Starring Edward Andrews, Doro Merande, June Walker
Written by Mark Hanna and Boris Sobelman
Directed by Herschel Daugherty
Cuckolded hubby Maynard Thispin (Andrews) has plans for his wife (Ann Shoemaker) and they involve the Pennaroyd sisters (Merande and Walker) across the street who are constantly spying on the Thispins through binoculars. All the old birds want is a third player to fill the seat at their pinochle games. That seat's been vacant since Dierdre (Walker) brained their brother with a cleaver.
JS: Showing the opening prologue in shadows was an interesting stylistic choice, if perhaps better in intent than execution. Frankly, showing it that way, I think it would have been great to see a nice cleaver-in-the-head shot. Unfortunately, the murder was not that convincing (You mean because the cleaver missed his head entirely? Nitpicker! -PE).
PE: And did I miss how the authorities labeled brother Pennaroyd's death accidental? Did they mistake the part in his head for a part in his hair? Why is Dierdre out and about instead of in a looney bin? I've got a sneaking feeling these are the same cops who stamped "This is definitely Rose French, without a doubt" on the forehead of the wrong corpse back in "Rose's Last Summer."
JS: Don't go looking too deeply for serious logic on this one. This episode could literally be occurring in "The Munsters" universe. Because of that, it plays perfectly fine as a backlot episode. In addition, a great selection of character actors were on display - I loved seeing Burt Mustin (the agent on the train platform) and the great Vito Scotti (as Buddy Welsh trying to raise money to be an astronaut!).
PE: I'd like to blame that rotten "wop-wop" sit-com soundtrack on Image's faulty audio problems but I think it's down to Morton Stevens whipping up a few sit-com concertos in preparation for his gig years later on Gilligan's Island. It's the kind of fingernails-on-the-chalkboard-grating that can take one completely out of an otherwise tolerable show. I kept waiting for one of the characters to bend over and get booted in time to the "wop-wop-boom!"
JS: You disparage the soundtrack that I think provides the tonal consistency that makes the episode work. I found it a perfect fit for this Edward Andrews blackly comedic vehicle. Unlike "Masquerade," which I thought suffered in not knowing what it wanted to be (funny or scary), "A Third for Pinochle" is absolutely clear about what it is from the opening sequence.
PE: Edward Andrews does a nice job of playing the whipped husband and you actually want to stand up after he cracks his wife in the noggin and scream at the TV: "Yeah, that's for the downtrodden! The shackled! The abused!" Or at least I did. When Andrews stood up from his typewriter, after doing yet another errand for his wife, wearing an apron, it was comic gold. But I do hope he broadens his horizon in his third Thriller (the upcoming "Cousin Tundifer") and plays a man who doesn't murder his wife.
JS: Don't start looking for Andrews to replace Harry Townes or Henry Daniell—allow him to do what he does best. I think he's so great in this kind of role, I could watch him play a man who killed a new wife a week in a regular series...
PE: Maynard's drive to the train station with "wife" in tow is handled nicely and sets up the twist at the climax (and I won't even say that this would have run nicely on The Alfre..). A decent enough episode with some laughs but please point me to the next Robert Bloch episode. I'd take a Gothic mansion deep in the swamp right now over little old ladies and British whodunits. This ain't no Thriller.
JS: But it is a Thriller—and a rather effective one at that. If I've got to watch little old ladies, I'd rather have them served up like this than "Letter to a Lover" any day of the week. And it all pays off in the final shot (and musical exclamation point). Add to that Karloff's appropriate wrap up and I think we have another winner.
PE: Trivia time: Co-writer Mark Hanna wrote several 1950s cult horror flicks for the likes of Bert I. Gordon (Mr. B.I.G.), Nathan Juran, and Roger Corman, including The Undead, Not of This Earth, The Amazing Colossal Man, and the kitsch classic Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman.