Saturday, June 28, 2014

Classic TV: Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963)

Back in the day, it was fairly common for sponsors to attach their brands to specific television shows, whether it was as the primary sponsor, or the company name would be attached to one of a number of anthology or variety shows that were just as common in the early years of television.

One such case was Kraft Suspense Theatre, which spent 2 seasons on NBC (1963-5), a co-production of Universal/Revue and Perry Como's production company. Yeah, I know. Whodathunk, right?

Suspense Theatre was built around mysteries, not always involving murder, although the episode we'll have up for you does involve murder. My first exposure to the series was when it aired in syndication in the 70's. Coincidentally, it aired back then on the same channel that today is an NBC affiliate.

The episode, "Once Upon a Savage Night", was later expanded and repackaged for theatres under the title, "Nightmare in Chicago", which is how I first ran across this story. It's hard to believe that a year or so after this program aired, Philip Abbott, who was the villain of the piece, would be on the other side of the law, co-starring in The F. B. I.. Again, whodathunk? Those of you who think of Ted Knight solely for later comedy work, particularly his Emmy winning turn as Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, would be impressed with his dramatic turn here.

Because of Knight's, and Robert Ridgely's, cartoon backgrounds, this episode was previously posted on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, some time back. Anyway, for now, let's pull back the curtain on "Once Upon a Savage Night":



Edit, 8/29/17: Had to replace the video, and the new copy has additional time, such that the poster restarts the video at the 59 minute mark. Don't ask.

A couple of years ago, Suspense Theatre, or, to use its alternate title, Crisis, resurfaced on Retro, but was gone by the time the network left my cable system. Maybe one of Universal's cable channels, like, say for example, Cloo, could bring it back. All I know is that the animated opening, with music by future Oscar winner John Williams, did leave an impression.

Rating: B.

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