Saturday, October 10, 2020

Brian Clemens' THRILLER--"Spell Of Evil"

 


Among the many streaming services I have access to through Disney+ and Xfinity is the Tubi channel. I've seen a lot of obscure movies and shows on Tubi, and I've written a number of blog posts on them. 

I recently discovered that Tubi carries episodes of a early 1970s British TV show called THRILLER. This isn't the famed Boris Karloff THRILLER that was produced in the 1960s. The British THRILLER was created by Brian Clemens, best known for his work on THE AVENGERS. 

I had no knowledge whatsoever of this show. Being that it was made in England during the seventies, one can assume that there were many veterans of Hammer Films involved in the program--and that assumption is correct. An episode listing that particularly caught my eye was for "Spell of Evil". This entry starred Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel, who played the young married couple in one of Hammer's best films, THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. The episode also starred Diane Cilento, who worked for Hammer and made a memorable appearance in THE WICKER MAN. 

"Spell of Evil" starts out with a pre-credits sequence that shows the wife of businessman Tony Mansell (Edward de Souza) dying of a mysterious illness. Months later, the lonely Tony decides to submit his name to a dating service. Also immediately after he does this, a bold raven-haired beauty named Clara (Diane Cilento) shows up at his office, and sweeps him off his feet. Tony and Clara get married, and the businessman's life seems revitalized. Tony's loyal and efficient secretary, Liz (Jennifer Daniel) isn't so sure. Liz is distrustful of the new Mrs. Mansell, and her feelings are exacerbated by the fact that she has a crush on her boss. Strange occurrences start happening to Tony's associates, and the man himself starts to suffer from the same symptoms as his late first wife. Liz investigates the background of the mysterious Clara, and discovers that she is a centuries-old witch. 

"Spell of Evil" is an okay tale, but it's fairly easy to discern what's going to happen after the first ten minutes of the show. (Terence Feely is credited as the writer.) Diane Cilento acts suspicious from the very get go, and you'd have to be rather dense not to know that she's behind all the "unexplained" circumstances. The episode is about 70 minutes long, and honestly the story could have been edited down to a half-hour and it wouldn't have lost much. 

Like most British TV shows of this period, the interior scenes of this episode were shot on videotape, while the very few outdoor shots were on film. This gives the show a soap-opera type of feel, which I think mitigates the suspense. There's also a few annoying zoom-ins (the director of "Spell of Evil" was also the show's producer, John Sichel). 

Hammer fans will enjoy seeing Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel together again (this time in modern dress). De Souza is hindered by a wavy perm in his hair that is distracting. Daniel plays very much the same type of character that she portrayed in THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE and THE REPTILE--a kindly, stable individual who tries to help others. She is the one who finds out the truth about Clara, by seeking out a Van Helsing-like professor. This aspect of the tale comes near the very end of the show, and more should have been made of it. Diane Cilento gets the showiest role, and she makes the most of it. Would a more subtle approach to the character of Clara had worked? Maybe not, since the episode wasn't really all that thrilling. 

It's hard to judge a television show on the basis of just one episode. If you're familiar with most fantasy/horror tropes, "Spell of Evil" will be very predictable. I might check out a few more episodes of this THRILLER--there's plenty of others that feature Hammer stars. 


No comments:

Post a Comment