Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Episode 14: The Trevi Collection

Episode 14: The Trevi Collection
Original Airdate: 1/24/75
Guest Starring: Nina Foch, Lara Parker
Written by Rudolph Borchert
Directed by Don Weis

Kolchak believes that fashion designer Madame Trevi may be responsible for several mysterious deaths through the use of black magic. When one of her models offers to help him, he doesn't realize that Trevi may not be the real threat.

PE: Well, since we don't see the disheveled Carl Kolchak sitting in a gutter someplace speaking into a tape recorder, there's a bit of suspense here: could this be the adventure Carl doesn't survive? 

JS: This one hooked me right away with the creepy living mannequins. I wish a still image could do them justice, but you really need to see them rolled across the floor on a dolly to appreciate them.

PE: If I was Mickey Patchek, the tip-off that there's something strange going on, while he's snapping secret pics, would be that those mannequins are moving. 

JS: While I was hoping that Madame Trevi's living mannequins were going to be the monster of the week, that's not the case. At least the mannequins make another appearance before the episode is over.

PE: Nice ghoulish dialogue between Carl and the publicity-seeking fashion model, Madelaine (the still lovely Lara Parker):
Madelaine: What kind of story could you do about me?
Carl: Well, I might be able to tie you into a story on the man's death.
Madelaine: Terrific! I like the contrast! Beautiful fashion model. Grim, tawdry death of a fashion spy.
Are we sure this is Chicago and not Hollywood?

JS: She portrays a kind of character we haven't seen much in this series—one who's more interested in talking to Kolchak than he is in listening to her. Parker made a name for herself on Dan Curtis' long running gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. She has gone on to pen several DS volumes (both fiction and non-fiction).

PE: Lara Parker's a babe but she's got an unusual delivery. She always sounds as though she's just run a mile, out of breath. A bit of a scene chewer as well.

JS: Yeah, when she turns on that maniacal laugh, there's no stopping it.

PE: It occurs to me that Carl Kolchak falls down at the most inopportune times more than any 1950s monster movie heroine.

JS: The accidents that befall our murder victims are very interestingly staged this time out (for the most part). A favorite of mine being the cat-attack.

PE: The "mauling" of model Ariel is a stunner. I haven't seen such consummate animal tossing like this since Eddie Albert and June Havoc suffered "The Flight of Frog Squadron One" But that's topped by the underworld machine-gunning snitch Murray Vernon in the phone booth as he's falling asleep. Mobsters have no class. At least Murray was able to hang up the phone before bleeding out to avoid extra charges. 

JS: Yeah, Vernon's falling asleep on his feet when he's supposedly being brought down with a hail of bullets from a machine-gun was pretty ridiculous.
PE: The goons give Carl a better deal: he has 60 hours to cough up the evidence. That's "the day after tomorrow night" as one of the heavies reminds Kolchak. The other heavy is played by our old friend, character actor Richard Bakalyan, who kept us entertained through five episodes of Batman last year. Bakalyan was the go-to guy for a heavy in the 60s and 70s. 

JS: I was pleased to see him here, too. For all sakes and purposes, he could be playing one of the same hoods that he did in Gotham City.

PE: Tony is perplexed by the sixty hour figure:
Tony: Sixty hours? How'd you come up with that?
Carl: Arbitration.
The scene following that exchange, where Tony has his near-seizure while trying to talk Carl into doing something sensible, is the reason that I love this series, even when everything else that makes up the episode is weak. 

JS: Yes, Trevi earns points for great Kolchak/Tony banter.

PE: The shower death of Melody Sedgwick (Beverly Gill) is a knock-out. There's no gore involved but you can feel that scalding water hitting the girl and her obvious helplessness. One of the more effectively staged death scenes we've had in this series. Risque shot as well. Gill certainly looks nude from behind the frosted glass. I guess we'll have to wait for the blu-rays to show up before we make a final decision. 

JS: I'm so glad you've finally embraced a new technology, but I think your expectations for the capabilities of Blu Ray may be a tad too high.

PE: An odd gaffe when Carl tells Tony that his boss should discover haute couture: "That's high culture" says Carl, but later when interviewing Madame Trevi, the fashionista uses the phrase and Carl has no idea what she's talking about. But the most inexplicable bit is when Madelaine tells Carl that Trevi is a witch and he looks at her like she's nuts. "Witch?" he asks as he turns away, rolling his eyes. Obviously, if anyone's going to believe the girl, it would be Kolchak. That is, unless witches are a bit more far-fetched than vampires, werewolves, and moss monsters.

JS: In all fairness, I don't think the disbelief was in witches so much as it was that a popular fashion designer might be a witch.

PE: That sure looked like Simon Oakland up at the podium lecturing about witchcraft. Or is it Edward G. Robinson? How can we ever forget Priscilla Morrill (Griselda) as Donald Pleasance's nagging wife from The Outer Limits episode "The Man With the Power"?

JS:  How about the doctor, played by Bernie Koppel before joining the crew of the Love Boat? I thought he and Carl had a nice exchange after he overhears Kolchak and Trevi talking in the hospital.

PE: I love how Kolchak is set up by the evil coven, falling for their parlor tricks but then the scene is completely ruined by amateurish, over-the-top guffawing. The kind of forced laughter a parent comes up with at his kid's school play (with crazy eyes as an added bonus).

JS: That was a very interesting twist, to be sure. Imagine if a vampire had convinced Kolchak to stake a human!

PE: A wildly uneven episode, filled with plenty of show-killing slow spots and a nutty finale. Madelaine's forced apple-bobbing in a vat of blue dye (at least I think it's supposed to be blue dye) by Kolchak is nasty and violent (I expected a police witnessing ala The Night Stalker at this point but none came) but it's capped off by the histrionics of a screeching, very blue Lara Parker.

PE Rating:

JS Rating:

Next up... Kolchak faces the Chopper!


  1. Lara Parker, my childhood crush! She always be Dark Shadows' Angelique to her many fans (and she even has a cameo in the upcoming Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version). So, I thought her guesting on NIGHT STALKER would be a match made in, uh, heaven.

    Unfortunately, as I'm sure Mark will fill us in later, it wasn't a happy experience for her. According to Lara, by that point McGavin wasn't the happiest of men off-camera.

    And Lara agrees that she should have laughed a lot less in the seance scene.

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  3. ***edited for a spelling error

    Oh my god, Lara's manic laughter at the end of the very frightening seance scene scared me to death as a kid and still does. She looks like a crazed animal in that final shot, thrusting her head back violently as if she is channeling the devil himself.

    The funniest moment in the entire series is when Kolchak, running for his life from the seance, stops ever-so-briefly to take back his "not-that-nominal" donation! Oh man, I still laugh out loud every time he does it. Classic Carl!

    The late great Nina Foch (yet another COLUMBO alumni and star of 1944's CRY OF THE WEREWOLF) is fantastic as Madame Trevi. Her bit of correcting Kolchak on the pronunciation of "Salon" ("Get out of my salon!") is another hilarious Kolchak moment.

    I love the whole misdirection of Trevi as the black witch. That scene where Kolchak is almost run over by the driver-less car (yes, you can see the stunt driver) and he looks up at the window to see Trevi watching the incident is chilling. I TOTALLY thought she was "in on it" for sure at that point.

    The living mannequins were extremely frightening to me as a kid. I love the music in those scenes. Great inter-cuts of actual actresses turning their heads but then returning to mannequin form in the very next shot. Scary as hell.

    I love the ending with the crazed Parker turning blue with boils and pox all over her face, exposing her for the monster she is. I also love that she didn't die, but rather spent the rest of her days in a mental ward (the cost of laying down with the devil).

    Back to the seance scene, this reminded me a lot of the movie RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975) with Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, and Lara Parker (!). In it, there is a very similar scene where devil worshippers remove their hoods to reveal that they are the very people the protagonists have met throughout the course of the film. This same vibe is captured at the conclusion of the seance scene in this episode, where the witches coven turns out to be the same people Kolchak had met with earlier at the seminar (and the woman who sent him to the coven in the first place is the first one we see remove her hood!).

    Great episode. Different type of "monster" (one who Kolchak interacts with quite a bit!), spooky atmosphere, smokin' hot models in bras, and some very scary moments.

    I love "The Trevi Collection" a lot.

  4. The witchcraft lecturer is Marvin Miller, from the old MILLIONAIRE series from the '50s; also narrator of THE FBI series, plus innumerable voice-overs, narrations, cartoons, commercials - and oh yeah, he was the voice of Robby The Robot in FORBIDDEN PLANET.

    But if you heard him talk, you'd know that right away, wouldn't you?

  5. Great call on Miller being the voice of ROBBY THE ROBOT, Mike. I never picked up on that!

  6. And here's my call of the day: Lara Parker played the ill-fated Laura Banner, wife to Dr. David Banner, in the original INCREDIBLE HULK pilot (she dies in an overturned auto that Bill Bixby can't budge, providing the lead character with his motivation to tap into human strength sources). Oh and, btw, I always got a kick out of "Trevi Collection," especially the hysterical, thoroughly crazed climax.

  7. This has been the most frightening Kolchak episode I've seen so far, but then evil witches always did scare me. You guys have covered all the funny and scary moments I enjoyed. The scene with the forced guffawing from the coven seemed entirely silly until LP got her crazy eyes rolling, and I got completely creeped out. I thought the ending was great, and only due to her maniacal acting that I didn't end up thinking she'd become a Smurf.

    1. Parker's eyes--clearly her most memorable feature, although she was a dish all around--were so intense that I always thought I'd have trouble accepting her in a NON-witch role.

  8. Carl meets TOURIST TRAP! Any living mannequin story works for me (from the LIVING DOLLS short USA used to show all the time to the "Weird Tailor"episode from THRILLER) and this episode is no exception.

    I agree with Doug on the bit where Kolchak tears out of the coven ritual and stops just long enough to grab his money back. Even when in the throes of supernatural hysteria,Carl is always level headed enough to know the value of a dollar...particularly in the 70's.

  9. The casting people from this series should all be given an A for always getting the right people, even for the smallest roles (well, maybe not narcoleptic Vern)... That's Edie Grant directing Kolchak to the proper coven, and the man ready to carve up the 4-H goat was one of the three fellow spies at the C.O.N.T.R.O.L. spy school, with Leo Gordon and the faux peter lorre... Having the prime witch fool Carl (and us) for much of the episode, playing it straight until getting her broom in a knot was a nice touch! As to the haute couture slip-up, i'm betting that this was a cutting room decision to move up Tony and Carl's chat ahead of Carl's visit to Madame Trevi's salon for pacing reasons -- they probably felt we'd forget about the mafia knuckles if we didn't get that scene first.
    Lara Parker was an incredible dish. Going toe-to-toe with McGavin was probably a task for many (ask Burt Reynolds) at times, but she held her own, bizarre cackling and all. She can chew up my scenery anytime.

  10. A British magazine criticized the mannequins by saying the mix of actual ones and people did not work, but I never found that a problem. The new DARK SHADOWS revival will hopefully make this solid episode a curio all over again.

    Miss Morrill is great here as Griselda, was great in everything she did and i just happened to run into this TV ad for now-discontinued Tylenol competitor Encaprin that she opens on the included link:


  11. Appears to be a dormant blog, however, the actor at the podium with beard is Marvin Miller, famous radio personality and star of TV's "The Millionaire."

  12. That's Richard Bakalyan as the thug who roughhouses Kolchak in an early scene, who I realized had earlier featured with McGavin in "The Delicate Delinquent".