Saturday, February 13, 2021

THE PLOT THICKENS - "Pilot Episode" (1963)

Tonight I've got a real Saturday the 13th Special for you. It's the pilot for a crazy TV show called "The Plot Thickens" made in 1963, that never aired, and after I explain the concept, you'll probably understand why!
Let me see if I can explain this! "The Plot Thickens" was a game show with a panel of celebrities competing for $500.00 cash! The panel watches a special ten minute murder movie that was made specifically for the show, and afterwards, the suspects are brought into the studio and questioned. After a series of questions, the panel makes their choices of who they think the murderer is.

The wonderful Warrene (The Phantom Planet, Black Zoo, Rat Fink) Ott is the hostess/bailiff for the show. That's the black cat mascot of the show there with her!

The host of the show was Jack Linkletter, the son of the great Art Linkletter. Jack also hosted the great folk music show on TV called "Hootenanny" in 1963-1964.

The panel from left to right was Richard Halley who was an actual private detective, then Stanley Ralph Ross, Jan Sterling, and the always charming Groucho Marx.
Part of the deal was that if one of the panelists gets it right and the detective doesn't, then the prize money is doubled to a thousand dollars.
If you don't remember who Jan Sterling is, maybe this shot from "Women's Prison" will jog your memory!
The live audience seems to be enjoying the show!

Warrene wheels out the big screen TV so the panel can watch the ten minute production titled "Murder In The Crystal Ball."

This phony swami, his wife and his buddy have been ripping off a whole lot of people, and the swami is ready to call it quits, and get on out of town and retire, but his wife wants to do just one more seance for some high dollar big shots, so he begrudgingly agrees. His lovely wife Lois is played by Linda (Naked Flame) Bennett, and his pal Arnold is played by James T. Callahan, who was also in a "Twilight Zone" episode, "Ninety Years Without Slumbering."

The swami named Kazam was played by the remarkable Arthur Batanides, a staple of 60's and 70's TV. Besides shows like "Star Trek" and "Mission Impossible," Arthur was in two "Twilight Zone" episodes, "Mr. Denton On Doomsday," and "The Mirror," and also the "Outer Limits" episode called "Specimen: Unknown."

By the time the participants all get there, kazoom Kazam is already in a deep trance!

The floating trumpet blasts squeaky notes ala Ed Wood style..............

...............And freaks out one of the members of the group, the guy who brought a gun to the seance, Jay Adler as Mr. Lowe. Jay Adler was in "The Big Combo," "The Killing," and also two "Twilight Zone" episodes, "The Jungle," and "He's Alive."

Before the seance gets a chance to be over, Kazam is shot, and now it's time to figure out whodunnit!

Luckily there was a detective hiding in a closet who heard and saw the whole thing, now we just have to see if the panelists can figure it out!

Pretty much all Groucho can focus on is how beautiful both Linda and Warrene are! Everything else is just a moot point to him!

The actors try their darndest to stay in character, but it's difficult when Groucho Marx is asking you questions!

Panelist Stanley Ralph Ross gets an extra shout out here for his accomplishments in pop culture. Stanley. The big man who did it all stood 6'6" and wrote many episodes of "Batman," "The Man Fron U.N.C.L.E.," and "The Monkees," etc. He also is credited with the ultimate sports comment "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."
When's the last time you saw anybody smoking a cigarette on a TV game show? Stanley Ralph Ross died from lung cancer at the age of 64!

Groucho's the only one who correctly figures out who the murderer was, and wins the thousand dollars, but it's not exactly the prize he was seeking!

Here's a couple more nails in the coffin of why this had the potential to be a great show, the story was written by Robert (PSYCHO) Bloch..........

..........And it was a creation of Dungeon Superhero, and gimmick master supreme,
Mr. William Castle. I rest my case!


Caffeinated Joe said...

Wow. Never heard of this. Quite interesting, such a unique premise. I would have liked to watch and try and figure it out, too.

krd said...

Funny story about Groucho Marx: he and Irwin Allen were great friends. You might say BFFs even. But wait, that's not the funniest part.

Irwin Allen loved being successful, and he loved showing off his success (I visited his offices at WB in 1980, and it was breathtaking), and no doubt he loved nice, big cars (given his success, who wouldn't), and had just bought a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow I believe (his license plate said "1-IA"), so he decided to take a drive with his wife Sheila and his buddy Groucho. So they're cruising along, and the ever proud Mr. Allen says to Groucho, "What do you think of my new car, Groucho?" And Groucho, not missing a beat, replies, "This hunk of junk?" So Irwin Allen turns up the volume on the car stereo so loudly that he nearly blasts Groucho out the back seat.

End of story.

knobgobbler said...

I liked the show, thanks for pointing it out. One thing I particularly liked is that the actors stuck with their characters during the question portion... getting indignant over some of the questions and not laughing at Groucho's joking.
My only issue with it is that there weren't really any clues that could have got you to the actual solution. It's just a guess.

Grant said...

I don't know Jan Sterling all that well, but "Women's Prison" is a good choice for a still, because it's very entertaining. It also has Howard Duff and Ida Lupino, one of those celebrity couples partly famous for performing together after separating.

krd said...

In 1972-73, my department boss when I was a camera salesman was sent to a cushy event put on by Polaroid to unveil their brand new SX-70 instant camera. Jan Sterling was the celebrity spokesperson for Polaroid at the event. He didn't know who she was and didn't care, just went for the freebies. As usual, I had to stay home and keep selling Kodak Instamatic cameras, Flashcubes, and Kodak 126 film cartridges.

krd said...

PS: re the "Floating Trumpet," Ed Wood's NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (original title: REVENGE OF THE DEAD" prominently featured a floating trumpet swinging back and forth with a squacking trumpet horn a-blowing! Silly as heck!

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