Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Specialists: Season 2 Episode 30

Originally aired 4/30/62
Starring Lin McCarthy, Suzanne Lloyd, Ronald Howard.
Written by John Kneubuhl, based on a novel by Gordon Ash (sic).
Directed by Ted Post.

Someone wants Ray Coleman dead before he can talk to the cops. A group are on their way to see him when the car of the driver sent to get them blows up. Ray Coleman is shot and a forged suicide note is left behind. This looks like a job for Peter Duncan (McCarthy) & The Specialists.

JS: This is the way Thriller ends... not with a bang but a whimper. Well, I guess to be fair, I have to acknowledge the BANG! in the pre-credits sequence (and quite a bang it knocks our hero clear across Main Street. -PE). While there are elements that make the episode visually interesting, once again the unmemorable story leaves much to be desired.

PE: Well, John, I'd disagree. This show is not a bang, it's not a whimper, it's a loud snore. Obviously the studio brass noticed there was this little show over at ABC that was quite a hit and thought, "Hmmmm, let's see... The Professionals... no... The Laborers... no... The Deliverers... no... The Specialists... that's it!" Then they had a casting call for any respected character actor (read: cheap) who looked like Robert Stack. Never mind whether the guy could act or possessed charisma.

JS: Ladies and gentlemen, Suzanne Lloyd, bathing beauty. Unfortunately, our last example of a Thriller babe is as, as with the rest of the episode, forgettable.

PE: I thought the after-dip ballet session was quite erotic. Probably some form of 1962 aerobics. Though no Liz Montgomery (or even Olive Sturgess), Lloyd's ogling material. Which makes it all the more head-scratching that she's with Ron Howard. According to the IMDB, Ron was only 8 years old at the time.

JS: I couldn't figure out why we weren't always given a clear view of Mr. Swinburne (Robert Douglas). If we never got a look at him, that would have been one thing. But considering we see him plainly in one scene and then only as a mustache with no eyes in the next, you start to wonder what the point was.

PE: So with all the nonsense going on (or not going on) in this episode, that's what was bothering you the most? It's Ted Post's way of creating Hitchcockian atmosphere. I like how all the bad guys shop at the same tailor ("Uh, yes, I'm looking for something suitably Underworld").

JS: This episode features a bomb toss, a very unique brawl and tumble (halfway) down the stairs. But I have to say my favorite scene is when Swinburne meets with Gresham (Howard) to discuss a robbery while the cops attempt to eavesdrop unsuccessfully.

PE: No, that stairway scene was the show's highlight. It brings to mind the phrase "One step up and two steps back." A perfect analogy for Thriller, actually. The puzzler for me was the "here's how you assemble a Dalek bomb." Most bad guys just get the big black acme ball with the fuse or a big duct-taped mound of dynamite with an alarm clock attached. Our chief villain crafts some goofy looking thing that shoots bullets or blows up or something (I might not have been in the room for the explanation, apologies). And because this is an intricate explosive device, he chooses to work in a dark room under one small light (and where the hell are those exotic shadows coming from?).

JS: Ted Post (Magnum Force) does a fine job with the direction of "The Specialists," providing quite a few interesting and effective shots. There was also some impressive location footage that leads me to believe it was lifted from other sources.

PE: Oh yeah, I forgot about the impressive location footage of cars parked outside of buildings. Once each season, Ted Post directed a dog on Thriller. But in a long, storied career, a mere blip. This was the man, remember, who directed the second best Planet of the Apes flick, the second best Dirty Harry, and tons of great Rawhides and Combats.

JS: Gordon Ashe (not Ash as credited) was one of the many pseudonyms of British author John Creasey. "The Specialists" was based on one of his Patrick Dawish series novels, The Crime-Haters.

PE: Couldn't we toy with history a bit and watch an Alfred Hitchcock Hour (any one of them would be better than this) so that we can go out on a positive note, John? Seriously, you and I are the only ones watching these last few episodes, right?

JS: Possibly. And while yes, this is the 67th and final episode of Thriller, I wanted to let folks know that we've still got a few more posts coming over the next few days, including a surprise guest post this afternoon, our Season 2 wrap up tomorrow, the announcement of the A Thriller A Day Award Winners (based on your votes), and our final Thriller Three-Way. So it's not quite over yet!



  1. This was one of the worse episodes yet and a sorry way for the series to end. Is it true that Peter and John are giving all of us shirts that say, "I survived 67 episodes of THRILLER!" On front will be a photo of Boris Karloff and on the back will be the Grim Reaper, which will be in memory of all the THRILLER commenters who disappeared and dropped out along the long two month journey.

  2. Truly the most convincing evidence that the show was spent and done. It looks like the whole episode was just a dull, wasted hour filler of a failed pilot ... the Specialists? What's so special about them? That they have unlimited airmiles, and always manage to find the one spot in any foreign locale that looks like the backlot set of a typical New York street (and wasn't that 'montreal, eh?' corner the same spot where Steve Cochrane bought those TZ slippery shoes?). I must confess, I have been to montreal and realize that you can find places where there is only english spoken with no sight or sound of french, but c'mon. The acting was fairly uneven, I enjoyed some moments of Howard as a villian and thought he could be quite effective with some decent material, but the hero was wooden, McClory was given nothing to work with, and as you mentioned, the conceal of the 'big fish' was particularly lame -- if you're going to conceal him that way, at least have someone interesting play him, like BK! And that battle of the network staircase, I've never seen fighters roll down the staircase and then back up it, but that must have been Mr. George's doing.
    After watching this less than mediocre 48 minutes i decided to catch up on one that slipped by me earlier (didn't want this to be my final memory of this show) and i cued up Knock 3-1-2, which happened to be written by Knuebehl. Within 15 minutes i was trying to awaken from a dull-show induced coma. I must say the best that can be said of the Specialists is that it made the network's decision easy.
    Two and a half Karloffs, and a clown tear for the finale! Thanks all!

  3. Your right Walker, what happened to Gary and David and Tom?

    Couldn't agree with you more on how absolutely woeful this episode was.

    A huge nullifying longuer with non-existent characterisations, incoherent plotting and full of meaningful manly 'Untouchables' poses ready for action and a director lost in hapless mediocrity. A segment so bad that it makes every other lowly failure of the season glisten. An insult to intelligent and unintelligent life.

    For those that had to endure this, here is a partial reward for your efforts beyond the call of duty...a classic segment of THE British horror show...and never released on dvd.

    PS: Peter I have your e-mail and will shoot you a msg tonight.

  4. This was the best Thriller could come up with for their final episode?! Good riddance!

    Seriously though, after it's all said and done, I'm glad I took a gamble and bought this series. About two years ago I was given the complete Twilight Zone as a Christmas gift. After watching all my favorites, I would go through the ep. descriptions looking for ones that sounded like they would lean more towards horror, with haunted houses, ghouls, monsters, etc.

    Like we all know, TZ was more of a fantasy/sci-fi show, with not that much horror. Thriller for the most part delivered on the chills and the macabre, so for that, I'm thankful I purchased the series.

    Ultimate Tactical Warrior

  5. 1.) Hey, I really liked the music in this episode, but I think it would have worked better in some kind of horror/supernatural show or other.

    2.) I was relieved when David Frankham's hat finally came off his head (when he croaked); I thought it might have been permanently affixed.

    3.) Good Heavens!---there's Richard Peel again as a kindly British cop, this time helping a blonde babe with a stroller.

    4.) I couldn't believe it; did you guys catch it???----At the very end, when Lyn McCarthy uttered his warm, fuzzy closing line "You see, I promised some people a picnic", what did you hear on the music soundtrack?? C'mon, what WAS IT??? Yep, Stanley Wilson just COULDN'T resist it--- he gives all of us the ultimate "razberry", the final finger poke in th eye: one last Morton Stevens "KER-PLOP" (triangle and bass drum) to eulogize a once-great series, which "lands on the ear like the breaking wind echoing within a shrine of gleaming porcelain" (or poetic words to that effect).

    5.) Was it in the full Doung Benton interview, I wonder?....that I read that the Thriller crew lost an entire day of shooting on this episode because Ronald Howard mistakenly tossed the celery (instead of the bomb) out of the window at the end, clobbering Lin McCarthy on the head and knocking him out cold? Maybe I'm just imagining this....

    THE END!


  6. I guess we have to think of "The Specialists" as THRILLER's equivalent of those awful guardian angel episodes on TWILIGHT ZONE ("Cavender is Coming," "Mr. Bevis")... pilots for unsold series that are just marginally connected to the established anthology shows that aired them. "Cavender" was even saddled with a ludicrous laugh track for both network and original syndication showings. Only OUTER LIMITS' "Forms of Things Unknown" managed to beat this 'curse,' as the finished product made for a classic OL offering in addition to being (in slightly altered form) the pilot for a different series.

    And yeah, after "Doktor Markesan," it was all pretty much downhill for THRILLER. But we've certainly had a lot of fun re-living the series' unique and unforgettable high points, in addition to tracking its loser moments. Gonna miss this blog, fellas!

    BTW, I thought most PLANET OF THE APES fans considered ESCAPE and CONQUEST to be the "best" of the series next to the 1968 original, with Ted Post's BENEATH and the final, kid-oriented BATTLE pretty much tied for "worst."

  7. For my money, BENEATH the POA is the horror fans entry in the franchise, although as I've gotten older I have to admit my leanings have moved towards ESCAPE (in part due to the return of Jerry Goldsmith) as my favorite. BATTLE remains in a class by itself.

  8. >>Was it in the full Doung Benton interview, I wonder?....that I read that the Thriller crew lost an entire day of shooting on this episode because Ronald Howard mistakenly tossed the celery (instead of the bomb) out of the window at the end, clobbering Lin McCarthy on the head and knocking him out cold? Maybe I'm just imagining this....

    Well, Larry, you're remembering part of the anecdote correctly. Shooting was lost for an entire day when , while doing a run through (which was actually used during the episode much like when Robert Shaw was actually eaten by a live shark during the shooting of the climax of JAWS and Spielberg couldn't afford another actor so...) of the scene, Ronnie Howard actually read his script for the first time, shouted "Who wrote this Shite! I've done MacBeth, ferchrissakes!" and burned his copy in the fireplace.
    It's true.

    1. No.Robert Shaw was not actually eaten by a shark during the making of Jaws but Richard Dreyfuss' character was supposed to be eaten lime in the book but they had trouble with the cage,the stuntman and keeping the real shark so they had to use the footage they had and they let Dreyfuss'character live.Robert Shaw died of ,I think,an alcohol related illness a few years later.

    2. Okay I was wrong.Robert Shaw died suddenly of a heart attack in 1978.Roy Scheider died of multiple myeloma in 1978 right here in my city of Little Rock in 2008.

    3. No. Robert Shaw was actually eaten by the shark in the tank at Universal Studios but survived to film Airport 1979 later that year. It was during the filming of that classic that he died, when the bomb went off and he was sucked out of the cockpit.

  9. Gary--
    I'd almost commit heresy here before my Thrillah-brothers and shout "BENEATH is better than the first one!!" but I'm still changing the bandages from the burning I took after my "Pigeons" comments. BENEATH is so nasty, so dark, it's almost a noir (in color) version of Planet of the Apes. Yeah, CONQUEST has its dark spots (especially the deleted finale) and ESCAPE is the "most intelligent" of the sequels, but if I had to reach for one POTA to watch right now, it would be BENEATH. Take that, you Rod Serling lovers!
    And, hey, where is everyone going? We're not done with you guys. Not by a long shot. Stay Tuned!


  11. It's Nice to Be Missed ...

    The THRILLER carousel began to spin my skull, go faster, and outpace me — and the relentless TAD schedule looped ahead of my viewing the final batch of episodes, but I (1) had to formulate and interview for JS & PE, (2) get a novel out the door (it was hanging on like one of those guests who never quite manage to LEAVE), (3) deal with TAD-like comments-in-essay-form for two books — Mark Morris' CINEMA FUTURA (where I rhapsodize on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN) and Michael Doyle's book on the 1982 THE THING (where I rhapsodize on ... well, guess). Stir in unceasing daily angst, season lightly with movie meetings, and you get a dish that serves, well, nobody, not to mention leaving no time for things like eating food or sleeping.

    But nonetheless, TAD has become my first internet stop 'o the day, and now that JS & PE are threatening to similarly tackle my favorite TV show of all time (again — guess), I am thrust into the peculiar position of commenting on that which I have already expounded reams of no doubt tedious text, examining. So at first, expect a lot of reiteration, and even reprints of essential data (such as my VIDEO WATCHDOG piece on how the OUTER LIMITS disc transfers suck, suck, and suck, in all three dips so far). I'm still listening, even if I took a break from speaking.

    I should also mention at this point that ON THE VERY DAY of the THRILLER release, August 31st, I hosted a THRILLER meeting of minds at my home that included Steve Mitchell, Gary Gerani, Larry Rapchak (who flew in for it) and others here. We attempted to Skype Larry Blamire but failed miserably. Now JS & PE are proposing ANOTHER one, a post-mortem of sorts, which promises to be an interesting party indeed. The first THRILLER "convention," if you will. Gasp.

  12. Dave,

    Good to hear from you; figured you were extremely busy.

    In the meantime, I'm sitting in front of the TV, watching "The Specialists" for the 4th time in a row, praying, hoping, PLEADING...that David Frankham will turn into a skeleton again, just for old time's sake....


  13. Sam, no! I hate 'Spock's Brain' but if I guzzled enough whisky I imagine I could have a good time knocking and teasing it and 'The Invisible Enemy'.

    Larry, if you told a Dr in England that you'd watched 'The Specialists' 4 times, you could get a disability allowance from the state.

    This has been probably the finest release of all the anthologies, just for the sheer commentary value, the passion and respect for the series. If only they would do the same when they release the 'Blu-Ray' version of 'The Outer Limits'.

    David, a quick question for you.

    I hated the gad-awful new 'Outer Limits' and could go on watching it after the a half a dozen episodes and that woeful bland opening. It felt as if had been made by a particularly inept porn production company whose personnel never went to school, picked a book or watched a movie.

    Did I miss out in any of the 100plus episodes they churned out?

  14. Heartbreaking. I was 12 when I saw this awful episode. I think my impression at that age was that it was too much like all the other garbage on television when Thriller could be sporadically a unique and special show. I wasn't really surprised because I'd been with the show from the beginning with its disappointments, schizophrenic on again/off again quality and series of dismal crime episodes. It was "Here we go again. Hail, and farewell." From dust it came, and to dust it returned after a few brief shining moments. The above graphic for "The Crime Haters" is perfect! Count me in as one of them! -Thriller fans who hate dull crime episodes and crave supernatural horror!

  15. "I couldn't figure out why we weren't always given a clear view of Mr. Swinburne." Mr. Swiburne: older man with pencil-thin mustache. Peter Duncan's boss: older man with a pencil-thin mustache. The bad guys always seem one step ahead of the good guys? Must have inside information. Duncan's boss must be the chief bad guy! Or so that's what they had me thinking until it was obvious the Specialists had seen Swinburne's face. I've saved Markesan to watch as the Thriller swan song.

  16. I thought it was funny on the commentary for Papa Benjamin,
    after Ted Post crapped all over that episode, he said something like "Later I did the Specialist- that was a much better show", Steve Mitchell was like "uh yeah."

  17. My pace was much slower than our ATAD hosts, but after a year I made it to the final episode. The Specialists is a quiet and non eventful end to a series that took a while to get going, finally seemed to find it's style at the end of season one and then inexplicably detoured back into banality.

    The Specialists starts off as a rote crime drama and stays there. There was nothing special about The Specialists. The acting, plot, direction and music were all stock B crime show. It was nice that the events were transported to England and we got to see the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. The only good scene in this episode was the fingertappin' showcase. The fight scenes were the worst in the whole series. While watching this episode I got the feeling that the Thriller folks were in a hurry to wrap the whole show up and move on to their next network assignments.

    I wish that I could serve up four delicious Karloff heads like I did at the end of season one, but sadly The Specialists only deserves one Karloff.

  18. Hynek-

    Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to leave all your well-thought out comments (even when your views didn't see eye to eye with ours)!

    1. Congratulations?! That's it? Where's my commemorative tee shirt?

      Seriously, I'm glad to finally finish this series and even though I knew that the quality was going to ramp down, I'm still disappointed with to view it myself. I'll look back at the episodes and post my wrap up thoughts in the respective threads.

  19. I think Rockfish is on to something (his comment is way, way up there). I'm sure this was shot as a pilot for Ronald Howard. The son of Leslie, one of the biggest film stars of early talkies, I find him attractive in a Brit Daddy sort of way. Across the pond THE AVENGERS was a big hit, and American TV producers must have been aware of it. In a season or two after GOLDFINGER hit big, TV was full of agents (including THE AVENGERS). A dull curiosity.

  20. Hey John & Peter! Viewers of our website(who also love your projects) keep asking if you have any plans to blog on all the "Night Gallery" episodes. What say you?

  21. Hi, all ... I'm coming at this a bit late, but ... I'm a friend of David Frankham, and so have some inside information on this episode to offer. In fact, I watched it with him last night, as he hadn't seen it in years. YES ... this wretched episode was intended as a pilot. He says he was told that right from the beginning: "David, if this episode goes, it will be a series!" (And then he looked at the script and saw he died halfway through.)

    "I was relieved when David Frankham's hat finally came off his head (when he croaked); I thought it might have been permanently affixed."

    I had to read this comment to David, and he laughed because he's complained about that hat for as long as I've known him! He says he kept asking Ted Post if he could remove it, but Post kept saying, "No! Leave the hat!" He doesn't know why, because everyone else got to take theirs' off. Finally, David himself, without permission, contrived to have the hat slide off when he died.

    1. Very cool to find this comment, and learn that my comment about David Frankham's hat actually gave him a good laugh.

      Thanks for posting.

  22. Well, I just finished making my way through all of the episodes, commentaries, and scores. I just want to tell you guys, if you still read the comments, that reading your blog after every episode really enhanced the experience of the show for me a lot. So thank you very much for doing these great blogs; I stumbled onto your stuff a couple of years ago when I was going through all of Kolchak for the first time since I was a teen-ager watching the first-run. So when I bought the Thriller set I made sure to make this blog part of the whole experience.

    As for Thriller itself, I really liked the show. My favorite episode was "The Incredible Doktor Markesan", which I had seen as kid. My second favorite was "The Storm", which I had never heard of. I loved a lot of the other episodes, but I'll give third place to "The Hollow Watcher"; I thought the cheery expression on the scarecrow's face was just perfect. Other than Boris's wonderful turn as Dr. Markesan, the standout performances from actors for me were from Robert Middleton in "Guillotine" (particularly because I had thought he was great in such a different role in "Fingers of Fear" and John Fiedler in "A Wig for Ms. Devore". For the actresses, my favorite was Virginia Gregg in "Mister George"; she ekes out the win over Natalie Schaefer in "The Grim Reaper" and Rosemary Murphy in "The Lethal Ladies". I also thought Henry Jones deserved a lot of credit for playing two monstrous wife-strangling jerks very differently and very well, and that Jeannette Nolan matched him by playing two EC-style witches who looked alike but had nothing in common with one another except for evil hearts.

    The Image set had the best commentaries I've heard in a long time. The Larry Blamire ones were standouts for me because I really like his movies, and Lucy Chase Williams, with whose work I am completely unfamiliar, did two of the most original commentary performances I can remember. Other than Tim Lucas, I don't think I've ever heard a commentator that planned out commentaries as well as she did on this set.

    The big surprise for me was that, unlike you folks, Alan Warren, and I guess everyone else, I really enjoyed almost all of the second season crime episodes. The show's cinematography and art direction were so consistently good, and Boris's introductions were so delightful, by the time they got to the second season, that I found charm in virtually every episode from that year other than charmless (and gormless) "The Specialists".

    The single scene from television that has haunted me since childhood is the last scene from "The Incredible DoKtor Markesan"; watching it this time, I was stunned to see that the poor disgruntled-looking zombie wife was Carolyn Kearney; I have had a lifelong crush on Carolyn Kearney as a result of her role as the dowser in "The Thing that Wouldn't Die"; I guess I was older when I saw that movie than I was when I saw Thriller, because she made a different kind of impression on me in the very bad movie than she had in the very good television show. I was pleased to see that the end of "The Incredible DoKtor . . . " held up so well after all these years.

    Thanks again for doing your blogs, and good luck in your future endeavors.

    1. It's gratifying to get such a positive response over four years after we finished the last episode. I've still got great memories of doing this blog and, of the four shows we ended up covering, this was my favorite. Never say never but I believe this TV-show-a-day blogger is retired for good.
      Thanks for the kind words!

    2. Once again, ME TV does the Thriller thing at the ungodly hour of 3:00 am central time-for old fart insomniacs!

      Better than nothing.

  23. Coming in even later here! It seemed like everything had been said(there's a lot of complaining for a supposedly beloved show here) but even I,the biggest Thriller lover you could ever find,cannot figure the existence of "The Specialists." Pilot? Maybe. It seems to come from somewhere else,especially given the flow of the rest of the season. Even the so called weaker shows feel part of the Thriller mood. Not this one. A throwback to the Fletcher Markle period? Even worse. Anyone notice there's no producer credit on the episode? Even the Hubbell Robinson logo is missing? It's as if another crew showed up and borrowed the hour.

  24. Coming in even later here! It seemed like everything had been said(there's a lot of complaining for a supposedly beloved show here) but even I,the biggest Thriller lover you could ever find,cannot figure the existence of "The Specialists." Pilot? Maybe. It seems to come from somewhere else,especially given the flow of the rest of the season. Even the so called weaker shows feel part of the Thriller mood. Not this one. A throwback to the Fletcher Markle period? Even worse. Anyone notice there's no producer credit on the episode? Even the Hubbell Robinson logo is missing? It's as if another crew showed up and borrowed the hour.

  25. Yes great work guys! You have enriched MY "Thriller" experience as well. Can't wait to log on each day after I've watched a new one (late at night of course!) and see how much we agree or disagree! This has been super fun. Generally I find a little something to like in ALMOST all the episodes.

    There's one good moment in "The Specialists" — at the end when the girl looks around and the streets are totally silent (they've been blocked off) and she realizes it. Her blood runs cold. Very cool and creepy.

    And OMG, is the Maguffin here that goddamn Brady Bunch horse statue? Can't tell for sure. Looks like it but smaller here. It's also in Jimmy Stewart's office in "Bell, Book & Candle." That damn prop GOT AROUND, lemme tell ya!

  26. Just watched the whole series. Really excellent, just my one peeve is that the UK police weren't allowed to wiretap until 1985.