FILMS and TV… Diana Dors in a Triple Dose of Horror and Suspense

#1960s #1970s

 

Diana Dors in three villainess roles with unexpected plots…

 

Reviewing Diana Dors as a femme fatale, a villainess nurse and a nagging wife and mother in three roles from her captivating character actress career.

 

 

After reading Anna Cale’s fabulous biography – The Real Diana Dors (2021) –  on this British classically trained actress I was determined to see more of this British actress’ work.  Over Dors sadly short career  – as she passed away at 52 – Diana Dors aka “the British Bombshell” entertained us in a wide range of roles as a character actress. Her fabulous filmography included both film and TV and covered a wide variety of genres.

These three reviews are on just a few of her vast filmography, with three very different roles in her forays into suspense and horror plots.

 

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1962)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1961) (HD 1080) 8thManDVD.com™ Cartoon Channel

Diana appeared in two Alfred Hitchcock productions starring in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1962) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Run for Doom (1963). This review concentrates on the former show where she plays Irene, a magician’s young glamorous wife and assistant. Her husband Victor (David J Stewart) works for a circus as The Great Sadini.

After Victor finds an unconscious young man one day, he brings him home and looks after him. However, Irene finds the young man “creepy”. The young man, Hugo (Brandon De Wilde) comes round and tells them he believes that she looks like an angel and her husband the devil. Hugo has run away from a home, and it’s suggested he has a possible mental health problem and is very naive.

Hugo watches this couple’s magic act. He becomes upset about the trick where he watches a magic trick where Victor saws Irene in two with a buzz saw. The trick is explained by the trapeze artist, George who convinces Hugo it is part of their act and she is unharmed.

George (Larry Kert) is having an affair with Irene, and she wants to run away with him but needs Victor’s money. After Hugo discovers their affair, she convinces Hugo that her husband really is the Devil, and his magic power is in his wand. Irene encourages Hugo to kill Victor and steal his wand. She then lies to Hugo saying they can take over the act once her husband is dead. But things don’t go as she planned…

This episode was not shown after it was made in 1962 due to the gruesome content. It was written by Robert Bloch who wrote those creepy tales with a twist such as Asylum (1972) and episodes of Circle of Fear (1973) and some of the darker episodes in Star Trek (1966-69).

Diana is wonderfully credible as the vampy femme fatale in this story. As Irene, she is evil and frightening in the scene where she manipulates Hugo. Irene takes full advantage of Hugo’s fears about her husband. Diana plays on Hugo’s fears convincingly, as she tells of the “evil” nature of her husband. She acts as the wounded party and to him, she is the “angel” he believes.

It’s ironic for Hugo that he is just coming round to believing Victor is a nice man before this scene. De Wilde plays her young victim as an innocent yet troubled young man who falls for her story and believes her lies.  And there is a twist, that even Irene won’t see coming…

 

Thriller (1973-76), Nurse Will Make It Better, Se04 Ep02

Great clip of Diana Dors as Bessy Morne giving Patrick Troughton as Lyall a bad time in an episode from the fantastic Anthology series Thriller, Rita Webb

For the second of those fabulous Diana Dors roles, I remember her in an episode of Thriller  (1973-76). This series was a wee bit like a British version of The Alfred Hitchock Presents kind. The episodes I’ve watched so far have been a bit hit and miss on the suspense and eerie factor. But they have never disappointed me with their starry cast including Jeremy Brett, Donna Mills, Charles Gray, Judy Geeson and Robert Powell.

This episode titled Nurse Will Make it Better is the spookiest and the best one I’ve seen of this series so far. Darlin Husband didn’t have to riff the story, as Diana did it for him often talking to the fourth wall. It mixes a compelling script with unintentional comedy throughout. Diana and other cast members overact in a good way and it’s fun and spooky in equal proportions.  It really is a treat of an episode.

Diana stars as Bessy Morne, an English nurse “from the agency” who arrives at an American diplomat, Edgar Harrow’s (Cec Linder) home somewhere in England, as if by magic. Bessy looks like much older Mary Poppins. Diana wears a frightful grey wig reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966).

Bessy has come to look after Harrow’s daughter Charley (Linda Liles), who had a horse riding accident at the start of the episode. Charley is the patient from hell as she spends most of her time screaming and thrashing about the bed! Bessy is the seventh nurse to come and look after her in seven weeks. She has the bedside manner of Nurse Ratched – from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – on a very bad day and is more than a bit like Roddy McDowall’s evil character in this episode of Fantasy Island (1981) (if you press that you’ll get a spoiler).

Bessie charms the diplomat and gets invited to stay in their house. She even gets to eat with the family, and she makes him believe that this is part of Charley’s treatment. In time, she has also both the really overdramatic, Charley and her younger sister Susy (Tiffany Kinney) under her spell. But his daughter Ruth (Andrea Marcovicci) and the diplomat’s bodyguard and his dog are not convinced… and they think she’s evil personified. Ruth is worried about Bessy’s influence on her sisters.

Needless to say, the dog dies mysteriously after barking way too much at Bessie. Then Charley makes a sudden recovery and she’s not the girl she used to be… But is Bessie all that she seems? Bessy smokes a pipe, believes punching is the best cure for a hysterical patient, and Susie later looks more than spaced out… If I wrote that Patrick Troughton appears at the start as a drunken priest, Lyall and then returns much later in the episode with a Bible in a scene where Bessie goes full-tilt devilish… then you might understand just how far this plot went…

Diana is a real force of nature as this character. She pulls you in, like the storyline as a nice offbeat caring woman. Then her quirks build up to a crescendo of evil. Diana complements this character wonderfully and proves a godsend in this cast. She’s alternately charming and then sinister and gives a menacing slant to every event. Her character often speaks to the fourth wall or has spooky close-ups. She totally steals every scene and her on-screen tussle with Troughton’s priest is one that must be seen even if you don’t watch this episode. And Diana looks like she’s relishing every moment, as this old bat from hell…

 

From Beyond the Grave (1974), An Act of Kindness

From Beyond the Grave: Sausages Again?, Nick D

Diana also starred in an episode of the Amicus anthology film, From Beyond the Grave (1974). This story was the second of these four stories and was titled An Act of Kindness. Dors starred with Ian Bannen, John O’Farrell, Donald Pleasence and his daughter Angela. The episode is spooky to the end.

The story has Christopher Lowe (Bannen) making friends with a one-time soldier, Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence) who sells matches and shoelaces to make ends meet. Lowe is in a job in management. But he once served in the army as a sergeant and was destined for better things.

His wife Mabel (Dors) won’t let him forget this fact. This married pair often belittle, nag and bicker with each other in front of their 10-year-old son, Stephen (John O’Farrell). There is clearly no love between his parents. Mabel is flippant with young Stephen, and Lowe lets her and is often passive-aggressive with his wife.

After visiting an antique shop run by The Proprietor – aka the glue to which these four anthology stories are attached – played by Peter Cushing, Lowe steals a war medal. He claims that he has a certificate to prove he is entitled to it. But he is lying as he was never in combat. The shop owner ominously says he “shouldn’t have done that…”.

Underwood invites Lowe home for tea – after seeing this medal – and he meets Underwood’s young daughter, Emily (Angela Pleasence). She doesn’t speak much, and when she does it’s pretty morbid stuff. But Lowe falls for her and spends more and more time with this odd father and daughter. He starts an affair with Emily and buys her presents. His lack of money despite this “overtime” leads to more nagging at home.

Meanwhile, Mabel is having nightmares where Emily appears and is dressed in black mourning clothes and then she kills her with a knife. Emily follows Mabel and Stephen and sits behind them on the bus. She cuts a lock of Mabel’s hair without being noticed.

After Lowe sleeps with Emily, she tells him that she will do anything he wants. She shows him a voodoo doll of his wife and then manipulates him to tell him to kill Mabel. Lowe rushes home to check on Mabel and finds her dead, and his son in tears… Then Lowe hears the doorbell… and that’s not where this story ends…

This story was my favourite of the four tales from this particular portmanteau. Just hearing the foreshadowing words from the proprietor and watching the chilling performances of the Pleasances, their three portrayals unsettled me immensely on what would come next. Donald Pleasance was far too pleasant and chirpy for my liking. Angela Pleasence was a more intense malevolent and foreboding presence. This was reminiscent of her actor father’s role in Telefon (1977).

Dors and Bannen were credible and realistic in their arguments and reminded me of the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton characters in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966). I did feel sorry for their son, caught in the middle of this warring couple and no doubt wishing for better things…

I had planned initially to add a review of Diana’s role in the Hammer House of Horror (1980) TV Series. But, I’m going to leave you in suspense about what horrors she brings in that episode. All I will say is it’s titled Children of the Full Moon. And Diana plays a mother in the spooky tale and she stars with lovely, Christopher Cazenove.

And continuing to keep your suspense levels at peak Dors, this post will probably be the first of a few posts reviewing her talent. Diana proved her worth in even more horror, comedies, dramas and even appeared in a pop video… But I’m adamant I won’t give the game away on what will be coming soon… Just adam-ant.

 


Tenth Anniversary of What a Character Blogathon, No 37

This post was added to Outspoken & Freckled, Paula’s Cinema Club and Once Upon a Screen’s  Tenth Anniversary of What a Character Blogathon. Other posts with these casts include Diana Dors in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Peter Cushing in Asylum and This interview with Judy Matheson. Ian Brannen stars in The Lady and the Highwayman. Donald Pleasence in I Don’t Want to be Born, Halloween, The Eagle Has Landed and Escape from New York. Patrick Troughton appeared in The Omen and Doctor Who. Andrea Marcovicci starred in Magnum PI, Murder She Wrote, The Incredible Hulk and The Hand. David A Stewart was in One Step Beyond and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


 

17 thoughts on “FILMS and TV… Diana Dors in a Triple Dose of Horror and Suspense

  1. Thank you so much for this detailed trilogy of reviews. Ms. Dors is probably the actor I know least about from those chosen for this year’s event and thanks to you I am riveted and extremely interested in watching more of her work. Great choice and terrific tribute.

    Aurora

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you want to know more about her I would recommend clicking on the book link in the first paragraph of the post. I am slowly finding more films and TV of hers after reading this book so your blogathon seemed the perfect place to tribute her. Hope you make it 11 years next year!

      Like

  2. I enjoyed this immensely and look forward to your future articles on Diana Dors. Lately, perhaps much too late, I have begun to appreciate Ms. Dors’ tenaciousness, talent, and ambition that carried her throughout her career. The clips were amazing and I’m sure you have done much to raise the Diana flag.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone who only knew her as that bombshell, this was an extremely illuminating post. I have a whole lot more respect for the lady and look forward to delving into her career. I always admire a gal with a good work ethic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too was unaware of Diana Dors until recently, when I saw her in a film from her glamor days (The Unholy Wife, 1957, with Rod Steiger), and then in the Hammer House of Horror episode and From Beyond the Grave in quick succession. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to make the transition from being a Marilyn Monroe-type star to doing the decidedly unglamorous (and often sinister) middle-aged character roles; I very much enjoyed those later efforts! Looking forward to your take on the Hammer House of Horror episode – one of my favorites from the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Diana Dors was an underrated actress, usually seen as just a sexpot and nothing else. But she always brought depth and nuance to her characters, even in her early film roles, and she had great screen presence. I really enjoyed the clip of her playing xxx ( real character in Thriller)l! Thanks for highlighting her.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A fantastic look at a few roles of Diana Does?
    I haven’t seen a lot of her on-screen appearances but the Alfred Hitchcock episodes sounds intriguing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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