clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

BCB After Dark: Which direction, Keegan Thompson?

The late-night/early-morning joint for Cubs fans asks if Keegan Thompson will be a starter or a reliever.

Chicago Cubs v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swingin’ spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s a cold night outside but there’s a hot stove inside. Come on in and grab a seat. If you want us to check your coat for you, we can do that. The dress code is casual. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last night I asked you if you thought the Cubs would sign free agent shortstop Carlos Correa and man, did you have something to say about that. With 36 percent of the vote, the plurality of you think Correa will be wearing Cubbie blue next year. But another 36 percent (but a few votes behind) thought that the Cubs would sign a different “big 4” shortstop this winter. And 28 percent of you don’t think the Cubs will land any of them. So it was a good poll since there was that even a split between the three choices.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

I’ve got some fusion for you tonight with Herbie Hancock and his band on Danish television in 1976. I’m not the biggest fan of seventies jazz fusion, although I don’t hate it. Some of it is pretty good. But this video is worth watching just for the clothes and the hairstyles of the band. On top of that, you’ve got some pretty nifty mid-seventies camera tricks that they undoubtedly thought were so fancy back then.

Hancock introduces the band and the beginning of the video, so those of you who care can just press “play” and get all the details.

Tonight’s film is 1951’s The House on Telegraph Hill, a gothic and melodramatic noir directed by Robert Wise. The film, which stars Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortese, William Lundigan and Fay Baker, is actually kind of a mess. But when it works, it works because of the deft hand of director Wise and the sharp cinematography by Lucien Ballard.

The House on Telegraph Hill was the second of two films directed by Wise in 1951. The first is the all-time classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. The House on Telegraph Hill falls far short of the standard set by that Cold War parable. But it’s still kind of fun and glorious to look at.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the film starts out with a Holocaust subplot that really doesn’t make sense if you know anything about the mechanics of the Final Solution. Viktoria Kowalska (Cortese) in the Belsen Concentration Camp after the Nazi conquest of Poland. Why she’s in Belsen is unclear. Is she Jewish? A communist? Some high-profile Pole who could be used in a prisoner exchange? Who knows? The film doesn’t mention if she’s any of those things. She’s just a Polish widow—and she has an Italian accent for some reason. (I can see some studio executive throwing up his hands and going “Poles, Italians, whatever. They’re all European. No one will know the difference.”)

While in the camps, Viktoria befriends Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess—Marilyn Monroe’s drama coach!), who had sent her newborn son to live with rich relatives in America before the war. Karin says she will take Viktoria to America with her after the war, but unfortunately Karin doesn’t survive Belsen. So Viktoria decides to assume Karin’s identity, where she assumes she will have a better life in America. Little does she know she’s walking into a hornet’s nest.

After liberation, Viktoria (whom I will, from now on, refer to as “Karin,” since that’s the name she goes by the rest of the way) is processed by an American army major, Marc Bennett (Lundigan). Why is an American major processing a Polish refugee in the British Zone of Occupation? Shut up! You know too much about the Holocaust and Post-War Germany!

Anyway, it’s there that Karin launches her plan to assume her friend’s identity. She even rips up Viktoria’s identity card. Marc is a kindly soul who asks Karin if she wants to go back to Warsaw. Karin says there’s nothing in Warsaw for her and she does not want to return. Major Bennett regretfully tells her that she’ll have to go to a refugee camp if she doesn’t return, but Karin is OK with that.

In the refugee camp, Karin telegrams “her” rich aunt in San Francisco to tell her she’s alive and that she wants to see her son. Karin gets a response that her aunt has passed away and to refer all future correspondences to a law office.

After four years in the camps, Karin is allowed to travel to America. There she is met by Alan Spender (Basehart), who is a relative of “her” Aunt Sophie by marriage. He’s also the guardian of “her” son, who is now 11 years old. Alan falls immediately in love with Karin. Maybe a bit too immediately. After a whirlwind courtship in New York, the Alan and Karin get married before heading back to San Francisco to see their house and her son.

Karin’s son Christopher (Gordon Gebert) immediately takes to her “mother.” But something is clearly wrong in this family once they return to Aunt Sophie’s house on Telegraph Hill. (The exterior of the house used in the filming was Julius’ Castle, a well-known restaurant on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.) For one, there’s Margaret (Baker), who had been Christopher’s governess all these years and whom, up until now, Christopher had treated as his mother. It’s also clear that Margaret isn’t too keen on Alan being married to Karin.

At this point, The House on Telegraph Hill becomes a sub-genre “paranoid woman” film. It shares quite a bit with such earlier films as Rebecca and Gaslight. Like Rebecca, there’s a large, creepy painting (Aunt Sophie in this case) towering over the proceedings. There’s also a shady governess. Of course, in most of these “paranoid woman” movies, there really is someone out to get the woman. And in The House on Telegraph Hill, our main woman, Karin, really does have something horrible to hide. She’s not actually Karin.

As it turns out in one of those “only in the movies” coincidences, one of Alan’s oldest friends (or maybe “frenemies” is a better description in this case) is Major Marc Bennett, the man who helped Karin in the relocation camp many years earlier. Initially, Karin tries to keep her distance from Marc, fearing that he might know more than he claims to about Karin’s real identity. But as she becomes more and more convinced that someone is trying to kill her, she reaches out to Marc for help because there is no one else in San Francisco she can trust.

The rest of the film revolves around Karin trying to stay alive and find out who is trying to kill her. Her husband, Alan? Margaret, the governess? Maybe Major Marc Bennett? All of them? No one? There also the entire question of whether anyone will discover that Karin is a fraud and that the real Karin died in Belsen.

The plot of The House on Telegraph Hill is melodramatic and more than a bit ridiculous. There’s a playhouse in the yard of the house that has half a wall and a chunk of the floor blown out. Anyone could fall through the floorboard to to the streets of San Francisco and their death at the bottom of the hill. Somehow, Alan has never boarded up or demolished this obvious death trap. He didn’t even put a lock on it! Alan is a lawyer—he knows that’s a wrongful death suit waiting to happen! Also, the destruction of the playhouse may have been the result of an explosion from Christopher’s chemistry set. Which makes me wonder who gave him that chemistry set—the Army Corps of Engineers? The kid blew up a wall and the floor and somehow survived as if it were no big deal? There’s some indication that the chemistry set story may be something created just to feed into Karin’s paranoia, but we never find out one way or the other.

Director Robert Wise, who was really one of the best directors of this era, manages to turn this silly melodrama into something. If this film is going to work, the audience needs to feel Karin’s paranoia. Luckily, the creepy Victorian mansion and the way the house looks out over a cliff to all of San Francisco present a feeling of doom everywhere. The house is old and beautiful, but there a sense of death everywhere, with dead Aunt Sophie’s creepy portrait leading the way. Wise also goes around the Telegraph HIll neighborhood to give some great shots of San Francisco in 1951.

Wise also employs the Sol Kaplan dramatic musical score effectively. The music, conducted by the great Alfred Newman, is hammy and loud, but it really has to be to sell a pot-boiler melodrama like this one.

Although Cortese is credited second, she’s really the star of the picture. Yes, it bothered me that this supposed Polish refugee spoke with a pretty thick Italian accent (Cortese seemed to have tried to do a Polish accent for the first five minutes of the film and then gave up—which is fine because it was bad), but other than that she does do a good job looking frightened and jumpy all the time. Unlike a lot of these “paranoid women” films, Karin really does have a secret that could ruin her.

Basehart plays Alan pretty straight until the end. There’s always a bit of creepiness in his voice that indicates that he could be a killer, but other times he seems to be a fine, loving husband. Barker has the evil governess part down pat, although there’s a twist on the end of that that I won’t reveal. The part of the honorable Marc Bennett is pretty straightforward and not too demanding. Pretty-boy Lundigan handles it fine.

By the way, Basehart and Cortese fell in love while shooting this picture and were married shortly thereafter. They stayed married for nine years and had one kid together.

Here’ the trailer for The House on Telegraph Hill. There are some good examples of the cinematography here as well as the dramatic orchestral score.

There appear to be several complete copies of the film uploaded to YouTube for anyone interested. It’s fun watch as long as you don’t think too much about it.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and cinema.

Tonight’s topic is Cubs right-handed pitcher Keegan Thompson. Starter or reliever?

Thompson has been a bright spot in the Cubs pitching staff over the past two seasons. Since his debut in May of 2021, he’s put up a career line of 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA. Last season, Thompson made 29 appearances—17 starts and 12 in relief. He pitched 115 innings and went 10-5 with a 3.76 ERA and one save. He struck out 108 batters and walked 43.

But Thompson was much better as a reliever than as a starter. In Thompson’s 17 starts, he put up an ERA of 4.83 and opposing hitters had an .830 OPS against him. In his 12 relief appearances, Thompson had a 1.47 ERA and opposing hitter had a .480 OPS against him.

Now there are a few caveats here. For one, Thompson went down with an injury in mid-August and didn’t return until mid-September. Before he went on the injured list, Thompson was a starter and pitching poorly. After he returned, the Cubs limited his innings and he pitched only out of the pen. He pitched much, much better after his IL stint. Is that because he was relieving or is that because he got healthy?

Also, it’s not uncommon for young pitchers to struggle out of the rotation early in their careers and then become solid starters later on. Yes, Thompson is 27 already, but he also only has 168 13 career innings.

So tonight’s question is for the 2023 season only. Do you think Keegan Thompson will have more innings as a starting pitcher or a reliever? He’ll probably pitch in both roles, but which one will be his primary one? Also, if he makes 15 starts, that could mean more innings than 30 relief appearances. (Most of Thompson’s relief appearances were for more than one inning.)

So for the 2023 season, is Keegan Thompson more of a starter or a reliever?


In 2023, Keegan Thompson will throw more innings as . . .

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    A starter
    (57 votes)
  • 80%
    A reliever
    (237 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now

Thank you so much for stopping by. We had another successful week because of you. Please get anything you checked and look around your table to make sure you didn’t leave anything there. Please recycle any cans and bottles. Get home safely. Tell your friends about us. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.