Monday, 24 October 2016

Boris Karloff’s Thriller 01x34: The Prisoner in the Mirror

I mentioned this episode in passing during the Mummy overview, and then I was like: “Hey me, you should recap that thing. Get back on the horse and so forth.”

Also, as I write this, my internet connection is once again down (I’m pretty sure that every single tree that could fall on a service line has fallen on a service line this year, and there was an actual blizzard last week, and I’m just furious about it), so if there are mistakes, I’m very sorry, I live in the woods and a bear stole my Google.

Thriller is a horror anthology series that’s seen something of a revival in recent years, and rightly so. It’s damn good television. Hosted by an elderly Boris Karloff, it was actually Karloff’s second attempt at getting a show like this off the ground. He did half a season of a “true paranormal” series called The Veil in 1958. Because of production troubles, The Veil was never picked up by a network. It’s not bad, but it’s not Thriller. Even the terrible episodes of Thriller are worth watching.

Today’s story is about notorious magician Cagliostro, played by Henry Daniell, a classic guy-who-was-in-everything of the 30’s and 40’s. He’ll be joined by a guy-who-was-in-everything of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, Lloyd Bochner, along with Mrs. Cunningham herself, Marion Ross, and Patricia Michon.

We begin in Paris, 1910, where a lovely young couple in evening clothes are toasting one another with champagne. The girl is a glittering, smiling blonde who makes you think she’s used to getting diamond bracelets as presents, but there’s no use being angry at her for it. Her date is… off somehow. His face is open and young, and he’s got the look of the earnest sidekick in a teen beach comedy, but his manner is slick, hungry, and crackling at the edges with something sinister. He tries to impress her with magic tricks, first producing a silver coin to her great delight, and then wowing her with a small bouquet of live flowers he seemingly plucks from thin air.

“I didn’t know you were a magician!” She coos.

“I am the world’s greatest magician,” he replies with sly pomposity, toasting himself with his champagne. “The only real magician left.”

These two aren’t in much of the episode, but the girl is the very charming Erika Peters, who you might recognize from Mr. Sardonicus or The Atomic Brain if you have awesome taste in B-movies, and the last real magician is David Franklin, an actor who did a good deal of television, including an episode of The Magician with Bill Bixby which I mention only because it’s my idea of a fun coincidence.

This whole segment is dripping with an unmistakable sense of danger for the girl, which is impressive given that all the audience knows at the moment is she’s on a lame date with a pushy magician named Robert.

Robert stands up with a breezy, predatory confidence, and unfolds one of the linen napkins. He asks what the girl would like him to conjure. A rabbit? A cat? A bird?

She picks a bird because birds are the best animals, and a gleam flashes in Robert’s eyes. A bird it will be.

He folds the napkin into a makeshift bag and gently pulls out a small songbird that flutters away into some other part of the restaurant. Cross your fingers that there’s not a surprise health inspection, because a random canary would probably affect their rating. Or, no, it’s 1910, so nobody cares.

The girl applauds playfully and tells Robert he ought to be on the stage.

He doesn’t see this as a compliment, and his smile falters a little, but he keeps the appearance of high spirits, as he reaches back into the napkin bag and pulls out a glittering diamond necklace.

The girl is mesmerized by the stones, and it might be because there’s something otherworldly about this particular necklace, but it might also be that a gorgeous diamond necklace is one of the top-tier gifts for women who exclusively date men of means. Robert asks if she likes it.

“Yes,” she replies, with a kind of open longing that runs deeper than greed. Diamonds mean comfort to a certain class of woman in a certain time and place. They mean an end to struggle and compromise and cold water and an empty stomach. She wants those diamonds, and she’s not wrong to want them.

“Then I must put them on you,” Robert grins.

He holds the twinkling necklace in front of her, the reflections from with the stone dancing like fairy lights across her face.

Robert tells her to look into his eyes, to see the ultimate magic. By his command she cannot move and she cannot speak. She will now assist him in his favourite trick.

The transformation of life into death.

Helpless, hypnotized, the girl is unable to scream as Robert’s face becomes a skull with blazing eyes, his hands bleached bones reaching to put the diamonds around her throat and squeeze.

It’s an oddly abrupt transformation, and the special effects aren’t so hot, but the basic idea is conveyed.

The camera zooms in on Robert’s skull face, then dissolves to a skull sitting on an end table, with a soft, weathered gentleman’s hand resting on top of it.

Time for the proper introduction from dear Uncle Boris, a man who was by all accounts the nicest fellow in horror. And that’s impressive, because there were a lot of nice fellows in horror. You have to beat Vincent Price to get that title, and that is not easy.

“The hand of death strikes suddenly,” he tells us, looking very sad about that nice girl being murdered by a skeleton just now, “and without regard for the plain, the beautiful, the bad, or the good. But when the hand of death is controlled by a force of evil, the consequences can defy belief.”

The skull, the table, and Boris Karloff are all in a very strange room. The centerpiece is a massive, ornate mirror as large as a door. Everything else is black and shiny and endless, but there are a few lit candelabras about, as well as a pianoforte, and a set of ruffled silk curtains that look like casket lining.

“Our story tonight concerns such a force, and it features a most unusual star. This mirror.”

Ominous chords strike, as we get a closer look at the mirror. And, in proper Thriller fashion, an introduction to the cast as their reflections float by in the glass.

Disappointingly, the mirror doesn’t get any lines. But that’s okay. Boris Karloff certainly knew that you didn’t need a speaking role to steal the show.

He tells us that whatever we do, we shouldn’t get too close to the mirror or…

With a sudden blink, he’s trapped inside it, looking vaguely annoyed. This kind of thing happens to him all the time, don’t worry, he’s an expert. He’ll figure out how to escape.

“I should hate to see this happen to any of you,” he says, before sending us to catch up with Robert-who-seems-to-be-a-secret-skeleton.

Did you know Boris Karloff’s real name was William Pratt? He changed it because his family was embarrassed by his profession, and because he thought Pratt was a bad name for a serious leading man.

Back to the Paris of 1910, where Robert, still in his evening clothes but looking particularly dishevelled, is globbing black paint onto the glass of a mirror. It’s the same mirror from the introduction, and he’s not painting with any kind of delicacy or method. He’s in a great big hurry, and he seems very different from the last time we saw him.

Less cold and arrogant, more panicky and freaked out.

A knock sounds at the door, and he freezes mid-brush stroke, his eyes wide, his shoulders tense.

“Who is it?” he half-whispers, half-calls.

It’s his mother.

Relieved, he hastily finishes painting the glass until all the mirror is covered except the frame, and goes to answer the door.

His mother tells him that the police are waiting for him downstairs. They think he killed a girl tonight. He reaches up and covers his mouth in horror, his hands and crisp white sleeves speckled with fresh paint.

I never killed anybody,” Robert pleads.

“I know. It’s all a horrible mistake,” his mother nods. She doesn’t seem convinced of what she’s saying.

Robert wants her to know that whatever happens, whatever is said, whatever proof there may be, he is innocent of this crime. His mind, his soul, that which is Robert de Chantenay committed no murder, no matter what his body may have done. But the police would never believe him. How could they?

Desperate and pushed to the edge, as his mother weeps and wonders aloud what they could possibly do to get out of this mess, Robert throws himself out the window.

He’s very decisive about it.

“This way’s better,” he says, almost casually, then flings himself onto the cobblestones below.
His body lands in the halo of a street lamp, and when we return to the scene of his apartment, his mother is gone and so are the police.

It’s just the haunted mirror and Boris Karloff again.

Thriller is fun because it doesn’t hold to the standard of a host intro and outro. If, during the course of an episode, Boris Karloff wants to tell you something, he just shows up and does it. And if it would spoil the impact of an ending for him to do a farewell summation, then he just doesn’t do one. You could argue that it’s more intrusive, but that’s up to you. I like narrators and hosts who get all up in everybody’s business.

“Young Robert was no murderer. Nor was he mad, as he may have seemed. He was a victim of one of the most diabolical practitioners of black magic ever known: Count Alessandro Cagliostro.”

History break!

The real Cagliostro was born in Italy, though his own diligence in creating his mystique has made research of his early life difficult. The best guess is that he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, then decided to become a fake psychic to pull in some extra cash. Eventually, he made his way to the big leagues and started swindling the most glamorous royal courts of Europe with his fake scrying, his “psychic healing” and a whole host of other occultist scams. He was an early superstar of brand management, and saw to it that rumours of his evil power constantly swirled around him. It went pretty well until he got tangled up in Marie Antoinette’s affair of the diamond necklace.

And then, of course, the 1780’s were not the best time to be in the French upper classes.

Cagliostro made his way to London, where he managed to avoid trouble for a little while, but eventually he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. Sort of an out of the fat and into the fire deal. (That may have been in poor taste, but I’m pretty sure he died in prison of some kind of infection?)

Two fun facts: one time, while staying in Paris, Benjamin Franklin took ill, and everyone was like: “You should go see Count Cagliostro! He’s a miraculous healer!” But Benjamin Franklin decided that hokum was probably not the way to go, so he found a real doctor and got better. Also, some of the realest information we have on Cagliostro comes from, of all people, Giacomo Casanova. Casanova said that the only really impressive thing Cagliostro was able to do was forge handwriting like a pro, and back before he was a wizard he ran a casino in Naples.

For the purposes of today’s story, you should probably forget all of that. As far as we’re concerned, Cagliostro was a real magician who traded his very soul for power over life and death.

“Only a legend, you say?” Boris Karloff says, as he sits down on the windowsill a guy just jumped to his death from. “Maybe so, but that’s for you to decide. Now we resume our tale, more than half a century later…”

We’re treated to a title card that reads: “Paris—Today” overtop scenes of a woman tossing bread crumbs to fancy French pigeons.

Over at the Société des Curiosités Historiques, an academic looking old man is pacing the floor of his office, hands clasped behind his back, brow furrowed with worry. He’s wearing an old-fashioned (even for the times) waistcoat and ribbon bow tie, with a grey tweed suit. His names is Thibault. The study of Cagliostro is a dangerous endeavour, not worth the trouble and not worth the risk, he tells a colleague who is sitting in a wingback chair, the audience aware only of the back of his head.

“I understand you wrote a thesis on Cagliostro yourself,” says a very rich voice belonging to the man in the chair, “that’s why I came to see you.”

“I did,” replies Thibault. “Then I destroyed it.”

The man in the chair is Professor Harry Langham (Bochner, natch), and he looks astonished by the old man’s reaction. Academics usually can’t shut up about their obscure interests, and even though a lot of them should probably burn their theses, they generally don’t.

According to Thibault, knowledge of the true extent of Cagliostro’s power could start a panic in the general public. Harry, surprised and amused, is just like: “Historical tidbits about a dude who’s been dead for two hundred years are going to start riots? Sure. Sure, sure. Do you take any specific medications, sir? Is there someone I can call for you, or…?”

“Monsieur Langham,” Thibault replies, straightening his whole body out indignantly, “Evil never dies.”

Gotta respect Thibault. Dude just says what he thinks, even if he’s thinking paranoid ravings about dead magicians.

A knock on the door interrupts the conversation and introduces us to Fred Forrest, slacker research assistant and future brother-in-law to Harry Langham. Fred has, according to him, been chasing Harry around ol’ Paris all damn day, instead of chasing the loose French women he’s read about in the finest gentleman’s magazines. Fred has been spending time in libraries and archives and museums and other places where there was a minimum of ritual mating dances. It's been gross, boring and stupid, and he wants to go back to Boston this very second. (There’s every chance that Fred only got this job because his sister is engaged to Harry.)

The whole reason Fred’s been chasing Harry down is to remind him that their train leaves at seven o’clock tonight. Harry is well aware of this fact, and there’s this awkward moment where he apologetically explains to Thibault that Fred thinks all professors are absent-minded. Fred angrily storms off, realizing he wasted this day for nothing even though nobody asked him to.

Keep an eye on Fred, he’s important for later.

Anyway, with clumsily forced in character introductions out of the way, we can get down to brass tacks:

Harry has heard about the haunted mirror. He wants it. He came to Paris to find it. He thinks Thibault knows where it is.

Thibault but admits that he doesn’t know exactly where the mirror is, but he knows who might. A man called Armand. Any antique ever to have been bought or sold or stolen or pawned in Paris has, at one point or another, been catalogued by Monsieur Armand.

Monsieur Armand should have his own anthology show! Every week, he could show us a haunted antique, then tell us the story of how it came to be in his possession. Like a mix of Night Gallery and Pet Shop of Horrors. (I just want more anthology shows in my life.)

“Can I not persuade you to abandon your search for knowledge of Cagliostro?” Thibault tries again.

Harry is strangely reluctant to give up his life’s work at the urging of a whack-a-doodle old Frenchman, and says no.

In that case, Thibault has one last option to convince Harry to quit while he’s ahead.

He will take him to the tomb of Yvette Dulaine, for there he will see how Yvette’s acquaintanceship with Cagliostro in the court of Louis XVI led her to “a strange and terrible fate.”

Heads up, this is a terrible plan. I don’t even know why he thinks this’ll work and not just intensify Harry’s obsession tenfold. I mean, a mysterious tomb? How the hell would that dissuade anyone from further investigation? And once Harry sees what’s in the tomb… well… it’s the kind of thing a charming young historian could dine out on for months.

Yvette is buried beneath St. Martin’s church, in catacombs of smooth stone and vaguely mildewy aromas. Her casket has no name on it, because the people of Paris thought her best left forgotten.

“How did she die?” Harry asks.

“My friend, the question must be asked: did she die at all?” Thibault answers, making everything even more intriguing. It’s like he doesn’t understand what parts of history are boring and what parts are interesting.

He then begins to open the world’s only pop-top casket, to reveal the body of Yvette Dulaine, a woman who died two hundred years earlier, and whose body looks like she’s only been asleep for a few moments. Like a 1960’s Marie Antoinette version of Sleeping Beauty.

Harry gasps, and tries to convince us he’s instantly fallen in love with this corpse, but doesn’t quite sell it. You get the sense that he’s discovered something of scientific interest here, but despite the music and framing of the moment, it’s hard to believe he’s warm for this dead girl’s form. And the script kind of depends on us believing that.

Yvette’s deal is that she was greatly desired by Cagliostro, but she shut him down because he was repulsive. Then, not long after the very public wounding of the sorcerer’s pride, she was found one day as she lays now in her crypt. Her heart not beating, her lungs not breathing, her synapses not firing, and her beauty never decaying. Weird, right? Exactly the kind of thing that you would expect a hardcore Cagliostro scholar to stop researching.

Terrible plan, Thibualt. Just terrible. Possibly the worst plan ever.

“What’s the explanation, Professor?” Harry asks, looking vaguely disgusted instead of in love with Yvette.

“It lies deep within Cagliostro’s grave and will never be found. I beg you, my friend, go home now and forget his very name!”

And that’s just what Harry did.

The end.

No, of course not. Harry takes one more supposedly romantic look of longing at poor dead Yvette, then closes her back into her casket and goes to Monsieur Armand’s to buy a haunted mirror.

I mean, with evidence of real black magic and a tragic beautiful woman thrown in the mix, it’s more compelling than ever! Good work, Thibault. Really shut this thing down.

Monsieur Armand’s shop has lace curtains on the windows and rickety shelves full of likely-stolen tchotchkes and tea services. It manages to be both bright and airy and over-crowded and musty at the same time, a mixture of the perfectly on-the-level and the kind of place where the heavy statues still have some blood spatter in the creases of their Grecian robes. Armand himself is a short, fussy man who presents himself quickly, with an open-smile.

Harry explains that he’s looking for a mirror that once belonged to Robert de Chantenay, and a mildly surprised but somehow conspiratorial expression takes Monsiuer Armand’s face. He says that he has many mirrors, if Harry would care to follow him.

There’s a back room with a ceiling decked out in crystal chandeliers, lined with aisles made of an assortment of antique mirrors. Armand leads Harry straight to one that’s roughly the size of a door, with an ornate frame, its glass covered in haphazardly slapped on black paint.

“The paint could be removed, if you wish to make sure there is good glass underneath,” Monsieur Armand says, bringing over a paint scraper. He’s clearly just trying to make a sale. If somebody wants to pay for a cursed scrying glass, who is Monsieur Armand to turn away their chequebook?
He scrapes away some of the paint to prove that the mirror is in startlingly good condition beneath it, but the shop bell soon rings and he scurries off to make sure it’s not the cops or something. He leaves Harry with the scraper.

Harry keeps scraping, until a large swatch of the paint is taken off.

At first, all he can see is his own reflection, standing in the cluttered hall of mirrors that is Monsieur Armand’s back room. But then…

Holographic and ghost-like, the face of Yvette Dulaine appears in the glass.

Harry is stunned.

He quietly whispers her name, recognizing her from like ten minutes ago when he was viewing her body beneath St. Martin’s. For some reason, he doesn’t assume he’s hallucinating from a combination of recently breathed in crypt fumes and scraping off likely lead-based mirror paint. (My professional side wants to quickly remind everyone that anything with paint on it from before the 1950’s should be treated with suspicion, and if you’re removing the paint, please wear a mask and do it in an extremely well-ventilated, ideally outdoor area.)

Thriller’s trademark geometric spider web fills the screen, and when we come back from a commercial break, we’re in: “Boston—Today” instead of “Paris—Today” which is kind of unnecessary. All of the time/place title cards have been unnecessary, because Boris Karloff explained the time skip to us in his opening bit and the location changes have been fairly obvious. But they’re not hurting anybody, so whatever.

At Harry’s ivy-covered, white-picket-fenced, university-adjacent home, his fiancé Kay is watching as Fred unpacks the Cagliostro mirror. Harry himself is not yet home.

Kay is being played by Marion Ross. She is, expectedly, very bright and cheerful, and her major complaint about her man bringing home a giant expensive mirror from Paris is figuring out where he intends to place it. Hopefully not upstairs, the thing weighs like a million pounds.

Fred gets weird and says that Harry’s been super distracted since he bought the mirror.

“My dear sister, would you marry him and settle him down? This Cagliostro was a real oddball, and I think some of it’s rubbing off on Harry.”

Harry bursts in, and his eye goes straight to the mirror, he ignores Kay’s very warm greeting, as he explains that he basically bribed everyone he could to make sure his mirror was safely and quickly delivered. Then he tells Fred that he needs help getting it upstairs. He’s keeping it in his bedroom.

There are a lot of “giant mirror in a bedroom” jokes you can make here, but this story has places to be, so we’re just moving on. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Once the mirror is in place, Fred takes off to do some Fred business, and Kay tells him not to be late to dinner. She’s making something special to celebrate Harry’s return. Harry sheepishly tells her that he doesn’t want a fancy dinner, he wants to obsessively clean his haunted mirror. Thanks for thinking of him, though.

She’s obviously disappointed, so he gives her a super chaste kiss and tells her that he’s changed his mind, they’ll totally have dinner. She should go cook the hell out of something for hours. Down in the kitchen. Not by the mirror. You can leave now, Kay.

Weirdly, this works on Kay, and she heads off to start cooking. I don’t know why you’d bother trying to whip up something fancy for people who just came back from Paris, but Kay is now effectively distracted.

Harry locks his bedroom door, and stares into the section glass he scraped clean back in Monsieur Armand’s shop.

“Yvette?” He whispers, but sees only his own reflection. It’s fine for me, I prefer his face to Yvette’s anyway, but he’s disappointed that she doesn’t appear.

In his jacket pocket is a brown paper bag from the hardware store, containing a receipt that flutters to the ground and a paint knife. A really small paint knife. Like way too small for this project. You bought the wrong size, Harry, this is going to take forever. Look, go get Kay’s hair dryer and a bucket of warm water with dish soap in it, then open your damn windows…

With his sleeves down and his tie still on, Harry starts scraping. And scraping. And scraping.

A few hours later, he has an impossibly clean mirror staring back at him, reflecting only his bedroom with its impossibly tidy floor – apparently, Harry knows a way to scrape paint off of something without making a giant pile of paint flecks all over the place. He’s the real magician in this episode.

Frustrated, he walks around the back of the mirror and finds it to appear totally normal. He pulls out his keys, on a Swiss Army knife key chain, and starts trying to pry the glass out, but it won’t budge.

Disappointed but not yet defeated, Harry pulls an armchair over to face the mirror. He slumps down into it, and stares wearily at his own reflection for hours.

Night falls outside his window. He doesn’t even get up to put on a lamp. Yvette Dulaine does not appear.

Finally, he gets up and mopes down to dinner.

See, Harry? It was probably just fumes. I can’t believe you spent all of that money because of one hallucination.

At dinner, Kay is fixing drinks when she finally asks Harry what his deal is. Was there another girl?

“I didn’t even look at one. Not even in Paris.”

Well, you kind of looked at a dead one in St. Martin’s…

He toasts her with “Happy Days” and it’s kind of fun, and then she goes on to say:

“Look, darling, I don’t expect you to be Casanova, but the last two days have been ridiculous.”

It’s funny because Casanova was a better Cagliostro scholar than this guy. Harsh but true.

Harry tells Kay all about Thibault and going to see Yvette’s weirdly preserved body, and how it’s kind of been messing with him since he saw it. He leaves out seeing Yvette’s ghost in his new fancy mirror, but it’s clearly on his mind. He quickly ends the conversation and runs back upstairs to his now lamp-lit room.

He locks the door, and puts his hands up on the mirror like he’s trying to reach through it to the past, or to Yvette, or to greater understanding of Cagliostro’s dark magic.

“Why can’t I see you?” He murmurs, still not convincingly in love with a corpse he saw one time.

Harry settles back into his chair, ready for another long jag of staring contests with himself, and switches off the light. Even though there was plenty of light when he saw Yvette in the shop, he’s decided that darkness will be more conducive to this process.

In a truly marvelous sequence of special effects (enough to almost make up for Robert’s lousy skeleton transformation), the reflection of Harry in his armchair staring back at himself gives way to an all new scene inside the mirror. The glass goes dark, and then Yvette is there, standing at a distance, lighting candles within a room totally different to Harry, but familiar to us. It’s the room with the skull table and pianoforte, where Boris Karloff first warned us about this dangerous antique.

Yvette finishes lighting all of the candles, then goes to stare through the glass with wide, sorrow-filled eyes and a stony expression.

Harry asks her if she can speak, and she sadly shakes her head no.

He springs to his feet and rushes towards her, asking if there’s anything he can do to free her. There must be some way to get her out of the mirror, maybe back into her body? Then they can get married, and when people ask them how they met, they’ll have such a unique story!

Yvette just keeps shaking her head.

Kay knocks on the door and calls for Harry.

Hilariously, he motions to Yvette’s mirror ghost to play it cool while he deals with this.

All Kay wants is to make sure he’s okay, and see if he wants to talk about anything, basically get to the bottom of his frigid weirdness. He blows her off as fast as he can, but then regrets it and calls her back.

He tells her to look in the mirror.

Ever the good sport, she does. All she sees is her own reflection, and when she tells Harry, he responds like a totally not-crazy person:

“She’s gone! You scared her away!” He angrily grabs Kay’s arm and marches her out of the room, “I’d like to be alone, please!”

With the door once again locked, and all distractions out of the way, Harry hurries back to the mirror.

Yvette Dulaine has not returned, but another figure is waiting for him.

Played by Henry Daniell, dressed in ornate period clothes with huge lace cuffs you could probably hide snacks in – this is my theory about what giant aristocratic sleeves were for, snack storage – he bows deeply to greet Harry, and looks at him the way a fox looks at a basket of eggs.

“Good evening, Monsieur.”

“Who are you?” Harry demands, bewildered. “Where’s Yvette?”

“I am another victim of Cagliostro. Yvette will return in a moment. We are both prisoners, alas, of that infamous magician Count Alessandro Cagliostro. We exist in a dark dimension that is neither life nor death, but we are real, and you can help us to escape.”

Uh-huh. Sure.

Harry, being a somewhat sheltered bookish type and largely unused to dealing with the arcane, buys Mr. Mirrorman’s story hook, line and sinker.

All Harry has to do is sit across from the mirror and recite one of Cagliostro’s spells, which the man in the mirror happens to have memorized. For escape purposes. For him and Yvette. Don’t ask him how he got it, or why he can speak through the mirror but Yvette can't.

So, Harry being Harry, he does exactly what this sinister mirror ghost tells him to do, while Yvette wordlessly helps the spell along by carrying around candles. Yvette is a very thinly drawn character. I have a lot of questions about her, but none of them get answered.

When the magic is done, Harry’s body is still sitting peacefully in his armchair, but his soul is doing a kind of astral projection deal, and he can now walk into the realm of the mirror.

That seems safe. Walking back out is probably a breeze, that’s why Yvette and the new dude have been imprisoned inside of it for two hundred years.

Anyway, in he goes, and he is just so shocked when he finds out that Yvette’s fellow “prisoner of Cagliostro” is really Cagliostro himself! Whaaat?! Nobody saw this coming! I certainly didn't accidentally spoil the reveal during my cast rundown at the beginning of this recap! But, I mean, you wouldn't have been surprised anyway.

So, okay, the next big twist is also not much of a surprise. Cagliostro’s body has been buried with a lot of pretty extreme safeguards, and he can’t get back in it to walk around and raise hell at nightclubs. So he’s going to use Harry’s body, while Harry remains trapped in the mirror realm with Yvette. That should be nice for him, he was so eager to spend more time with her.

Meanwhile, Cagliostro gets to paint the town in Harry’s very handsome form. The last time he took over a body, it was Robert’s, and while Robert was like a solid B in the looks department, Cagliostro is pretty sure Harry’s mug is more of an all-access pass.

(One quick comment on Lloyd Bochner’s performance here; even though the Yvette obsession is awkward, the Cagliostro possession is a delight. He incorporates a lot of Henry Daniell’s facial mannerisms, and explodes with sudden malicious exuberance. It’s great.)

As Cagliostro takes Harry’s body out for a fun evening of turning into a skeleton and strangling a woman with a diamond necklace, Harry’s spirit is left in the mirror room with Yvette. The poor guy is a little slow on the uptake.

“I just went out that door, yet I’m in here with you?”

Cagliostro stole your body, Harry. Catch up with the rest of us. Seriously.

As it happens, Yvette can totally speak now. Why didn’t she try to warn Harry that he was in danger? How come she does Cagliostro’s bidding even though he’s basically holding her soul hostage and she hates him? What can Cagliostro actually do to her if the mirror limits his power and he needs outsiders to cast his spells? How did she and Cagliostro end up trapped in the same mirror? Did he build it for her originally, or what?

Yvette explains none of this, she just goes over evil spirit possession 101 for the benefit of the professor.

He still looks like he doesn’t get it.

Later that night, at a string of waterfront dive bars with neon signs and moody fog horns blowing in the background, Cagliostro in his new Harry suit strolls along the pier with a buxom blonde in dangle earrings. Like the girl we saw with Robert in the opening sequence, she’s a decent person who’s trying to bank her looks to get out from under. Maybe a little lonely, maybe a little hungry for something better. Cagliostro knows how to pick the vulnerable ones.

She says she doesn’t know why they keep leaving bars, it’s like he’s looking for a certain kind of place or something. He asks her for her name. She says it’s Laura, and he weirdly replies that in French she would be Laurette (it would more likely be Laurine, with Laurette meaning “little Laura” or “little Laurine” and more of a nickname to someone of Cagliostro’s era).

“Are you French?” She asks, easily impressed.

“Let’s say my spirit is French.”

Yeesh. Laura should throw him off the pier for that one, because she doesn’t know he’s an evil French ghost in a not-French body. It comes off pretty sleazy if you don’t get the joke.

Also adding to his sleaze factor is how he tears off a fabric flower brooch she’s wearing and tosses it into the water. When she protests, he says she should have real flowers instead. And then he does a variation on Robert’s bouquet trick from earlier.

Time to run away now, Laura. This show’s big finale isn’t worth staying for.

He pulls off her dangle earrings and says he likes her better without them, they’re “cheap and vulgar.”

You know what, Cagliostro? Dangle earring frame the face and make a simple outfit look more polished, and Laura can’t afford expensive ones, but there was nothing wrong with the ones she was wearing. Jerk.

“Your beauty should be unadorned.”

His pick-up lines are as shameful as his twice-damned soul.

We all remember that the jewellery part is the warm-up to the skeleton part, right? Well, Cagliostro takes Laura for a walk off-screen, so they can enjoy the moonlight, and that’s the last we see of her.

Poor Laura. She seemed nice.

The next afternoon, still in Harry’s body, Cagliostro wakes up in Harry’s bed, with Harry’s new hang-over. Harry’s spirit is standing in the mirror, looking grouchy.

Cagliostro tells him that the modern world is loads of fun, and he slept like a log.

While he’s taunting his sort-of-reflection, Kay taps on his door. Cagliostro relishes the chance to flirt with her within earshot of the mirror, and while she’s very receptive, she also came to tell him that there’s a detective downstairs who wants to see him.

You know, for all his cunning, Cagliostro takes like zero precautions to distance himself from the murders he commits. If he was a tad more careful, he might be able to get away with more for longer. Not that I want him to.

As Cagliostro heads downstairs to deal with the fuzz, Harry’s spirit bangs helplessly on the inside of the mirror. Yvette is nowhere to be seen. Maybe she has mirror hobbies, like mirror knitting, or maybe she’s taking a mirror nap.

Downstairs, a Sgt. Burke of Homicide is waiting for the man he believes to be Harry Langham. He doesn’t waste time on pleasantries, he just wants to know where Harry was at three o’clock this morning.

“At three this morning? I was upstairs working on my thesis. It’s about Count Alessandro Cagliostro. He’s a great fraud, I’m afraid.”

Nice try, Cagliostro. But, first of all, you don’t have to deflect suspicion away from the name of Cagliostro because nobody really remembers you, and second of all, a beat cop saw you coming home at four fifteen.

Cagliostro says that he took a stroll at around four to get some fresh air, since he’d been working so late, and he thinks it was around fifteen minutes long, so the cop’s story could very well be true.

“I suppose you haven’t read the papers this morning?” Burke nods, looking unconvinced.

“No, I very seldom read the papers. My period is the eighteenth century.”

Burke helpfully hands over a paper with a big picture of Laura and a headline that reads: “Mad Strangler Murders Girl.”

And you’ll never guess who matches the description of the last guy to be seen with the victim.

Cagliostro seriously tries to argue that there are twenty thousand men in Boston who resemble him.

(“Oh come on, officer! There are countless guys with ice blue eyes, aquiline noses, dimples, cartoonishly square chins and ridiculously distinctive voices! Look, it even says he was just under six feet tall and had dark hair! If you ignore the rest of the description, he could be anyone!”)

But Burke has some information that the weirdly-bad-at-this Cagliostro wasn’t counting on. One of Harry’s students was at the Fishnet Bar last night, and saw him leave with Laura.

Somehow, Cagliostro successfully convinces Burke to drop the lead by suggesting that a plastered college student at a dive bar shouldn’t be trusted, and also history nerds don’t do murders. Burke is maybe not the best policeman. Generally, you don’t back off just because your prime suspect is all: “Me? Murder somebody? That’s silly!” He leaves, though.

With that out of the way, Cagliostro goes about romancing Kay, promising her a night of dinner and dancing.

There’s a great shot of him with the newspaper rolled up in his hand so the only part we can read of it is the section of headline that reads “Strangler” in big bold letters, and he wraps his arms around her with the paper front and center for us.

He gives her a very passionate kiss, especially compared to the one Harry had given her earlier, then heads back upstairs, while she breathlessly watches him go.

With great delight, Cagliostro shows Harry – now joined on his side of the glass with perpetual question mark Yvette – the morning headline. As he lets his prisoners read it, he stares off a little, and idly wraps one hand around his own throat.

“It’s so dangerous to be a pretty girl,” he murmurs with an inscrutable look in his eyes.

Then he tells Harry and Yvette that he’s going to have a wonderful time with Kay tonight, and he needs to get dressed. He’s not much of an exhibitionist, so he waves his hands and turns the mirror back into glass. This raises questions about how the glass is opened and who can actually control the portal and on which side, and how the black paint worked.

That night, as Kay and Cagliostro are getting ready to hit the town, Fred storms in with the evening paper. He tells Kay that she should have asked Harry more questions about what the cops wanted, and she shouldn’t be so sure he was at home working last night.

Cagliostro tells him to take a hike, he’s got nightclubs to go to, and so does Kay.

Fred says they can go to all the nightclubs they want, and he’ll just wait in the living room, angrily, until they come back.

It’s an… odd approach to the situation.

Especially when he flings the newspaper onto the sofa, and we see a new headline that says the police are getting ready to make an arrest in the strangling case, and their lead suspect is Harry. This is also an odd approach for the police to take.

This whole part of the story feels rushed and unsatisfying.

Anyway, upstairs in the mirror, Harry is pacing the nether realm, going to absolute pieces with worry because a serial killer is in his body, dating his fiancé. Yvette says Kay’ll probably be fine, Cagliostro murders to extended his immortality with stolen lives, and he just kind of ate, so he might not need to do any murdering tonight. It’s like an anaconda sunning itself on the veranda.

And, if the cops really are closing in, Cagliostro will panic and seal himself back in the mirror so Harry can take the fall. How Yvette stays alive without sucking on souls is not explained. But this does answer the big question of how Robert got his body back that fateful night.

Harry plans to destroy the mirror as soon as Cagliostro switches with him, so that the evil magician can never do this kind of thing again. Yvette says only Cagliostro himself can destroy the mirror. She might be saying that simply because if the mirror is destroyed she can never escape, and she’ll have to spend all of eternity with the grossest person she’s ever known. In crummy piano room. It’s impossible to know Yvette’s motivations for certain.

She does say that the black paint successfully foiled Cagliostro for a number of years, but she doesn’t explain how she felt about that.

After this conversation, Fred wanders in and starts inspecting the mirror. To him, it’s just regular reflective glass. On the other side, Harry is calling his name and trying to get his attention. Yvette tells him not to bother. Fred would only be able to see them If Cagliostro chooses him to see the mirror realm.

Fred bitterly spins the mirror to one side and settles in the armchair that faces it.

Later, downstairs, Kay and Cagliostro come home after their night of fun and dancing. Kay says she likes the evil wizard version of Harry better than regular Harry, because regular Harry didn’t like socializing as much. Maybe a history professor was not the best choice for you, Kay. Cagliostro pours himself a drink, and Kay asks if he has any cigarettes. He says they’re in his topcoat pocket.

As she goes to get one, she finds two things. The newspaper story accusing him of murder, and Laura’s dangle earrings in the pocket with his cigarettes. Cagliostro isn’t a normal serial killer, and he said he hated those earrings, so his keeping them as a trophy feels wonky. But it alerts Kay to the dangerous side of fun, new Harry when she notices that the earrings are the same ones worn by Laura in the picture of her on the front page.

Cornered and a little on the uncreative side, as we saw with his cruddy fake alibi, Cagliostro hypnotizes Kay with the dangle earrings. Not real diamonds, but apparently close enough.

The moral of this story is to not trust creepers who suddenly offer you jewellery, but I think most of us already know that.

Meanwhile, Fred is snoozing in the upstairs armchair for literally no reason (the living room has a full-size couch and no evil mirror in it), when he’s awoken by a sudden crash.

He goes downstairs to find Kay stretched out on the sofa, and Cagliostro putting a fallen lamp back into place.

Cagliostro tries to tell him that Kay is asleep, but Fred soon notices that his sister is, in fact, dead. He announces this less like an anguished brother, and more like somebody who noticed parsley on their plate after specifically asking the waiter for no parsley. Annoyed, but not particularly bothered.

Cagliostro’s solution to Fred’s discovery of his latest crime, is to run upstairs as fast as he can and try to get back in the mirror.

“You killed my sister,” Fred kind of shouts, sounding like he doesn’t really have an opinion on the matter.

Even so, decorum or masculine pride or something other than grief because he’s just not seeming that upset, propels him up the stairs after Cagliostro.

There’s a fist fight. It’s kind of meh.

Inside the mirror, Harry keeps calling out desperately.

“What’s happened to Kay? Fred, what’s happened to Kay?”

It’s nice that Harry actually cares about Kay, especially since nobody else really does, and kind of sad that she died not knowing.

Okay, so the choreography of this fight is weird and thus a little tricky for me to describe, but the big finale comes when Fred pushes Cagliostro against the back of the mirror, and smash! The glass shatters!

Somehow, the knock on the head is fatal to Harry’s body, and Fred kneels beside him, looking pretty blasé about the whole thing, as he dies.

“I am not Harry,” Cagliostro tells Fred. “I am Count Alessandro Cagliostro, and I go now to the death that has awaited me patiently for almost two hundred years.”

And that is all there is in the life of Cagliostro.

His face becomes an empty, bleached skull, and the episode ends.

No word on what happened to Harry and Yvette. Maybe they’re trapped in the mirror land, playing mirror canasta and slowly learning to hate each other for all eternity. Their only common point of interest is Cagliostro, and that seems like it would get awkward pretty quick.

Also no word on if Fred ever felt any emotions about any of this.

We’ve covered the moral for us ladies, but I think if you’re a dude watching this episode, you should take it as a very serious suggestion to not fall in love with corpses, because you never know who their friends might be.

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