Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Banquo’s Chair (05/03/59)

The episode opens with the same type of pointlessly specific title cards that Hitchcock aficionados will recognize from Psycho.  Blackheath . . . near London . . . October 23, 1903 . . . 7:20 PM.

Inspector Brent is making a call on Major Cook-Finch.  Brent asks to see Cook’s dining room and to speak to his “man” Lane.  Brent’s plans are as meticulous as the title cards, as he dictates everything from the seating arrangement to the position of the gas valve. The Shakespearean actor Robert Stone arrives.  Before the actor can have an hysterical tantrum about leaving England if George V takes the throne, Brent explains the haps.

There was a murder 2 years ago in this house.  The suspected murderer, John Bedford, is the guest of honor.  He was the sole heir to his Aunt Mae’s estate, but had an alibi. Inspector Brent has devised a plan where an actress will appear to be the ghost of Aunt Mae.  She appears during the pheasant and Bedford blurts out a confession.  They read him the Miranda Warning [1] and haul him off to gaol.

This episode uses one of the oldest tropes on TV — the pseudo-supernatural event that is staged, and occurs despite the unexpected absence of the perpetrators.  Not only is this lazier than I expect from AHP, it breaks with their tradition of non-supernatural episodes.  I can think of only one previously.

And it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock?

Not only that, but it ran laughably short.  Hitchcock’s vignettes seemed longer than usual, but the closing credits really showed the padding.  My God, they just went on and on. The make-up and gaffer credits were on the screen so long their mothers were saying, “Get on with it already!”  The union called and said, “We’re satisfied, let’s move on!”.  The theme was repeated countless times.  Really an off week for AHP.


  • [1] I didn’t realize this was a thing outside the US, much less in 1903. Although, back then it referred to Carmen Miranda and was a warning to wash fruit before eating it.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  According to IMDb, Kenneth Haigh (John Bedford) is listed as still alive at 88. But I have to wonder who notifies them in case of death.
  • Banquo is a reference to a character in Macbeth, and not Spanish for Bank as I thought.
  • For an in-depth look at the episode and the original work it was based on, check out bare*bonez e-zine.  Spoiler:  He liked it a lot more than me.

Twilight Zone – To See the Invisible Man (01/31/86)

Mitchell Chaplin has been found guilty of the crime of coldness — not opening up his emotions to his fellow citizens.  Frankly, with Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, reality TV and dumb-bell bloggers, today I would give him a medal; but clearly this is meant to be a dystopia. [1]  Witnesses have described him as cold and uncaring, so he is sentenced to one year of invisibility.  Holy smoke do I love this premise — please don’t turn it into another sappy Hallmark segment!

The state puts a mark on his forehead which renders him invisible.  Because of his coldness, he defiantly exclaims, “This is nothing to me!”  Outside, a man is looking at some papers and walks into him.  Once he sees the mark, he disregards Chaplain.

It took me a while — in fact, stupidly, way past this point — to realize the invisibles are not literally invisible.  I had to delete a lot of, frankly, Nobel Prize-caliber bon mots.  When people see the mark, they are just required to ignore the markee.

Chaplain goes to a cafeteria.  He orders the roast, but the server can’t “see” him. Chaplin decides to make this a self-serve line as he leaps over the counter, steals the server’s hat, and begins serving himself.  When Chaplain sits down at a family’s table, their kid finally does acknowledge him.  His mother admonishes him.  Maybe this was when I realized he wasn’t truly invisible.

Later, he goes “shopping” at a liquor store.  As usual, government regulation has screwed small merchants who must watch their merchandise walk out the door with these misanthropes.  He encounters another invisible with the same mark.  There is a uncomfortable moment when they seem desperate to communicate, but do not when they see a drone monitoring them.  This is a busy location — he sees 3 women come out of a women’s spa and they completely ignore him.  I feel your pain, pal.

On the other hand — women’s spa! He goes in and heads for the sauna. Sadly this was not on Showtime because he finds 6 women naked in a Jacuzzi and many others sitting around in towels.

This is even more dickish than it seems as he is not literally invisible. Despite the dictates of the state, these women subtly acknowledge his presence.  It is not a cartoonish hysteria, but a quiet silence and humiliation as they group together and speak softly, supporting each other.  This is genuinely effective stuff.  I might never watch Porky’s every week the same way again.  Even Chaplain is ashamed of his violation, and backs out of the door.

After 105 days of this desolation, Chaplain finally communicates with someone.  A blind man in the cafeteria sits at his table and begins talking.  A waitress busts him and tells the blind man that he is an invisible.  There must be some stiff penalty because the blind man is very shaken and quickly leaves the table.

At the 6 month point, he goes to a comedy club.  The comedian immediately shuns him as an invisible.  That must be some brutal punishment for just acknowledging invisibles. Would he be tortured?  He leaves the club and sees an invisible woman.  He begs her to talk to him, but she refuses to risk lengthening her sentence.  Chaplain finally breaks down in tears.

At day 229, he is walking at night and sees a couple of guys stealing a car.  They ignore him when they see the invisibility mark — that law they seem to respect.  Boy, what could the punishment be for “seeing” him? Water-boarding?  I’ll bet it’s water-boarding.  The thugs steal the car, spin around and purposely pursue Chaplain to run him down.  Being an invisible, the hospital will not treat him.

Day 365 — the state comes and removes the invisibility mark. Chaplain is a changed man.  He is friendly and caring with his co-workers, even the homely ones.  Apparently the state also requires that you are re-hired after your sentence.

As he is leaving work, the same invisible woman from before, still under her sentence, approaches him.  She begs him for simple acknowledgement.  They have constructed this very well, and it is heart-breaking.  As she is pleading, however, I started thinking the actress really wasn’t selling the scene — it had the potential to be devastating.  This was curious; why wouldn’t she . . . then my heart kind of sank.

They just couldn’t let the story go where it wanted to go.  This could have been a masterpiece ending.  But no, TZ again retreated to the Lifetime-Hallmark industrial complex.  Rather than getting a gut-wrenching performance from the actress [2], and rather than allowing that Chaplain still had some basic human flaws (i.e. there was no magic solution), and rather than allowing that the bad guys sometimes win . . . it ends with a big ol’ hug.

Even worse, this undermines the entire premise.  The drones monitoring her issue a warning for him to back off, or at least get a room.  A warning?  That’s what has people scared to death of even making eye-contact?  A warning?  That’s your dystopia?

Still, the rest of the segment is so good, it gets a solid A.


  • [1] How is dystopia still not in spellcheck?  Did we learn nothing from Hunger Games?  Except to not make the head of a reality show the president.  So yeah, nothing.
  • [2] I saw a slightly similar scene done right on the great underrated series Nowhere Man 20 years ago, and it still gives me chills to think about it.
  • Classic TZ Connection:  Superficially similar to The Silence and A Kind of Stopwatch for the theme of isolation.
  • Tortured Connection:  The previous segment was written by Ray Bradbury who wrote I Sing the Body Electric for the 1960s TZ.  This segment was directed by Noel Black who directed a TV movie based on I Sing the Body Electric.
  • Rainbow Connection.

Twilight Zone – The Elevator (01/31/86)

At a svelte 11 minutes, I’m not getting 500 words out of this one.  But that’s not a bad thing, as readers of this blog can attest.

Two brothers are curious what their father has been up to late nights at an old ware-house, although it only seems to require two nights per year.  They know he was doing some sort of experiments to produce cheap, plentiful food.

Inside, they find huge dead rats, then huge dead cats, then the titular elevator.

There is virtually no characterization, no story, no irony, no twist, no arc.  It raises a warehouse of questions that are never addressed.  And yet I really like it.  It is creepy and suspenseful.  The score doesn’t torpedo the segment as frequently happens on TZ.

It is just one of those short TZ time-fillers, but this one happens to work.

Good stuff.


  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Ray Bradbury wrote one episode.  This simple segment didn’t require a writer of his talent.  Luckily they did not use this on Ray Bradbury Theater.
  • The director of this segment also helmed one episode of RBT.
  • The actors portraying the brothers are 7 years difference in age and look every bit of it.  In a flashback, however, they both look about the same age as kids.

Honest Money – Erle Stanley Gardner (1932)

Ken Corning, a fighting young lawyer, tries to earn an honest living in a city of graft.

This is the first story in a series following idealistic young lawyer Perry Mason Ken Corning and his assistant Della Street Helen Vail.  They were clearly the prototype for Gardner’s later series, but with less obstruction of justice.  Seriously, I read 3 Perry Mason novels and his primary skill seems to be corrupting the evidence so no jury and few readers could follow it.

Cornings’ first client is Sam Parks.  Rather than simply see the man, the attorney first puts Helen through a ruse where she types pages of nonsense for three minutes and rushes it in to him as if it were 3 hours of billable time.

Sam Parks’ wife has been arrested for running a speakeasy.  Christ, what is this, Prohibition?  Oh.[1]  I like that as the cops busted into his establishment, Parks quickly pretended to be a customer by sitting down at an uncleared table and eating the erstwhile patron’s scraps.  Mrs. Parks, quite a good sport, played along and even collected the bill from him, although that 10% tip will not benefit him later.  She is hauled off to the can, the jug, the slam, the big house, the joint, the hoosegow, the pokey, the clink.

Immediately after Parks leaves, Corning gets a visit from Perkins, the cop who busted the restaurant.  Corning refuses to give him any info on Parks.  He then gets a visit from Carl Dwight.  Lawyers setting up a card table at a bus accident don’t get this much traffic.  Dwight is the local fixer, an operative of the political machine.  He offers Corning a $500 “retainer” to play ball, but Corning throws it back in his face.

After Corning pays a visit to Mrs. Parks at the prison, Mr. Parks calls to say he his coming back into the office.  Unfortunately, Parks is shot twice just outside Corning’s window.  Corning goes down to check things out.[2]  Actually he does show Perry Mason’s proclivity for hindering an investigation.  Among other things, he pockets a newspaper from Parks’ parked car.  There was an article cut out that covered Harry Dike’s appointment as superintendent of the Water Department — presumably no relation to the hairy dykes Mrs. Parks was meeting in prison.

The article said Dike was “firmly opposed to the granting of contracts and concessions to those with political pull, and that in the future the Water Department would be conducted upon a basis of efficiency with all work thrown open to the lowest responsible bidder.”  How was he not the one shot?  There is good reason as this seemingly virtuous Water Department jefe is just another thug.  He had been in a car accident with Mrs. Parks, while he was traveling with Carl Dwight the political fixer he was supposed to oppose.  She made trouble and had to be dealt with.  That’s Chinatown, Jake.

Mason Corning ties it all together and the story wraps up with yet more characters, a meeting in a restaurant, some counterfeiting hijinks, and even Corning getting off a few gunshots.  Despite being written 85 years ago, the writing has a contemporary feel. Gardner is able to make a raft of characters and an intertwining plot simple enough that I only had to read it twice to understand it.

Another good entry, although I miss the titular spiciness of the Spicy Adventure Megapack.


  • [1] 1920 – 1933.
  • [2] In a sign of the times, he stands out in the crowd because he is hatless.
  • First published in Black Mask in November 1932.
  • Also that month:  FDR first elected.
  • When he died in 1970, Gardner was the best-selling author in history.

Science Fiction Theatre – Conversation with an Ape (06/11/55)

Dr. Guy Stanton (Beaver’s dad, Hugh Beaumont) brings his new wife back to his home in the Florida Everglades.  He apologizes for it being a dump, saying he is just now seeing it with her eyes.  Did he get her out of a catalog?  How could she never have seen it?  Oh, she mentions she met him at a convention a week ago.

Nancy assures Guy that she is on Cloud 7. [1]   SFT actually comes so close to making a pretty good joke that I’m envious.  Nancy smacks a pillow and an absurd amount of dust flies from it.  She smirks at Guy, “Cloud # 1.”

Still, she is prepared to be the dutiful 1950’s wife and vows to turn the shack into a castle — at least until they hear a truck go by.  Guy sheepishly informs his new wife that it was a prison truck, “There is a penitentiary about 10 miles down the road, just beyond the swamp.  We’re sort of located here in the heart of a swamp.”  This seems to come as a surprise to Nancy.  Was she blind-folded on the trip there?  Alligator Alley is a miraculous achievement, but you only end up in the middle of the Everglades after going through miles of nothing (hence, the ever part).

This is not the titular ape

They go for a kiss, but are interrupted by a screeching noise. Guy leaves the room and returns with his ape Terry.  Then there is another screeching noise — Nancy is horrified! Guy assures her Terry is harmless and is his star pupil.  He tells Terry, “Go on out to the kitchen and have a banana.”  He reminds Nancy he is an Animal Psychologist.  He keeps hundreds of animals.  She becomes hysterical and runs right up to the bedroom in tears even though she has never been in the house before.

Foreshadowing what will happen later that night, Guy pleads with her in the bedroom.  He convinces Nancy to meet the gang.  He has actually been teaching Terry to recognize certain words and he even read a few.  Guy even claims to communicate telepathically — the X-Factor, he calls it.  Nancy is not impressed.  She says this marriage is not going to work.  Guy asks her for just one week to finish up his experiments.  Even though Guy makes a breakthrough with Terry, Nancy packs her bags.  As Guy prepares to drive Nancy back to normal civilization (i.e out of The Everglades Florida), an escaped prisoner barges in with a gun.

This is not the titular ape

He is filthy after crawling through the swamp for 18 hours, and demands food and keys to the car.  He hears a noise and Guy tells him there is a chimpanzee in the kitchen.  The prisoner’s reaction is more like Guy said there was a refrigerator in the kitchen.  They bring Terry out to the living room.  As they are held at gun-point, Guy sends telepathic signals to Terry.

When the humans go into the kitchen, Terry goes upstairs and fetches a pistol as Guy wordlessly commanded.  He gives Guy the pistol and Guy disarms the prisoner.  Now that Terry has saved their lives, Guy asks Nancy if she is still going to leave.  She looks at the chimp and simply says, “Terry?”  Terry puts on her hat, picks up her suitcase and takes it upstairs.  “The X-Factor!” they say in unison, chuckling, until Terry shits in her hat.

This episode got a bit of a boost from the cast.  It was fun seeing Ward Cleaver in a different role.  Barbara Hale was pretty snappy as Nancy, just 2 years before she became Della Street on Perry Mason.[2]  And, of course, apez is funny.  Aside from that, it was the usual tripe.

Terry the ape


  • [1] This is the second time that phrase has been used in this series.  What happened to Cloud 9?
  • [2] The Perry Mason books have the most misleading covers in publishing.  I got suckered in by The Case of the Long-Legged Models (1958) and The Case of the Foot Loose Doll (1958) before wising up.  I doubt the stories inside were titillating even 60 years ago.  However, I did not take a chance with The Case of the One-Eyed Witness (1950).  
  • For man, woman or ape there just aren’t many more blah names than Terry.  Although, there is the occasional Teri exception.
  • Whether for the censors or the carpet, Terry is wearing a diaper, although it seems to be taped to his butt rather than wrapping around.