1973 | United Kingdom

Series of twist-in-the-tail dramas designed to keep its viewing audience guessing and at the edge of their seat right up to the final scene, Thriller was devised by Brian Clemens and offered to Michael Grade who initially turned it down but suggested that his uncle, Lew, might be interested. 

The series outline was sent to the elder Grade but Clemens heard nothing for months. When the call finally came Clemens was summoned to the ATV chief's office and, as was customary with Grade, a contract was agreed on the strength of a handshake. When Clemens enquired about how much money was to be spent on the series, and indeed how much he himself would make out of it, Lew Grade simply told him, "I promise you - you won't be disappointed." And according to Clemens, he wasn't! The deal that Grade struck involved the sale of the show to the USA for $100,000 per showing from the ABC Network. Each show was then budgeted at $100,000 per episode which meant that the series had broken even before it had been sold anywhere else. 


With so much money coming from the USA it was only right that each show would have a star approved by ABC, and that meant that either an American or a well-known European star was cast as the main character each week. When the series was shown in the USA it went out under the title of ABC Mystery Movie and the distinctive opening titles and moody Laurie Johnson theme music which helped set the atmosphere were inexplicably dropped, even so it was still a big hit and a second series was promptly ordered. 

Brian Clemens believes that the strength of the series lay in the fact that it avoided any form of overt terror or graphic violence, relying on the simple premise of allowing the imagination of the viewer to create it's own terrors. And the series certainly ran the whole gamut of horrors be they supernatural, murder or straightforward thrillers. 

Stars who appeared included Britain's own Helen Mirren, Diana Dors, Denholm Elliot and Stanley Baxter. British born actress Judy Carne, who had made a name for herself on the American comedy series Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, also appeared, as did international film star Diane Cilento. 

Thriller was a superior anthology series of the 1970s and through Network DVD viewers can chill and thrill once more to the complete series. It is highly recommended.

Published on February 7th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.