"Thriller" has long been one of those elusive TV shows that you seem to remember somewhere in the back of your mind from your childhood but that somehow never resurfaced again despite all the fond memories everyone seems to have of it. Hosted by horror icon Boris Karloff, "Thriller" was filled with episodes that often surprised and chilled, and finally it is available - for the first time ever - on DVD as a 14-disc set from Image Entertainment.
Running for two seasons and featuring 67 episodes, this DVD set contains all of them, neatly packaged up for your enjoyment.It is interesting to see how the show changed over time also, starting out really as a series of episodes from the more traditional crime thriller genre, it began to incorporate more and more supernatural elements until in the end, "Thriller" was recognized as a real horror TV series.
With so many episodes to chose from, naturally, there is something for everyone, and it also means that different people will hone in on different episodes. For me personally, it was an exceedingly pleasant surprise to find an episode called "Pigeons From Hell." "Pigeons From Hell" is a short story by Robert E. Howard and for many years it has been one of my absolute favorites because it is one of the creepiest short stories I have ever read. I did not even know a film adaptation of the story existed and eagerly watched this episode, only to find that it was every bit as chilling and creepy as its written counterpart.
However, the series is filled with gems like that, including an favorites "The Grim Reaper" and "The Cheaters." The list of cool, atmospheric episodes is almost endless here, and one can easily throw in episodes like "The Purple Room" or "The Weird Tailor" to make the list of highlights.
Apart from Boris Karloff introducing every episodes, the series is filled with other luminaries - some of which were merely at the beginning of their careers at the time. Leslie Nielsen, William Shatner, Rip Torn, Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman and Richard chamberlain are only a few of those. Equally is the line-up of directors and writers - and composers like Jerry Goldsmith - who got to work on the series, as well as the source materials some of these episodes were drawn from. "Pigeons From Hell" was only one example of such an adaptation, but you will also find episodes based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch and others.
To cover each episode individually in detail would clearly exceed the frame of this review, but I think it is not necessary anyway. The set as a whole and the few episodes I highlighted speak volumes for the overall quality of the content on display here.
"Thriller" originally aired from 1960 to 1962, making these episodes 50 years old almost exactly. For a TV production that is a significant age and there aren't too many shows that have reached the status of timelessness the way "Thriller" does. Still, one has to keep in mind that these episodes stem from a time long ago. As such it is hardly surprising that the presentation quality of the episodes may be affected at times - by the same token, however, I found that a good majority of the episodes is presented in a flawless condition. While occasional speckles and slightly deteriorated film stock is noticeable in select few episodes, most of the time you will find that the presentation on this DVD release can easily keep up with the best blockbusters of the time. As a matter of fact, I found the quality remarkably high, as I have seen countless movies of newer production dates that looked a whole lot worse - and I mean A WHOLE LOT WORSE.
Here, blacks are usually solid and stable and with wonderful gradients, the mage always has a natural look that is never harsh. Mind you, many of the episodes us a dark, gothic look, but that is mostly by design, as can be witnessed by the nicely delineated fall-offs. PResented in its original fullframe aspect ratio, I do have to say that I find "Thriller" to be truly remarkable in its presentation quality and that it stands well above minor quibbles.
Accompanied by the original mono audio track, I found once again that the proper restoration has made sure that the audio is free of hiss or distortion. The mix is a bit unbalanced at time with music stepping much to far in the foreground and overpowering dialogue, but again I suspect that that was done very much by design as the intense music amps up the tension on the screen. Unfortunately, however, Image Entertainment has not provided subtitles or closed captions for the release, which is probably the only detriment I could find.
Fans of the show will be delighted to find also that there are 27 commentary tracks on the release, covering various of the episodes in quite some detail. They are perfect to dive in a little deeper and learn more about the material and the production of these stories.
In addition, there are promos and trailers to be found on the release, as well as photo galleries with promotion and production stills. Isolated music scores of select episodes are also included, giving you the opportunity to fully enjoy Jerry Goldsmith's and Morton Stevens' work on the show.
$150 for this DVD set may seem a little steep, but considering that you can actually buy the set for under $100 at places like Amazon, it is really a bargain. Think of it, 67 one-hour episodes for $100, that really comes down to less than $1.50 per episode. Not just any episode, mind you, but a fully restores episode of one of the most sought-after and highly anticipated TV horror series. Frankly, I think, that is impossible to beat!