you can't see the picture) with just the tip of the scythe emerging into the room ... then cut away (so to speak). But if you have to have a single shot of the scythe not in the painting — the whole pivot on which the story turns into the supernatural, and more than one shot would have been pounding it — then the shot we do see is better placed anyway.

    Ten Karloff Noggins and a + sign, for the perfect score.

  6. "Thriller" at its finest. There's little more that needs to be said (but that's never stopped me...)about this great show. My late brother and I watched it on 6/13/61, a beautiful, sunny early summer evening; maybe that's why we found it more exciting and (yes) Thrilling than terrifying. However, in late '63, we caught it in syndication on a cold, dreary November night (this was our second viewing and we were, obviously 2+ years "more mature"), after which we were so freaked that we almost had to sleep with the lights on. Such is the power of this great episode.

    I am continually reminded of the great value in this dvd set, the commentaries AND (awww, shucks...I'll admit it) this blogsite in PRESERVING the legacy not only of the series itself, but the work of all involved in it. How would we EVER know that Natalie Schafer was such a terrific actress if it were not for this single hour-long film?

    Take actor Scott Merrill, whose performance I enjoy more every time I watch it; here's a Broadway/dance guy whose career highlight was playing the male lead (Macheath, aka: "Mack the Knife") in the big, historic revival of "The Threepenny Opera" on Broadway from 1954 through December of 1961 (his performance is preserved on the famous cast recording). He was apparently whisked away from the production to film "Grim Reaper", his ONLY credit listed on IMDB, probably returned to the stage show, which closed at the end of the year. After that...NO stage credits listed either. So here we have this very talented guy's ONLY visual legacy, as he deftly, coyly slinks his way through the proceedings (I LOVE the moment when Robert Cornthwaite confirms that "your wife loved you very deeply, Mr. Keller" and Scott just blows him off with "Yes, I know; shall I see you out?"), only to meet his match in the Shat man, who nails it dramatically in the poisoning scene---c'mon, everybody..lets' all admit it---he's REALLY good in this scene, and does indeed seem very impatient that Gerry just stop F____in' around and DIE ALREADY!

    Call me weird, but I LOVE the opening dialogue stuff in Act 2, especially that great set with windows, glass doors, balconies, that parasol-style lamp, sun-rooms, etc through which the cast moves in, out, and around. Natalie's GRAND SCENA in the library is probably the best drunk scene I have ever witnessed, and the effect of the roaring, roilng, rolling (whatever) fireplace flames on the Reaper is perhaps the single most impressive image from the entire series.

    Yes, Ernest Dickerson is correct in his recollection of the classic medieval images of Death serenading his victims via his fiddle playing, the sound which composer Saint-Saens immortalized in his "Danse Macabre" (a work on which, coincidentally, I have just interrupted my editing chores to pound out these comments). Jerry Goldsmith's score for "Reaper" would get my vote as the single greatest score of all time for episodic TV --- his use of the steely, grating "Death's Fiddle" within the string orchestra, which at times seems to be stirring up the infernal winds of Hell, colored by the biting, reverb-y effects of the Novachord (an early keyboard synthesizer) is so far above and beyond the norm of what could have been expected from a composer in such circumstances that it almost defies reality.

    Thus "Thriller" ended its incredible 1st-season ascent and, as the summer of '61 began, genre fans entered an all-too-brief Golden era, with "Thriller", Hitchock, and TZ all in reruns ("Purple Room" would be shown the next week), plus the tail end of Roald Dahl's bizarre "Way Out" and, in July, NBC'S own "Thriller-Lite" summer replacement show "Great Ghost Tales" which, like "Way Out" contained a few of those HOLY GRAIL excursions into horror that typified this incredibly cool time in the history of TV.


    1. Yes, the Goldsmith score is truly incredible. How it was overlooked in the commentary is beyond me. For a brief video featuring Boris, the Shat & other cast members, and terrifying music from Jerry, head over to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4D8NSItHQU

  7. Oh, yes...how silly of me:

    TEN big, disembodied Karloff you-know-whats for this one!


    1. William Shatner is turns in a perfect performance in THE GRIM REAPER. I particularly liked his terror at the end, as the grim reaper slowly approaches. It is to his/the director's/the writer's credit that he plays the scene WITHOUT screaming. Sheer, unadulterated terror can rob our voice and this scene hits on that perfectly.

      I also love the LACK of music when the camera shows the empty canvas. Not once, but twice! A blare of music might've been effective, but the silence allows the horror to creep up and envelop us (and Shatner). Good, good stuff and 4 Karloffs from me.

    2. Wow----how silly of ALL of us 5-1/2 years ago when raving about this episode; with all of the praise we heaped on the fine performances of Shatner, Natalie S, Scott Merrill, the tension, the moody look of the show, etc, etc...NO ONE mentioned the guy who was largely responsible for the terrific quality of "Grim Reaper".... and that would be director Herschel Daugherty, Thriller's unsung hero.

  8. This is one of the series' finest hours by any barometer of measurement. Terrific Goldsmith score, impressive work by Shatner, and one of the best screenplays the show ever commissioned.

  9. Larry R said: "I am continually reminded of the great value in this dvd set, the commentaries AND (awww, shucks...I'll admit it) this blogsite in PRESERVING the legacy not only of the series itself, but the work of all involved in it."

    And goddammit, I'll second that.

    What Pete and John are accomplishing here has very little precedent in the blogosphere. They're not afraid of disagreement, encourage discourse, and don't go into a quasi-religious huddle and shriek "HERETIC!" at the first hint of deviation from fan-spawned holy writ.

    Many other discussion threads are self-bombed by a kind of inbred, circle-the-wagons mentality when it comes to genre material. This junk can be abundantly suffered elsewhere online if you're a masochist.

    This a more of a THRILLER salon online. Everyone is invited, but mind your manners when you're in someone else's parlor ... and DO try to be interesting.

  10. I saw this episode when it first aired, and it scared me silly! I was always interested in the horror genre, even as a very young child, and we were then living in a house that I thought really was haunted. I have since conquered my fears, but "The Grim reaper" still packs a terrific wallop. (And I WANT a copy of that painting also!)

  11. It's amazing "Grim Reaper" was never remade -- all one needs are some first-rate actors and one helluva painting (a great score doesn't hurt). The temptation for NIGHT GALLERY to attempt a new version must have been strong, for obvious reasons; and it seems DARKROOM actually WAS in the process of dusting off old THRILLER classics for color re-dos ("Guillotine" was intended to be the first of several, and I believe "Pigeons" and "Cheaters" were being seriously considered). Back in the '90s, my late writing partner, Mark Patrick Carducci, was planning to launch a TV series based on WEIRD TALES (to be done with heavyweight producers a la TALES FROM THE CRYPT), and legally, the film rights to these properties were still owned by Hubbell-Robinson/Universal. So Big U was holding on to its THRILLER greats years after the series had disappeared into fan memory.

    Every now and then the notion of new filmed versions of WEIRD TALES pops up. While it would fun to experience well-made 21st century incarnations of these terrific stories, I dunno... It seems doubtful they'd leave the same kind of lasting impression these 1961 classics did... in gorgeous black-and-white.

  12. Well, Gary, according to this site:

    a group called Meteor17 has acquired "all rights" to Weird Tales and will begin filming films for dvd. Don't hold your breath.

  13. Per Mr. Anon Ymous:

    Every scary TV show seems fated to do episodes about haunted mirrors and haunted paintings. If THRILLER had been done a decade or two later, no question but that there would be a poster of the ole Reaper, a la the posters derived from the paintings of Tom Wright and Jaroslav Gebr for NIGHT GALLERY. The frustrating thing about NG is that they did not poster-ize some of the coolest paintings.

    (Years ago I had a friend who managed the campus theatre at the University of Arizona. One night we poked down into dead storage, and found an entire browser of the NG posters still shrinkwrapped. Score.)

    Even more strangely, you will find among the THRILLER trading cards a "Grim Reaper" painting or illo that has nothing to do with the episode. (I'll try to get J&P to post it.)

    Read more about the NIGHT GALLERY stuff and hear an interview with Tom Wright about his work:



  14. I just looked at the Meteor17 website and they have alot of plans. But all it takes is for one dvd to have poor sales and the whole project will be scuttled. A couple years ago Bob Weinberg told me that he had hopes of finally seeing a WT television show but I have my doubts.

  15. Love you guys...you're the greatest! And I love Thriller, toooooooooooooooooooooooooooeeeeeeek!

  16. I had very high hopes for this episode after sneaking a peek at some of the reviews, but I have to agree with Gary G. that it's a little bit overrated. Great, sure, and Shatner is always wonderful in my eyes, but not my favorite Thriller. The last scene was really cool, though!

    And once again, what's with the promo reel? The music is very different and shows how much of an effect Goldsmith's score had on the final product.

  17. "Pigeons From Hell" and now this... Cool seeing Lovey Howell in a different roll, but that is about it. Oooo, scary picture. Gotta run. There's an "Outer Limits" marathon about to start. "Thriller" season one has been a big waste of my time.

  18. I had never seen 'Thriller' so I ordered the DVD set from Amazon (60% off sale with a gift card got the price down to $31 with shipping!) I read some of the comments here and decided to go with 'The Grim Reaper' as my first step into this series. I loved it! The score, the direction, the "Shat". I followed up this virgin viewing with the episode commentary turned on and was wowed again. Nice job, DJS! You've got a voice made for radio..

  19. Grim Reaper was another image burned into my head for 50 years. And the episode stands up nicely, with no small thanks to the incredible music. I can't see one downside. Pretty sure this is my all-time favorite THRILLER.

  20. First rate on all accounts. I can't think of anything to add that hasn't already been mentioned in the comments above.

    Shatner gives a fairly restrained performance, his best in my opinion.

    "4 Karloffs".

  21. That's my painting, in color! Did you get it from my old posting on Yahoo Photos?
    I say hello to Dave Schow.... we visited Forry Ackerman while he was researching for his OUTER LIMITS COMPANION. Down in 4sj's basement ("Grislyland") I stumbled on two CHAMELEON hands, with zippers up the inside wrists, and a couple SPECIMAN UNKNOWN space-spore plants. Crumbling away, alas. The first thing you saw down the steps was the DO NOT OPEN TILL DOOMSDAY Janos Prohaska monster. Cool stuff.

    Anyway, now that I can see your frame grabs, I'm going to touch up my paining to make the Grim Reaper's scythe slicker and scan for you to use on this site. You have an email address so i can do this?

    Great blog! Thanks.

    Douglas Barrett Jones
    Mountain View, CA

  22. Last episode of season one and I'm thrilled to report that somehow it tops all 36 Thrillers that preceded it!

    This Thriller starts off with another disturbing prologue of horror that is set a century or so before we come back to modern times. Any episode that stars a young Captain Kirk and a middle aged Lovey Howell can't be bad. As I've written before, I've never minded the Shat's over the top histrionics, so I just enjoy him as is. I thought that young William did a brilliant job portraying the scheming nephew. I've only known Natalie Schafer as Thurston's wife, so it's great to watch her act in a straight role, as Aunt Beatrice, an mystery writer seemingly modeled after Agatha Christie.

    Like any good mystery performance, the opening scenes of Grim Reaper do a great job in establishing the players and the object of mystery, which will soon play a prominent role in the plot. The convincing way Natalie Shafer relished showing off her macabre decorative touches, including her latest purchase the infamous Grim Reaper painting, was a great way to establish her character.

    As I'm sure everyone else did, I immediately suspected that Cougar Bea's boy toy Keller was up to no good, but I didn't start to see Shat for what he was until his restrained performance with the Grim Reaper portrait. I figured that Keller and Elizabeth Allen were shacking up, but was kinda surprised that Ms. Allen resisted his advances. Elizabeth's role of Bea's personal secretary was adequate, but noticeably below that of her cast.

    Aunt Bea's early demise surprised and disappointed me a bit. She was doing such a great job and I was quite certain that she was actually alive and orchestrating an elaborate ruse to flush out those unfaithful to her. Once Bea got out of the way I was impressed with how our lovely nephew quickly showed his true tainted colors. Shat was one cold blooded mutha. I knew that autograph would come back into play!

    It's two down and you just know that Shat will get his. I kept thinking that his Aunt Bea was still alive with her eyes peering behind the Grim Reaper ala a Scooby Doo cartoon. Nope, Lovey was permanently shipwrecked in the world beyond. Everything was coming back to Radin's painting, which I finally figured out just minutes before our climax. Even knowing what lie ahead didn't quell the horror of that last scene with Shat retreating to the swishes of the unseen reaper. Don't Fear the Reaper Captain Kirk! He should've yelled out, "More cowbell!". Maybe that would've saved him...

    The best episode so far and Mr. Reaper will require for swings as there are four Karloff heads to lop off...

  23. I loved this episode when I first saw it in syndication and could have sworn it ended with a shot of the reaper climbing out of the painting and advancing on Mr. Shatner. I guess that's like the shot of David Whorf with the axe in his head people remember from "Pidgeons From Hell." Anyway, I love the script's wit, particularly in the writing of Aunt Bea. And Schaeffer (whom I'd enjoyed acting in some of her earlier films like "Female on the Beach" and "Reunion in Paris") was a revelation. What is so great about her performance is that you can see her using more seriously some of the same tricks of timing and inflection she would use to comic effect on "Gilligan's Island." Great episode and one of my all time faves!

  24. The gold standard. Timing and building up the fright is everything(many thanks to Hitchcock)the perfect balance and harmony-the Goldsmith definitive musical score-better than or as good as Bernard Herrmann? (cellos and violin) the plodding and dull middle, and the gotcha finale. Once seen, is it shocking enough like the split second scene of the pyscho mummy face! You be the judge. Spoiler-Note that a reviewer in another place claimed the painting actually became real and, well..the power of suggestion?

    1. barch1956@sbcglobal.net
      Oh my, it will be on ME TV on 28 Jul 13 after Pigeons from Hell. A double header-of sorts in spite of baseball's abandonment of the genre.

      Now would our children or, in my case grand children to be, get scared by this episode. I suppose it shouldn't be tested on them. I think not if they have been exposed to most electronic media from smart phones to I pods to touchy feely things-say the Harry Potter gen Xs or Pirates of the Carib. As for the Shining, Nicholson vs Shat. Jaundiced I am about the current times you might say, and rightly so.

  25. Absolutely the best episode from season #1 of THRILLER, and I like to imagine that it's many strong points emerged from a confident production team that felt it was finally hitting its stride and creating a show that would be around for a while, and had reached an enthusiastic audience.

    When you lock a small, able cast in the rambling rooms of a baroque mansion (far more lavish than the usual THRILLER sets) then you'd better have a good script full of tension and they had that. I couldn't disagree more with the dissenter who thinks the episode was slow-moving and padded. Most viewers in 1961 would have assumed some nefarious plot was afoot, and would be happily watching the shifting alliances to figure out who was in league with (or dead against) whom. I felt that way now, and was happy to watch the tale play out. There was real suspense in waiting for the shoe to drop and see where murderous intent left off and the supernatural began.

    I was sure throughout that I had seen this episode as a kid, yet I was never certain where it would go, though I assumed (rather like Aunt Bea) that Shatner was too good to be true. Only when the camera flashed on the empty portrait did the rest of the episode flash back like an arsenic-soaked madeleine. The whoosh, whoosh of the scythe must be one of the single greatest effects of this series.

    Is it known that this episode was the inspiration and template for the NIGHT GALLERY movie? Certainly that occurred to me while watching this. And I remember what a sensation that TV movie caused when it first aired, it was the talk of school for days.

    Can't wait for next week, as MeTV presents the first two episodes of season #2. I am especially looking forward to soon seeing 'A Wig for Miss Devore,' which I remember vividly from childhood and haven't seen in decades.

    1. Arguably the best directed Thriller episode and best musical score. Closest to Pyscho and much more compact. So, did Hitchcock conspire to kill off Thriller to make way for his hour programme?

    2. Agree. "The Grim Reaper" starred William Shatner. His wealthy aunt had purchased a painting of the grim reaper, a really horrid thing, and when Shatner comes for a visit he tells a tale of murder and intrigue and terror. Those who owned the painting all met violent deaths. As he tells his story to his aunt and guests he stops, looks at the painting, touches it, then turns toward his audience extending his hand. There's blood on his fingertips! At the end, his aunt dies and no one is left in the house except the secretary. Shatner explains the whole thing was a gag to scare the old lady and get her fortune. The secretary locks him in the room with the painting and goes for help. I shall never forget what happens next as long as I live. Alone in the room he taunts the painting, wallowing in his victory. But when he turns to see what made a noise he sees the character in the painting is gone! He looks around. There is no music, only deadly silence as the look on his face says it all. He is so terrified he can't even scream; no sound comes out. What does he see? Finally the police arrive and break down the door. The inspector and his partner find Shatner dead on the floor. Then someone says, "Oh my God. Look at the painting!"

  26. "SHAT" is a feature, not a bug. His over-the-top style is made for this sort of thing.

    1. Shat is doing fine still making funny commercials. The Canadian of Jewish descent, can ham it up, oy vey!

      The Grim Reaper stands the test of time for us older types, 60 years plus, just like most shows on ME TV-think Wagon Train with Ward Bond and Robert Horton--beats Gun Smoke by a mile! But Have Gun, Will Travel is best--beats Wanted Dead or Alive and the rest of the 30 minute Horse Operas/Shows.

    2. It surely stands the test of time-pure black and white TV. Great timing. Well cast and Goldsmith's music-can you ask for more.

    3. Our folk hero.

      EC Comics

      Arriving at EC in 1948, Feldstein began as an artist, but he soon combined art with writing, eventually editing most of the EC titles. Although he originally wrote and illustrated approximately one story per comic, in addition to doing many covers, Feldstein finally focused on editing and writing, reserving his artwork primarily for covers. From late 1950 through 1953, he edited and wrote stories for seven EC titles.
      As EC's editor, Feldstein created a literate line, balancing his genre tales with potent graphic stories probing the underbelly of American life. In creating stories around such topics as racial prejudice, rape, domestic violence, police brutality, drug addiction and child abuse, he succeeded in addressing problems and issues which the 1950s radio, motion picture and television industries were too timid to dramatize.[2][7]
      While developing a stable of contributing writers that included Robert Bernstein, Otto Binder, Daniel Keyes, Jack Oleck and Carl Wessler, he published the first work of Harlan Ellison. EC employed the comics industry's finest artists and published promotional copy to make readers aware of their staff. Feldstein encouraged the EC illustrators to maintain their personal art styles, and this emphasis on individuality gave the EC line a unique appearance. Distinctive front cover designs framing those recognizable art styles made Feldstein's titles easy to spot on crowded newsstands.[1]
      Those comic books, known as EC's New Trend group, included Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories, Crime SuspenStories,Panic and Piracy. After the New Trend titles folded in 1955, Feldstein edited EC's short-lived New Direction line, followed by EC's Picto-Fiction magazines.[1]

    4. O.K, ME TV has continued to run this series in the order of the original episodes with some exceptions. Foul--the Grim Reaper episode has been skipped this time. It should be shown this upcoming week.

      Anyone out there venture a reason for this dastardly deed?

    5. Who knows. Maybe us aficionados of Thriller for free are expecting too much.

      Wow--anyone out there think Jack Nicholson could upstage Shat in a Thriller episode--hmm.

      I'd have "here's Johnny" Jack" in Pigeons from hell at the receiving end of the axe along with his brother, Michael Landon.--oy vey

  27. I was eight years old when I saw this particular episode. I had to be up late to see it so school must have been out for the summer for my parents to have let me stay up this late. Besides, they never let me watch stuff like this so they must have been too tired to send me to bed. I'd never saw "Thriller" before or since this "Grim Reaper" episode.

    However, the episode and particularly the painting, scared me to pieces and is vividly and eternally ingrained into my brain. I never forgot it as I did not get a good night sleep again for the next five years!

  28. Jack Rabbit, INLAND EMPIREDecember 2, 2015 at 6:49 PM

    I love this episode, mostly due to the performances of William Shatner and Natalie Schafer, and a really great script. Even with a painting that bleeds and whose subject can leave it, this hour of Thriller seems the most realistic to me. Still, I like "The Hungry Glass" more.

  29. I saw it again this past week. I know early ' 60s TV isn't quite as "innocent" as it's made out to be, but it's still a little surprising to hear references to recreational drug use and nude paintings in the first two minutes! Including the landlady (even if she is French) wondering what all the fuss is about the second thing.

  30. I saw it again this past week. I know early ' 60s TV isn't quite as "innocent" as it's made out to be, but it's still a little surprising to hear references to recreational drug use and nude paintings in the first two minutes! Including the landlady (even if she is French) wondering what all the fuss is about the second thing.

  31. I still say this episode bested any of Alfred Hitchcock's Hours run. Jazz fans--see the below.

    Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens on wikipedia!

  32. Jerrald King "Jerry" Goldsmith (February 10, 1929 – July 21, 2004) was an American composer and conductor most known for his work in film and television scoring. He composed scores for such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films. He collaborated with some of film history's most accomplished directors, including Robert Wise, Howard Hawks, Otto Preminger, Joe Dante, Roman Polanski, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Paul Verhoeven, and Franklin J. Schaffner. Goldsmith was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards. In 1976, he was awarded an Academy Award for The Omen.

    1. Morton Stevens (January 30, 1929 – November 11, 1991) was an American film score composer. In 1965, he became director of music for CBS West Coast operations. He is probably best known for composing the theme music for Hawaii Five-O, a television series for which he won two Emmy Awards (in 1970 and 1974), and was nominated seven other times for work on television programs including Gunsmoke and Police Woman.[1] He was taught by Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith, with whom he frequently collaborated on other projects

  33. Robert Bloch should have had his own show - like Bradbury had his, or Dahl did with WAY OUT. The wit, humor and horror of this episode reveals what could have been. I treasure it. By the way - the color painting of The Grim Reaper is mine, done by freeze-framing shots of the painting on a VHS tape and working fast before the machine went off the freeze!

  34. Yes, I have often wondered what happened to the original "Grim Reaper" portrait, and have hated to think of it in a warehouse somewhere covered with dust, which shakes off when the Reaper goes for his nightly walk--

  35. Far and wide THE scariest Thriller of all ! Or “ The Return of Andrew Bentley”. Don’t miss ‘em!☠️