Episode 50: The Remarkable Mrs. Hawks
- Margaret St. Clair meets "Thriller," now this is just fun. I've always enjoyed St. Clair's short stories in general. A woman who was writing Sci-Fi and horror since the mid 40s was rare enough but here stories were genuinely unique. Her work was also adapted for Night Gallery - The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes and Brenda - which also score highly with me and this story, Mrs. Hawk, is no exception. Our Plot:
Mrs. Cissy Hawk, widow, who raises prize winning hogs on her farm for pampered piggies, Isle of Aiaie. Always on the look out for a young, lonely man to share her company - gotta love cougars - she seems to never be able to settle down with just one, yet here hog farm continues to grow and prosper. When a con man hobo - Jason Longfellow, recruits two on the lame petty thieves to investigate Mrs. Hawk, his suspicions as to her growing farm and disappearing suitors are confirmed. Believing he can outwit both the local Sheriff, Tom Ulysses Willetts and Cissy Hawk, he soon discovers Mrs. Hawk is more resourceful and cleverer than she lets on. Even our good Sheriff discovers that the best of intentions does not always make good bedfellows.
Now, anyone who remembers their Greek Mythology should instantly recognize from where this story originates. Between the names, Cissy, Jason, Ulysses, Isle of Aiaie you would be hard pressed not to make the connection. Being that this is one of my favorite sections of the Odyssey, I instantly found this dark comedic episode engaging and cleverly done. Our Players:
Jo Van Fleet as Mrs. Cissy Hawk. Ok, she's in her mid 40s but she carries such an enjoyable charisma about her, she is easily believable and still sexy. A shame this was her only Thriller episode, but we can enjoy her other performances in AHP.
Side Note:Van Fleet co-starred in "The King and Four Queens" with Outer Limits actress Sarah Shane. During an email conversation with Ms. Shane, I mentioned that Jo Van Fleet had slapped her in a scene and it looked real - was it? Shane informed me that apparently director Raul Walsh wasn't getting what he wanted out of the scene and knowing Jo was from the Actors Studio, he told her to improvise - which she did. I guess Walsh got the scene he wanted?
Paul Newlan as Sheriff Tom Ulysses Willetts. This is Newlan's 4th and final Thriller episode. Although never having huge onscreen times, the time he has he makes the best out of. As mentioned before, if he looks familiar - other than Thriller episodes - he was also in Twilight Zone's 5th Season episode, "The Brain Center at Whipples."
John F'N Carradine as Jason Longfellow. Did this guy ever turn in a bad performance? As a gentlemen hobo and former Phi Beta Kappa, he's shrewd and unscrupulously charming. Alas, he isn't as smart as he believes or as unaffected by Cissy's charms. This is Carradine's 2nd and last Thriller. Note his piccolo skills as the show opens.
Bruce Dern as Johnny "Nanos" Norton. He's the 1st petty thief we are introduced to before the opening credits. Young, handsome, and incredibly naive. This is Dern's only Thriller appearance but we can catch him in several cult movies and, lest we forget, the Outer Limits Zanti Misfits.
Hal Baylor as Pete Gogan - our 2nd thief and Johnny's accomplice. Just as smart as Johnny, much to his dismay. A solid character actor throughout the 60s and 70s he is best remembered - by me anyway - as Michael the smiling enforcer from the cult classic, "A Boy and His Dog."Overall:
Although humorous there is an underlying sinister dark comedy aspect to this episode. Brahm's directing style lends itself quite well to keeping this edgy feel. The attention to the Mythology and Carridine's character of Longfellow alone makes this an unexpectedly enjoyable episode. The story is well crafted, paced and Van Fleets interaction with all characters seems natural and hearkens back to her role of Kate in East of Eden.
My real nit-picks on this episode is the sound effects and music cues. The piccolo becomes annoying and the bewitched "effect" sounds spoil the mood.