Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Invitation to an Accident (06/21/59)

Just a quick aside.  Or since this is the beginning, maybe it is an atop. Rather than being here, you should be watching Fargo.

It took me a while to find it, but holy crap!  Season 2 is merely great so far.  Season 1 was an absolute freakin’ masterpiece.  They’ve been making TV & movies for a hundred years.  Why can they only crack the code about .5% of the time?  Is there no learning curve in Hollywood?  Anyhoo . . .

Tuxedoed buttinsky Albert Martin tells Mrs. Bedsole that her niece-in-law Virgilia [1] is out in the garden among the vidalias, azaleas, and bougainvilleas with a man who is not her husband.  Even worse, it is Virgilia’s ex-husband Cam. She asks Albert to check on them.  He finds them fooling around in the bushes.

On the way home, Virgilia’s husband Joseph asks her where she disappeared to.  She says she was just visiting with old friends.  He says that is fine and even insists they have one of them over for dinner.  She says she will invite “a very old admirer.”  Once again, we have an AHP marriage which makes no sense.  While Virgilia is beautiful and vivacious, Joseph comes off as a sad sack.  He knows his wife is cheating on him, but is so needy he wants to be friends with the other man.  The scene in the car is shot so that, not only is Virgilia driving, she towers above her husband.  Why would she have left Cam, inventor of the Condo Fee, to marry Joseph?  Maybe Joseph invented the Assessment.

She invites Albert over for dinner. There seems to be some point to Albert asking for a sherry, but I’m not sure what it is.  Joseph McFlys away to find a bottle.  After dinner, Virgilia takes Albert out to see some metal chairs Joseph made.  She says she thinks Albert prefers to have a woman on his arm rather than in his arms.  Hmmmm, I think I see where they were going with that Sherry thing.

As they are going back inside, some scaffolding falls on Virgilia.  If this were a play, the audience would applaud.  Albert examines the frayed rope.  Joseph conjectures the wind must have cause the pulley to wear away the fibers.

The next day, Albert is finishing 20 push-ups.  He says to himself, “I’m out of condition. I got no wind.”  If he is doing push-ups so fast that he can get winded, I’d say he’s in extraordinary shape.  That reminds him — there was no wind when the scaffold fell. Why would Joseph cite the wind as the cause of the frayed rope?  Well, it might not have been windy at the second it fell, but it was heard clanging against the house earlier in the evening.

Pajamaed buttinsky Albert calls Virgilia to check on her.  She is OK, but bedridden.  He asks if she has had any other “accidents”.  No.  End of brutally expository scene.

One evening, Albert goes back to their house.  Joseph is napping and Virgilia has been delayed, so he goes to Joseph’s workshop to look for evidence that Joseph is trying to kill his wife.  He finds rope like that used on the scaffolding.  After only a few strokes with a metal rod, he manages to cut into the rope.  The demonstration actually makes Joseph’s story more credible; although he is buying some cheap-ass rope.

Then he notices a can of arsenic is missing from the spot he saw it on the night of the accident.  Necktied buttinsky Albert goes to Mrs. Bedsole and tells her Joseph is going to murder Virgilia.  They agree he can’t go to the police, but he will let Joseph know he is watching him.
He returns to Joseph & Virgilia’s house.  Joseph is just getting over a case of ptomaine.  His doctor prescribed fresh air, so he invites Albert to go fishing with him in Mexico.

They grill up some fish and make some coffee over a camp fire on the beach.  They begin discussing murder.  Fishinghatted buttinsky Albert begins a story about “a man I knew who intended to commit a murder”.

He continues that the murder did not occur because “a third person who was a friend of both the intended murderer and his victim intervened.”  This third person caused the murderer to weigh the consequences against the small satisfaction of killing his wife.

Joseph says it is very similar to a situation he knows of.  The husband knew his wife was cheating on him.  He says the man was kind of a slob but did love his wife.  “The fellow set out to protect his property.”  Wait, his what?  “The way he did it was simple.  He encouraged his wife to bring friends to the house.”  Then he saw them fooling around in the garden.

Albert is increasingly uncomfortable at the story which is clearly about him and Virgilia.  He realizes the scaffolding was meant for him.  Joseph says the man had another plan — to take the wife’s friend camping.  In a lonely spot, they made coffee in a tin can because the man had forgotten the coffee pot.  Both men got arsenic poisoning, but the man had built up a tolerance.  The other man died, but he got well.

Albert blurts out, “”But it wasn’t me!  It was Cam!”

“Cam!” Joseph cries in horror.

All the pieces are here.  It is a well-constructed piece with nice misdirection and great twist.  Joseph’s apparent tolerance of his wife’s fooling around just irritates me.

I was also distracted by the resemblances of both male leads to other actors.  Gary Merrill (Joseph) reminded me very much of Humphrey Bogart.  Sometimes it was the PTSD’d Capt. Queeg, sometimes it was Fred C. Dobbs, and sometimes it was his hot decades-younger blonde wife, [2] but the specter was always there.  Alan Hewitt (Albert) was a dead ringer for James Gregory in both looks and voice.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Cam was present in the episode more in spirit than he was in person.  Now as the only survivor, he is the only one who is a person and not a spirit.
  • AHP Proximity Alert:  Lillian O’Malley (Flora the Maid) was just in an episode two weeks ago — give someone else a chance!  There she played “Housekeeper”.  In the very first AHP episode, she played “Hotel Maid.”  Whatever happened to Pat Hitchcock?  This used to be her beat.
  • [1] Virgilia was the wife of Coriolanus in Shakespeare’s play.  Heh, heh . . . anus. Virgilia was like June Cleaver, though, so the name doesn’t really carry any meaning here.
  • [2] Lauren Bacall has the honor of being ID # nm0000002 at IMDb.  Fred Astaire is # nm0000001.
  • For a more in-depth look at the episode and its source material, head over to bare*bonez ezine.  Where the heck do they find this stuff?

One thought on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Invitation to an Accident (06/21/59)

  1. Fargo is such a great show! Season 3 is good so far. I liked season 2 even better than season 1.

    Thanks for the link! I think Joanna Moore was a very talented comedic actress. She was also Tatum O’Neal’s mother.

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