Thriller (UK TV series)

Last updated

Thriller title.jpg
UK opening titles
Created by Brian Clemens
Country of originUK
No. of episodes43
Running time63-67 Min.
Original network ITV
Audio format Mono
Original release14 April 1973 
22 May 1976

Thriller is a British television series, originally broadcast in the UK from 1973 to 1976. It is an anthology series: each episode has a self-contained story and its own cast. As the title suggests, each story is a thriller of some variety, from tales of the supernatural to down-to-earth whodunits.

A whodunit or whodunnit is a complex, plot-driven variety of the detective story in which the audience is given the opportunity to engage in the same process of deduction as the protagonist throughout the investigation of a crime. The reader or viewer is provided with the clues from which the identity of the perpetrator may be deduced before the story provides the revelation itself at its climax. The investigation is usually conducted by an eccentric, amateur, or semi-professional detective. This narrative development has been seen as a form of comedy in which order is restored to a threatened social calm.



The series was created by Brian Clemens, who also scripted the majority of the episodes and storylined every instalment, and produced by John Sichel (the first 3 series), John Cooper (series 4) and Ian Fordyce (the final two series) for Associated Television (ATV) at their Elstree studios north of London. It evolved from Clemens' previous work, in particular two films of a similar style, And Soon the Darkness (EMI-ABP 1970) and Blind Terror (aka See No Evil (Columbia 1971)). The latter shared plot similarities with the Thriller episodes "The Eyes Have It" and "The Next Voice You See". Original music, including the theme tune, was by Clemens' regular collaborator Laurie Johnson.

Brian Horace Clemens OBE was an English screenwriter and television producer, possibly best known for his work on The Avengers and The Professionals. Clemens was related to Mark Twain, a fact reflected in the naming of his two sons, Samuel Joshua Twain Clemens and George Langhorne Clemens.

John Peter Sichel was a British director of film, stage and television, and, later in life, a film, television, and theatre trainer.

Associated Television British broadcast television network

Associated Television (ATV), a former British television company, was awarded the franchise by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to provide the Independent Television service at weekends for the London region. This service started on Saturday, 24 September 1955 and was extended until Sunday, 28 July 1968. ATV was also awarded the franchise to provide the weekdays Independent Television service for the Midlands region. This service started on Friday, 17 February 1956 and was extended until Monday, 29 July 1968.

The original UK title sequence featured still shots of locations in the story devoid of people through a fisheye lens, bordered in bright red and set to Johnson's distinctive eerie, discordant theme music. After originally being screened late night in the US under the ABC Wide World of Entertainment billing from 1973, in 1978 some episodes were retitled for US syndication and all had additional opening sequences shot, with new titles and credits. Since these new titles were made without the original cast they often feature menacing figures seen only from the neck down. However, when the series was rebroadcast as part of The CBS Late Movie, the original title sequence and music was restored.

Fisheye lens

A fisheye lens is an ultra wide-angle lens that produces strong visual distortion intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view. Instead of producing images with straight lines of perspective, fisheye lenses use a special mapping, which gives images a characteristic convex non-rectilinear appearance.

ABC's Wide World of Entertainment is a late night block of programs created by the American Broadcasting Company. It premiered on January 8, 1973, and ended three years later. The title was based on the long-running broadcast ABC's Wide World of Sports; there was also an ABC's Wide World of Mystery broadcast from 1973 to 1978.

<i>The CBS Late Movie</i> television series

The CBS Late Movie is a CBS television series during the 1970s and 1980s. The program ran in most American television markets from 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) until 2:30 a.m. or later, on weeknights. A single announcer voiced the introduction and commercial bumpers for each program, but there was no host per se, or closing credits besides those of the night's presentation.

The stories are often set in the English home counties "stockbroker belt", but most episodes, especially from the second season onwards, feature at least one American character, usually portrayed by an American guest star (who often played the imperilled hero(ine), but not always), in order to appeal to the American market. A particular trademark of the series' storytelling was to hook the viewer with a simple yet totally baffling situation, of the kind seen in films such as Les Diaboliques (1955). "Come Out Come Out, Wherever You Are" takes place at a creaky country house hotel where a female guest begins asking where her travelling companion has disappeared to. The owner claims there was no such guest with her upon her arrival last night. None of the other guests initially recall seeing her, and yet the hotel owner has a secret in his past that could well be causing him to lie. One episode, "Screamer" concerns a rape victim who murders her attacker only for the man to then be seen everywhere stalking her. Perhaps the most ingenious episode is the Dial M for Murder style "The Double Kill", in which a man hires a hitman to kill his wife, but makes a fatal error in his otherwise meticulous planning.

London commuter belt human settlement in United Kingdom

The London commuter belt is a metropolitan area that includes London and its surrounding commuter zone. It is also known as the London metropolitan area, or Southeast metropolitan area. It should not be confused with Greater London or the Greater London Built-up Area.

<i>Les Diaboliques</i> (film) 1954 film by Henri-Georges Clouzot

Les diaboliques is a 1955 French psychological thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse and Charles Vanel. It is based on the novel She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.

<i>Dial M for Murder</i> 1954 film by Alfred Hitchcock

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 American crime mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams. Both the screenplay and the successful stage play on which it was based were written by English playwright Frederick Knott. The play premiered in 1952 on BBC Television, before being performed on stage in the same year in London's West End in June, and then New York's Broadway in October. Originally intended to be shown in dual-strip polarized 3-D, the film played in most theatres in ordinary 2-D due to the loss of interest in the 3-D process by the time of its release. The film earned an estimated $2.7 million at the North American box office in 1954.

Other memorable episodes include "Someone at the Top of the Stairs", one of a handful of forays into the supernatural, in which two female students move into a boarding house and begin to notice that none of the other residents ever go out or receive any mail, and the well-remembered "I'm The Girl He Wants to Kill", in which a witness to a murder finds herself trapped in a deserted office block overnight with the killer and is forced to play a deadly game of cat and mouse with him to survive, there is barely any dialogue throughout its second half. Brian Clemens's own favourite episode, "A Coffin for the Bride" (US: "Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill") features a performance from a young Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren British actress

Dame Helen Lydia Mirren, is an English actor. Mirren began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967, and is one of the few performers who have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2007 for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and received the Olivier Award for Best Actress and Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the same role in The Audience.

Following a worldwide audit during 2003-4, by the then copyright holders Carlton, almost all the original UK PAL fisheye titled 2" videotapes of Thriller were located and transferred onto modern digital tape by the British Film Institute with subsequent restoration work by BBC Resources. (One exception was the story "Nurse Will Make It Better". However this too exists in PAL/original format on the later 1" videotape format as a dub from the original master tape. This version was repeat broadcast on the satellite channel Bravo in 1996).

Quadruplex videotape

2-inch quadruplex video tape was the first practical and commercially successful analog recording video tape format. It was developed and released for the broadcast television industry in 1956 by Ampex, an American company based in Redwood City, California. The first videotape recorder using this format was built and created in the same year. This format revolutionized broadcast television operations and television production, since the only recording medium available to the TV industry before then was film used for kinescopes, which was much more costly to utilize and took time to develop at a film laboratory. In addition, kinescope images were usually of obviously inferior quality to the live television broadcast images they recorded, whereas quadruplex videotape preserved almost all the image detail of a live broadcast.

British Film Institute Film archive and charity in the United Kingdom

The British Film Institute (BFI) is a film and charitable organisation which promotes and preserves filmmaking and television in the United Kingdom.

Type C videotape

1 inch Type C is a professional reel-to-reel analog recording helical scan videotape format co-developed and introduced by Ampex and Sony in 1976. It became the replacement in the professional video and broadcast television industries for the then-incumbent 2 inch quadruplex videotape open-reel format, due to the smaller size, comparative ease of operation and slightly higher video quality of 1 inch type C video tape recorder (VTR). 1 inch type C required less maintenance downtime than quadruplex videotape, and did not require time base correction to produce a stable video signal.


Series 1 (1973)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
Lady Killer
(US title: The Death Policy)
14 April 1973 Barbara Feldon, T. P. McKenna, Robert Powell, Linda Thorson, Mary Wimbush, Ivor Roberts
Possession21 April 1973 John Carson, James Cossins, Joanna Dunham, Jack Galloway
Someone at the Top of the Stairs28 April 1973 Donna Mills, Peter Cellier, Judy Carne, David de Keyser, Alethea Charlton, Rhoda Lewis
An Echo of Theresa
(US title: Anatomy of Terror)
5 May 1973 Paul Burke, Dinsdale Landen, Polly Bergen, Vernon Dobtcheff, John Caesar
The Colour of Blood
(US title: The Carnation Killer)
12 May 1973 Norman Eshley, Garrick Hagon, Geoffrey Chater, Malcolm Terris, Eric Mason, Katherine Schofield
Murder in Mind19 May 1973 Richard Johnson, Zena Walker, Ronald Radd, Donald Gee
A Place to Die26 May 1973 Arnold Ridley, Alexandra Hay, Harold Bennett, Bryan Marshall, Lila Kaye, Sydney Bromley, Jenny Laird, John Moreno, John Flint, Bill Ward, Graham Weston
File It Under Fear2 June 1973 Jan Francis, James Grout, John Le Mesurier, Maureen Lipman, Richard O'Callaghan
The Eyes Have It9 June 1973 Sinéad Cusack, Dennis Waterman, Alun Armstrong, David Jackson, Leslie Schofield, Peter Vaughan, William Marlowe, Colin McCormack
Spell of Evil16 June 1973 Diane Cilento, Edward de Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Martin Wyldeck, Reg Lye, Philip Anthony

Series 2 (1974)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
Only a Scream Away26 January 1974 Hayley Mills, Jeremy Bulloch, David Warbeck
Once the Killing Starts2 February 1974 Angharad Rees, Patrick O'Neal, Gerald Sim, Michael Kitchen, Gary Watson
Kiss Me and Die
(US title: The Savage Curse)
9 February 1974 Jenny Agutter, Russell Hunter, Anton Diffring, George Chakiris, Stephen Greif
One Deadly Owner16 February 1974 Donna Mills, Jeremy Brett, Laurence Payne, Bob Holness
Ring Once for Death
(US title: Death in Small Doses)
23 February 1974 Nyree Dawn Porter, Michael Jayston, Barry Nelson, Janet Key, Thorley Walters, Victor Winding, Richard Oldfield
K is for Killing
(US title: Color Him Dead)
2 March 1974 Stephen Rea, Arthur White, Derek Francis, Gayle Hunnicutt, Christopher Cazenove, Peter Dyneley, Oliver Smith, Gilly Flower, James Appleby
Sign it Death9 March 1974 Patrick Allen, John Arnatt, Francesca Annis, Moira Redmond, Edward Judd, James Bate, Alan Bennion, Jimmy Gardner, Barry Stanton, Leon Eagles

Series 3 (1974)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
A Coffin for the Bride
(US title: Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill)
1 June 1974 Michael Jayston, Helen Mirren, Michael Gwynn, Richard Coleman, Josephine Tewson, Arthur English, Tony Steedman, Hugh Morton, Richard Hampton
I'm the Girl He Wants to Kill8 June 1974 Geoffrey Whitehead, Anthony Steel, Robert Lang, Tony Selby, Julie Sommars, Annette Woollett
Death to Sister Mary
(US title: Murder is a One-Act Play)
15 June 1974 George Maharis, Jennie Linden, Robert Powell, Derek Fowlds, Windsor Davies, Leigh Lawson, Anthony Newlands, Norman Mitchell
In the Steps of a Dead Man22 June 1974 Richard Vernon, Christopher Benjamin, Faith Brook, John Garvin
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are29 June 1974 Lynda Day George, Peter Jeffrey, John Carson, Colette O'Neil, Bernard Holley, Molly Weir, Kevin Brennan, John Line
The Next Scream You Hear
(US title: Not Guilty)
6 July 1974 Richard Todd, Edward Hardwicke, Dinsdale Landen, Suzanne Neve, Belinda Mayne, Frank Wylie

Series 4 (1975)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
Screamer4 January 1975 Pamela Franklin, Frances White, Jim Norton, Peter Howell, Wolfe Morris, Donal McCann
Nurse Will Make It Better
(US title: The Devil's Web, US video title: Night Nurse)
11 January 1975 Diana Dors, Michael Culver, Patrick Troughton, Ed Bishop, Cec Linder, Andrea Marcovicci, Wendy Williams
Night is the Time for Killing
(US title: Murder on the Midnight Express)
18 January 1975 Judy Geeson, Charles Gray, Jeffry Wickham, Duncan Preston, Edward Burnham, Milos Kirek, Robert MacLeod, Aimée Delamain, Reg Pritchard
Killer with Two Faces25 January 1975 Donna Mills, Ian Hendry, Roddy McMillan, Robin Parkinson, Hazel McBride
A Killer in Every Corner1 February 1975 Patrick Magee, Don Henderson, Petra Markham, Eric Flynn, Joanna Pettet, Max Wall
Where the Action Is
(US title: The Killing Game)
8 February 1975 Edd Byrnes, Ingrid Pitt, Trevor Baxter, George Innes, Frank Coda

Series 5 (1975)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
If It's a Man, Hang Up12 April 1975 Carol Lynley, Tom Conti, Gerald Harper, Michael Byrne, Sue Holderness, John Cater, Paul Angelis, David Gwillim
The Double Kill19 April 1975 Peter Bowles, Gary Collins, James Villiers, Stuart Wilson, Gordon Salkilld, Norman Mitchell, John Flanagan, Griffith Davies
Won't Write Home Mom - I'm Dead
(US title: Terror from Within)
26 April 1975 Ian Bannen, Dallas Adams, Oliver Tobias, Suzanne Neve, Pamela Franklin
The Crazy Kill
(US title: Fear is Spreading)
3 May 1975 Denholm Elliott, Anthony Valentine, Mark Wing-Davey, Dennis Chinnery, David Horovitch, Alan Browning, John Moreno, Robert Lindsay
Good Salary, Prospects, Free Coffin
(US title: Mirror of Deception)
10 May 1975 James Maxwell, Julian Glover, Keith Barron, John Abineri, Karl Held, Kim Darby, Bruce Boa, Reg Lye, Annette Woollett, Martyn Read, Peter Hill
The Next Voice You See
(US title: Look Back in Darkness)
17 May 1975 Nigel Havers, Catherine Schell, Ian Redford, Ray Smith, Bradford Dillman, Geoffrey Chater, Rachel Davies, Holly Palance, John Forbes-Robertson, Neil Hallett, Robert Lankesheer, William Wilde
Murder Motel24 May 1975 Ralph Bates, John Hallam, Derek Francis, Gillian McCutcheon, Edward Judd, Keith Anderson, Paul Humpoletz

Series 6 (1976)

Episode titleOriginal transmissionNotable cast
Sleepwalker10 April 1976 Michael Kitchen, John Challis, Robert Beatty, Ian Redford
The Next Victim17 April 1976 T. P. McKenna, Ronald Lacey, Harold Bennett, Carroll Baker, Maurice Kaufmann, Martin Benson, Martin Fisk, Alan Gerrard
Nightmare for a Nightingale
(US title: Melody of Hate)
24 April 1976 Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Stephen Greif, Stuart Damon, Sydney Tafler
Dial a Deadly Number1 May 1976 Gary Collins, Gemma Jones, Beth Morris, Cavan Kendall
Kill Two Birds
(US title: Cry Terror!)
8 May 1976 Bob Hoskins, Susan Hampshire, David Daker, Stephen Yardley, Dudley Sutton, Gabrielle Drake, Christopher Ellison, John Bailey, Donald Morley, John Flanagan, Dawn Perllman
A Midsummer Nightmare
(US title: Appointment with a Killer)
15 May 1976 Brian Blessed, Tony Anholt, Freddie Jones, Joanna Pettet
Death in Deep Water22 May 1976 Ian Bannen, Bradford Dillman, Suzan Farmer, Philip Stone


Dinsdale Landen is the only actor playing the same role as private investigator Matthew Earp in two episodes: "An Echo of Theresa" and "The Next Scream You Hear".

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