(ITC Movie title "Death In Small Doses")
Original UK transmission: 23rd February 1974
Original US transmission: 6th December 1973
WRITTEN BY: Terence Feely based on a story by Brian Clemens
DIRECTED BY: Robert D. Cardona
PRODUCED BY: John Sichel
MAIN CAST: Michael Jayston (Roger Masters), Nyree Dawn Porter (Laura Vallance), Barry Nelson (Hugo Fane), Janet Key (Lisa), Thorley Walters (Dr Ledworth), Victor Winding (Det. Sgt. Rainer), Clare Sutcliffe (Betty), Richard Oldfield (Piers Fane)
The camera slowly pans across a busy urban highway, and then turns out towards a distant pastoral location. Gentle soothing music plays as a butler stands by a bedside, smiling kindly and voicing his sadness about having to leave his position. The camera cuts to the occupant of the bed, who is a frail old woman clearly in a state of advanced illness. She looks up as he says "now all that remains is to tidy up", and screams in terror.
(Note: in the "movie" version this sequence is somewhat spoiled by the addition of some rather inappropriate music).
When the recently widowed Laura Vallance advertises for the services of a butler, she doesn't reckon on the cunning Roger Masters, a ruthless con man who preys on wealthy lonely women. The personable Masters is appointed to the position and appears to be the soul of efficiency, but is in reality rapidly scheming the demise of his employer. After substituting the maid with his own partner, he sets about slowly poisoning the lady of the house with a carefully administered daily dose of poison. Confining her to her bed, Masters gradually removes from her any contact with the outside world until she verges on the edge of insanity. Frightened, half starved and desperately ill, Laura Vallance has only one hope left: her friend Hugo Fane. In order to seize control of his mistress's fortune, Masters must drive Laura Vallance over the edge before the persistent Fane can unmask the deception.
An unforgettable episode, with Michael Jayston turning in a superb performance as the utterly ruthless Masters. Jayston was made for roles like this, and he handles the part with perfect precision (returning to play an almost identical part in A Coffin For The Bride only a few months later). The production is claustrophobic, with most of the action taking place in small rooms as Laura Vallance becomes ever more desperate to regain control of her life. The images of her laying wraith-like in her bed as the evil house staff casually plot her demise are some of the most memorable in the series. Highly recommended.
TV TIMES CLIPPING