Musings in the Dark: Horror 101: "The Cheaters."

10/06/2019

Horror 101: "The Cheaters."



Boris Karloff’s Thriller was an anthology series that aired from 1960-1961.  I’ve discussed the show in a previous blog post, but now I’m about to talk about some of my favorite episodes in this appreciation series.

The Cheaters.  Written by Robert Bloch, this story is about a supernatural pair of glasses that were created by a sorcerer 200 years prior to the events of the story.  The glasses are stamped with the word “Veritas,” which means “truth.”  This episode is a mini-anthology of four short episodes as different people encounter the glasses, called “cheaters.”  The protagonists put the glasses on and strangely enough, are able to “hear” the thoughts of others; usually negative thoughts directed towards them.  


It is debatable if this power is due to wearing the glasses alone or if there is a measure of paranoia in the wearer.  In the last vignette, the protagonist figures out that the way the cheaters actually work is that they must be worn while looking into a mirror—the glasses are meant to reveal one’s true self.  So he does this, and let’s just say…he doesn’t like what he sees.

I love this episode.  The vignettes get right to the point.  The acting is decent—though some actors chew scenery like old pros; which a lot of them are.  I love that the old lady is a straight up kleptomaniac.  I love that the cheating wife deadass forgot her hubby’s birthday and randomly decided to celebrate it a week later.  I love that people can die from a tap on the head with a candelabra.  And what I love the most is when the final protagonist—the unpublished author; the one who figures it all out—says that his book is complete…except for the last chapter.  I straight hollered when I first heard that.  Dude…then your book isn’t complete.

Is this episode scary?  I’m sure it was back in 1960; sensibilities were way different then.  But I can see how it would have scared the shit out of a 1960s audience.  The penultimate scene where the protagonist sees who he truly is, can’t take it and claws his face off while his beleaguered, screaming wife is just outside the door, begging him to come home is devastating.  Then the episode ends.  There’s no redemption and no one to come out and say that everything turned out fine.  No.  The episode ends when the wife hears her husband completely lose his mind.  In a time where TV shows typically had happy endings, a downbeat ending like this is a game changer.  I can only imagine what this did to viewers in 1960.

For that alone, I love it. 

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