Monday, July 31, 2017

Connie Stevens and Dean Jones Make for "Two on a Guillotine"

Connie Stevens as Cassie.
Who is the mysterious young woman at the funeral of The Great Duquesne? She could be the spitting image of the famous magician's wife Melinda, who disappeared without explanation twenty years earlier. And what's up with the casket fitted with a window and wrapped in chains?

The young woman turns out to be Duquesne's daughter Cassie, who was raised by an aunt in Wisconsin and barely knew her parents. As for the unusual casket, a newspaper headline informs us that Duquesne has vowed to return from the dead.

As if being hounded by the press wasn't bad enough, Cassie (Connie Stevens) learns of an unusual condition to her $300,000 inheritance. She must spend seven consecutive nights in her father's mansion from midnight to dawn. If she fails to do so, then the estate will be divided between Duquesne's agent Buzzy and his caretaker Dolly.

The Great Duquesne and his guillotine.
Two on a Guillotine sounds like a William Castle film and one can just imagine the kind of gimmicks that could have accompanied it. However, this easygoing 1965 thriller was helmed by William Conrad. Yes, the man who voiced Matt Dillon on radio and later played Cannon on TV also directed movies. In fact, his follow-up was another 1965 thriller, My Blood Runs Cold, which featured Connie Stevens' frequent co-star Troy Donahue.

Dean Jones as Connie's love interest.
In lieu of Troy, Connie is paired with Disney regular Dean Jones in Two on a Guillotine. The affable Jones plays a newspaper journalist who starts out to get a story on Cassie and ends up falling in love with her. He also helps her figure out the source of the midnight moans and rattling chains in the Duquesne house.

Two on a Guillotine is a genial diversion, though it's easily seventeen minutes too long (90 minutes should be the standard for teen-oriented drive-in pictures!). Also, assuming that there are no ghosts, there's a paucity of suspects trying to drive Connie out of the house (if that's the intent).

Cesar Romero as the magician.
Conrad's direction is pretty straightforward with the exception of one Hithcockian moment. As Dean leans in to kiss Connie in a loud, rock'n'roll club, the music segues to Max Steiner's lush score. Dean pulls back from the kiss to reveal that he and Connie are now alone in her father's house.

There's also a priceless instance of unintentional foreshadowing. When Dean's character wants to reassure Cassie that he's the protective type, he jokes: "I'm half Saint Bernard." Eleven years later, Dean starred in Disney's The Shaggy D.A. His character wasn't a Saint Bernard, but he could transform into a sheepdog. Now, that's spooky!

Here's a clip from Two on Guillotine, courtesy of, which you can view full-screen on the Classic Film & TV Cafe YouTube channel. (You can also stream the entire movie at Warner Archive).


  1. Gee, I remember seeing this when I was a kid and thinking it was so spooky. I'd probably get a lot more out of it nowadays, at least in the "fun" one gets from seeing old pals doing their stuff.

  2. Should any of you happen to see Two On A Guillotine in the near future, stay alert during the scene wherein Dean and Connie pass some time at an amusement park.
    At one point, they walk past, and are greeted by, a genial fat man with a mustache ...
    (Another of Caftan Woman's "old pals ...)

  3. Yes, a director cameo in the best Hitchcock tradition!

  4. I've always liked Dean Jones – he always turns in a good performance and has terrific comedic timing.

    I agree when you say this would have been so much fun as a William Castle feature!

  5. Watched this one last night, after a long interval ..

    This was one of Bill Conrad's "moonlighting" movies, from the period when his main source of income was narrating Rocky & Bullwinkle and The Fugitive, plus commercials for Mattel's Hot Wheels and Bactine (I told that story here, didn't I?).
    if I have the timelines right, this was not long before writer Henry Slesar got the headwriter job on The Edge Of Night (he was still doing Hitchcock and other prime time shows, plus short stories for EQMM and AHMM).
    Warner Bros was phasing out its B-picture unit (only Universal stayed at it longer); double features were at an end by the mid-'60s.
    If you watch, note that the mourners at the funeral include a young (sort of) Richard Kiel, whom I'm guessing didn't bring a cookbook ...

    1. Wanted: the Bactine story.

    2. I didn't tell that story here?
      Thought I had - must have done it somewhere else ...
      Oh well - here goes (again):

      Jack L. Warner used to turn his lunches at the Warner commissary into ad-lib roast-and-toasts, aimed at whoever among the contractees caught his attention. No one was ineligible from JLW's "tributes".
      In the mid-'60s, Bill Conrad was under contract to Warners, making second features such as the one we're talking about here.
      One fine day, Conrad goes to lunch at the commissary, and as he passes the Main Table, Jack L. calls out to him:
      "Young Man!" (Conrad was in his mid-to-late 40s at the time.)
      Conrad:"Yes, sir?"
      Warner:"The other night I saw that TV show The Fugitive, and I thought I heard your voice. Was that you?"
      Conrad:"Yes, sir. I narrate that show."
      Warner:"I happened to see this cartoon show Rocky And His Friends with my grandchildren. I thought I heard your voice again. Was that you?"
      Conrad:"Yes, sir. I'm the announcer on that show."
      Warner:" I saw a commercial for some toy called Hot Wheels. Was that your voice?"
      Conrad:"Yes, sir. I did that commercial several years ago."
      Warner proceeded to read from a list of various voice-overs - cartoons, narrations, and the like (the Bactine spot ["The Only Good Germ Is A Dead Germ!] was likely one of these).
      Conrad confirmed his participation in all of them.
      Warner (sternly):"Young man, I'm sure you're aware of the dim view I take of moonlighting by employees of this studio!"
      Conrad (mildly):"Yes, sir. But perhaps you're not aware that the things you mentioned on that list - the cartoons, commercials, voice jobs - those are what I do for a living. What I do here - the features I make for you - that's my moonlighting."
      Even Jack L. Warner laughed at that one.

      (God, this gets harder to type out every time ...)

    3. Now, that's funny! Thanks for sharing!