Climax! "The Long Goodbye" (lost premiere episode of anthology series; 1954)

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ClimaxTheLongGoodbye-TitleCardCoffin.png

The title screen from Climax/actor Tristram Coffin.

Status: Lost

Climax! (later known as Climax Mystery Theater) was an anthology series that ran on American network CBS between 1954 and 1958. Each episode showcased a different story, most of which were adapted from other media, and usually performed live. While many episodes are considered lost, the series premiere is especially sought-after as it contains one of the most memorable production errors in TV history.

The 'walking corpse' incident[edit | edit source]

On October 7th, 1954, Climax premiered with a live adaptation of Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel The Long Goodbye. About midway through the broadcast, actor Tristram Coffin - who was at the time playing the part of a murdered corpse lying underneath a sheet - casually stood up, discarded the sheet and walked off set, evidently believing he was no longer in frame. Adding to the surreal vibe, the other onscreen characters carried on as usual, seemingly oblivious to the mini-melodrama happening behind them.

As Climax billed itself as a top-tier, highbrow program, its debut had garnered considerable critical attention, and write-ups about the incident (some featuring interviews with a thoroughly embarrassed Coffin) appeared in multiple newspapers.[1] The gaffe would pass into television history, albeit sometimes attached to the wrong show. It is also sometimes claimed that the incident happened during Casino Royale, an adaptation of the James Bond novel that was the third episode of Climax!, not the first.

Availability[edit | edit source]

The episode has not resurfaced since its first airing, and it is unknown if a copy is still in existence. It is highly unlikely, given that early live TV was not often recorded, and the recordings that were made were necessarily of poor quality.

As of this writing, the only episode of Climax! to ever get an official release on home media was "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" which appeared in a Classic Sci-Fi TV compilation. Several episodes from later seasons have also shown up online.

Reference[edit | edit source]