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Key Witness

Producer: Bernard L. Schubert
Host: Vincent Price
Announcer/Assistant: Lee Browning
Taping Info: It has a copyright of 1959
Made it to Air: No
Availability: Some traders will have it, it is also available through Kinevideo (external link).

Vincent Price, star of stage and screen, just off his blockbuster The Fly, decides what better career move is there than to host a pilot to a game show. Lucky for Price, this 1959 clunker wasn't purchased, or his chances of appearing in all of those Roger Corman movies would have fallen by the wayside. This pilot was produced by Bernard L. Schubert, who had just finished the network run of Topper.

The show begins with Vincent Price in a den-like setting, explaining the premise of the show. Price will star in a short story and contestants plucked from the studio audience will be asked questions about elements of the story. If the contestant guesses correctly, he or she wins anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the difficulty of the question and has a chance at the "jackpot question" at the end of the show. If he or she is incorrect, the money is added to the "jackpot question".

The story in the show "Tall, Dark and Handsome" was about a love triangle between a husband and wife (the roles went uncredited) and a detective (played by Vincent Price) hired by the husband to follow the wife. However, the wife falls in love with the detective and scheme to have the husband murdered. How does it play out? Well, you'll have to watch for yourself and see a plot twist so expected, you'll find it not worthy of Law and Order. In fact, it's not even worthy of The Law and Harry McGraw.

As far as the game goes, the story is stopped halfway through, and four people are picked from the audience to answer the first set of questions. In this episode (and I'm hoping the only one), only one of the first four contestants answered correctly, in this case identifying the name of the detective. Other questions like "how many people were in the opening scene" were missed. At the conclusion of the story, four more questions were asked, with this time three of them guessing correctly (although one was coached heavily by Price).

The four contestants who answered correctly were brought on stage were then given one more question to answer, trying to win the money leftover from the four contestants who didn't answer correctly. The question what was the exact date and time of the murder? Price tells the contestants they have 30 seconds, but his frenetic counting leaves only 15 seconds to answer and the expertly written 30 second sound cue is cut off. None of the contestants guess correctly, leaving $490 in the jackpot next week, which according to Price will feature Teresa Wright (Mrs. Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees).

As you have probably have surmised, I consider this a terrible show. The story is beyond trite, Vincent Price seems horribly miscast and as Krusty the Clown can tell you, plucking people from the audience is always death. A better use of the format would come later in 1959 when Ernie Kovacs' Take a Good Look hit the airwaves with shorter stories and a comedy focus. A similar show, complete with plucking people from the audience, is 1979's Whodunit, hosted by Ed McMahon.

A Pilot Light Bonus: Vincent Price can't tell time (a clip from the show)

The opening title. I'm surprised they used a car key motif instead of a classic skeleton key.

Here's Vincent Price without the moustache, although he will have one in the story.

Here is the scheming wife in the story. Her role goes uncredited (does anybody know who it is?)

Here is the first contestant, who is asked how many people were in the opening scene. He guesses incorrectly, and is chained and walled up in the dungeon (oops, thats The Cask of Amontillado its so easy to confuse Vincent Price roles.)

This woman is the only correct contestant in the first round. She correctly identified the name of the character played by Vincent Price.

Here's another contestant being asked a question. Notice the empty seats in the background. Pretty unimpressive if you cant even fill the pilot, although from watching the show the audience were obviously actors.

The unawarded money is added to the endgame jackpot (which had started at $200). It would eventually reach $490.

The husband has been shot! But by who? The plot (mainly made of cheese) thickens.

Vincent Price gives the final question and tries to alter the dimension of time.

This pilot has been viewed 7687 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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