Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Dry Run (11/08/59)

Welcome to guys talking.  I hope you like guys talking because that’s all we serve. Catch of the Day: guys talking.  Soup de Jour: guys talking.  Happy Hour: half price on guys talking.  Ladies Night: Sorry, still guys talking — this is Hollywood after all.

We begin with three guys talking.

They are admiring the piranha in Mr. Barberosa’s office.  Barberosa likes the piranhas’ dependability.  Prentiss says, “Yeah, you can depend on him to snap your finger off the minute you put it in the water.”  He says he will stick to raising rabbits which is just bizarrely random and never followed up on.

After Prentiss leaves, Barberosa lectures Art about dependability.  He says in his organization, “I am the coach.  I depend on teamwork.  Maybe that’s why we keep going strong while most of our competitors fold up when the going gets a little tough. Because I can depend on everybody on the team.  And they can depend on each other, too.”

He says he has had his eye on Art and is ready to move him up in the organization.  Art said he appreciates the chance and Barberosa busts him, “I don’t like that word, chance.  I hand-pick the people who work for me and I look for one quality, dependability.”  Dude, how did you not see that coming!

Art says, “Well, you can depend on me.”  Good boy!  You’ll go far!

Barberosa has one last test for Art before promoting him.  He just did a deal with a man named Moran, and wants Art to deliver the payment; and then kill him.  He even gives Art an untraceable pistol.   Barberosa specifically instructs him to hand Moran the cash before killing him; which should be a tip-off that something is awry — why does it matter if he is going to kill Moran anyway.  He will get the new job if he can handle that hit; oh, and pass the typing test.

Art drives out to the Old Valley Winery — are there really any new valleys?  He looks around the dark winery.  The lights come on and Moran is holding a gun on him.  He demands that Art hand over the $10k which must be in $1,000 bills because the envelope is pretty slim.

They have a glass of wine while Moran goes on and on about Barberosa.  Moran offers a toast to Barberosa, “May his cheap heart burn in — hey, that’s pretty good, huh kid? — cheap heart burn.  Cheap heartburn, don’t ya get it?”  If he does, he’s smarter than me.  OK, heart and burn go together to make heartburn, but where does cheap fit in?  He specifically repeats it like it is a real bon mot but it is barely even a mot.

Over the next 15 minutes, Moran talks Art into joining his organization.  All Art has to do is betray (i.e. kill) Barberosa.  Art is convinced.  As he is leaving, Moran pulls a gun and tells him Barberosa will be disappointed that he flunked the dependability [1] test.  Bang!

Yeah, you could question why Moran let Art walk up the long stairway and get the high ground before pulling his gun.  Or you could question why Moran drank twice as much wine as Art if he knew he had a tough shot coming up.  Or you could question why Barberosa gave Art a revolver where he could even see there were no bullets in the chambers.[2]  But none of that matters.

They had a very talky episode that was redeemed with a good twist.  To make it palatable, they recruited four heavy hitters:  Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple, Fail Safe, Bad News Bears), Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE) [3], David White (Bewitched), and Tyler McVey (OK, three heavy hitters)[4].  Their big roles were in the future, but there’s a reason they had such success.

Matthau did the heavy lifting.  He had to make a 15 minute conversation tolerable, and pulled it off expertly.  The winery set, though small, was very well designed to allow for gloom, movement, casks and an interesting place for the conversation.

So, unlike Touché, we have a very talky AHP episode that works due to good performances.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] It finally hit me that loyalty was the word that should have been used throughout the episode.  But then they would have lost the piranha metaphor.  I guess a Cocker Spaniel wouldn’t have been exotic enough.
  • [2] OK, maybe there were dead bullets in the cylinders.  They weren’t blanks because all he got was a click.
  • [3] As an aside, I saw the Man from UNCLE movie last week.   I learned that Henry Cavill’s stiff portrayal of Superman is one thing you can’t blame Zack Snyder for.  But his suits are fabulous.
  • [4] To be fair, Tyler McVey had a huge career, he just never had a truly iconic role.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.

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