Alfred Hitchcock Presents – A Personal Matter (01/18/59)

After two Twilight Zones that weren’t very Twilight Zoney, we have an Alfred Hitchcock Presents that isn’t very Alfred Hitchcock Presentable. It’s more like Trans-Atlantic Tunnel with Richard Dix or The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston.  Or maybe it’s nothing like them since I’ve seen neither.  What it ain’t is AHP.

South of the Border, down Mexico way, Joe Philips is digging a tunnel for Rodriguez Construction.  We open with an odd but nice first-person-minecar shot of the mine [1].  Philips is trying to shore up the ceiling, but dirt begins falling.  His crew flees like tunnel-rats from a sinking ship.  They have dug 82 feet in six days, but just lost 20 to the cave-in.

Rodriguez visits the camp and brings Bret Johnson to assist Philips.  He is ready to bail out and let Johnson do the job.  While Philips is packing, Johnson convinces him to stay.  Rodriguez just took off in his plane, and there is no other way to the city.

ahppersonalmatter16They continue the job together and make good progress the first day. There is a fiesta that night with the camp’s only guitar and the camp’s only senorita.

That night, Philips hears about a manhunt in Mexico for the murder of an engineer in Colorado over a dispute of safety regulations.  Philips searches Johnson’s bunk and finds a pistol.  Johnson enters and has the gun in his hand.

Philips says he knew the murdered man but that the man cared more about making a buck than about the lives of his men.  And that he deserved what he got, and it would suit him fine if they never caught the killer.

The men are stuck with each other for another five weeks, so they decide to work together on the tunnel.  They get lucky and hit an deposit of rock.  Apparently that is better news than it sounds in tunneling as it enables them to blast.

ahppersonalmatter42The next day a boulder falls on a worker.  While Philips helps him, Johnson single-handedly shores another another boulder from falling. It seems the job is not impossible to complete on schedule.  The men have a respect for each other, though, and decide to give it a try.

Four days later, they decide to blast through the last remaining rock.  It is a success and they prepare to leave the camp the next day.

Philips pulls his gun on Johnson.  Turns out Johnson is a cop.  He made a deal with Rodriguez to get the tunnel finished before hauling Philips in.  I think it was supposed to be a big reversal that Philips was the murderer and not Johnson.  Unfortunately, the episode did not go far enough in making us believe Johnson was the murderer, so the ending was a failure.

Except for the way in which it was awesome.  Joe Maross (Philips) and Wayne Morris (Johnson) were amazing in this episode.  Both were strong, smart, industrious, confident men of the type you don’t see on TV anymore.  They had a job to do and weren’t going to let little things like cave-ins or a murder charge stop them.

Even as each had reason to believe the other might kill him, they worked together to complete that tunnel.  Like Colonel Nicholson working with the Japanese[2] or Johnny Utah working with the Ex-Presidents[3], it makes no sense.  But there is such a drive for accomplishment in the men that they will do anything to build that bridge or rob that bank or dig that tunnel.

Maybe it is that same logic-free drive for accomplishment that drove otherwise sane people to remake Point Break.  Or The In-Laws, which is kind of a non-sequitur here but still offends me.

At the end, there is a mutual respect.  Philips says he was justified in the killing. Johnson says optimistically maybe they can get a jury to believe that too.


  • [1] Meaning the camera is affixed to the mine-car as it goes down the tracks.
  • [2] Although less treasony.
  • [3] Although less felony.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.
  • Title Analysis:  No idea what they were going for.

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