When a businessman is arrested for his wife’s murder, he calls on a security expert to clear his name. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at the Thriller episode The Next Scream You Hear.
TITLE: Thriller – The Next Scream You Hear
BROADCAST: 6 July 1974
STARRING: Dinsdale Landen, Christopher George, Suzanne Neve, Richard Todd, Edward Hardwicke, Derek Bond
WRITER: Brian Clemens
DIRECTOR: Robert D Cardona
A Mrs. Peel receives an anonymous call whilst visiting her mother, tipping her off that her husband is cheating on her. She rushes home on the caller’s recommendation, expecting to find hubby with his paramour. Instead, she finds a house in darkness, and is strangled by an unseen assailant.
Mr. Robert Peel (George) has an alibi: He is at a business function, also attended by security expert Matthew Earp (Landen). As Peel leaves, an unknown woman (Neve) kisses him and says “Darling! I’ll see you later”, but Peel insists he has never seen her before.
The next morning, and apparently still under the impression that his wife is still at her mother’s, Peel is visited by the police. On searching the house, they find what looks like the scene of a party, and Mrs. Peel’s body in the boot of her husband’s car.
Mr. Peel protests his innocence, insisting that he swapped cars with someone the previous night. The police ask him if he wants to call a lawyer, but he opts instead to call Matthew Earp…
Dinsdale Landen’s Matthew Earp makes his second Thriller appearance, following series one effort An Echo Of Theresa. Compared to its predecessor, it sits more comfortably in the Thriller series overall, considerably more earthbound in its premise and execution, but its positioning at the end of series three suggests at least some effort to set it apart from the rest of the batch, and to make it appear more clearly as a spin-off series pilot.
Clemens was clearly fond of Matthew Earp, and ATV head Lew (later Lord) Grade must also have been a fan, since the broadcaster agreed that Earp should be given another outing with a possible view to getting his own series. This episode perhaps gives a clearer idea of the form such a show may have taken.
Despite some entertaining twists and turns the episode perhaps lags a bit in the middle of the tale (one or two scenes arguably outstay their welcome), but a series proper would likely have been in a more traditional one hour timeslot and would have trimmed such longueurs. After all, it’s easy to forget that Thriller’s running time was unusual for a British TV production and one of the purposes of a pilot is to highlight any fine tweaks which need to be made.
Within his own regular series format, there’s no reason to believe that the character couldn’t have been a success (Landen plays the role with an endearingly charming cockiness), but ultimately no series materialised and nothing more was heard from Matthew Earp.
Thriller meanwhile would return to business as usual for its fourth series, which would commence transmission in January 1975, but could it keep up the high standard of the splendid third run? Join me for the next episode, Screamer and we’ll find out together.
TRIVIA NOTES: This of course wasn’t the first time Clemens had featured a character called Mrs. Peel: A nod to his earlier success The Avengers (1961-69), perhaps? If so, bumping her off early would be a delightfully self-mocking in-joke.
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