Barbie Hallem is pulling a Zou Bisou Bisou, making herself the center of attention at a proper conservative 50’s party where all the men are wearing ties and the dames have not a tattoo to be seen.
For a straight-laced house party (and episode of a 50 year old TV show), Barbie’s dance is very seductive. She is swinging them hips and showing off some skin in that spaghetti — or at least linguine — strapped little number. But, everyone seems to be enjoying her display, smoking cigarettes, drinking cocktails, snapping fingers, clapping along, laughing.
All except the chick on the top-right. She is immediately identifiable as the heavy in this piece — alone, self-absorbed, jealous. The strange thing is, after this obvious bit of wordless exposition, that’s it for her. She is never seen again.
Barbie begins dancing with one of the men, then orders him to go fix her a Horse’s Neck. While he obediently fetches her drink, she goes out on the balcony and swaps spit with an older man (an action I encourage in young blonde floozies).
When her dancing partner finds her with the drink, he asks why she does things like that. She very reasonably explains, “I did it because I wanted to.” Despite being 1:00 in the morning, Barbie decides she wants to go to the mountains to see a cabin which she recently inherited. Her boy-toy tags along. When he complains about her driving, she ditches him and drives off.
She pulls up at Ed Mungo’s Cabins & Food and orders a black coffee. Ed tells her the other customers there have just come off the mountain where they have been searching for his brother Benny, who killed a girl; and her little dog, too. Which would explain why they are all packing rifles.
When she arrives at the cabin, she finds a man (Vic Morrow) trespassing there. Quite the dapper host, he is eating a can of beans opened at the wrong end, and offers her a generic beer. After taking a swig, she turns on the record player and starts dancing again. When he tells her his name is Benny, she thinks it might be time to leave.
He can tell she is scared and thinks it is because he killed the girl’s dog which, to be fair, had bitten him. He seems to not know the girl has been murdered. When Ed shows up there is a confrontation when Barbie tells Benny that Ed actually killed the girl.
Benny and Ed get into one of the best fights I’ve ever seen on TV. The hits look real, the sounds are not quite the usual fake slaps, they take some good falls — really good stuff.
There is a nice twist which might have played out better had TV not been so restrained in the 1950s. Benny is clearly intended to be mentally challenged — in the bar, Ed refers to him not being a boy “in most ways,” and he doesn’t seem to know what is going on with his brother or the girl; plus, he is named Benny. But his condition is so subtly implied that it is very easy to miss.
The audience makes certain assumptions based on believing Benny to have all his marbles. This ends up undermining the ending. However, it still ends up being a nice story.
What really carries the episode, though, is Barbara Cook as Barbie Hellam. She is attractive, but not classically beautiful, and not the standard Hitchcock blonde babe. However she is something much more that the sum of her parts. When she is dancing at the party, or even just driving in the car, she is absolutely smoking.
- AHP Deathwatch: Barbara Cook is hanging in there at 87. She had no IMDb acting credits after 1962, but was a big star on Broadway and singing in cabarets. In 2011, she was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors.
- Vic Morrow was less fortunate, dying in 1982 when a helicopter crashed on top of him while filming a scene in The Twilight Zone Movie.
- Was the upside down bean can a sign of Benny’s mental issues?