Granada Ventures have recently released, onto DVD, the first series of one of the more notable mystery/horror/suspense television shows: Brian Clemens’ classic 70’s anthology, THRILLER. With a typical retail price of £20 (available online for around £15) for over 660 minutes worth of viewing, this set must rank as the absolute bargain of the year.
If you don’t remember, or have never heard of THRILLER then you are not in a minority. Despite being a highly successful Saturday night ratings grabber for ITV in the mid 70’s, the loss of the ATV franchise in 1981 and the continued acquisition and re-sale of their archive has conspired to keep it in limbo ever since its original broadcast. Apart from a brief, incomplete, repeat on satellite in the mid-90s and some anonymous, late night re-edited "movie" airings in the 80’s, it has remained largely unseen by modern audiences, gradually fading from the public consciousness.
Fortunately, this set is the first step in rectifying this injustice, with ten 66-minute episodes presented in beautiful restored quality from their newly-located original master tapes.
Unlike most other anthology series, THRILLER covers several different genres ranging from full-blown supernatural tales in the mould of Amicus and Hammer to claustrophobic psychological dramas and tense encounters with a seemingly unending variety of sociopaths and psychopaths. In between are sandwiched stories of amateur sleuths, charlatans and stalkers, with red herrings a-plenty and a bevy of beautiful ladies and famous faces.
Although billed on the box as a horror series, the episodes concentrate more on attempting to unsettle and frighten the viewer through psychological manipulation than actual gore. The musical scores (by Laurie Johnson, Clemens’ partner from THE AVENGERS TV series) are atonal and incredibly effective in creating an air of foreboding and menace. The editing and camera work (although mostly shot on videotape) is in the style of Hitchcock, with the cameras constantly creeping about the sets or peeking at the action from surreptitious locations. Clemens himself, as well as writing the scripts, had a hand in editing and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the episodes’ final impact.
The icing on the cake is the fabulous title sequences, which comprise location stills from the episode distorted as though seen through a peephole and framed in a blood-red circle. These are accompanied by Laurie Johnson’s bizarre harpsichord and woodwind signature theme, and for many who were young at the time this alone will revive memories of Saturday nights spent watching the show from between clenched fingers.
Of course there have been a few dissenting voices, with one ITV critic calling it "dated", but the general response so far has been extremely good, with TV ZONE magazine rating it 9/10 and many new viewers expressing surprise that such an entertaining series could have been kept secret for so long.
If you feel "PSYCHO or "WAIT UNTIL DARK are dated then this may not be your cup of tea, but if you love Hitchcock, Hammer and sheer imaginative story-telling then you will love this series. And the best is still to come!
The Black Nun
Series Created and Written by Brian Clemens
English Language / UK/ 1973-1976 / 10 x 66 minute (approx) episodes / Colour
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Granada Ventures Release
Region 2 Pal / fullscreen / Dolby Digital mono
For more details on this series visit http://thriller.shorturl.com
THRILLER SERIES 1