Armchair Thriller

Armchair Thriller is a British television programme, broadcast on ITV in two series in 1978 and 1980. Owing something to some of the offshoots of the earlier Armchair Theatre, the new series used scripts adapted from published novels and stories. Although not properly a horror series, it included several supernatural elements. Armchair Thriller was produced by Thames Television, but it included serials made by Southern Television. The format was of 25-minute episodes broadcast twice-weekly, usually screened on a Tuesday or Thursday between 8 pm and 9 pm.

Armchair Thriller
GenreHorror, Thriller
Theme music composerAndy MacKay
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes55
Executive producer(s)Andrew Brown
Producer(s)Andrew Brown,
Jacqueline Davis,
Brenda Ennisp
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running timec. 23–26 minutes per episode
Original networkITV
Picture formatPAL 4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release21 February 1978 
30 December 1981


The opening titles consisted of a shadow-figure walking to an armchair and then sitting down, accompanied by music composed by Andy MacKay of pop group Roxy Music. Some equally memorable trailers for the series showed the same armchair soaked in blood and a screaming, maniacal face; these received criticism from those who considered them too horrific for pre-watershed viewing. For Armchair Thriller broadcasts Thames Television changed the station ident it used; normally it showed a London landscape in daytime, but here it was the same view as though seen at night.

The first series included an adaptation of Antonia Fraser's novel Quiet as a Nun. This introduced to television the character of Jemima Shore—who was later spun off into her own ITV series—and starred Maria Aitken. "Quiet as a Nun" proved to be particularly memorable, famous for the cliffhanger sequence where the 'Black Nun' appeared. Ratings increased, reaching a high of 17 million viewers during the broadcast of the first episode of "The Limbo Connection".[1] Other actors to appear included Ian McKellen and Denis Lawson.[2]


Series 1

No.TitleNo. of episodesDirected byWritten byCastProduction companyOriginal air date
1"Rachel in Danger"4Waris HusseinJohn BowenDella Low (Rachel), Stephen Greif (Juan), Eiko Nakamura (Aiyako)Thames21 February–2 March 1978 (21 February–2 March 1978)
2"A Dog's Ransom"6Donald McWhinnieJohn BowenBenjamin Whitrow (Edward Reynolds), Zena Walker (Gina Reynolds)Thames9–23 March 1978 (9–23 March 1978)
3"The Girl Who Walked Quickly"4Brian FarnhamRay JenkinsDenis Lawson (David Cooper), Phyllida Nash (Liz), Clive Merrison (Godolt)Thames28 March–6 April 1978 (28 March–6 April 1978)
4"Quiet as a Nun"6Moira ArmstrongJulia JonesMaria Aitken (Jemima Shore), Renee Asherson (Mother Ancilla), Brenda Bruce (Sister Elizabeth), David Burke (Tom Amyas)Thames18–27 April 1978 (18–27 April 1978)
5"The Limbo Connection"6Robert TronsonPhilip MackieJames Bolam (Mark Omney), Rosalind Ayres (Annabella Fraser), Michael Culver (Dr. Walcott Brown), Beatrix Lehmann (Blanche Terraine)Thames2–18 May 1978 (2–18 May 1978)

Series 2

No.TitleNo. of episodesDirected byWritten byCastProduction companyOriginal air date
6"The Victim"6Gareth DaviesMichael AsheDavid Beckett (Frankie Martin), Lorna Yabsley (Sue Craig), Steve Morley (Len Trace), John Shrapnel (Vincent Craig), Paul Jerricho (Harry Turner)Thames8–24 January 1980 (8–24 January 1980)
7"Dead Man's Kit"4Colin BuckseyTom ClenaghanLarry Lamb (CPO Chalkey White), Philip Locke (Cmdr. Lloyd), Maurice Colbourne (Lt. Cmdr. Kobahl)Southern29 January–7 February 1980 (29 January–7 February 1980)
8"Dying Day"4Robert TronsonJohn BowenIan McKellen (Anthony Skipling), Maurice Kaufmann (1st Interrogator), Prentis Hancock (2nd Interrogator)Thames12–21 February 1980 (12–21 February 1980)
9"Fear of God"4Robert TronsonTroy Kennedy MartinBryan Marshall (Paul Marriot), Peter Cellier (Maitland), Michael Sheard (Colonel Morgan)Thames26 February–6 March 1980 (26 February–6 March 1980)
10"High Tide"4Colin BuckseyAndrew BrownIan McShane (Peter Curtis), Wendy Morgan (Celia), Terence Rigby (Matthews), John Bird (Cyril)Southern11–20 March 1980 (11–20 March 1980)
11"The Circe Complex"6Robert D. CardonaDavid HopkinsBeth Morris (Val Foreman), Trevor Martin (Tom Foreman), Alan David (Ollie Milton), James Hazeldine (Dave)Thames25 March–10 April 1980 (25 March–10 April 1980)
12"The Chelsea Murders"1Derek BennettJonathan HalesMichael Feast (Steve), Guy Gregory (Artie)Thames30 December 1981 (1981-12-30)
Originally made as a 6-episode story, but unscreened in this form; eventually broadcast edited into a single feature-length (104 mins.) standalone programme (i.e. not under the Armchair Thriller umbrella title).

DVD releases

The ten Thames-produced serials were released by Network DVD in 2008, both as separate stories and as a collected box set. The Southern Television-produced "Dead Man's Kit" and "High Tide" were released separately, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, by Simply Home Entertainment.


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