Sunday, June 6, 2021

Carnation Killer, The (1973) (TV)

... aka: Color of Blood, The
... aka: Colour of Blood, The
... aka: Thriller: The Colour of Blood
... aka: Wide World of Mystery: The Carnation Killer, The

Directed by:
Robert Tronson

After spreading terror around London for months, serial killer Arthur Steven Page (Norman Eshley), who's been dubbed “The Carnation Killer” by the popular press for always wearing a red carnation on his lapel and leaving one of the flowers at each murder scene, has finally been captured, put through trial and convicted. As he's being moved to the asylum, the police transport vehicle has an accident with a bicyclist and he's able to escape and run off. Meanwhile, at a solicitor's office, personal assistant Julie Marsh (Katherine Schofield) is looking forward to a day away from the stuffy office. Her boss, G.P. Baverstock (Derek Smith), is sending her to a train station to meet a shady, though important, client named Michael Charles Graham (Geoffrey Chater). She's to take a briefcase, a set of keys and legal documents with her. Since neither Julie nor Graham will know what the other looks like, they agree to meet at a third phone booth and that he'll be wearing a red carnation to be easy to spot. You'll never guess who Julie ends up bumping into instead...

Assuming Page is the client, Julie ends up boarding a train with the psycho, where she informs him that this late uncle has just left him over 40,000 pounds (which she is carrying in cash per Graham's instructions) plus his isolated country home and all of its belongings. She's to have him sign some papers plus escort him to the home as he does an inventory of its contents. The train ride is a rather creepy one, with Page constantly staring Julie down, attempting to touch her when she falls asleep and making bizarre, offhanded comments that could be seen as either veiled threats or him coming on to her. It's clear he's planning on killing her once they do arrive but, in the meantime, is getting off on the anticipation of it all.

As killer and prey head deeper into the country, the real Michael Graham; red carnation on his lapel, gets arrested by an inept cop (Tim Wylton) and taken to the station. He's quickly cleared by the superintendent (Malcolm Terris), who's busy fielding phone calls of various killer sightings by the public. Back at the solicitor's office, when Baverstock gets word that Graham did not meet Julie at the station yet he's not heard anything out of her, he starts to suspect she may have pulled a Janet Leigh in Psycho and run off with the money instead. Yes, it all becomes quite a confusing mess.

Page is unable to keep his murderous impulses in check for long. Before even getting off the train, he sneaks off and strangles another woman (Gigi Gurpinar). Once he and Julie arrive at the home, he keeps procrastinating on doing inventory to have more time with his victim, insisting she stay for dinner and wine ("Everything should be able to breathe... for a little while.") first. In a parallel plotline that ends up eventually converging with the main story, Julie's co-worker Peter (Garrick Hagon) is on his way to a date aboard another delayed train...

A passable, though not exemplary, thriller from the pen of Brian Clemens. Again, this is rather bare bones when it comes to production costs, was cheaply shot and is mostly set-bound. It's more tense than scary or suspenseful, though it does manage at least one good plot twist in the third act and the ending is nicely macabre. The main point of interest for me was the performance from Eshley. I'd previously seen him play the conflicted good guy priest in Pete Walker's underrated THE CONFESSIONAL / House of Mortal Sin (1976) so it was nice to see him play a nearly polar opposite role here. He does very well with what he's given and pretty much makes the entire episode all by himself.

This was shown on the Clemens-created UK Thriller TV series (episode five of the first season) under the title The Colour of Blood and debuted on U. S. TV as part of the Wide World of Mystery series. It was given a suspiciously R-rated VHS release here in America by A. I. R. (Ariel Independent Releasing) in 1987 using the Carnation Killer title. The entire series has since been released on several DVD box sets released by A&E and Network.

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