A first time visitor to London undergoes strange changes in his personality. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES investigates this episode of Brian Clemens’ classic British anthology series.
TITLE: Thriller – An Echo Of Theresa
BROADCAST: 5th May 1973
STARRING: Paul Burke, Polly Bergen, Dinsdale Landen
WRITER: Brian Clemens
DIRECTOR: Peter Jefferies
American businessman Brad Hunter (Paul Burke), on his first visit to London finds himself unexplainedly acting like another person altogether, and drawn to the address of a woman named Theresa, despite the two of them having never met. Much to the dismay of his wife (Polly Bergen), his behaviour becomes more erratic, and it seems that a few individuals with a mysterious past have an interest in his movements.
Is Brad mad? Is he possessed? Or is the explanation more earthbound? Private investigator Matthew Earp (Dinsdale Landen) decides to take on the case…
Only part way into the first series, this story already sticks out like a sore thumb. Although not entirely without interest (none of the episodes was a complete loss), it’s fair to say that the outlandish storyline and conclusion would have been much more at home in one of Clemens’ other creations, The Avengers, whose running time would also have suited it better – there are very few episodes of Thriller which could be accused of dragging, but this is sadly one of them.
There’s also the niggling feeling that this is a back-door pilot for the character of Earp to land his own series (indeed, the character would appear again in series 3). Still, the London locations are interesting to see in their 1973 state, especially EMI’s headquarters of the time at 20 Manchester Square, weakly disguised as “Demi House”.
TRIVIA POINT: For its later, recut TV Movie incarnation, the episode was given the singularly misleading title Anatomy Of Terror. The replacement opening and closing sequences were particularly poor, even by the usual standards of these rehashed versions. To call them woefully inept would be a compliment.
An interesting point that the storyline might have better suited “The Avengers” or indeed another espionage-themed series. I suppose even the Earp character could bear some similarity with John Steed. I judge it a little more favourably but the first half in particular can be hard going and maybe it would have suited a shorter running-time. Without Earp it would have made less impact but I also wonder whether the reliance on Earp might have meant the other characters and storyline didn’t get sufficient attention. Sometimes the focus on a star character / actor can be distraction for writers and producers. I think this was also true of the other Earp episode “The Next Scream You Hear”. He seems to be the chief redeeming feature of both but maybe the reliance on him was a sign of otherwise uninspiring characters and storylines. Perhaps elements of “this is not much of a story but if we put Matthew Earp in it will spice it up.”
Been 24 years since I last saw this one but….single poorest episode of the lot for me. The strengths of “Thriller” – the reliance on character development, a plot that twists and turns before revealing all – are diluted to excess here. It’s obvious from the start that neither husband nor wife are up to anything nefarious and, as such, neither lead character is given very much to expand upon. Earp was, perhaps, based loosely upon John Steed but without the latter’s self-deprecating style. Dinsdale Landen comes across as more of a preening, self-satisfied peacock than an avenger. The villains? They display a distinct lack of villainy. Basil Henson would struggle to unnerve a class of pre-schoolers and Larry Taylor, normally a quite effective “heavy”, has left his menace in the dressing room. Reason I’m so harsh on this episode is simply that so many of the other “Thriller” entries were so bloomin’ good. It’s what makes a poor episode stand out like a sore thumb.