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Sunday Viewing:: Thriller’s Parasite Mansion (1961)

July 20th, 2014 by unkle lancifer · 13 Comments

I can’t believe I’ve never seen a single episode of the BORIS KARLOFF-hosted anthology series THRILLER before. I have several excuses as to why not but they make me sound stupid, so I’d rather not share them. Thankfully the fates stepped in and forced the issue. I was watching something on YouTube the other day when an episode of THRILLER popped up as a suggested next watch on the side. All I saw was a title card which read “Parasite Mansion” and I was sold. I can’t resist a title like that, it sounds like the name of my new favorite band. Well, I must have watched the best episode first because I find it hard to believe there’s another one better than “Parasite Mansion.” It’s all downhill from here. It’s like a swampy pitstop between THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) and THE HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (1932) and it features SPIDER BABY‘s (1967) BEVERLY WASHBURN as a tortured waif plagued by a poltergeist who is holed up in a decrepit room clinging to a rag doll and scribbling gibberish on the walls. The word “jackpot” comes to mind.

Like all great stories, this one begins with car trouble, the kind of trouble that occurs when someone blows out your tires with a shotgun while you’re driving through the woods on a dark, rainy night. PIPA SCOTT plays Marcia, a thoughtful woman with (Ginny Field-style) psychology on her side who wakes up in a cob web strewn, Southern gothic mansion and is kept against her will by a family of lunatics all bent on keeping a supernatural secret. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to ruin anything but I must add that JEANETTE NOLAN as bonkers ringleader Granny Harrod is through the roof, over the moon, one for the books, phenomenal. I found her so mesmerizingly hideous that my pupils turned to hearts. I love a good hag and Granny Harrod is like the haggiest hag who ever hagged. It’s so sad she can’t be in every episode of THRILLER.

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Captain BlakeNo Gravatar // Jul 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Oh boy, you’ve got yourself an awesome new obsession here. As great as ‘Parasite Mansion’ is, it’s not even the best THRILLER has to offer: ‘Pigeons From Hell’, ‘The Hungry Glass’, ‘The Watcher’, ‘Well of Doom’, ‘The Cheaters’, ‘La Strega’, ‘A Wig For Miss Devore’, ‘The Hollow Watcher’, ‘The Incredible Doktor Markesan’, ‘Trio For Terror’, ‘The Return of Andrew Bentley’, ‘The Weird Tailor’…so many classics. These stand up to the best of 60’s horror films, some of the creepiest, most atmospheric tales ever filmed. THRILLER fits snugly alongside the BBC GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS as the finest TV horror series in the medium’s history.

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Ah, thanks Captain Blake! This show is a perfect late night view while I’m shackled to the air conditioner! I’m going to use the titles you mentioned as a starting point. I did watch “Pigeons From Hell” last night and found it creepy as hell and “The Purple Room” which was pretty cool for taking place in the PSYCHO house (!!!) and featuring a young Rip Torn. The weird mask kind of took me out of that one a bit though, I have to admit. In any case I think THRILLER just made my summer a lot more bearable. Thanks again for the tips and it sounds like I need to check out BBC GHOST STORIES FOR X-MAS too.

  • 3 Brother BillNo Gravatar // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I’ll lend my vote of support for Hungry Glass, Incredible Dr. Markesan and Pigeons From Hell as must-see episodes, but also don’t miss Uncle George… about a little girl’s invisible friend from beyond the grave. Creepy!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks Brother Bill! It’s official, tonight is going to involve “The Hungry Glass”. I gotta say it’s going to be hard for an episode to beat “Parasite Mansion” in my eyes. It’s kind of the perfect combination of all of my favorite things. I’m going to keep pressing forward though and am looking forward to more. It’s such a beautifully shot, atmospheric show and I’ve been all about the B&W lately. Thanks for the tip on “Uncle George”, that sounds particularly kindertraumatic.

  • 5 Dr. FutureNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

    I CAN NOT BELIEVE you have not been a Thriller fan forever! It has those wonderfully-crisp black and white pictures from the high watermark of intellectual films and television from the era 1957-63! The show used be on our little black and white portable TV, and show as reruns on our UHF channel in the mid-70s, , which I watched alone since all my older family members had more fun things to do. So many of the those episodes never left my head. They are masterfully written and musically scored.

    For my money, THE INCREDIBLE DOKOR MARKESAN was the scariest thing ever shown on TV, in my book (Salem’s Lot gets high marks, too).

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Dr. Future,

    I CAN NOT believe it either! I am so ashamed. Boris Karloff’s name alone wasn’t enough for me? I think I was under the impression that it was a cut-rate Twilight Zone and it’s so not. Somebody must have stuck that in my head, somebody evil who wanted to keep me far away from happiness. Probably me.

    BUT I am a firm believer in the idea that the universe sometimes sends you things when you need them and can appreciate them the most. It is very possible that a couple decades ago I would not have been able to see how great this show is due to my being a moron.

    No, that’s not fair, I would have loved it for sure but then I wouldn’t have the enjoyment of experiencing it for the first time NOW when I need it more. Young me had plenty of cool stuff to watch. Old me needs some good stuff too.

    SO….HUNGRY GLASS.

    I gotta say, “Hungry Glass” is easily on par with and maybe even superior to “Parasite Mansion”. I thought it was incredible. It’s really one of the best ghost stories out there. They should have added an 20 minute and released it in theaters. It would be up there with the greats. It’s stunning to look at (that window overlooking the ocean!), beautifully creepy (that kid in the photo, the shadowy figures!) and I love the characters and the zingy dialogue. It was just a joy to watch.

    Holy crap, I love the scene with the townspeople and the wind outside. I was there. And again just the ghost story itself when told is truly haunting. I’m going to force john to watch it just so that I can see it again.

    It’s not on Youtube though, I found it here….

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19ys7s_the-hungry-glass-1961_shortfilms

  • 7 Dr. FutureNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Unk,

    Please don’t flagellate yourself (unless you really enjoy it) for not being aware of this masterpiece – my whole KINDERTRAUMA website experience is about becoming introduced to things I should have known about years ago. In other words, in the immortal words of Lulu, “you have taken me from crayons to perfume”…

    There are so many great episodes of Thriller, that I recommend you bite the bullet and buy the whole series (as I did) at Amazon, so you can see them in their glorious (and well-deserved) full resolution on the big screen. But – if you must see only one Thriller in your life, take my advice:

    DOKTOR MARKESAN OR BUST

    Now, if they will only make a movie about the greatest man who ever lived:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_Dante

  • 8 Brother BillNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    One last recommended episode that I haven’t seen mentioned yet: Masquerade!

    This episode has creepy atmosphere to spare as husband and wife team played by Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery spend the night at a horrible old bed and breakfast that seems to be run by a weird family of possibly murderous hillbillies. But all the while the couple are making hilarious banter back and forth indicating they find the whole situation strangely non-threatening… and you find out why in a fun twist ending. I believe this was one of Thriller’s “Halloween” episodes.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Dr. Future, Big thanks! The greatest thing to hear is that somebody was introduced to something on these pages that they otherwise may not have been. That’s what it’s all about in my opinion. Now that I think about it, I really didn’t have much in way of access to this show. I don’t remember seeing it in syndication at all, whereas Night Gallery and TZ were unavoidable. I do think the TLA video I worked at had a few VHS tapes but I guess I was in full splatter mode at the time.

    I will make sure I see I see the DR. MARKESAN episode. Sadly that one is not on Youtube and the picture quality of the version I found is not so hot but I can make do. I believe THRILLER was on Netflix so maybe it will come back. Eventually I will get that box set though, I do need to see these on my big TV eventually in all of their glory.

    Brother Bill,

    The mention of Montgomery and Poston together fast tracks “Masquerade” to the front of the list. That sounds awesome and since Dick York is in the “The Incredible Doktor Markesan”, I think I have the perfect double feature of episodes. Thanks a lot for your help. You guys rule.

  • 10 Dr. FutureNo Gravatar // Jul 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Unk,

    “Markeson” is available at Netflix – on the Season 2, Disc 5.

    End of pitch on Markesan – you won’t be sorry (8.2 on IMDB, one of Karloff’s best performances EVER, max creepy factor)

  • 11 TaylorNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2014 at 7:35 am

    I watched Parasite Mansion last night…LOVED IT. Thanks to Unk and all of these comments for recommending this show! I’m going to have to dig way in to this…Unk, I was with you on thinking that Thriller was probably just a low-rent Twilight Zone. It had been available on Netflix Streaming (or some other place where I have an account) recently because I’d seen the cover, but I totally wrote it off and ignored it because I’d never heard of it before. I’m sorry, Thriller. I’m so sorry.

    As for the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, I’ve seen a fair number and I recommend those also…My favorite is “A Warning to the Curious”.

  • 12 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Yay Tatlor! I’m glad I’m not alone in this boat! I feel like I’ve been under a spell all these years!

    I think you are right that it was on Netflix Streaming for some time and I passed right by it too.

    Can’t wait for you to see “The Hungry Glass”!

  • 13 whitsbrainNo Gravatar // Aug 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Newbie here…I just had to post about “Thriller”. I bought the DVD set a couple of years ago. I’ve only watched about 20 of the 69 total episodes. BUT, it’s not because I hate the show, it’s because of the 20 I’ve seen, there hasn’t been one I haven’t liked. I’m scared to continue for fear of disappointment.

    It isn’t just luck that has allowed me only to see 20 straight winners. There is a blog called http://athrilleraday.blogspot.com that has fueled my success. They’ve reviewed every episode and a couple of the guys on the aforementioned blog are even featured in some of the commentaries on the Thriller DVDs.

    Comments here wisely call out “The Incredible Dr. Markesan” as a great episode. But to me, it is equaled by “The Grim Reaper””, “The Cheaters”, and “A Good Imagination”. But honestly, you cannot go wrong with “Well Of Doom”, “Mr. George”, “The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk”, “A Wig For Miss DeVore”, and “The Hollow Watcher”. They are all just a notch below my personal great episodes. By the way, “Pigeons From Hell” is also a winner, but it’s certainly not deserving of higher praise than the ones I’ve mentioned here.

    Geez! I need to dust off the ol’ Thriller DVDs and get going on the rest of the series.

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