Saturday, May 30, 2009

Someone at the Top of the Stairs (1973) (TV)

...aka: Thriller: Someone at the Top of the Stairs

Directed by:
John Sichel

* I've decided to list certain episodes of the six-season British TV series "Thriller" on this website. Two reasons for this 1.) Each entry is feature length; all run between 60 and 80 minutes, and (most importantly) 2.) Many of these entries were released on tape as features. Recently, A&E released a Thriller Season 1 box set. I'm not going to review all of these episodes; just the ones to receive a VHS release before the box set came out. In the UK, only four titles qualify; but in the US fifteen were issued on tape as features/separate video releases. Only two were released in both the US and the UK, which brings the grand total up to seventeen. Some have been re-titled.*

Chrissie Morton (Donna Mills), an American studying abroad, and her Brit friend Gillian (Judy Carne) find a boarding house where the rent is only 24 pounds a month. Both being poor college students, they decide it's too good an offer to pass up and move in together. Strange things being happening. They find newspaper clippings from the 1800s lining a drawer and "Help Me Help Me" written on the inside of their closet door. The owner of the establishment, Mrs. Oxley (Alethea Charlton), seems a little sinister, and the other tenants are so chirpy and bizarre they wouldn't be out of place in Stepford. Everyone smiles, seems friendly, say marvelous a lot and do the same bizarre hand gestures. A cat Chrissie gets for a young boy ends up dead in a trash can the next day and someone is using peep holes to spy on the girls sleeping and taking showers, as well as sneaking into their room to steal their bras and panties. One man (Clifford Parrish) shows up looking for his missing daughter, who was last seen living there. The tenants claim they've never seen her, even though her locket is found in one of the rooms. And who is Mr. C? The oldest tenant in the home never seems to leave his room on the third floor of the house.

Though shot cheaply on videotape, limited to just a few set changes (the house, a cafe and a pub), talky and a little too expository at the end, this is well acted by the entire cast and has an interesting and incident packed script working well with small detail. This episode was released in the UK on VHS by ITC Entertainment and was paired with AN ECHO OF THERESA (called ANATOMY OF TERROR on US video).

Score: 6.5 out of 10

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