A fashion model blows her savings on a Rolls Royce, but it seems to have a mind of its own. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES takes One Deadly Owner for a test drive.

TITLE: Thriller – One Deadly Owner
BROADCAST: 16 February 1974
STARRING: Jeremy Brett, Donna Mills, Robert Morris, Laurence Payne
WRITER: Brian Clemens
DIRECTOR: Ian Fordyce

A white Rolls Royce pulls up somewhere in the English countryside. Its unidentified driver gets out, lifts the body of a woman from the boot and dumps the corpse in a deserted ruin before driving away.

Some time later, fashion model Helen Cook (Mills) walks into a car dealership. She has passed by every day for the past week, and has become enchanted by one car in particular: the same white Rolls Royce.

Helen makes the wild decision to buy the car, even though it will wipe out her savings. Her photographer boyfriend, Peter Tower (Brett) isn’t too enthusiastic about her impulse purchase: “Ridiculous”, he says.

When she goes out for a spin, Helen is disturbed by the clear sound of a woman screaming inside the car. Peter dismisses it as a mechanical noise, but Helen isn’t so sure, particularly when her next drive finds her unable to control the vehicle, as though someone else has taken the wheel, and before she knows it Helen ends up passing through Reigate, eventually stopping a in a small village called Hitherton.

Peter is very keen that Helen should get rid of the car immediately, but Helen’s curiosity is sufficiently piqued to return to Hitherton. As she does so, the radio starts playing a news report. Nothing odd about that, except the programme was actually broadcast three months earlier…

Donna Mills in the 1974 Thriller episode, One Deadly Owner

An investigation of the car’s boot turns up an incriminating clue, and Helen tracks down the car’s previous owner. She thinks that she is on the way to solving a murder but, accompanied by an increasingly reluctant Peter, she finds that the actual solution may lie much closer to home.

Another supernatural entry in the series, which plays equally well as a whodunnit, and one which is fondly remembered by fans. Brian Clemens himself also cited One Deadly Owner as a favourite.

When watched in sequence, the episode does perhaps feel a little static after the preceding Kiss Me And Die, but Mills and Brett play off each other well, which is a real asset as their dialogue together carries much of the story. Ultimately, One Deadly Owner works superbly as a television play, and is just the kind of cosy, mildly creepy tale which is ideal for watching from the sofa on a cold winter afternoon.

TRIVIA NOTES: Donna Mills’ second of three appearances in the series – she had originally been suggested to Clemens by the show’s US broadcaster, ABC.

Future Blockbusters host Bob Holness can be heard off-screen as a radio announcer.

The Rolls Royce’s number plate (3 KMH) apparently refers to Kingsbury Motor Hire, the car’s owners. The vehicle turned up in other film and TV productions over the years, including The Avengers, The Dick Emery Show, Some Girls Do, Shoestring and Survivors.

The later US TV-Movie version was padded out with a very dull and tacky credits sequence, stretched out to breaking point and likely to make restless viewers switch channels before the story proper could begin.

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