Thriller (U.S. TV series)

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Thriller Title.png
Genre Anthology
Created by Hubbell Robinson
Directed by John Brahm
Jules Bricken
Herschel Daugherty
Paul Henreid
Douglas Heyes
Arthur Hiller
Mitchell Leisen
Ida Lupino
Gerald Mayer
John Newland
Ted Post
Presented by Boris Karloff
Starring Various
Theme music composer Pete Rugolo
Composer(s) Jerry Goldsmith
Stanley Wilson
Pete Rugolo
Morton Stevens
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 67
Executive producer(s) Hubbell Robinson
Producer(s) William Frye
Fletcher Markle
Maxwell Shane
Running time 49 min. (Season 1)
50 min. (Season 2)
Production company(s) Hubbell Robinson Productions
Revue Studios
Distributor Revue Studios (original)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution (current)
Original network NBC
Picture format Black and white 4:3
Audio format Mono
Original release September 13, 1960 – April 30, 1962

Thriller (also known as Boris Karloff's Thriller) is an American anthology television series that aired during the 1960–61 and 1961–62 seasons on NBC. The show featured host Boris Karloff introducing a mix of macabre horror tales and suspense thrillers.[1]


Boris Karloff in Thriller (1960)

Thriller was created by Hubbell Robinson for MCA's Revue Studios. It was produced by Fletcher Markle, William Frye, and Maxwell Shane. Among the many writers for the series were Robert Hardy Andrews, and Robert Bloch, who adapted a number of his own stories, notably "The Weird Tailor."

In addition to serving as the host of the series, Karloff also starred in five episodes: "The Prediction," "The Premature Burial," "The Last of the Sommervilles," "Dialogues With Death," and "The Incredible Doctor Markesan."

Other actors included Leslie Nielsen in the show's first episode "The Twisted Image", William Shatner in two episodes, "The Hungry Glass" and "The Grim Reaper," Constance Ford in two episodes, Mary Tyler Moore in two episodes, Henry Daniell appeared in two episodes, and Edward Andrews in three episodes. Child actress Beverly Washburn appeared in "Parasite Mansion"; Joan Tompkins appeared in "The Cheaters" and "Mr. George." Elizabeth Montgomery, Tom Poston, and John Carradine in "Masquerade." Carradine also starred in "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk," co-starring Bruce Dern and Jo Van Fleet; Ed Nelson starred in four episodes: "The Fatal Impulse," "The Cheaters," "A Good Imagination," and "Dialogues With Death."

Other performers included: Rip Torn. George Grizzard, Natalie Trundy, Bethel Leslie, Patricia Medina, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson, Richard Chamberlain, Elisha Cook, Conrad Nagel, Larry Pennell, Russell Johnson, Diana Millay, Philip Carey, Kathleen Crowley, Susan Oliver, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., J. Pat O'Malley, Robert Vaughn, Marlo Thomas, John Ireland, Jeanette Nolan, Virginia Gregg, Hazel Scott, Lloyd Bochner, Scott Marlowe, Judson Pratt, Olive Sturgess, Mary Astor, Marion Ross, Hazel Court, MacDonald Carey, Natalie Schafer, Phyllis Thaxter, Estelle Winwood, Antoinette Bower, Jane Greer, Dick York, Jocelyn Brando, Richard Carlson, William Windom, George Kennedy, Cloris Leachman, Monte Markham, Nancy Kelly, Patricia Breslin and Edward Binns.


No = Overall episode number
Ep = Episode number within the season

Due to a number of TV stations that pre-empted Thriller in favor of local programs, Thriller only ran for two seasons starting September 1960.

Season 1: 1960–1961[edit]

The show premiered on September 13, 1960 with the episode "The Twisted Image." It had 37 episodes in the first season. (In addition to serving as the host of the series, Karloff starred in one episode in the first season: "The Prediction".)

No Ep Title Directed by Written by Original air date
01 01 "The Twisted Image" Arthur Hiller James P. Cavanagh September 13, 1960 (1960-09-13)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Leslie Nielsen, and George Grizzard
02 02 "Child's Play" Arthur Hiller Robert Dozier September 20, 1960 (1960-09-20)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Frank Overton and Bethel Leslie
03 03 "Worse Than Murder" Mitchell Leisen Mel Goldberg September 27, 1960 (1960-09-27)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Constance Ford, and John Baragrey
04 04 "The Mark of the Hand" Paul Henreid Eric Peters October 4, 1960 (1960-10-04)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mona Freeman, and Jessie Royce Landis
05 05 "Rose's Last Summer" Arthur Hiller Marie Baumer October 11, 1960 (1960-10-11)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mary Astor, and Lin McCarthy
06 06 "The Guilty Men" Jules Bricken John Vlahos October 18, 1960 (1960-10-18)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Everett Sloane, and Jay C. Flippen
07 07 "The Purple Room" Douglas Heyes Douglas Heyes October 25, 1960 (1960-10-25)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Rip Torn, and Patricia Barry
08 08 "The Watcher" John Brahm Donald S. Sanford November 1, 1960 (1960-11-01)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Martin Gabel, and Stuart Erwin
09 09 "Girl with a Secret" Mitchell Leisen Charles Beaumont November 15, 1960 (1960-11-15)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Fay Bainter, Cloris Leachman, Monte Markham, and Paul Hartman
10 10 "The Prediction" John Brahm Donald S. Sanford November 22, 1960 (1960-11-22)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Audrey Dalton (actress and Alexander Davion
11 11 "The Fatal Impulse" Gerald Mayer Philip MacDonald November 29, 1960 (1960-11-29)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Robert Lansing, Whitney Blake, Mary Tyler Moore
12 12 "The Big Blackout" Maurice Geraghty Oscar Millard December 6, 1960 (1960-12-06)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Jack Carson, Nan Leslie, and Charles McGraw
13 13 "Knock Three-One-Two" Herman Hoffman John Kneubuhl December 13, 1960 (1960-12-13)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Joe Maross and Beverly Garland
14 14 "Man in the Middle" Fletcher Markle Howard Rodman December 20, 1960 (1960-12-20)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mort Sahl, and Werner Klemperer
15 15 "The Cheaters" John Brahm Donald S. Sanford December 27, 1960 (1960-12-27)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mildred Dunnock, and Harry Townes
16 16 "The Hungry Glass" Douglas Heyes Douglas Heyes January 3, 1961 (1961-01-03)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Donna Douglas, William Shatner, and Joanna Heyes
17 17 "The Poisoner" Herschel Daugherty Robert Hardy Andrews January 10, 1961 (1961-01-10)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Murray Matheson, and Sarah Marshall
18 18 "Man in the Cage" Gerald Mayer Stuart Jerome January 17, 1961 (1961-01-17)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Philip Carey, and Diana Millay
19 19 "Choose a Victim" Richard Carlson (actor) George Bellak January 24, 1961 (1961-01-24)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Larry Blyden, and Susan Oliver
20 20 "Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook" Herschel Daugherty Alan Caillou February 7, 1961 (1961-02-07)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Kenneth Haigh, and Audrey Dalton
21 21 "The Merriweather File" John Brahm John Kneubuhl February 14, 1961 (1961-02-14)
Cast: Boris Karloff, James Gregory, and Bethel Leslie
22 22 "The Fingers of Fear" Jules Bricken Robert Hardy Andrews February 21, 1961 (1961-02-21)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Nehemiah Persoff, and Robert Middleton
23 23 "Well of Doom" John Brahm Donald S. Sanford February 28, 1961 (1961-02-28)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Ronald Howard, and Henry Daniell
24 24 "The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell" Laslo Benedek Donald S. Sanford March 7, 1961 (1961-03-07)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Robert Vaughn, and Kathleen Crowley
25 25 "Trio for Terror" Ida Lupino Wilkie Collins March 14, 1961 (1961-03-14)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Reginald Owen, and John Abbott
26 26 "Papa Benjamin" Ted Post John Kneubuhl March 21, 1961 (1961-03-21)
Cast: Boris Karloff, John Ireland, and Jeanne Bal
27 27 "Late Date" Herschel Daugherty Donald S. Sanford April 4, 1961 (1961-04-04)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Larry Pennell, and Edward Platt
28 28 "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" Ray Milland Barré Lyndon April 11, 1961 (1961-04-11)
Cast: Boris Karloff, John Williams, and Beverly Powers
29 29 "The Devil's Ticket" Jules Bricken Robert Bloch April 18, 1961 (1961-04-18)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Macdonald Carey, and Patricia Medina
30 30 "Parasite Mansion" Herschel Daugherty Donald S. Sanford April 25, 1961 (1961-04-25)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Pippa Scott, and Jeanette Nolan
31 31 "A Good Imagination" John Brahm Robert Bloch May 2, 1961 (1961-05-02)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Edward Andrews, and Patricia Barry
32 32 "Mr. George" Ida Lupino Donald S. Sanford May 9, 1961 (1961-05-09)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Virginia Gregg, and Howard Freeman
33 33 "The Terror in Teakwood" Paul Henreid Alan Caillou May 16, 1961 (1961-05-16)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Guy Rolfe, and Hazel Court
34 34 "The Prisoner in the Mirror" Herschel Daugherty Robert Arthur, Jr. May 23, 1961 (1961-05-23)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Lloyd Bochner, and Henry Daniell
35 35 "Dark Legacy" John Brahm John Tomerlin May 30, 1961 (1961-05-30)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Harry Townes, and Ilka Windish
36 36 "Pigeons from Hell" John Newland John Kneubuhl June 6, 1961 (1961-06-06)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Brandon De Wilde, and Crahan Denton
37 37 "The Grim Reaper" Herschel Daugherty Robert Bloch June 13, 1961 (1961-06-13)
Cast: Boris Karloff, William Shatner, and Natalie Schafer

Season 2: 1961–1962[edit]

The second season of Thriller started on September 18, 1961 with the episode "What Beckoning Ghost?" and had 30 episodes in the season. (In addition to serving as the host of the series, Karloff starred in 4 episodes in the 2nd season: "The Premature Burial," "The Last of the Sommervilles," "Dialogues With Death," and "The Incredible Doctor Markesan.")

No Ep Title Directed by Written by Original air date
38 01 "What Beckoning Ghost?" Ida Lupino Donald S. Sanford September 18, 1961 (1961-09-18)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Judith Evelyn, and Tom Helmore
39 02 "Guillotine" Ida Lupino Charles Beaumont September 26, 1961 (1961-09-26)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Robert Middleton, and Danielle De Metz
40 03 "The Premature Burial" Douglas Heyes William D. Gordon October 2, 1961 (1961-10-02)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Sidney Blackmer, and Scott Marlowe
41 04 "The Weird Tailor" Herschel Daugherty Robert Bloch October 16, 1961 (1961-10-16)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Henry Jones, and George Macready
42 05 "God Grante That She Lye Stille" Herschel Daugherty Robert Hardy Andrews October 23, 1961 (1961-10-23)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Ronald Howard, and Sarah Marshall
43 06 "Masquerade" Herschel Daugherty Donald S. Sanford October 30, 1961 (1961-10-30)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Tom Poston
44 07 "The Last of the Sommervilles" Ida Lupino Ida Lupino November 6, 1961 (1961-11-06)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Peter Walker, Chet Stratton, Phyllis Thaxter, and Martita Hunt
45 08 "Letter to a Lover" Herschel Daugherty Donald S. Sanford November 13, 1961 (1961-11-13)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Ann Todd and Murray Matheson
46 09 "A Third for Pinochle" Herschel Daugherty Mark Hanna November 20, 1961 (1961-11-20)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Edward Andrews, and Doro Merande
47 10 "The Closed Cabinet" Ida Lupino Jess Carneol November 27, 1961 (1961-11-27)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Olive Sturgess, and David Frankham
48 11 "Dialogues with Death" Herschel Daugherty Robert Arthur, Jr. December 4, 1961 (1961-12-04)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Norma Crane, and Ed Nelson
49 12 "The Return of Andrew Bentley" John Newland Richard Matheson December 11, 1961 (1961-12-11)
Cast: Boris Karloff, John Newland, Antoinette Bower, Terence De Marney
50 13 "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk" John Brahm Donald S. Sanford December 18, 1961 (1961-12-18)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Jo Van Fleet, and John Carradine
51 14 "Portrait Without a Face" John Newland Jason Wingreen December 25, 1961 (1961-12-25)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Jane Greer, and Robert Webber
52 15 "An Attractive Family" John Brahm Robert Arthur, Jr. January 1, 1962 (1962-01-01)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Richard Long, and Leo G. Carroll
53 16 "Waxworks" Herschel Daugherty Robert Bloch January 8, 1962 (1962-01-08)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Oskar Homolka, and Martin Kosleck
54 17 "La Strega" Ida Lupino Alan Caillou January 15, 1962 (1962-01-15)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Ursula Andress, and Alejandro Rey
55 18 "The Storm" Herschel Daugherty William D. Gordon January 22, 1962 (1962-01-22)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Nancy Kelly, and David McLean
56 19 "A Wig for Miss Devore" John Brahm August Derleth January 29, 1962 (1962-01-29)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Patricia Barry, and John Baragrey
57 20 "The Hollow Watcher" William F. Claxton Jay Simms February 12, 1962 (1962-02-12)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Audrey Dalton, Sean McClory and Warren Oates
58 21 "Cousin Tundifer" John Brahm Boris Sobelman February 19, 1962 (1962-02-19)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Edward Andrews, and Sue Ane Langdon
59 22 "The Incredible Doktor Markesan" Robert Florey Donald S. Sanford February 26, 1962 (1962-02-26)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Dick York, and Carolyn Kearney
60 23 "Flowers of Evil" John Brahm Barré Lyndon March 5, 1962 (1962-03-05)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Luciana Paluzzi, and Kevin Hagen
61 24 "'Til Death Do Us Part" Herschel Daugherty Robert Bloch March 12, 1962 (1962-03-12)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Henry Jones (actor) and Jim Davis
62 25 "The Bride Who Died Twice" Ida Lupino Robert Hardy Andrews March 19, 1962 (1962-03-19)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mala Powers, and Eduardo Ciannelli
63 26 "Kill My Love" Herschel Daugherty Donald S. Sanford March 26, 1962 (1962-03-26)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Richard Carlson, and Patricia Breslin
64 27 "Man of Mystery" John Newland Robert Bloch April 2, 1962 (1962-04-02)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Mary Tyler Moore and John Van Dreelen
65 28 "The Innocent Bystanders" John English Robert Hardy Andrews April 9, 1962 (1962-04-09)
Cast: Boris Karloff, John Anderson, and George Kennedy
66 29 "The Lethal Ladies" Ida Lupino Boris Sobelman April 16, 1962 (1962-04-16)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Howard Morris, and Rosemary Murphy
67 30 "The Specialists" Ted Post John Kneubuhl April 30, 1962 (1962-04-30)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Lin McCarthy, and Robert Douglas

DVD release[edit]

On August 31, 2010, Image Entertainment released Thriller: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. The 14-disc set contains all 67 episodes, remastered and uncut, with new commentary tracks and separated music tracks.[2]

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King's 1981 history and critique of horror fiction, King suggests that Thriller was the best series of its kind up to that point.[3]

In a review of the anthology's 2010 DVD release, The Hollywood Reporter said "Not all the episodes work, and the transfers can be a bit grainy. But when they do — the strong shadows living in the black and white, the awesomely overwrought score by composers Jerry Goldsmith and Morton Stevens (if only they had music like that again), the storytelling not using gore and cheap scares as crutches — the results are genuinely goosebump-inducing."[4]

Musical score and first soundtrack[edit]

The Original Music of Thriller
The Original Music of Thriller.jpg
Soundtrack album by Pete Rugolo and His Orchestra
Released 1961
Recorded February 23 & 24, 1961
United Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA
Genre Jazz
Label Time
52034/S 2034
Producer Bob Shad
Pete Rugolo chronology
10 Trombones Like 2 Pianos
(1960)10 Trombones Like 2 Pianos1960
The Original Music of Thriller
Ten Trumpets and 2 Guitars
(1960)Ten Trumpets and 2 Guitars1960

Each episode of the first season featured a specially composed score with the main theme and majority of writing by Pete Rugolo with additional compositions by Jerry Goldsmith and Morton Stevens. In 1961 The Original Music of Thriller, composed, arranged and conducted by Rugolo was released on Bob Shad's Time label.[5]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Pete Rugolo.

  1. "Theme from "Thriller"" - 1:33
  2. "The Hungry Glass" - 4:14
  3. "Voodoo Man" - 2:55
  4. "The Guilty Men" - 3:06
  5. "Girl With a Secret" - 2:24
  6. "The Purple Room" - 2:40
  7. "Twisted Image" - 1:47
  8. "Rose's Last Summer" - 2:42
  9. "Worse Than Murder" - 2:04
  10. "Child's Play" - 2:13
  11. "Finger of Fear" - 3:31
  12. "The Man in the Middle" - 2:55


Musical score and second soundtrack[edit]

After a creative change during the first season, Rugolo was one of the crew to be removed (although his theme music was retained). Goldsmith and Stevens replaced him, scoring the rest of the run between them.

In 2017, the British label Tadlow Music released an album featuring several of Goldsmith's scores, re-recorded by City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Nic Raine.

  1. The Grim Reaper – Prologue (1:49)
  2. The Grim Reaper – Suite (7:22)
  3. The Grim Reaper – End Titles (1:20)
  4. Hay-Fork And Bill-Hook – Prologue (2:30)
  5. Hay-Fork And Bill-Hook – Suite (6:15)
  6. Hay-Fork And Bill-Hook – Finale (1:27)
  7. Well Of Doom – Prologue (1:37)
  8. Well Of Doom – Suite (8:42)
  9. Well Of Doom – Reunited (0:55)
  10. Mr. George – Prologue (1:29)
  11. Mr. George – Suite (7:06)
  12. Mr. George – The Swing (0:53)
  13. The Poisoner – Prologue (1:06)
  14. The Poisoner – Suite (8:22)
  15. The Poisoner – End Titles (0:57)
  16. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper – Prologue (2:38)
  17. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper – Suite (6:51)
  18. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper – “Not John, Jack” (0:26)
  19. End Titles - Suite (8:24)

Award nominations[edit]

Year Result Award Category Recipient Episode
1961  Nominated  Emmy Award Outstanding Achievement in the
Field of Music for Television
Pete Rugolo
Jerry Goldsmith
1962 American Cinema Editors Best Edited Television Program Danny B. Landres "Third for Pinochle"
Hugo Award Best Dramatic Presentation


Gold Key Comics published a comic book version of Thriller, changing the title to Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery after the TV series ended; the comic book series lasted until the very end of 1979, long after the death of Karloff himself. Dark Horse Comics published an archive reprint of the series beginning in 2009.[6]

McFarland & Company published Alan Warren's This Is a Thriller! - An Episode Guide in 1996, an exhaustive account of the history of the show. Here it was revealed that it was Alfred Hitchcock more than anyone else who was responsible for the demise of the series, after he came aboard on NBC with The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an expanded one-hour version of his previous half-hour series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hitchcock apparently didn't want two similar one-hour shows on at the same time.[7]


  1. ^ Boris Karloff Rejoice! Image Entertainment is Finally Bringing Us Home Thriller! from
  2. ^ "Image Entertainment". Image Entertainment. 2010-08-31. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  3. ^ King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. Berkley Books, New York,1982. Page 216.
  4. ^ "Boris Karloff back in Thriller: Complete Series". The Hollywood Reporter. via Reuters. September 1, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  5. ^ Discography of the Time Label accessed October 6, 2016
  6. ^
  7. ^ Warren, Alan (1996). This Is A Thriller! - An Episode Guide. McFarland & Company, Inc. 

External links[edit]