Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour - An Unlocked Window ( 1965 )

Today the Hitchcock Halloween blogathon, hosted by Lara Gabrielle Fowler on Backlots, has officially started and we are helping to celebrate the wide and varied film and television career of Alfred Hitchcock with our review of one of his lesser-known gems, "An Unlocked Window" ( 1965 ). Lesser known to those who are not familiar with The Alfred Hitchcock Hour that is, for to fans of the series "An Unlocked Window" is regarded as one of the most memorable and downright spine-tingling episodes ever made. 
The show opens up with the Master of Suspense doing one his customary droll introductions to the story about to be aired. This time we see him standing behind a microphone stating that he wanted to broadcast his portion of the program by radio since he had lost some weight and did not want to mar his "image". 

And then the thrills begin: we spy nurse Freda walking home at night - all alone - after caring for an elderly bedridden woman. A rash of murders has been occurring in the area but this doesn't seem to bother Freda...until she hears footsteps following closely behind. The camera quickly cuts to her feet walking, then to a man's feet walking behind her, back to hers, back to his, back to hers, back to his.... until suddenly we hear him speak "You are such a beautiful nurse Freda" followed by an unforgettable cackle-cackle as he snickers and strangles her simultaneously. 
Freda was not the first nurse to be victimized, for our serial killer has a particular fondness for strangling nurses - young pretty nurses as a matter of fact, which leads us to Stella ( Dana Wynter ), night nurse to the dreamy Mr.Glendon Baker ( John Kerr ), who's temporarily bedridden and under oxygen due to an illness. 

Baker, a young professor, lives in a dreary old house on the outskirts of town. He bought the property hoping to find it haunted but was sadly disappointed, "The real estate agent assured me there had never been a murder, suicide or any kind of violence within these walls...It's too bad a hideous old house like this has no hideous history to go along with it". He currently has his heart set on marrying Stella, an idea that keeps him cheerful despite his confinement to bed.
The news reports of the recent nurse killings have jangled Stella's nerves and she is pleased when another nurse, Miss Ames ( T.C Jones ), arrives to assist her in her work. Aside from the two nurses and Mr. Baker, only Maud the housekeeper ( Louise Lantham ) and her handyman husband Sam occupy the house. Miss Ames often reprimands Stella for her obvious forgetfulness in little matters, fearing that this will hinder her one day while on duty. Recently, Stella has forgotten to obtain extra oxygen tanks for Mr. Baker and so that night Sam is sent to the nearest hospital to bring some back. With a fierce storm raging outside and the fear that the killer will strike them next, the inhabitants of the house batten down the hatches and lock the place up tight - all except for that UNLOCKED WINDOW. Oh, nooo! 


"An Unlocked Window" was based on a short story written by Welsh novelist Ethel Lina White in 1939. Alfred Hitchcock had previously used one of White's novels, "The Wheel Spins", as a basis for The Lady Vanishes ( 1938 ). Many of Ethel Lina White's books focused on the vulnerability of women. This theme was emphasized brilliantly in Robert Siodmak's adaptation of White's novel, "Some Must Watch", re-titled The Spiral Staircase ( 1945 ), where our heroine is not only a young, timid woman needing protection but a mute as well. 

The concept of the defenseless female reverberates throughout "An Unlocked Window" . In one scene we see Stella, Miss Adams and Maud cowering in corners for fear of their lives, suspecting that the killer has snuck inside the house. When a frightened Maud anxiously turns on all of the lights in the house Stella quickly hushes her and shuts them off, remarking that "the darkness protects us, now if there is someone outside he can see in, and see that we are alone". Surely three women in a house - not counting an ill man in the upstairs bedroom - would not be considered "alone". This once again reinforced the idea that women, especially forgetful women like Stella, were helpless without the protection of a man. 

Other elements that Lina White liked to include in her novels echoed that of the devices American mystery authoress Mary Roberts Rinehart used : lonely country houses, mysterious men on the prowl, night scenes and nurses. This episode is dripping with MacGuffins and old dark house horrors and the exterior sets for the Bates Motel ( Psycho ) were appropriately used as the Baker residence. 

The Hitch himself directed a few episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour but in this case all honors went to Joseph Newman ( This Island Earth ), whose taut direction kept the story at an edge-of-your-seat suspense level and claustrophobically confined to the house. But applause must also go to the great cinematographer Stanley Cortez ( The Magnificent Ambersons ). In several key sequences, he uses tilted shadows to create a feeling of approaching danger. In addition to these talents, Bernard Herrmann, a Hitchcock favorite, composed the subtle score for this episode and James Bridges, who penned the teleplay, won an Edgar Award the next year for this adaption.
"An Unlocked Window" aired on February 15, 1965. It was the 17th episode of the third season of the popular extended length, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. This episode boasted a fantastic cast including Dana Wynter, a delicate lady who was no stranger to suspense films. In 1963 she had just completed starring in John Huston's thriller, The List of Adrian Messenger, while John Kerr was enjoying a respite from his usual melodramatic roles. Louise Lantham practically steals every scene she is in with her fear-begotten characterization of Maud, the boozy housekeeper, accented by her whinny lethargic drawl. It is a performance reminiscent of Agnes Moorehead's stellar portrayal of Velma in Robert Aldrich's Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte ( 1963 ). Lantham had made her film debut just one year prior in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, as Mrs.Edgar, Marnie's callous mother. 
"An Unlocked Window" was remade on The Alfred Hitchcock Show revival series in 1985. It was condensed to a half-hour episode and this time starred Annette O'Toole and Bruce Davison. Both episodes are available for viewing on Youtube, but viewer beware.....if you are watching these on a dark and stormy night, be sure to check that your doors and windows are securely locked before sitting back to enjoy these frightful delights. 


If you are familiar with "The Unlocked Window" and know its ending than here is an interesting article on one of its principal players...otherwise, do not peek! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Quatermass Report - Part One


Before The Invaders and other television series such as The X-Files popularized investigations of alien invasions there was Professor Quatermass, a pioneer in the field of experimental science who often encountered bizarre extraterrestrial happenings in and around London.

Professor Bernard Quatermass, head of the British Experimental Rocket Group, was the brainchild of screenwriter Nigel Kneale. Kneale had won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award in 1950 for his book, Tomato Cain and Other Stories and had joined the BBC staff of writers shortly after that. The professor's unusual surname was plucked from a London telephone book and his christian name was dubbed in honor of astronomer Bernard Lovell, who in the 1950s was making news experimenting with his telescope at Jodrell Bank observatory. 

Unlike scientists today who rely heavily on computer-generated data, Professor Quatermass did not need any technology to help him in his quest to explore the unknown. A few rubber gloves, a microscope and some crude radar equipment would suffice for him. Afterall, Britain was still recuperating from the destruction and chaos of WWII and it was make-do-and-mend men like Quatermass that were getting the nation firmly back on its feet again. Besides, Quatermass did not fight two-headed green-skinned aliens of mortal substance, but rather had to battle the most maddening of foes: the shifting, shapeless, unknown variety. Cardboard instruments would do quite well for that task.

Quatermass had an unlimited supply of confidence and resilience. He knew his duty lay in saving England from beastly intruders, wherever they came from, and when approached with bureaucratic setbacks he busted through the red tape like a juggernaut. 

Professor Quatermass was introduced to the public on July 18, 1953 in the first of six half-hour BBC episodes collectively entitled The Quatermass Experiment and it was this program that laid the foundation for what would become one of Britain's most memorable sci-fi franchises. 


When The Quatermass Experiment crackled onto teles all across Britain in the summer of 1953, the viewing public, two million Brits to be exact ( in a rough sort of way ), had not seen anything like it before. Television serials were a common programming feature but no show prior to this had been so engrossing and so plum absorbing to watch. At least, for adults. When majority of the sci-fi programming on television in the early 1950s was geared towards little tykes, Quatermass was meaty entertainment for adults. Nigel Kneale cheerfully admitted, "we didn't get the kids". The Quatermass Experiment reached out to the audience to ask the ultimate mind-engaging question, "What if?"....and it gave these viewers an entire week to ponder the answer before they found out what happened.

What exactly was the "if" question all about? An experimental B.E.R.G rocket, manned by three astronauts, crashes in the remote countryside of England after having been broken off orbit some time earlier. There is one surviving crew member. The other two men have been completing annihilated  Nothing remains but the empty suits they once wore....nothing except a gooey blob of sticky substance that is. Professor Quatermass attempts to discover what caused the rocket to break off of orbit and what creature - or alien presence - has entered the ship during flight and destroyed the two men. 

Andre Morrell was originally approached to portray the tired, desperate Professor Quatermass for this television serial but declined the part and so director Rudolph Cartier offered it to Reginald Tate, whom he had previously worked with for the teleplay It is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer. Tate brought authenticity to the character which compelled audience members to tune in to their sets every Saturday night for the next five weeks to see how the brilliant prof could save mankind from the dreadful state it was in. Tate had had much experience on stage and this was fortuitous since most of television productions were broadcast live. 

Today, only one episode - the first - remains intact since video was a rather expensive film medium and many programs were taped over to cut costs. Although the sets were quite flaky, the lighting bad, and the "scientific procedures" alarmingly simple ( how does one test to see if a rocket's shell has cooled sufficiently? Pat it with your hands )...the story touched on the imagination of its viewers. In fact these primitive production techniques only helped to enhance the feeling of the impending chaos that Britain would find itself in had aliens attacked. 

In 1954, Hammer Film Productions, one of Britain's fledgling film studios, purchased the screen rights to the serial, shrewdly sensing a golden film property. Hammer Productions had yet to gain their reputation as one of the leading horror film factories, but their adaptation of The Quatermass Xperiment would be a key project in helping them reach that status. 

The Quatermass Xperiment, released in the US as The Creeping Unknown became Hammer's highest-grossing film to date and still remains one of the most memorable of the British sci-fi classics. Brian Donlevy starred as Professor Bernard Quatermass and was woefully miscast, portraying the professor more as a ruthless businessman than an inquisitive man of science. 

Most people remember this film because of Jack Warner's striking portrayal of the sole surviving member of the doomed experimental rocket ship. Without speaking one word, he conveyed the anguish he was feeling internally through the blank helpless look on his face. This character, with hardly any makeup, is one of Hammer's most frightening.

The British Board of Censors issued an X certificate for the film upon its release and in order to emphasize this the studio changed the title from The Quatermass Experiment to "X"periment. 

Hammer Productions were anxious to quickly create a sequel to follow-up on the wake of the success of The Quatermass Xperiment, and so they hired Jimmy Sangster to pen another oh-so-mysterioso science fiction tale. They entitled their film X-The Unknown but much to their dismay Kneale refused them the rights to use the name of Quatermass in that production, a decision made in part because of his disappointment with the studio casting Donlevy as Quatermass in the first adaptation. This film, however, did not feature Donlevy, but rather Dean Jagger in the role of the resolute professor. 


The success of The Quatermass Experiment, and the launching of ITV network ( which ended BBC's broadcasting monopoly ) empowered the studio's programmers to develop more competitive programs, and the first thing they undertook was to commission Nigel Kneale to write a sequel to The Quatermass Experiment. 

Inspired by the news reports about the UK Ministry of Defense's secret research establishments and the fears they were creating to the reading public, Kneale devised a story around Quatermass doing top-secret research work for the Defense.

In this next series, originally aired in the autumn of 1955, Quatermass is asked to investigate unusual meteor showers. He discovers that aliens are conspiring to infiltrate mankind, targeting mainly the highest members of British government. 

Quatermass II has the distinction of being the earliest surviving complete British sci-fi television production. Like the original series, it was quite compelling and this time featured John Robinson as the renowned professor. The lead change came about for a very simple reason: Reginald Tate had passed away suddenly, at the age of 58, just one month prior to when filming was scheduled to begin. Robinson did an adequate job filling his shoes but had difficulty in learning some of the technical dialogue and his delivery of the lines has often been criticized. 

Hugh Griffith, the ebullient Welsh actor, portrayed Dr. Leo Pugh, Quatermass' chief assistant. Monica Grey ( as Quatermass' daughter Paula ), John Stone, and Roger Delgado ( Doctor Who ) also starred. 

Hammer Productions once again was anxious to receive the film rights for this second serial, and did so, this time with Kneale joining the staff of screenwriters to ensure that his characterization of Quatermass remained intact. 

Brian Donlevy returned in the role of Quatermass, inspite of Kneale's arguments to the contrary, and Quatermass II ( issued as Quatermass 2 in the states ), released in 1957, was once again a smashing success. The film featured John Longden, Sid James and Brian Forbes in supporting roles. Donlevy's portrayal of Quatermass mellowed a bit this time around but he still managed to succeed in looking frightfully out of place. 

James Bernard, who went to write the wonderfully eerie scores to so many Hammer films, concocted a beautiful medley of percussion and strings for Quatermass II. This was also production designer Bernard Robinson's first picture for Hammer, later he went on to create many of the beautiful sets for the studio's gothic films, such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Gorgon. 

To be continued....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hammer Films' The Gorgon ( 1964 )

"It has been said that every legend and myth known to mankind is not entirely without some truth..." 

In the sleepy hamlet of Vandorf, a legendary 2,000 year old creature has reawakened and its spirit taken possession of one of the villagers. Seven gorgonizing deaths have taken place on foggy moonlight nights in the past five years; each one of the victims turned to stone. 

Paul Heitz ( Richard Pasco ), whose father and brother were the most recent victims, travels to Vandorf and, with the aid of Professor Meister ( Christopher Lee ), attempts to undercover the mystery behind these deaths. Alas, he finds himself confronted by a conspiracy of silence led by Dr. Namaroff ( Peter Cushing ) who, along with his associate, Carla Hoffman ( Barbara Shelley ), is protecting some sinister dark secret.

Peter Cushing, who often portrays the hero in such Hammer Film classics as The Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, this time reverses roles and plays our villain and a welcome change it is too. He brings a sympathetic appeal to the character of Namaroff despite his stoic and calculating nature. 

As Professor Meister, it is evident that Lee thoroughly relished the opportunity the role gave him. He creates a memorable eccentric who, like Van Helsing, seems quite capable of tracking and capturing any beast, creature, or phantom he happens to find... in a scientific way.

" We are men of science. I don't believe in ghosts or evil spirits, and I don't think you do either "

The always lovely Barbara Shelley was quickly becoming one of Hammer's biggest attractions when she starred in The Gorgon. She had leading roles in such horror flicks as Village of the Damned ( 1960 ) and Shadow of the Cat ( 1961 ) and in the next few years would go on to make Dracula: Prince of Darkness ( 1966 ) and Quatermass and the Pit ( 1967 ), justly earning the title of The First Leading Lady of British Horror. In The Gorgon, Shelley provides the romantic interest which becomes the key link behind the mysterious happenings in Vandorf. 

Other roles in the film are played by Michael Goodliffe ( Sink the Bismarck ) , Patrick Troughton ( Doctor Who ), and Jack Watson ( Grand Prix ).

Two of Hammer's most recent productions, The Old Dark House and The Damned, had failed at the box-office. They were desperate to find material that would appeal to the public and so they took a direct approach and placed an ad in "The Daily Cinema": 

"Got an idea you think would make a good film? One with an exciting title to match? ( Hammer was taking no chances ). If you have, contact James Carreras. Because good, compulsive selling ideas with the right titles are what Hammer are looking for right now"

The article brought in a good response from the trade and public alike and one idea generated enough enthusiasm to prompt Hammer to pursue it into production. It was a short story submitted by J. Llewellyn Devine about a legendary character from Greek mythological in a mid-European setting. Screenwriter John Gilling was called in to rework the story into a feasible screenplay. He did this and in place of Medusa, he renamed the gorgon Magaera ( one of the three Furies in mythology ). "The Gorgon" went on to become Hammer's first female monster.

Production began in late 1963 at Bray Studios shortly after The Evil of Frankenstein had completed shooting. Some of the sets were revamped to create the setting of Vandorf and the Castle Borski.

Barbara Shelley had suggested that she portray the gorgon herself and wanted to use a wig that - humanely - contained several live snakes. Producer Anthony Nelson Keys felt that, in order to protect the creature's secret identity, two actresses were needed and that the live snakes were unnecessary. Prudence Hyman, a former ballerina, took on the makeup and costumes of the gorgon. After the completion of the film however, Keys regretted his decision and had wished that real snakes were used. Since the gorgon is seen full-face in several shots, the impact of her petrifying glare was lessened by the use of rubber snakes. As Christopher Lee so aptly put it, "The only thing wrong with The Gorgon is the gorgon."

Makeup man Roy Ashton applied the hideous skin paint to Prudence Hyman while Syd Pearson, a special effects engineer at Hammer, had the task of creating Hyman's moving snake wig. Twelve plastic molds were made from which he cast latex rubber snakes. Twenty-five foots cables were attached to each snake, woven into the wig and run along the back of Hyman's costume which were then rigged to a peg and board contraption. When each peg was turned the tension created the illusion of the snake's moving independently.  Perhaps this was a bit easier to stage than the frame-by-frame technique Ray Harryhausen employed to create the Medusa in Clash of the Titans but the finished result was less than comparable. 

The Gorgon is not gory, nor is it oozing with terrifying moments, and for this reason it often falls short on the list of memorable Hammer classics, yet the film captures a unique Gothic atmosphere full of eerie foreboding and even director Terence Fisher considered it one of his personal favorites. 

Like all of the Hammer Studio films, The Gorgon contains richly detailed settings and beautiful colorful cinematography. James Bernard provides a mysterious score to enhance this mythological tale and implemented an early electronic keyboard, the Novachord, to create the effect of the Gorgon's call. It was most dreamlike and bewitching.

The Gorgon was released on August 21, 1964 and was double-billed with The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. Critic reviews were quite favorable and these two films put Hammer back on track once again as one of the leading horror studios.

This post is part of the Hammer Halloween Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe. Go to to view the complete blogathon schedule.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries ( 1977-1979 )

Mystery and adventure, and corny good tunes were brought to the small-screen in the late 1970s when three of the most beloved juvenile sleuths teamed up in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Little girls across America tuned in weekly to giggle and blush at seeing teen heartthrobs Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson solve capers faster than they could paint their toenails ,while fans of Nancy Drew brought out their pocket notebooks and followed the clues to see if they could match Nancy's lightning-fast deductions. Don't even try gals, she'll beat you every time!

The episodes were based on characters created by Carolyn Keene and Franklin W.Dixon, two alias authors in the Stratemeyer publishing syndicate. Edward Stratemeyer was an author who penned quick exciting novels geared for young adults. The Bobbsey Twins, The Rover Boys and Tom Swift were just some of his creations. When he began to get swamped with stories he hired a staff of writers to pen his synopses into novels. He would then edit the completed stories these ghost-writers submitted before they were approved for publication and released under an alias pen name. Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon were two such pen names..and these "authors" became the Stratemeyer Syndicates' most popular sellers. 

Children from all over the world thrilled to the adventures Nancy Drew and Frank and Joe Hardy would find themselves involved in. Each story contained elements that the readers could relate to in their lives, and the characters served as good role models for young readers. 

Hence, the Stratemeyer Syndicate were very protective of the book rights and did not want their little babies to be altered in any way by the wily producers of Hollywood. 

In the late 1930s Warner Brothers managed to purchase the rights to the character of Nancy Drew for use in a series of secondary features starring Bonita Granville. The rights to use any of the stories were not granted however and so new plots were developed for these films. The Hardy Boys were never brought to the big screen. In the 1950s Walt Disney obtained the use of the Hardy Boys characters but once again was not permitted to use any existing story. Instead Disney set his writers to work and they developed two serials for his Mickey Mouse Club program, "The Mystery of Applegate's Treasure" and "The Mystery of the Ghost Farm". 

In the 1960s a pilot TV show of the Hardy Boys based on the story "Mystery of the Chinese Junk" tried to launch but failed and then in 1969 Hanna-Barbara released their Scooby-Doo style musical mystery cartoon series The Hardy Boys. ( insert a quote here from the show ) 

In November of 1974, Joyce Brotman and Arlene Sidaris, two television producers and avid Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew fans, decided to team up and launch a mystery show revolving around the characters. They approached Stratemeyer's daughter who agreed to sell them the option only on the condition that the wholesomeness of the characters and the flavor of the books were retained. Plus, they wanted a TV series and that would be fun and would appeal to all ages of viewers filled with adventure, humor and mystery. 

After a year and a half of negotiations with Universal, the two ladies approached Glen Larson, producer of The Fugitive, It Takes a Thief and Quincy M.D to see if he could help them develop a winning mystery program. He could...and he did. Writers were called in to develop new storylines that would remain in keeping with the original stories and auditions began for the search for the perfect actors to portray the amateur sleuths. Finally, Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin were selected for the lead roles.

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries premiered on January 30th, 1977 on ABC-TV on a chilly Sunday night at 7pm and continued to play each week - same time, same station - until January 14th, 1979. Every week the featured show would alternate between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys beginning with The Mystery of the Haunted House. 

The spooky and spunky Glen Larson synthesized theme song pulled us, along with Nancy and the Hardy Boys, into the maze of intrigue, suspicious characters, cobwebs and campy chills. The show was all light, fun entertainment and packed in an hour full of mystery highlighted by whiz-bang special effects. It also featured a host of guest stars including Craig Stevens, Lorne Greene, Jamie Lee Curtis, Melanie Griffith, Richard Kiel, Robert Wagner, Monte Markham, David Wayne, Bob Crane, Dina Merrill, and Mark Harmon.

In the fall of 1978 Nancy Drew was cancelled due to its low ratings and The Hardy Boys continued to make little girls swoon for another season before they, too, got the boot. 


Franklin W. Dixon would have been proud of the screen incarnations of the characters he had so lovingly created in the fifty-eight books he wrote. 

David Cassidy was one of the first actors to be approached for the character of Joe Hardy but had turned down the role. He had just completed The Partridge Family and did not want to immerse himself in another television series so soon. His younger brother Shaun Cassidy, however, was just beginning his acting career and tested for the part. The producers liked him from the start. Parker Stevenson had just completed making Lifeguard ( 1976 ) and shined like a rising star, he was a natural for the older Frank Hardy.

Some changes came about in the book-to-television series transfer : familiar characters such as Iola Martin and Chet Morton took a backseat role and appeared only occasionally to help the boys solve mysteries, most of the time they were on their own. And its no wonder, when you're busy gallivanting to Egypt and Bermuda and Hawaii, its hard to keep up with old friends. Frank did manage to keep his ties strong with "Cassie" his sweetheart, and that's an achievement since her name got changed to "Callie".  He really must of put his detective skills to work to find her! Although she now works as an assistant for Fenton Hardy so perhaps that was too easy a case to solve.

Another change - baby brother, Joe, now has a taste for music. No mystery was too pressing to be solved that he couldn't give time for a break to sing. Sticky and sweet bubblegum favorites such as "Da Do Ron Ron Ron" cropped up as often as clues. While not on set for the show Cassidy did weekend concerts to promote his single recordings.

Nancy Drew wasn't faring all that well on the popularity polls and so the Hardy Boys decided to give her a hand and pulled her into their mysteries. By the third season though, they were once again on their own and the story plots were revamped to make them more appealing to the adult crowd, hoping to snag audience members who favored shows such as Charlie's Angels and The Rockford Files. The Hardys were now working undercover for the Justice Department. In order to convey to the loyal tweens that this was no longer the cute and cuddly Hardys they remembered in years past, the familiar maze opening was ditched in favor of a more spunky one that bore a striking resemblance to Charlie's Angels

This disappointed many fans and the show wasn't the same for them. Due to a writer's strike, fewer episodes were created in the third season and the series lost viewership as well. By the end of 1978 it was evident that the series was floundering. 

Joe Hardy - Shaun Cassidy

One of the Cassidy boys ( the children of Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy ), Shaun did not want to pursue acting but was eager to become a singing sensation like his famous step-brother David..or so he thought. Shaun was but 19 when he began appearing on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and the show rocketed him to stardom. The spotlight was a bit too much for his shy nature and he was glad to back out of the concert arena during the 1980s. In the next decade he decided to focus on his passion, writing, and has since become a television writer and producer, creating programs such as American Gothic ( 1995 ), The Agency ( 2001 ) and The Invasion ( 2005 ).

Frank Hardy - Parker Stevenson

Richard Stevenson Parker was born on June 4, 1953 in Philadephia, Pennslyvania. He acted in a few television commercials when he was five-years old but his father disapproved of the acting industry and so Parker had no intention of becoming an actor. Instead, he studied architecture at Princeton and was on the rowing crew in the Princess Elizabeth Cup Race at the prestigious Henley Regetta. In 1976 the acting bug returned and he snagged a feature role in Lifeguard, which landed him the role of Frank Hardy. After the success of The Hardy Boys, Stevenson appeared on The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, North & South: Book II, and Probe. Married at one time to Kristie Alley, he has two children and continues to act today. 

Fenton Hardy - Edmund Gilbert

Ed Gilbert's face may not be known to many, but his voice certainly is. Although he did a number of television series and bit parts in feature films during the 1960s it was not until the 1980s that he was steadily employed at a voice-over actor. His voice can be heard in cartoons such as The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Spiderman, Ironman, The Tick, The Gargoyles, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. He also did the voice of Baloo in the Tailspin cartoon series. Ed Gilbert passed away on May 8, 1999 at the age of 67. 

Aunt Gertrude - Edith Atwater

A popular character actress throughout the 1960s and 70s, Edith Atwater has appeared in a number of well-known television series such as Knots Landing, Hart to Hart, Ironside, Kaz, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She also appeared in Grace Morton in the original Peyton Place series and Mrs. Hammond in the short-lived Love on a Rooftop in 1968. Atwater was born on Apr. 22, 1911 in Chicago and was married to actor Kent Smith from 1962 until his death in 1985. She died shortly after. 

Callie Shaw - Lisa Eilbacher

Lisa Eilbacher was born on May 5, 1956 in Saudi Arabia. She was raised in France and then got her start on television, making guest appearances in series such as My Three Sons, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Brady Bunch. In the 1980s she reached her peak in popularity as the lead actress in An Officer and a Gentleman and Beverly Hills Cop, two films she is best remembered for. She also appeared in the popular miniseries The Winds of War. Aside from doing a handful of television films in the late 1990s, Eilbacher has stepped away from the cameras for the past fifteen years. 

Best Episodes

The Mystery of the Haunted House ( Pilot )

Joe and Frank Hardy, suspicious of their father's "fishing trip," follow him and become involved in the search for an amnesiac ex-soldier being chased by killers for some secret he knows. They end up at a club called the Haunted House that has mazes, trapdoors, and secret passageways.

The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom ( S.2, Ep. 4 )

When the attendees at a detectives convention start disappearing during a Hollywood film studio tour, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew again join forces to investigate. 

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula ( S.2, Ep. 16 )

Frank and Joe go to Transylvania to find their father, who disappeared while investigating a series of European art thefts. They encounter Nancy Drew and Bess at a festival called Dracula's Castle, and end up joining forces. 

Campus Terror ( S.2, Ep.22 )

The Hardys head east to New England when an old girlfriend of Joe's calls, saying that some classmates of hers have gone missing at Eastlake University.

The Mystery of King Tut's Tomb ( S.2, Ep. 3 )

In Egypt, the Hardy Boys investigate after a young woman denies that the handbag Frank recovered is hers, and he is left holding a golden idol stolen from one of the pyramids. 


Nancy Drew, part-time investigator for her father Carson Drew's law firm, has an insatiable appetite for a good mystery. She finds clues when no one else even realizes a crime has been committed.

Unlike the Hardy Boys, who traveled around the world on capers, most of Nancy Drew's mysteries revolved around River Heights. Mysteries in lighthouses, ghosts in the local theatre, a frame-up involving the college football hero, and her aunt's claim to hearing voices in the wall of her house were the most exciting cases Nancy ever got to put her detective skills to use on. 

Pamela Sue Martin did a stellar job bringing Nancy Drew to life and of all of the screen incarnations of the character, she best embodies the beautiful, quick-witted, and sassy Nancy Drew. In spite of this, the boyish charm of the two Hardy brothers lured in the female television viewers and the Hardy Boys popularity ratings were significantly higher than that of Nancy Drew during the first season. 

In an attempt to boost Nancy Drew's ratings the season two premiere episode found the two sleuths teaming up to solve The Mystery in Dracula's Castle. It worked to no avail. More episodes were planned for the threesome but Pamela Sue Martin stepped out, dissatisfied with the new threesome arrangement and longing to solve mysteries independently once again. 

Interestingly enough, the concept of joining the Hardys with Nancy Drew later found its way to many of the newer paperback novels featuring the characters. 

In order to appeal to the masses some small changes were undergone in converting the book characters to the screen. The show's George Fayne, Nancy's true-blue chum, is a combination of the George Fayne and Bess Martin of the original books with George taking on much more of Bess' scardy-cat nature. Athletic Ned Nickerson, Nancy's part-time date and good friend, appeared occasionally in the book series but was featured predominately in the first season of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, this time as a quiet, serious intellectual with bug-eye glasses. He was dropped in the last episode and then once more reappeared in the second season, now played by rock idol Rick Springfield. Springfield did not quite live up to the Ned Nickerson of the book series either, and was looking quite distracted in his only episode. He was probably still wondering why he didn't get Jessie's girl. 

The Drew's faithful housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, was completely eliminated from the series; most likely because Nancy Drew and her father hardly spend time at home. 

Pamela Sue Martin left the show in 1978 to pursue other acting endeavors. The Hardy Boys continued to uncover mysteries all over the place without her help but they did allow for a new Nancy Drew to step in mid-way through the season to spice up their life a bit. Janet Louise Johnson took over as the girl sleuth and - surprise! - Ms. Drew was now a blonde, just like the original book character. Nancy joined the Hardy Boys in Voodoo Doll, The Mystery of Avalanche Express and Arson and Old Lace before packing up her magnifying glass and calling it a day. Perhaps she went on to help her father full-time with his law firm. 

Nancy Drew - Pamela Sue Martin   

Pamela Sue Martin was born on January 5, 1953 in Westport, Connecticut. In 1972, she was attending high-school and modelling part-time when she heard that Columbia Pictures was auditioning girls for a film called To Find a Man. After a three-month debate, she won the role which led to her being selected by Irwin Allen to perform in his star-studded disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure. She then snagged a number of roles in television movies before being offered the part of intrepid investigator, Nancy Drew. In 1978, Martin appeared in Playboy magazine ( see below ) in a feature "Nancy Drew : Undraped". After the series ended she returned to television playing Fallon Carrington Colby on Dynasty ( 1981 ). She is currently working on an autobiography entitled "The Spirit of the Matter". What a fitting title for a one-time Nancy Drew!

Ned Nickerson - George O'Hanlon Jr.  

Six foot tall, George Samuel Phillip O'Hanlon III was born on December 7, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. He was the grandson of the prominent vaudevillians Sam Rice and Lulu Beasley and the son of George O'Hanlon, an actor who appeared in over a hundred movie and television roles but is most famous today for his Joe McDoakes shorts and for voicing George Jetson on The Jetsons from 1961 until his death in 1989. O'Hanlon did a handful of television movies and small bits on TV series before landing the role of the bespectacled Ned Nickerson. His portrayal of Nickerson was the complete opposite of the ... Today George O'Hanlon Jr. is still acting on television and in occasional bit parts in feature films. 

George Fayne - Jean Rasey 

Spunky Jean Rasey was born on Sept. 19, 1954 and got her acting start while in her teen years. It was after her performance in The Hindenburg that she was selected to be George Fayne in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, a role which remains her most memorable to date. After Nancy Drew, Rasey appeared as a guest performer in a few more television series ( Lou Grant, Barnaby Jones ) and today continues to act in commercials and theatre productions.

Carson Drew - William Shallert 

One of the most prolific actors on television, William Shallert has appeared in several hundred shows and films throughout his long career. Born in Los Angeles, California on July 6, 1922, Shallert made his film debut in 20th Century Foxes "The Foxes of Harrow" ( 1947 ). After small roles in Written in the Wind, The Incredible Shrinking Man and Pillow Talk he began to focus on television. His most famous roles are Martin Lane, Patty Lane's father in The Patty Duke Show, Admiral Hargrade in Get Smart and Nilz Baris in the classic episode of Star Trek...'The Trouble with Tribbles'. In addition to his myriad television performances ( over 650 episodes! ) he has done numberless voice-overs for cartoons and other programs. At age 91, Shallert still continues to act and says that he "never gives retirement a thought".

Best Episodes

The Mystery of the Pirate's Cove ( Pilot )

Nancy Drew and her friends see a beam of light coming from a supposedly abandoned lighthouse, and a professor tries to convince her that it is haunted. The local sheriff thinks they're imagining things, so it's up to Nancy to solve the mystery.

The Mystery of the Diamond Triangle ( S1, Ep.2 )

Nancy Drew and her girlfriend, George, see an automobile run off the road, but the sheriff tells her that the road has long been closed and there is no trace of the accident. 

The Secret of the Whispering Walls ( S1, Ep. 3 )

A burglary at her home leads Nancy Drew to investigate her aunts' attempt to sell their farm, which someone is apparently trying to make them believe is haunted. 

A Haunting We Will Go ( S1, Ep.4 )

When Nancy Drew and her friends revive a 20-year-old play to raise money for a youth center, they are astounded when five members of the original cast return to perform in it, especially when the theatre is supposed to be haunted. 

The Mystery of the Ghostwriters Cruise ( S1, Ep. 6 )

Taking a luxurious ocean cruise, Nancy and her friends go into action when a famous mystery writer on board receives death threats that follow one of his own plots. 


As with all popular shows of the 1970s, a slew of collectibles were issued for fans of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Some of these were quite unique and today are considered rare among the collector's circles. Probably the most popular of all of the promotional items released were the Shaun Cassidy/Parker Stevenson pin-up posters. Teeny-boppers were even treated to full issues devoted to the boys in Tean Beat and Tiger Beat magazines.

If full-color pictures of the Hardy Boys weren't to your taste, then you'd probably be a Nancy Drew fan, in which case the Nancy Drew "Undraped" cover of Playboy would have caught your eye instead. 

Or is that too mature? Well, then in that case a Nancy Drew wristwatch would be on your Christmas wishlist. This one came complete with a color image of Pamela Sue Martin featured on the face, along with plenty of footprints for her to follow.

The success of the television series even inspired Scholastic Books to release new paperback editions of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, this time with newly created stories that were "inspired" by the series, which was inspired by the book series in the first place. Things do go 'round. 

Armada Books, a UK publishing firm, re-released several of the original Carolyn Keene Nancy Drew books with new covers featuring Pamela Sue Martin and Tempo, a division of Grossat and Dunlop, came out with a lovely series of Nancy Drew puzzle books as well. 

  • Nancy Drew Mystery Mazes
  • Nancy Drew Detective Logic Puzzles
  • Nancy Drew Secret Codes
  • Nancy Drew Mystery Puzzle
  • Nancy Drew Secret Scrambled Word Finds
  • Nancy Drew Clever Crosswords

When you were tired of reading mysteries and solving puzzles then it signaled the time to get a friend hooked on the series. This way you would have someone to leave your Dixon/Keene book collection to in your will. The best way to go about spreading the word on what great detectives they were was by sending greeting cards out. Hand-painted ones - painted just like the actual process used in animated cartoons. And since they were appropriate for ages 7-70, Grandma could help you paint them. Provided she is under 71 of course...over that and "Hands off Gram!".

Didn't have anyone to send greeting cards to? Well, you needed to carry the Hardy Boys lunchbox and matching thermos to school and then you'd have friends galore! No child could resist knowing a super-cool amateur detective who owns a Shaun Cassidy plastered plastic lunchbox. Perhaps owning one would have even helped you solve the ultimate daily-recurring mystery, "What did mom pack me for lunch?"

And finally, the collectibles category would not be complete without JIGSAW PUZZLES. And what better picture to have on the front of a puzzle than a couple of puzzle-solvers like The Hardy Boys. American Publishing Corporation released two separate puzzles in standard cardboard boxes and another ( ultra-rare ) in a canister container. 

For more information about the show and for links to other great Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew sites visit The Unofficial Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Fansite. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nugget Reviews - 6

With Halloween fast approaching this edition of the Nugget Reviews will focus on great films to watch on Halloween night - films that even the timid would find thoroughly enjoyable. There are no fool's gold hidden among these gems...Enjoy! 

The Ghost Breakers ( 1940 ) 18k

Larry Lawrence, his quaking manservant and an heiress investigate the mysterious happenings at a castle in Cuba after they get threatening voodoo warnings to keep away from the property. Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Willie Best, Paul Lukas, Richard Carlson, Anthony Quinn. Paramount Pictures. Directed by George Marshall.

After the success of "The Cat and the Canary", Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard were teamed up once again to solve a mystery, this time as a radio broadcaster and an heiress who investigate the voodoo hoodoo at Castillo Maldito, an island property she inherited off of Cuba. Undoubtedly a step up from "The Cat and the Canary", "The Ghost Breakers" is one of Hope's best. He delivers rapid-fire quips such as "I'm in great shape for the shape I'm in" while still having time to woo Goddard.


The Bat ( 1959 ) 14k

A mystery writer and her companion rent a rambling mansion in the country for the summer, little knowing that their landlord has been killed and a masked murderer known as "The Bat" is on the premises searching for hidden treasure. Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price, Gavin Gordon, Lenita Lane, John Sutton,  Allied Artists. Directed by Crane Wilbur.

"The Bat", a remake of "The Bat Whispers" ( 1931 ) was based on Mary Roberts Rinehart's famous mystery novel which was one of the first to popularize the "mansion filled with guests and hidden money" premise. The film contains some great sets, interesting suspects and more twists and turns than there are secret passages in the mansion. Although the acting gets to be downright corny at times, Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price are always pros and make this film a treat to watch, even if the plot does elude you. Heck, we've seen it over fifty times already and have not tired of it!


The Ghost and Mr. Chicken ( 1966 ) 14k

Luther Heggs, a timid typesetter boasts that he can spend the night in the Old Simmons Mansion where it is rumored that the ghost of Nickolas Simmons still resides. He becomes the town hero for doing so but then finds a libel suit thrown at him when he prints what he saw that fateful night. Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Dick Sargant, Liam Redmond, Philip Ober. Universal Pictures. Directed by Alan Rafkin. 

Ephraim Simmons murdered his wife in cold blood and then played the organ before killing himself; the keys are still stained with blood, and could never be cleaned off, even after using Bon-Ami...or so the rumor goes. It takes a man with spunk, like Luther, to get to the bottom of the real story. A sprightly ghost theme by Vic Mizzy ( based on Mr.Ghost Goes to Town ) permeate this homespun comedy gem filled with great one-liners, great atmosphere, great Mayberry character actors, and one of Don Knotts greatest nerve-rattled performances. 'Atta boy, Don Knotts! 


House of Fear ( 1945 ) 14k

Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson travel to the countryside of Scotland to investigate the murders of two members of the Good Comrades Club, members who were forewarned of their death before their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather, Dennis Hoey, Paul Cavanagh.Universal Pictures. Directed by Roy William Neill. 

The eighth film in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series and one of the most memorable due to its unique criminal plot. A house on the cliff, a private club, footprints in the sand and a dark stormy night, what more could one ask for in a Sherlock Holmes feature? Dr. Watson gets the spotlight turned on him in many scenes and Nigel Bruce gets to mumble and sputter exclamations to great effect. Alas, parts of the movie drag on but overall its quite a pip.


Hold that Ghost! ( 1941 ) 18k 

Two gas station attendants inherit an old roadside inn, but find that a gangster's dirty millions are hidden in the house and his con-men cohorts are no about to let it fall into the hands of two boobs. Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Evelyn Ankers, Joan Davis, Richard Carlson, Shemp Howard. Universal Pictures. Directed by Arthur Lubin. 

Abbott and Costello's slapstick humor do not appeal to all audiences, but this is one film that even the most ardent A&C loathers will find hard not to like. Evelyn Ankers, Hollywood's top scream queen of the 1940s, adds great sweetheart support as does comedian Joan Davis. Her tango with Lou Costello is one of the highlights of this haunted house flick and we can only imagine how audiences screamed throughout the film - screams of laughter that is.