Alfred Hitchcock Presents – I’ll Take Care of You (03/15/59)

“Ethernet doesn’t have a valid IP configuration.”  What the hell?

Russell Collins and Ralph Meeker — two men truly obnoxious in very different ways. Meeker was an oily and unctuous clothing salesman in Total Loss.  Here he shows his range by portraying an oily and unctuous car salesman.  Collins was an unbelievable sourpuss in Mrs. Herman and Mrs Fenimore.  Here . . . well actually, he is a decent old guy here; except for the betrayal, blackmail, and covering up a murder.

A trio of college boys drive onto Meeker’s used car lot.  They are looking for a wreck they can use in a carnival to charge people 2 bits for 3 whacks.[1]  Unfortunately, rather than offer up old man Collins, Meeker charitably tells them he’ll try to have a car for them Friday.

Meeker has called Collins “Dad” several times.  However, when Collins’ wife shows up with his lunch, it becomes clear that Collins is not his father and the woman is not his mother.  That kind of pointless obfuscation always bugs me.  Collins is worried Meeker might sell the lot, but Meeker says, “I’ll take care of you.”

The next day, Meeker’s wife Dorothy stops by the lot.  After dissing Collins, she tells Meeker she wants to go to New Zealand to visit her cousin.  This, the day after their expensive anniversary party.  He tells her to cancel the trip.  After she leaves, he bravely says, “I’ll get her a one-way ticket right out of Cape Canaveral!  Zoom!” [2]  To the moon . . .

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“Ethernet doesn’t have a valid IP configuration.”  Seriously, what the hell?  My wi-fi works.

Meeker goes home at lunch to prevent his wife from going to their club and blabbing about New Zealand.  While he is changing clothes, she darts out and steals his car.  Knowing the car was running on empty, Meeker gallantly takes one of his used cars to rescue her. Seeing her out there on the side of the road in her mink stole is just too tempting.  He runs her down; we don’t see her hit, of course, but we do see him get an gratifying bounce as he crosses her dead ass.

Meeker goes back to his house and tells Dad he did not see Dorothy, but did accidentally run someone down.  Why more pointless obfuscation?  Even a Washington journalist could connect those dots.  He tells Dad to take the car back to the lot, and expects him to back his alibi that he was there all night.  He shows Dad the busted headlight and tells him to get it fixed.  “If you take care of this, Dad, I’ll take care of you.”

The cops show up at the lot, followed seconds later by the college kids.  Seeing a chance to get rid of the deathmobile , Collins cleverly sells them that for $50 instead of the wreck Meeker had set aside for them.

The cops tell Meeker they estimate his wife was knocked about 30 feet into some shrubbery.  They checked the tire tracks, but naturally they did not match Meeker’s car.  Collins backs up Meeker’s alibi to the cops as we see — in a beautiful composition — the college kids driving the car out behind them.  Meeker is all smiles when Dad tells him of the ploy.

That night at the carnival, Dad and his gal Kitty go to see rubes paying to take whacks at the car.  Meeker sees Collins and Collins informs him that they are partners now, that a man his age has to look out for himself.  They both see the cops come in, and Collins assures Meeker he never said a word.

They nab Dad.  After all, he was the one that sold the evidence — a $500 car — for $50 and insanely low APR so some college kids could whack it into junk.  Pretty fishy.  The cops haul Dad away and Kitty comes out of the tent looking for him.

This is where things get confusing.

Kitty is all smiles and says Dad has been a good husband all those years.  She says to Meeker, “That headlight you asked me about today, I never asked him why he had it hid.” She looks around.  “I  get so nervous at night if I can’t find Dad.”  She takes Meeker’s hand and says, “Will you take care of me?”

Kitty’s cheery attitude baffles me.  Does she know that Dad was just hauled away to what will certainly be life in prison if the sentence is more than six months?  They seemed like such a happy old couple.  It makes no sense for her to be so chirpy.

If she doesn’t know Dad was just taken away, why is she slyly bringing up the hidden headlight?  And why is she so chirpy?

What’s with the  “I  get so nervous at night if I can’t find Dad” and “Will you take care of me?”  The second part must a veiled threat, but why make herself appear vulnerable? He’ll just bonk her on the head, strip the house and destroy the evidence.  After all, he is a liar, a murderer, and a used car salesman.

If you concentrate on the ending they were going for rather than what they actually put on the screen, this is a better episode.  Russell Collins, who I despised before as the bitter old crank was pretty likable here.  Acting!  Meeker’s smarmy salesman shtick is effective, but does he ever play anything else?  Acting?  I especially like the repeated use of the title as it took on different meanings.  There were some great shots, and the college kids and carnival were given more character than I would expect in a 30 minute show.

Great stuff.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I’ve witnessed one of these events — you have to be Conan to make a dent in those old cars.  Also, the price later goes up to 4 bits.  Soon people would be bashing American cars for free; and rightly so.
  • [2] I wonder what viewers thought of that.  The Mercury 7 would be chosen the next month.  The first man wouldn’t go into space for 25 months; the first free man 2 weeks later.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Richard Evans, one of the college kids, is hanging in there.  Another, James Westmoreland just died this year.

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