Thriller (British TV series)
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UK opening titles
|Created by||Brian Clemens|
|Country of origin||UK|
|No. of episodes||43|
|Running time||63-67 Min.|
|Original release||14 April 1973 –|
22 May 1976
Thriller is a British television series, originally broadcast in the UK from 1973 to 1976. It is an anthology series: each episode has a self-contained story and its own cast. As the title suggests, each story is a thriller of some variety, from tales of the supernatural to down-to-earth whodunits.
The series was created by Brian Clemens, who also scripted the majority of the episodes and storylined every instalment, and produced by John Sichel (the first 3 series), John Cooper (series 4) and Ian Fordyce (the final two series) for Associated Television (ATV) at their Elstree studios north of London. It evolved from Clemens' previous work, in particular two films of a similar style, And Soon the Darkness (EMI-ABP 1970) and Blind Terror (aka See No Evil (Columbia 1971)). The latter shared plot similarities with the Thriller episodes "The Eyes Have It" and "The Next Voice You See". Original music, including the theme tune, was by Clemens' regular collaborator Laurie Johnson.
The original UK title sequence featured still shots of locations in the story devoid of people through a fisheye lens, bordered in bright red and set to Johnson's distinctive eerie, discordant theme music. After originally being screened late night in the US under the ABC Wide World of Entertainment billing from 1973, in 1978 some episodes were retitled for US syndication and all had additional opening sequences shot, with new titles and credits. Since these new titles were made without the original cast they often feature menacing figures seen only from the neck down. However, when the series was rebroadcast as part of The CBS Late Movie, the original title sequence and music was restored.
The stories are often set in the English home counties "stockbroker belt", but most episodes, especially from the second season onwards, feature at least one American character, usually portrayed by an American guest star (who often played the imperilled hero(ine), but not always), in order to appeal to the American market. A particular trademark of the series' storytelling was to hook the viewer with a simple yet totally baffling situation, of the kind seen in films such as Les Diaboliques (1955). "Come Out Come Out, Wherever You Are" takes place at a creaky country house hotel where a female guest begins asking where her travelling companion has disappeared to. The owner claims there was no such guest with her upon her arrival last night. None of the other guests initially recall seeing her, and yet the hotel owner has a secret in his past that could well be causing him to lie. One episode, "Screamer" concerns a rape victim who murders her attacker only for the man to then be seen everywhere stalking her. Perhaps the most ingenious episode is the Dial M for Murder style "The Double Kill", in which a man hires a hitman to kill his wife, but makes a fatal error in his otherwise meticulous planning.
Other memorable episodes include "Someone at the Top of the Stairs", one of a handful of forays into the supernatural, in which two female students move into a boarding house and begin to notice that none of the other residents ever go out or receive any mail, and the well-remembered "I'm The Girl He Wants to Kill", in which a witness to a murder finds herself trapped in a deserted office block overnight with the killer and is forced to play a deadly game of cat and mouse with him to survive, there is barely any dialogue throughout its second half. Brian Clemens's own favourite episode, "A Coffin for the Bride" (US: "Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill") features a performance from a young Helen Mirren.
Following a worldwide audit during 2003-4, by the then copyright holders Carlton, almost all the original UK PAL fisheye titled 2" videotapes of Thriller were located and transferred onto modern digital tape by the British Film Institute with subsequent restoration work by BBC Resources. (One exception was the story "Nurse Will Make It Better". However this too exists in PAL/original format on the later 1" videotape format as a dub from the original master tape. This version was repeat broadcast on the satellite channel Bravo in 1996).
Series 1 (1973)
Series 2 (1974)
Series 3 (1974)
Series 4 (1975)
|Episode title||Original transmission||Notable cast|
|Screamer||4 January 1975||Pamela Franklin, Frances White, Jim Norton, Peter Howell, Wolfe Morris, Donal McCann|
|Nurse Will Make It Better
(US title: The Devil's Web, US video title: Night Nurse)
|11 January 1975||Diana Dors, Michael Culver, Patrick Troughton, Ed Bishop, Cec Linder, Andrea Marcovicci, Wendy Williams|
|Night is the Time for Killing
(US title: Murder on the Midnight Express)
|18 January 1975||Judy Geeson, Charles Gray, Jeffry Wickham, Duncan Preston, Edward Burnham, Milos Kirek, Robert MacLeod, Aimée Delamain, Reg Pritchard|
|Killer with Two Faces||25 January 1975||Donna Mills, Ian Hendry, Roddy McMillan, Robin Parkinson, Hazel McBride|
|A Killer in Every Corner||1 February 1975||Patrick Magee, Don Henderson, Petra Markham, Eric Flynn, Joanna Pettet, Max Wall|
|Where the Action Is
(US title: The Killing Game)
|8 February 1975||Edd Byrnes, Ingrid Pitt, Trevor Baxter, George Innes, Frank Coda|
Series 5 (1975)
Series 6 (1976)
|Episode title||Original transmission||Notable cast|
|Sleepwalker||10 April 1976||Michael Kitchen, John Challis, Robert Beatty, Ian Redford|
|The Next Victim||17 April 1976||T. P. McKenna, Ronald Lacey, Harold Bennett, Carroll Baker, Maurice Kaufmann, Martin Benson, Martin Fisk, Alan Gerrard|
|Nightmare for a Nightingale
(US title: Melody of Hate)
|24 April 1976||Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Stephen Greif, Stuart Damon, Sydney Tafler|
|Dial a Deadly Number||1 May 1976||Gary Collins, Gemma Jones, Beth Morris, Cavan Kendall|
|Kill Two Birds
(US title: Cry Terror!)
|8 May 1976||Bob Hoskins, Susan Hampshire, David Daker, Stephen Yardley, Dudley Sutton, Gabrielle Drake, Christopher Ellison, John Bailey, Donald Morley, John Flanagan, Dawn Perllman|
|A Midsummer Nightmare
(US title: Appointment with a Killer)
|15 May 1976||Brian Blessed, Tony Anholt, Freddie Jones, Joanna Pettet|
|Death in Deep Water||22 May 1976||Ian Bannen, Bradford Dillman, Suzan Farmer, Philip Stone|
Dinsdale Landen is the only actor playing the same role as private investigator Matthew Earp in two episodes: "An Echo of Theresa" and "The Next Scream You Hear".