Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grim Reaper, The (1961)

... aka: Thriller: The Grim Reaper

Directed by:
Herschel Daugherty

The popular Thriller series hosted by horror legend Boris Karloff ran from Fall 1960 to Spring 1962 on NBC and made an impact on lots of kids during its day, including a young Stephen King, who has called it "the best horror series ever put on TV." Unfortunately, of the 60+ episodes that were made, only six of them were officially released. This one, along with "The Incredible Doktor Markesan," "Masquerade" (also directed by Daugherty), "The Prediction," "The Premature Burial" and "The Terror in Teakwood" were all issued (separately) on VHS in 1996 by MCA/Universal. And sadly, that was it. Even though some (bootleg) sites offer the entire series on DVD-R, this has yet to see the legitimate box set release it so deserves. "The Grim Reaper" (which aired June 13, 1960 and was the 37th and final episode of the first season) was directed by prolific TV director Herschel Daugherty, who directed 16 episodes of the show and even more episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This one's also noteworthy for featuring William Shatner in an early starring role. Shatner and Daughtery would also work together on an episode of AHP that very same year, as well as several episodes of Star Trek in 1966.



"Someone is in mortal danger as sure as my name is Boris Karloff!"


In 1848 France, Pierre Radin (Henry Daniell) shows up at a boardinghouse looking for his reclusive artist son, only to find he's hung himself and left behind a painting of a skeletal Grim Reaper brandishing a scythe. Over a hundred years later, wealthy mystery writer Beatrice Graves (Natalie Schafer) is living up to her eccentric reputation by surrounding herself with offbeat things. She lives in a has a creepy old mansion, drives around town in a hearst and has just recently purchased the Grim Reaper painting at an auction to hang over her fireplace. Bea's not exactly the upbeat type; she's got a drinking problem and her latest husband, much-younger actor Gerald Keller (Scott Merrill) seems to have eyes for her secretary Dorothy (Elizabeth Allen) instead of her. In comes concerned nephew Paul (William Shatner), who wants to share some information about the painting, which is believed to be cursed. The past fifteen owners have all died unexpected, violent deaths and it's rumored that the painting bleeds whenever someone's about to die. When an inebriated Beatrice is found dead at the bottom of the stairs and it's revealed that Gerald has inherited everything, is it murder, is the story about the painting being cursed true or is it perhaps a combination of factors at work?

One of the most fondly remembered of all of the episodes in the series, and boasting one of the creepiest endings as well; solidly scripted by Robert Bloch (complete with some black comedy, a couple of decent twists and even an Addams Family reference) and nicely acted. Daniell and Karloff (the stars of the 1945 Val Lewton-produced classic The Body Snatcher) unfortunately do not appear in any scenes together here. Daniell appears for just for a few minutes during the opening scene and Karloff only has hosting duties in this one.

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