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Series / Thriller

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Sadly, there are no dancing zombies in any of the episodes.

Thriller was an American Genre Anthology TV Series that aired in the 1960s and lasted for two seasons on NBC. The show was primarily focused around horror and suspense stories which were presented by Boris Karloff, who would act as the show's Horror Host, as well as starring in several episodes. Many of the show's episodes were written by Robert Bloch, who also adapted several of his own stories. One of the best remembered things about the series was its musical score, which could be genuinely scary, and won the show an Emmy Award.

The show is not to be confused with the Thriller genre, the Michael Jackson album/song/video Thriller, or a British TV show from the 70s with the exact same name.


Tropes appearing in Thriller include:

  • The Alcoholic: Beatrice Graves in "The Grim Reaper".
  • Asshole Victim: It's a horror anthology, these are bound to come up quite often.
  • The Bad Guy Wins/Downer Ending: "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk", "The Devil's Ticket", "La Strega" and "Papa Benjamin".
  • Breather Episode:
    • "Mr. George," which almost reads like a fairy tale, features an orphan girl being rescued from her abusive guardians, who are planning on killing her for her inheritance, by the ghost of a family friend. It does not stop the ending from being a Tear Jerker, however.
    • "Worse Than Murder," which has no supernatural elements, plays out more like a soap opera than a ghost story.
  • Cassandra Truth: Discussed and Lampshaded several times in "The Grim Reaper".
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Virtually every sci-fi or fantasy series received a comic book version, and Thriller was no exception. After the show's cancellation, Gold Key Comics decided to keep its comic going; it was retitled Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and ran for decades, outliving Karloff himself (though he continued to "host" the comic, postmortem, into the 1980s, a fact the master of horror would have appreciated).
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  • Cramming the Coffin: Part of a plot by an undertaker to get rid of his wife in "'Til Death Do Us Part".
  • Creepy Changing Painting: "The Grim Reaper" has the titular portrait which has blood appear on its scythe whenever someone is about to die.
  • Deal with the Devil: The protagonist of "The Devil's Ticket" makes one. It turns out about as well as you'd expect.
  • Death by Sex: Subverted in "The Watcher"; the murderer tries to kill the protagonists for having sex, but both of them survive.
  • Deep South: The setting of "Pigeons from Hell".
  • Driven to Suicide: In "The Cheaters", a Jerkass scientist creates glasses that let you see someone’s true self. When he looks into the mirror while wearing the glasses, he sees his true self. He doesn’t take it well, and his maid finds him to have hung himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t destroy the glasses, setting the episode’s plot into motion.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The Teaser of "Rose's Last Summer" shows Mary Astor's over-the-hill actress in a full-on drunken freakout, but her history with alcohol is only a background issue in a story about Rose acting as a double for an elderly heiress.
  • The Film of the Book: Several episodes are adapted from short stories by authors such as Robert Bloch, Joseph Payne Brennan, Robert E. Howard and Cornell Woolrich.
  • The Grim Reaper: A portrait of him appears in, well, "The Grim Reaper".
  • Grimmification: Some episodes based on short stories were darker than the original. Examples:
    • The original "The Incredible Doctor Markesan," a short story called,"Colonel Markesan," has a Happy Ending, where the hero manages to escape and burn down the house, destroying the undead creatures. In the TV show adaptation, however, Markesan is destroyed, which should technically free his captives and allow the hero to escape with his life but the final scene shows his wife was not so lucky.
    • Also used as a twist in "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk", a modern retelling of the Circe legend. We are initially lead to believe that Mrs. Hawk is merely toying with her victims (men that she has turned into pigs) in order to teach them a lesson. Even after we realize she is much more sinister than she appears, we are also lead to believe that Capt. Ulysses will rescue her victims and defeat her, just like the original Ulysses. Not only does he end up a pig, Mrs. Hawk ends up selling him, as well as the father and two sons she enchanted, to the slaughterhouse. The episode ends with her meeting her next victim.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: According to "Pigeons from Hell" you can use voodoo magic to turn people into immortal, mind controlling zombies.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: "The Cheaters".
  • Mirror Monster: "The Hungry Glass" combines this with Our Ghosts Are Different.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Beatrice Graves in "The Grim Reaper" is an extremely prolific mystery novelist.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: In "The Incredible Doctor Markesan" the dead can be resurrected by some kind of formula.
  • Phony Psychic: Karloff himself plays a stage psychic in "The Prediction". He starts getting genuine visions of the future, but no one believes him.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Mr. Smith in "The Weird Tailor" is already dabbling in black magic when he loses his son. His attempt to bring him back take him to a blind psychic, a used car dealer with a sinister book, and the titular Domestic Abuser tailor.
  • Scary Scarecrows: The father-in-law of a murderous swindler animates one in "The Hollow Watcher."
  • The Scourge of God: The murderer in "The Watcher" kills people he believes are committing wrongs.
  • Wicked Witch: A common threat. Both the titular "La Strega" and "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk," for example.


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