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HTF DVD REVIEW: THRILLER Complete Series DVD Set


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#1 of 16 ONLINE   Timothy E

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Posted August 31 2010 - 10:32 AM

Thriller: The Complete Series

THRILLER Complete Series Deluxe Box Set

 

Studio: Image Entertainment

Year: 1960-1962

Rated: Unrated

Film Length: 56 hours

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono

 

Release Date: August 31, 2010

 

The Series

 

Thriller is a seldom seen but fondly remembered anthology TV series of the early 1960s hosted by Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas). Thriller has been rarely seen in reruns since it went off the air in 1962 but it has a strong and passionate fan base which includes Steven King, who once wrote that Thriller was "the best horror series ever put on TV." (Danse Macabre, Everett House, 1981.) Thriller premiered on NBC-TV on September 13, 1960, and aired its last first-run episode on April 30, 1962.

 

It is little wonder that Thriller is so well remembered, so many years after it went off the air, given the high quality of talent involved in this series. Boris Karloff is one of the most famous horror film actors of all time. In addition to hosting every episode, Karloff also played roles in a couple of episodes in each season. The actors involved in this suspense anthology included Leslie Nielsen, Richard Chamberlain, Mary Tyler Moore, William Shatner, Rip Torn, Robert Vaughn, Richard Kiel, Richard Anderson, Tom Poston, Marlo Thomas, Natalie Schaefer, Cloris Leachman, Russell Johnson, Edward Platt, Elizabeth Montgomery, Ursula Andress, Donna Douglas, and many others. Directors included Arthur Hiller, Ida Lupino, Douglas Heyes, Paul Henreid, and John Newland. Series writers and source material included Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Cornell Woolrich, Philip MacDonald, Robert E. Howard, and even Edgar Allan Poe. Original music was composed for the series by Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, and Pete Rugolo. Thriller even inspired a comic book series that continued publication for 18 years after the series was canceled. The comic book series Thriller was retitled Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery after the series went off the air and ran for over 90 issues.

The other prominent anthology series of that era included Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Alfred Hitchcock Presents dealt primarily with crime noir, whereas The Twilight Zone leaned more towards fantasy and science fiction; in comparison, Thriller episodes encompassed both genres. The early episodes of Thriller presented a number of suspense stories that would have been right at home on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which was also still airing on NBC TV at the time. The best episodes of Thriller are arguably those episodes that leaned more towards fantasy and the supernatural, and I am sure those are the episodes that are so memorable to Steven King.

 

This reviewer has always enjoyed the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents but had never had the opportunity to see this series until Image Entertainment remastered and released all 67 original episodes on DVD. I can see now why this series is remembered so well, even though it has rarely been aired anywhere since the early 1960s. Anyone who enjoys the suspense and horror of other anthology series of that era will almost certainly enjoy Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff.

 

Video

 

The series is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Image Entertainment has done a terrific job of restoring these episodes. It seems natural to compare the transfers here to those in Image Entertainment’s other major TV collection from that era, the Twilight Zone Definitive Edition DVD collections. Unfortunately, any other TV series from that era will come up short against the Twilight Zone DVD sets, no matter how much restoration is performed. It may be more fair to compare the video quality here to other TV shows of that era, not merely The Twilight Zone, which has set the bar artificially high. I surmise that the masters for Thriller have never been maintained over the years to the same standard as The Twilight Zone. Other than The Twilight Zone, Thriller does look better than almost any other TV series from that era transferred to DVD. Clarity of image is fine throughout. Some minor dirt and debris is minimally present. Stock footage predictably has the worst presentation. Fortunately, there is little stock footage used in these episodes. I was concerned about compression artifacts creeping in since there are up to 5 hour-long episodes on each disc. I observed some minimal mosquito noise but that is all. It is safe to say that these episodes have never looked better than they do in this set.

 

The episodes appear to be complete and uncut in their original network format. The average runtime per episode is in the 50 minute range, which is consistent with an hour-length show from that era without commercials. Syndicated episodes have footage trimmed down to a running length closer to 46 minutes. I was not fortunate enough to see these episodes in their original network run but nothing has been cut as far as I can determine. The closing credits of each episode even include the "Revue Studios" logo and the NBC network logo from the early 1960s; little bits like this are usually the first to be cut in syndication prints.

 

Audio

 

The English Dolby Digital mono tracks are excellent, given the vintage of this series. Some television series from that era suffer from audible hiss and popping when transferred to DVD; not so with Thriller. The sound mix is appropriate with dialogue always properly audible over music and sound effects. The music by Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, and Pete Rugolo has probably never sounded so good. Isolated music scores for selected episodes are included in the special features described below.

 

Special Features

 

Image has outdone itself with its wealth of special features included in this complete series set. Almost every episode has a special feature included, whether it be a commentary, isolated music score, episode promo, or all of the above. Listed below are all 67 episodes with the special feature(s) in parentheses:

 

The Twisted Image(Audio Commentary by Arthur Hiller and Steve Mitchell, Episode Promo)

Child’s Play(Episode Promo)

Worse Than Murder(Episode Promo)

The Mark of the Hand(Episode Promo)

Rose’s Last Summer

The Guilty Men(Episode Promo)

The Purple Room(Audio Commentary by Richard Anderson and Steve Mitchell)

The Watcher(Episode Promo)

Girl With A Secret(Episode Promo)

The Prediction(Audio Commentary by Arthur Hiller and Steve Mitchell, Episode Promo)

The Fatal Impulse (Episode Promo)

The Big Blackout

Knock Three-Two-One

Man in the Middle(Episode Promo)

The Cheaters(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Hungry Glass(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani and Marc Scott Zicree)

The Poisoner(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Man in the Cage(Episode Promo)

Choose A Victim(Episode Promo)

Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Merriweather File(Episode Promo)

The Fingers of Fear(Episode Promo)

Well of Doom(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith, Episode Promo)

The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell(Episode Promo)

Trio for Terror(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani and David Schow, Episode Promo)

Papa Benjamin(Audio Commentary by Steve Mitchell and Ted Post)

Late Date(Audio Commentary by Larry Blamire and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper(Audio Commentary by Alan Brennert and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Devil’s Ticket(Episode Promo)

Parasite Mansion(Audio Commentary by Steve Mitchell and Beverly Washburn, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

A Good Imagination(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Mr. George (Audio Commentary by Lucy Chase Williams and Gary Gerani, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Terror In Teakwood(Audio Commentary by Jon Burlingame and Steve Mitchell, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Prisoner in the Mirror(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Dark Legacy (Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Pigeons From Hell(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani)

The Grim Reaper(Audio Commentary by Ernest Dickerson, Gary Gerani, Tim Lucas, and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith, Episode Promo)

What Beckoning Ghost?(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Guillotine(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Premature Burial(Audio Commentary by Ernest Dickerson, Tim Lucas, and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Weird Tailor(Audio Commentary by Daniel Benton and Gary Gerani, Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

God Grante That She Lye Stille(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Masquerade(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

The Last of the Somervilles(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Letter to a Lover(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

A Third for Pinochle(Audio Commentary by Ron Borst and Jim Wynorski, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Closed Cabinet(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Dialogues With Death(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Return of Andrew Bentley(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Portrait Without A Face(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

An Attractive Family(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Waxworks(Audio Commentary by Ron Borst and Gary Gerani, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

La Strega(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani, Steve Mitchell, and Craig Reardon, Audio Commentary by Jon Burlingame and Steve Mitchell, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Storm(Audio Commentary by Larry Blamire and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

A Wig For Miss Devore(Audio Commentary by Patricia Barry and Steve Mitchell, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Hollow Watcher(Audio Commentary by Larry Blamire, Gary Gerani, and David Schow)

Cousin Tundifer(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Incredible Doktor Markesan(Audio Commentary by Gary Gerani and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Flowers of Evil(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

‘Til Death Do Us Part

The Bride Who Died(Isolated Music Score by Jerry Goldsmith)

Kill My Love(Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

Man of Mystery(Audio Commentary by Larry Blamire and David Schow, Isolated Music Score by Morton Stevens)

The Innocent Bystanders

The Lethal Ladies

The Specialists

 

Also included in special features is a Thriller Series Promotion with Boris Karloff (6:45), a promotional film with footage from the series sent to sponsors at the time. There is also a Photo Gallery with promotional stills from the series.

 

Conclusion

 

Thriller is an entertaining and well-produced anthology series from the early 1960s. Thriller is not qualitatively better than The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in my opinion, but that being said, if you enjoy those series, then you will probably enjoy Thriller as well. The video and audio presentation are fine, even if they do not match the sublime quality of Image’s Twilight Zone DVD sets. There is an abundance of special features with audio commentaries, isolated music scores, and/or episode promos for almost every episode. If you enjoy anthology series hosted by Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling, you will probably also enjoy Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff.



#2 of 16 ONLINE   Timothy E

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Posted August 31 2010 - 10:34 AM

Boris Karloff's daughter Sara Karloff spoke recently to the Home Theater Forum about her father's career and his involvement in Thriller.  The interview may be found in its entirety here:  http://www.hometheat...th-sara-karloff .

#3 of 16 ONLINE   Timothy E

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Posted April 25 2012 - 07:39 AM

Amazon.com has a Gold Box special today only with the complete series for $52.49.

#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Shatner's Grim Reaper

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Posted June 01 2014 - 12:07 PM

Somebody please help me here. I know this has been discussed on one of the Karloff Thiller Threads...I remember reading that Ray Bradbury remembered a Reaper on the network premiere of "The Grim Reaper" but the writer concluded that with so much in Bradbury's endless universe (his mind) that this was probably just wishful thinking on his part.I just read in Filmfax issue no. 30 that there was indeed a Reaper that walked out of the portrait in the episode (validating Bradbury's claim) but that NBC affiliates objected to this scene...so any syndication/rerun prints had these few seconds of the episode removed. Does anyone else remember seeing the premiere and the Reaper walking out of the portrait??? Just curious.

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   ljgranberry

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Posted October 18 2014 - 02:12 PM

I thought I noticed in the episode "Guillotine" that the soundtrack was out of synch - anyone else notice this?



#6 of 16 ONLINE   Darby67

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Posted October 19 2014 - 08:01 AM

I thought I noticed in the episode "Guillotine" that the soundtrack was out of synch - anyone else notice this?

 

Larry:

 

It's a known issue with the set that was identified when it it was first released and, to my knowledge, Image has never fixed it.  It would have been nice if they offered a disc exchange/replacement.

 

Darby



#7 of 16 OFFLINE   HenryDuBrow

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Posted October 19 2014 - 10:50 AM

I like Karloff's lesser known and totally underrated The Veil just as much as this show, if not more sometimes.



#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted October 19 2014 - 02:35 PM

Thriller was way too inconsistent to be put in the same class category as The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Karloff was not as hands-on or adept at picking the stories as Hitchcock's staff. You get a few goodies, but mostly so-so stories with cut-rate actors and not the A-list character actors of the day. You can't help but realize the show was constrained by budget at ABC (a fledgling third place network at the time).

 

I watched these shows when they were originally aired and a few really stood out. But when revisiting this set more recently, they just don't stack up, writing, acting, directing, production wise to what we've come to expect from the A crowd. But I was glad to see them all again. But please... please... somebody release The Outer Limits on blu-ray before physical media goes the way of the floppy disk. And give us the final seasons of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on DVD even if its VOD.



#9 of 16 ONLINE   Darby67

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Posted October 19 2014 - 05:22 PM

I like Karloff's lesser known and totally underrated The Veil just as much as this show, if not more sometimes.

 

Henry:

 

I like that show.  I bought the Timeless Media Group release of the whole series and thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Sean



#10 of 16 OFFLINE   ljgranberry

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Posted October 19 2014 - 07:49 PM

Larry:

 

It's a known issue with the set that was identified when it it was first released and, to my knowledge, Image has never fixed it.  It would have been nice if they offered a disc exchange/replacement.

 

Darby

Darby, thanks for the info.  A shame about Image, but not surprising.  I was also disappointed with what they did with THE NAKED CITY.



#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted October 19 2014 - 08:13 PM

Thriller ... You can't help but realize the show was constrained by budget at ABC (a fledgling third place network at the time).

 

It might have been constrained by budget, but it was on NBC originally.



#12 of 16 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted October 20 2014 - 06:16 AM

It might have been constrained by budget, but it was on NBC originally.

 

Thanks for the correction. I didn't remember that, but it was pre-peacock opening which is forever embellished in my mind on the later color NBC shows. It was a 10 p.m. show, though, right? Because I couldn't always get permission to stay up and see it. Thur or Fri night.



#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted October 20 2014 - 07:48 PM

On the network, the first season (1960-61), it was on Tuesday at 9:00 EST/8:00 CST.  The second season was Monday at 10:00 EST/9:00 CST.  It's always possible in the smaller cities without an exclusive NBC affiliate, it could have been on any day at any time, so maybe it was Thursday or Friday where you were -- where were you?

 

As for that peacock, the NBC peacock opening for color shows, in one form or another, goes back to 1956.

 

I know a lot about television in the 1950s and 1960s, and nothing -- absolutely NOTHING -- about television today.  When it comes to television, I live in the past, as any sane person would.



#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted October 21 2014 - 12:20 PM

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On the network, the first season (1960-61), it was on Tuesday at 9:00 EST/8:00 CST.  The second season was Monday at 10:00 EST/9:00 CST.  It's always possible in the smaller cities without an exclusive NBC affiliate, it could have been on any day at any time, so maybe it was Thursday or Friday where you were -- where were you?

 

As for that peacock, the NBC peacock opening for color shows, in one form or another, goes back to 1956.

 

I know a lot about television in the 1950s and 1960s, and nothing -- absolutely NOTHING -- about television today.  When it comes to television, I live in the past, as any sane person would.

 

I was in the D.C. market area. Monday at 10 p.m. smells right because it was a school night and I didn't see most until summer reruns or later syndication. We didn't get a color television until 1965 and the first thing I saw on it was a Prell commercial before The Virginian.

 

As much as I love vintage television, the last few years have been some of the best ever for drama on television with the advent of the limited run series. Movies are mostly comic books now, but television is where real character writing has come to rule the roost. Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, Justified, True Detective, The Wire... I can't imagine a completely satisfying entertainment world where I missed those.



#15 of 16 OFFLINE   Jeff*H

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Posted October 21 2014 - 01:45 PM

I agree.  While the 60s and 70s brought us a cornucopia of memorable, evergreen shows that have stood the test of time, I always thought that the 80s and 90s were a little more barren in this regard, with a lot less memorable, timeless content hitting the airwaves compared to the previous 2 decades.  However, in the 00's and 10's, we've been blessed with exceptionally fresh, well-written shows including not just the outstanding shows mentioned in the post above (my favorite is BREAKING BAD), but also Arrested Development, Lost, Boardwalk Empire.  The list continues to grow.

 

As for THRILLER, I discovered this show in local 2am reruns back in 1983, and to this day (especially this time of year) I love randomly putting on a Thriller DVD late at night, turning off the lights, and disappearing for 50 minutes into that dark, twisted world of Boris Karloff.  I love this release as it always takes me back to those late nights in 1983 when I snuck up at night as a kid, huddled in front of the TV, scared out of my wits and loving it all at the same time.


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#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Peter M Fitzgerald

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Posted October 23 2014 - 08:24 AM

For Halloween, you could do a lot worse than popping in any one or two of these THRILLER classics:

 

"The Cheaters"

"The Purple Room" (THRILLER's Halloween episode for 1960, and the first horror episode, airing 10/25/60)

"The Hungry Glass"

"The Grim Reaper"

"The Incredible Doktor Markesan"

"Pigeons from Hell"

"The Weird Tailor"

"The Devil's Ticket"

"Masquerade" (THRILLER's Halloween episode for 1961, airing 10/30/61, with one of the best Karloff intros, ever)

"The Terror in Teakwood"

"The Return of Andrew Bentley"

"Trio for Terror"

"La Strega"

"Parasite Mansion"

"A Wig for Miss Devore"

"Waxworks"

"The Hollow Watcher"

 

Also, if you think about it... while in color, not from MCA/Universal and featuring an Italian cast & crew, Mario Bava's Karloff-hosted horror anthology, BLACK SABBATH (1963, which is still streaming on Netflix as I write this --the english-dubbed U.S. release version, with Karloff retaining his own voice), is sort of an unofficial "THRILLER: THE MOVIE", coming right on the heels of the series' 1962 cancellation, full of creepy Gothic atmosphere and with Karloff starring in the main segment, "The Wurdalak", just as he did in a handful of THRILLER episodes.


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