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White Corridors & The Carroll Formula

Ring a Ding Ding

     I recently watched two more Screen Directors Playhouse episodes, one of which was highly thrilling the other of which was greatly amusing. The first, White Corridors, was like a mini horror movie. We open on Linda Darnell as Ellen who is distressfully driving her convertible with a panting passenger lying in the back seat. She pulls up to a hospital and wanders through the strangely empty nighttime halls until she meets Pat Hitchcock (daughter to Alfred) playing an unhelpful Nurse Windrod. The woman essentially refuses to admit the sick woman because she has no doctor instructing her to. When Dr. Bruno (Scott Forbes) appears, he agrees to help and brings the patient in.

     Ellen waits as her friend is operated on for a burst appendix and is told she should return to her hotel, and Nurse Windrod seems rather annoyed that visitor will not depart. Wandering the halls, Ellen overhears some moaning and shouting and cracks a door to witness a man dressed as a doctor strangling a patient who is threatening to expose him as a fraud. This happens in silhouette behind a curtain, so Ellen is unsure what the murderer looks like. She attempts to call the police but chickens out and instead confesses the scene to Dr. Bruno. When Dr. Gorwin (John Bentley) enters and informs the woman they two are the only doctors on duty, she realizes one of them must be the murderer, as do they.

     Upon inspecting the scene of the crime, Ellen and the doctors find a male patient fast asleep and no sign of a body. The doctors want to give Ellen a sedative, but when she gets the chance she re-examines the crime scene and hides in a closet where she overhears a doctor and nurse talking about the crime. The story will end with a chase scene once the murder is revealed to us.

     Director Ted Post‘s White Corridors was highly suspenseful and sets the viewer on edge as soon as we meet Hitchcock’s unpleasant and shady nurse. We get the impression seedy things happen in this hospital all the time and the plot pushes us toward our own conclusions about the murderer that will be turned on their head by the end. The performances are all great even if Darnell is rather unattractive. The shady set is also wonderfully eerie, setting us in the proper mood to be frightened.

     Next was the fun but not quite as exciting The Carroll Formula about a “nut case” who derived a magical power from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” story. Michael Wilding is a patient in a mental asylum because he insists that a box of toys were once full-size objects that he can shrink and reconstitute at will. As this David speaks with some psychiatrists, we learn that in researching Lewis Carroll, he discovered the man had found a way to do just that and so he used the technology to create his own shrinking gun.

     Showing this to his girlfriend Sylvia (Havis Davenport), the two realize this holds great potential for world peace because nations could shrink their armies and deliver them on one plane to the opposing country. David, therefore, starts visiting various branches of the military to demonstrate his discovery but does so in a way that baffles and enrages the government officials, which is how he winds up institutionalized. The man escapes, however, by shrinking the bars on the hospital window and re-enlarging a table and rope to allow for him to rappel out the window.

     The Carroll Formula, directed by Tay Garnett, was a lot of fun. One can easily get a laugh by showing people in utter disbelief of a goofy magic trick of sorts. Wilding is entertaining as ever and Davenport is enjoyable as the perhaps surprisingly supportive girlfriend. Some things are simply too real to deny, I guess. The funny device David uses to shrink thinks makes goofy sounds and has a twitching antena that makes it seem like it has a life of its own.

     This episode also made me realize the great resources directors must have had in creating these Screen Directors Playhouse shorts. This one depicts a hangar full of military planes and uses a huge cannon as part of the character’s stunt. This was one impressive series.

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