Thriller-Series 1 and 2 (1973)

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Released 31-Jan-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Main Menu Introduction
Bonus Episode-Who Killed Lamb?
Additional Footage-Alternate US titles (Opening & Closing Credits)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 1306:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Shaun O'Riordan
John Sichel
John Scholz-Conway
Robert Tronson
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Robert Powell
Donna Mills
John Le Mesurier
Jenny Agutter
Hayley Mills
Barbara Feldon
Diane Cilento
Patrick O'Neal
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $59.95 Music Laurie Johnson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    As a young teenager, one of the highlights of my TV viewing week was watching an instalment of the 1970's British program, Thriller. Each episode delivered a solid dose of macabre suspense, which I found compelling back in those days. So it was with great interest that I returned to the program after all these years to see if these tales still held their fascination.

    Thriller was created and written (story or script) by the prolific TV screenwriter, Brian Clemens. Brian is probably best known for bringing The Avengers to the small screen in the sixties. But he has also contributed to scores of other popular programs over the years, either through writing or producing.

    Thriller was produced for ATV and ran for six seasons (forty-three episodes), with the first instalment screening in the UK in April 1973. Fashioned on Hitchcock, each tale features trademark story twists with the obligatory red herrings, which are thrown into the narrative. Naturally some episodes are more successful than others, but in general terms, the entire anthology is quite consistent.

    Each episode of Thriller has a running time of around sixty-five minutes, which equated to a ninety-minute timeslot on commercial television. Over the three years of its production, Thriller showcased the talents of many well-known British and American actors, these included, Helen Mirren, Denholm Elliot, Donna Mills, John Le Mesurier, Jenny Agutter, Robert Powell and Ian Bannen to name just a few.

    Sure, the production values are lacking by today's high standards and some of the scenarios, acting and dialogue are a little corny at times, but for the most part Thriller is still a really enjoyable series. Suspend your logic, sit back and enjoy Brian Clemens' macabre tales in this nice six-disc set of series one and two.

    A brief, spoiler free introduction to each episode follows.

Series One - Disc One:

    Episode One - Lady Killer

    A young and handsome English gentleman wins the heart of an American woman. While she falls head over heels in love with him, the audience is distinctly aware that there is something more sinister about his motives. After a whirlwind romance the couple marry and his deadly intensions are slowly revealed. Starring Robert Powell and Barbara Feldon.

    Episode Two - Possession

    A middle-aged couple purchases a country mansion, only to discover the place has a dark and sinister history. When the maintenance man discovers the body of a murder victim buried in the cellar, a medium is brought in to help. She informs the couple that the spirit of the killer has returned to the house to complete unfinished business.Starring John Carson and Joanna Dunham.

    Episode Three - Someone At The Top Of The Stairs

    Two female students take up lodgings in an eerie looking boarding house. This house has a variety of tenants, none of whom appear to be completely normal. Why are these strange tenants so protective of the attic under the stairs and who is this unseen person who lives in the room at the top of the stairs? Starring Donna Mills and Judy Carne.

Series One - Disc Two:

    Episode Four - An Echo Of Theresa

     A mature aged couple arrives in London for their second honeymoon. Although this is his first trip to Europe, he begins to recall particular locations and people, including a woman named Theresa. Certain things trigger off bizarre behavioral changes in the man as he gradually takes on the identity of another person. Starring Paul Burke, Dinsdale Landen and Polly Bergen.

    Episode Five - The Colour Of Blood

    The notorious "Carnation" serial killer has escaped from police custody. A case of mistaken identity has given him the perfect escape route. He sits on a country train in the company of an unsuspecting beautiful woman, carrying forty thousand pound in cash and bound for an uninhabited country mansion. Starring Norman Eshley and Katharine Schofield.

    Episode Six - Murder In Mind

    A confused woman walks into a police station reporting that she has committed a murder. They soon discover that she is actually the wife of a famous novelist and that she has just described to them the plot of her husband's new book. It's quickly accepted that this woman has some psychological issues - or does she? Starring Richard Johnson and Zena Walker.

Series One - Disc Three:

    Episode Seven - A Place To Die

    A doctor and his wife move to a small country village. Upon their arrival, the people of the village begin to treat her as some kind of superior being. Worrying symbols of witchcraft start to appear in, or around the house and the doctor's wife is determined to find the truth behind the bizarre behaviour of the townsfolk. Starring Bryan Marshall and Alexandra Hay.

    Episode Eight - File It Under Fear

    A community is shocked by a spate of vicious murders, all involving young women. The local library soon becomes the focus when one their own disappears, probably another victim of the killer. As the list of possible suspects grows, the police seem to be at a loss to stop the carnage. Starring Maureen Lipman and John Le Mesurier.

    Episode Nine - The Eyes Have It

    Three would be assassins select the Clinical Training Centre For The Blind's building as a perfect vantage point to attempt the assassination of a world-renowned peace activist. They covertly set up a rocket launcher in an upstairs room and wait for the passing parade. A small group of blind students are the only hope of preventing the impending catastrophe. Starring Dennis Waterman, Sinead Cusack and Peter Vaughan.

Series One - Disc Four:

    Episode Ten - Spell Of Evil

    The wife of a wealthy businessman dies suddenly in mysterious circumstances. A year later the man meets a very seductive woman and proposes to her the same day. It becomes apparent that this woman has great control over people's lives and can easily manipulate any situation. However, the businessman's secretary is convinced she has seen her face somewhere before. Starring Edward De Souza and Diane Cilento.

Series Two - Disc Four:

    Episode One - Only A Scream Away

    A young couple marries and purchases a stately country property. A mysterious American gentleman buys a property close by and begins visiting his neighbours on a regular basis. He seems to have extensive knowledge about the young woman's life and many of her possessions. Sudden and suspicious tragedies mask this man's hidden agenda. Starring Hayley Mills and Gary Collins.

    Episode Two - Once The Killing Starts

    A university professor murders his wife in a clever plot to be with his mistress - a young student. However, after the murder he is dogged by anonymous letters that simply arrive with no hint of the sender. They are from someone who knows exactly what the professor has done. This sets him on a mission to find the culprit and silence them once and for all. Starring Patrick O'Neal and Angharad Rees.

Series Two - Disc Five:

    Episode Three - Kiss Me And Die

    A young American man arrives in a small English village to locate his missing brother. He finds that the small community is very protective of the people who live in the nearby stately mansion. When he finally meets the father and daughter living there, he senses that the key to the mystery of his brother's disappearance is close at hand. Starring Jenny Agutter and Anton Diffring.

    Episode Four - One Deadly Owner

    An aspiring fashion model buys a used Rolls Royce from a dealer who assures her the car has had only one careful owner.She soon realises this car has a mind of it's own and takes her to strange places of no consequence - or so it seems.When she finds an expensive diamond earring in the boot of the car, she tracks down the previous owner to find answers. Starring Donna Mills and Jeremy Brett.

    Episode Five - Ring Once For Death

    After acquiring an inheritance through an act of lethal deception, an evil butler "completes" his dealings with one wealthy widow before simply moving on to his next unsuspecting victim. With seemingly impeccable references the next widow promptly hires the butler. He thanks her for her trust before casually stating, "Madam I assure you, you won't live to regret it". Starring Michael Jayston and Nyree Dawn Porter.

Series Two - Disc Six:

    Episode Six - K is For Killing

    This is one of my least favorite Thriller episodes. It's also a departure from the usual brooding style. Here, Clemens has tried to inject some intentional comedy into the episode, but unfortunately the idea has failed dismally. Someone is trying to kill a wealthy businessman. A bumbling husband and wife team of private detectives is brought in to track down the would-be murderer. Starring Stephen Rea and Gayle Hunnicutt.

    Episode Seven - Sign It Death

    A deranged, yet beautiful young woman sets her sights on marrying a mature and succesful businessman. She begins an evil plan to become his personal secretary and manipulate his life in order to achieve her goal. When the businessman's original secretary goes missing, the police stumble upon a common thread with an un-solved murder. Starring Francesca Annis and Patrick Allen.

    Bonus Episode - Who Killed Lamb?  (See notes in Extras column)

    A Chief Super Intendant from Scotland Yard arrives in Oxford to assist in the investigation of a murder. The victim is businessman, Octavius Lamb. As the police soon discover, although he seemed to be a very popular person, the list of suspects in this case is quite large. Starring Stanley Baker and Denis Lill.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The series is presented fullscreen in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. This is very close to the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    As is the case with most television productions of this vintage, Thriller was filmed entirely on video stock. As such, the production values are somewhat limited, but thankfully, not really problematic. Overall the series tends to be on the soft side. Blacks were clean, but shadows were often undefined and murky.

    Naturally with 1970's video stock, colours are certainly drab by today's standards. However, the production design of many of the episodes also contributes to this, with sombre colours used to create the required atmosphere.

    Some film-to-video artefacts were present, but they were surprisingly minor in nature. I won't be pedantic, but some very minor colour bleeding was noticed occasionally, as were comet trails and posterization in the odd instance. Although I expected major artefacts, in the end I was really quite happy with the overall quality of the image - it exceeded my expectations. Considering the limitations of the source material, there was nothing of major annoyance in the transfer. A few years ago the British Film Institute remastered all the original two-inch videotapes of Thriller onto digital stock. I think fans of the series can buy with some confidence that they are receiving the best possible result.

    Apart from some small and infrequent scratches in the video stock, there was little in the way of film artefacts.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles.

    Each DVD is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change on disc one occurs during a scene at 27:32 in episode two. The layer change on disc two occurs during a scene at 35:10 in episode five. The layer change on disc's three, four, five and six occurs between episodes and wasn't noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is faithful to the original mono recording.

    There is only one audio track available on each of the DVD's, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) mono.

    Dialogue quality was excellent throughout and in general, audio sync appeared to be accurate.

     One of the highlights of the series is Laurie Johnson's ominous music, which is always spot on in heightening the tension without pretensions. His superb theme music is also unmistakable and combined with the random convex images from each episode, provides a haunting introduction to each tale.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The extras are incorporated into the content rather than under a separate menu.

Menu

The menus on each disc are rather basic. After a very brief piece of animation, they remain static and silent.

Alternate US Titles

After each episode you can view the alternate US titles (opening and closing credits). They can be individually selected for view from the scene selection menu of each episode or they will play automatically at the end of the episode. I don't understand why the US market felt the need to make these ridiculous additions to the opening sequences. They are all mundane and nowhere near as menacing, or to the point as the original British titles. Still, they are there to view if you're interested.

Bonus Episode - Who Killed Lamb?

Another addition is a bonus episode (final episode on disc six), which is titled Who Killed Lamb? This episode has no connection with the Thriller series, but was originally screened in the UK directly after the screening of series two. Although the running time and overall concept are similar, the differences are quite obvious. Because Who Killed Lamb? was originally promoted on TV as a Thriller episode, it is a welcome addition to this collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is one R1 and two R2 editions of Thriller available. The R1edition is a four disc set of the first series only. This set was released by A&E Home Video in September 2006 and has the bonus of a couple of nice extras. The fourth disc contains interviews with Brian Clemens, Shaun O'Riordan and John Cooper and each episode has a brief introduction by Brian Clemens.

    The first of the R2 editions is also a four-disc set of series one only. This set was released by Carlton in September 2004 and has no extras. The other R2 edition is a fifteen-disc set of the complete collection of Thriller episodes (all six series). This collection was released in June 2005 and features extras including trailers, the bonus episode Who Killed Lamb?, extended version of Nurse Will Make It Better, US credits, stills gallery and original set designs.

    The R2 complete collection seems the obvious winner.

Summary

     I've often thought of Thriller over the years and wondered if we would ever see it on DVD in this country. Thankfully, Umbrella have answered the call and presented the first two series of the program in this nice six-disc set. Hopefully, the remaining four seasons will follow in due course.

    Considering the limitations of the source material, the video and audio transfers are reasonably good.

    The extras are incorporated into the content rather than under a separate menu and are relevant inclusions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, March 03, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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