Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Innocent Bystanders: Season 2 Episode 28

Originally aired 4/9/62
Starring John Anderson, George Kennedy, Janet Lake.
Written by Robert Hardy Andrews.
Directed by John English.

Jacob Grant (Anderson) and John Paterson (Kennedy) have a good thing going: they've just elevated their grave robbing business to incorporate murder. Things look even brighter when Jacob's sister-in-law (Gale Robbins) and her newlywed friends (Janet Lake and Steven Terrell) need a place to stay. As Jacob says: "Nothing gives a businessman more satisfaction than the knowledge he has ample merchandise set aside in stock."

JS: As our own Larry Rapchak will be quick to point out, once each season a crime episode of Thriller was 'based on a true story'? Well, this take on Burke and Hare is no "The Poisoner," that's for sure.

PE: Was Robert Hardy Andrews a lobbyist for the AMA? Seriously, any kind of suspense this show may have built up comes to a dead halt everytime Dr. Marcus Graham (Carl Benton Reid) delivers a speech.

JS: Apparently he talked his assistant to death. It's a sad day in Thrillerville when even a gratuitous skeleton shot like this can't bring life to a scene.

PE: I very much enjoyed the well-choreographed fight scene between Paterson and Bruce. Every time Bruce ducks the big man, he runs over to his wife, Elsie, as if to tag her hand so she can jump into the ring with them.

JS: And yet she never does. For me, that scene was second only to the body snatchers union revoking Grant's membership.

PE: About the only positive I take away from this episode is the acting of John Anderson. He's frequently creepy in a John Carradine/stately gentleman way.

JS: I agree. I still can't believe he was "California Charlie" in Psycho! Whenever Anderson was onscreen, I was at least interested in paying attention to what was going on. Something about that beard/hat combination worked wonders.

PE: On the flipside, who in wardrobe thought a Christmas stocking cap (complete with snowflake tail) would be the ideal headwear for a hunchbacked murderer? And where was the long sliver of drool?

JS: You'll have to wait for Blu Ray to spot that, but I'm sure it's there...

PE: It goes without saying that George Kennedy never listed this credit on his C.V. when trying out for The Dirty Dozen, Cool Hand Luke, or Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Had Mel Brooks not used Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein though...

JS: Is it just me, or did the young couple (Steve Terrell and Janet Lake) seem to have wandered into the wrong episode? They came across as a bit too sixties modern for this period piece. At least the presence of Lake affords us the opportunity to up the Babe quotient of this review.

PE: Frequently, I had the distinct impression Image had accidentally packaged onto disc 14 the rare, unaired episode of Marcus Welby, M. D. wherein Marcus (Robert Young) relates to Dr. Kiley (James Brolin) and Consuelo (Elena Verdugo), during a rare open air picnic of fried chicken and biscuits, the stories his grandfather told him as a bespectacled lad about his early days as a practicing doctor. In particular the moving speech at the climax when the good doctor, who's been accepting fresh corpses and keeping mum about them (thereby insuring more deliveries), is given a slap on the wrist and shown the door. As he's leaving, he faces the surviving innocent bystanders and says something along the lines of "Out of this evil comes some good (well, something like that. Clocking in at 12 minutes, it was very deep)." He then invites them all to live with him in his big lonely house and the four of them leave the courthouse arm in arm. Only thing missing is a Mort Stevens "shlop-boom."

JS: And then there were two. Any chances for redemption before we're through?



  1. Do you guys know who had the contract to clean those 1830s streets and if they are still around? I could recommended them to my local council as I've never seen such mint perfect streets. It's almost as if the slabs had been newly laid and the citizens didn't want to get them dirty and wore cleaning rags on their foot wear.

    And could one really make money entertaining the folks by doing a seven year olds front room dance on the streets? It's an 'Office' moment. I sense a "1830s Has Got Talent" opportunity for the local music hall.

    You also haven't done your duties towards a little bit of frothing over the blonde babe, Janet Lake, lying in bed! One of the babes of the season and not a remark, John and Peter!

    Anderson steals the show in one of the great performances of the season or the series; grubby, uncouth, bubbling over with a powerful, over-welming theatrical zeal, akin to Daniel Day-Lewis at his most expansive, but tighter. There is no line where a performance can be detected.

    A mark against it is that it will always recall Lewton's 'The Body Snatcher', something few will be able to match. And 'Thriller' at it's very best doesn't have to qualify itself as TV made in 5 days. At it's finest, it's as good as anything filmed, regardless of genre.

    One Karloff head for Anderson to take home.

    Period pieces never were the forte of the show. Here is something to compare and contrast it with!

    I pretty much regard this show as the finest horror series of them all time, yes, even above my beloved 'Thriller'.

    This is something that most folks from the US will hardly know about and belongs up there with the best dozen/half a dozen greatest horror stories done for the small screen. For those that love 'Quatermass', the Hinchcliffe/Holmes/Baker 'Dr. Whos' of the '70s or 'Edge of Darkness', it's British telefantasy at its finest....it may even help you after you watch 'the Specialists'


  2. Is it me, or did this ep. try to be too self-righteous with presenting the two aspiring Capitalists of this show as evil incarnate? Even Karloff's intro painted them as spawns of Satan himself.

    The two villains were just trying to make a buck and help lower the city's overcrowding population like any other good citizen. It's not like the bums that got drafted to do their civic duty for science would actually be missed anyway. I for one am glad that the street mime/idiot got rubbed out before he could do another bad Harpo Marx imitation. The hero's speech about how his life was important and mattered at the end did give me a good laugh though.

    As for the ep. itself, the replay value isn't very high. It might not be fair, but one can't help while watching this to compare it to Karloff's superior "The Body Snatcher," movie. Hell, even Night Gallery did a better job with this material in the ep. starring Cornell Wilde entitled, "Deliveries in the Rear." (please, no jokes about the title)

    I agree 100% with you guys that John Anderson is a treat to watch with his cool hat. Man, I could just smell the rotgut whiskey oozing from his beard from my television!!!!

    Ultimate Tactical Warrior

  3. I wish physicians still were willing to pay $150 per body. Many non-collectors in NJ would bite the dust, especially the clueless idiots that keep asking me why I buy so many books and dvds.

  4. >>And could one really make money entertaining the folks by doing a seven year olds front room dance on the streets?

    You obviously haven't been to Covent Garden lately :>

  5. Oh, and Bobby-

    I read an article years ago on the series of British Ghost Stories in a horror magazine called Creeping Flesh. I've been dying to lay my hands on a set of these chillers. Last time I was at the BFI, I tracked one or two down but the price was more than I was ready to pay for it. So thanks for the youtube mention. I'll have to watch these.

  6. Peter, I have a set of the whole series (8 episodes), most off the telly plus a couple of extras that I think started the series in 1968. I'll make a copy and post them on to you.

    Feel free to duplicate them and pass them on.

    Would love to hear you opinion on these. 5 of them are on you tube. It has, to my eyes, at least three absolute master-works of horror, 'A Warning to the Curious', 'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas' and 'The Signalman', with 'Lost Hearts' and 'The Stalls of Barchester' just behind it. Each is quite different in how in engineers it's horrors.

    I await in the forlorn hope that one day they will be released on dvd.

  7. Bobby-
    That is extremely kind of you. Please e-mail me at penfantino@gmail.com

  8. Huh...what?...I never would have thought of the "Once per Thriller season" thing about historical characters; but you did remind me of another one ("Once per Thriller season a murderous Edward Andrews is pursued by a Ken Lynch cop character"). How's about THAT!

    Wouldn't it be great if a TV series that was on its way to concellation actually pulled out all the stops and produced some of its BEST work at the very end of the run? "Bystanders" is another mis-fire, with only John Anderson's performance to recommend; (I also liked Thann Wyenn's performance as Vane; a talented and versatile guy). The George Kennedy-cum-Igor was silly, and Carl Benton Reid's moralizing was tough to take (Incidentally, re: the 1940 "Little Foxes", check out that great film, in which Reid recreated his original stage role; another fine actor from the golden age of stage and cinema). Also, didn't the Night Gallery "Deliveries in the Rear" (ouch) feature our pal Walter Burke in the role of a gravedigger? I think so.

    Hey--in what country was this show supposed to take place?? Opening establishing shot was of the Thames river, right? So why does everybody do their business in DOLLARS, and what's with the big George Washington portrait in the final scene??? (Did you notice how the cop in the background looked like he was going to burst out crying during Carl's final oration?)

    Also, I'm waiting to see if that contempo-looking human anatomy wall chart will appear again in the final 2 episodes; seems like it pops up quite often. And speaking of contempo, what's with the sister-in-law's make-up and "do"?; what era, pray tell, did she materialize from? And the young hero guy was totally bland; strictly baragin basement casting.

    As a famous opera-aria text asks: "To This We've Come?"........

    Four (of 10) elfin-stocking capped, drooling- Igor Karloff heads.


  9. >>Hey--in what country was this show supposed to take place?? Opening establishing shot was of the Thames river, right?

    I kept waiting for the boys to turn the corner and run into the ol' Blassenville plantation.

    Forget it, Larry. It's Thrillahtown.

  10. My first impression was 'Wow! How did they ever think of casting noir/crime acting legend Marc Lawrence as a street pixie? only to realize that this nimble simpleton was not a pockmarked acting genius, but just a cheap first edition of the pre-Star Trek sacrificial redshirts. Now, I could say that I found much to like about this eps, including John Anderson's awesomely turgid entrepreneur -- his friendly, yet murderous scowl seemed to be cut from a Coen movie. I thought the set, thought obviously a quick knockoff slapped between Mrs. Beaver's kitchen and a cookout camp for Wagon Train, was effective in establishing the dank mood. I didn't think George K did a bad job as Richard Kiel-lite. The couple were poorly played, and when Anderson grabbed his wife at one point to manhandle her, it looked as though he was moving one of the Rankin/Bass christmas elves. As theatrical as the circle of judgement from the brotherhood of cadaver scouts was, I felt it worked and came off as good as any Studio One staged gang-mugging. In the end, however, the most ridiculous part was the sappy moralistic ending that had 'Quinn Martin epilogue' written all over it. C'mon! This is a thriller - at least give me hope that the ol' upright starchy doctor was taking them home with plans to farm out their internal organs...
    Five and a half Karloffs -- but a tip of the stinky hat to Anderson's terrific performance, and for offing that damn dancing fool.

  11. ... and i just realized the dancing fop was the darn mannequin from the weird tailor. Strange bit of casting, but he found his calling later as the director of Linda Lovelace for president...

  12. In case anybody forgot to mention it, the street beggar that was mildly retarded, named Little Jamie, was played by Diki Lerner. Diki also played Hans in The Weird Tailor ep. uncredited. So I guess in my earlier post when I stated I was glad he got snuffed before he could do another bad Harpo imitation, I should have said before he could do another bad Mannequin imitation.


    Ultimate Tactical Warrior

    By the way guys, its probably too late now, but did you happen to get my e-mail regarding my top ten best Thrillers?

  13. Just want to say John Anderson is one of my favorite actors, and really was a masterful chameleon, particularly in westerns of course. Mostly TV, though he was the head of the bad clan in Peckinpah's RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. We should also mention (unless someone already did) his appearance in PSYCHO.

    Count me as a big fan of the A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS series; "The Signalman", "Warning to the Curious", etc. (and "The Ash Tree" because it's so downright freaky).

  14. Ultimate-

    Yep, we got it and it counted!

  15. I thought this was pretty good, its the best of the last 6 or 7 episodes, good atmosphere, good although talky performace by John Anderson, I have it somewhere in the mid 30s out of 67, 2 1/2 Karloffs- however its really an unnessary version of Burke and Hare or The Body Snatchers.
    George Kennedy is a bit over the top.

  16. There's some good drool right around 16:35. I'm partial to "The Flesh and the Fiends," particularly the "continental" version, for a Burke and Hare telling. Shame there isn't a "BBC Ghost Story for Christmas" box set; the "series" sounds interesting.

  17. The 1945 Body Snatchers movie is pretty good, outstanding
    performances by Karloff (critic Danny Peary felt he deserved
    an Oscar for this) and Henry Daniel.

  18. The Innocent Bystanders is a period piece which is loosely based on Val Lewton's chilling The Body Snatcher starring our narrator Mr. Karloff.

    As expected, The Innocent Bystanders falls far short of Lewton's B masterpiece. This episode contains a disturbingly sociopathic performance by John Anderson as the brains behind the body snatching operation. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew is either not up to snuff or simply miscast.

    Actually, I liked George Kennedy's take on John Patterson as the slow, drunken muscle of the operation. Yes, he was a bouffon, but a creepy and threatening bouffon. My problem lied with the others. Carl Benton Reid was a stiff mix of antiquated academic and insufferable moralizer. His assistant was ok, but the three out of towners were indeed out of this Thriller town. Non were good actors/actresses and each couldn't shake their modern mannerisms to convince this viewer that they were from that olde tyme period.

    Jacob Grant reminded me of John Carradine's intellectual, scheming, philosopher tramp in The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk. Fortunately, Jacob had plenty of screen time to showcase his cold slab talents. God forbid Dr. Graham was given any more time. I enjoyed the scene at the pub where Jacob was confronted by his peers. An old and ugly bunch, the grave robbers were convincing with their "honor among thieves" solidarity.

    On the other hand, Janet Lake was woeful in the climatic scene. Janet couldn't convey any emotion convincingly.

    What was up with the final scene at the courthouse? Who thought that what the viewers demanded would be more Dr. Graham? Were the Thriller writers pitching and spinoff show with Dr. Graham and the two newlyweds.

    John Anderson's performance bumps The Innocent Bystanders to Two Karloff heads.

  19. BTW, In the pub senes, wasn't that Rondo Hatton as one of the gravedigger?


  20. I wonder of the producers, the folks behind the cameras at Hubbell Robinson Productions knew that Thriller was headed for cancellation and didn't care a rat's behind how it ended. It's like after The Hollow Watcher it went to the dogs, just dead rolled to the end.

  21. Somehow this feels like one of those late-series issue-based Quincy episodes, except this time, the cause they're fighting for was fixed long ago.

    Not terribly gripping, but at least it doesn't have the gaping flaws of the last two episodes.

  22. John Anderson was terrific, the best I ever remembering him being. I usually found him flinty and mannered, but he was inspired here.

  23. Smokestack JonesOctober 10, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    BTW, In the pub senes, wasn't that Rondo Hatton as one of the gravedigger?


    Hatton died in 1946. Now that would be a thriller if he'd acted in this episode!

    1. It was Harry Wilson, who suffered from the same disease. He was constantly on television in those days.