Thriller: Series 1 & 2
By: David Michael Brown on May 28, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 1306 minutes
The Movie
Writer: Brian Clemens
Country: UK
Year: 1973/1974
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The name of Brian Clemens became synonymous with innovative and stylish television throughout the Sixties and Seventies. The creator of such groundbreaking shows as The Avengers and The Professionals; the man was a one man crusader for exciting thrillers that often combined cop and detective thrillers with more esoteric subjects. The Avengers in particular fused sci-fi and action to the tried and trusted formula in episodes like The Cybernauts. The Professionals on the other hand was a tough talking, street fighting series that caused controversy wherever it was shown for its sexism, violence and bad language, especially in episodes like Klansman.

Thriller marked Clemens' return to horror after his brief excursion into the genre with his cinematic ventures in the early seventies And Soon the Darkness and Blind Terror starring Mia Farrow. The first series of Thriller was broadcast in 1973, the same year he worked with Hammer Films on Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Thriller could be seen as the forerunner to The Hammer House of Horror but in reality it veers too often into soap opera territory, with one too many a chuckle of cheesy humour, to be hailed as a true horror classic. In fact it possibly has more similarities with the much maligned early Eighties series Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. It does, however, have everything you could want from a British Seventies television program. Side burns, medallions, dark gloomy stately homes, grimy dirty film of the streets of London whenever anyone ventures outside and that production sheen that can only come from recording with video tape on cheap studio sets. It's actually quite extraordinary that the sets wobble as little as they do.

The series is also a who's who of British sitcom land as a huge array of soon to be British household names walk on for their moment of glory, often lining up to be butchered. The likes of Dennis Waterman, Donna Mills, Hayley Mills and Francesca Annis and Christopher Cazenove all gave their all. The show also become a training ground for young actors who would later make a mark in the horror genre; Jenny Agutter from An American Werewolf in London, Stephen Rea from The Company of Wolves, even Jan Francis who became a regular television favourite on sitcom Just Good Friends appears, just before she bared all in The Sweeney movie and was staked to death by Laurence Oliver in John Badam's Count Dracula. Storyline wise Clemens throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Murder, crime, witchcraft, ghosts, the supernatural, vengeful wives and murderous husbands and plenty of office intrigue. Considering the show ran for six series it's astonishing that this one man television factory manages to keep his ideas fresh and vibrant throughout. To go through the plots of every episode would take the pleasure away from the viewer but safe to say, time has only lost a few of the episodes their ability to delight and confound. Another constant is the fabulous music from Laurie Johnson, already a Clemens regular with his work on The Avengers and The Professionals, his creepy score is once again the perfect accompaniment to Clemens vision.

There are a few factors which highlight how much has changed over the years. A classic series from a long lost era of television this may be but the shows lazy pacing will have the MTV generation twitching on the couch. The average age of the cast is also well into their Forties, could you imagine any series being broadcast without a piece of teenage eye candy, male or female, strutting their stuff for the camera? Or maybe it's just that things weren't so glamorous in the Seventies, even if they thought they were at the time.
The quality, as you would expect, is a not exceptional but totally watchable. Once you have got used to the Seventies colour scheme and video tape stock. I'm sure the source material was not easy to work with but the prints are remarkably clear of dirt and damage, even if they are slightly washed out and lack sharpness.
The mono soundtrack is easy on ear but has nothing else to recommend it.
Extra Features
Each episode is accompanied by its alternative US opening and closing sequence. In the UK the show was broadcast as a series but in the States each was shown as a separate entity through Lou Grades ITC under the moniker of ABS Mystery Movie. The credits often absorbed the opening credit sequence and early plot points of the British edit, with hilarious badly framed new footage and original music from the ever-excellent Laurie Johnson.

The only other extra is a bonus episode that technically has nothing to do with the series, Who Killed Lamb starring Stanley Baxter. Produced by Yorkshire Television rather than Associated Television, the show was broadcast under the Thriller banner despite the fact it didn't even include the opening credits.
The Verdict
Thriller has plenty to recommend it to anyone willing to step back in time to a period when one off hour long dramas were the king of the cathode ray tube. Creepy, sinister and kitsch, Thriller may not receive the revered adoration of Clemens' more famous shows but with this suspenseful series, he managed to chill the bone of British television audiences.
Movie Score
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