Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Listen, Listen! (05/11/58)

ahplistenlisten02Things get off to a pretty fishy start as old man Jasper P. Smith walks into a police station; fishy because there is no Jasper P. Smith in the credits.  Mr.  Smith has come to explain to the police how their investigation of The Stocking Murders has gone awry.  This will go well because if there is anything the police love more than people who know their rights, it is people telling them how to do their jobs [1].

He believes the 3rd so-called Stocking Murder is merely a copycat.  Which is a sound theory — I would expect the Stocking Murderer to stop at a pair; or at least a multiple of two.  So maybe there is an odd number of murders to come.  The detective assures him that “it just so happens that the Stocking Murders are sewn up tight.”  Ha!  Good one!

But even more importantly to the detective, the 3rd murder took place in a different precinct.  He sends the alleged Jasper to see Lt. King at the 51st precinct.  Smith goes to the 51st and introduces himself as Cyrus Morgan — I knew it!  Morgan tells Lt. King his take on the case.

ahplistenlisten04“Three girls, all very young, all living in walk-up apartments.”  And all three were super-models (although that is an assumption on my part).  “Three weeks ago, the first girl was found by the cleaning woman in her pajamas.” Although how she got in the cleaning woman’s pajamas, he doesn’t know. She was strangled with the titular stockings and had an “A” scrawled on her forehead with lipstick.  As was the 2nd girl, as was the third.

Smith/Morgan suggests that once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.  After seeing the pattern of the first two murders, a killer would count on the police to assume the third was the same killer.  The lieutenant repeatedly tells the old man not to waste his time as he is 30 and will be retiring with a lifetime pension shortly.

ahplistenlisten06After being ejected from the police station, Smith / Morgan goes to the newspaper.  He is informed that there are no reporters in the building.  They are all off-duty and hanging at Ace’s Bar & Grill; this still being the era when journalists wrapped their lips around a bottle of hooch rather than a politician’s ass.

He finds Mr. Beekman of The Chronicle.  Smith/Morgan introduces himself as Ralph Reid, being the first person in history to change their to Ralph. Beekman introduces a dame at the bar who gives her name as Slats.  Smith / Morgan / Reid gets flustered at the woman (and the 2 sherries in his tea-totaling system) and bails from the bar.

He next tries a church, which apparently investigated murders in the 1950’s (child abuse, not so much).  He gives his name this time as Herbert Johnson.  He tells his theory to the priest.  The priest also dismisses him; he is an old man, after all.

ahplistenlisten01

A jarringly cinematic shot in a visually blah episode. Not least of which, because the scene is set at night.

Smith / Morgan / Reid / Johnson goes home to his wife.  There is a twist, but not the one I had been dreading for the previous 20 minutes; that’s the good news. The bad news is that the twist used is inadequate in two ways.  First, while it is certainly unexpected, it has absolutely zero foreshadowing.  Second, it is not even clear what happened.

Mrs. Johnson washes her hands and reaches for a towel.  The actual washing goes on a couple of beats too long, and is dwelt upon like it should have some significance. She then goes to get the towel with hands that are deliberately held as gnarled or arthritic even though she had no trouble lathering up.  She opens a drawer and removes a towel revealing lipstick and stockings hidden beneath.

Herbert says he can’t go back and tell the truth now, “no one would believe that a mother could do such a thing.”  Well, maybe if he had mentioned the mother angle to anyone.  The camera pans up to Mrs. Johnson sporting a big smile.

So, Johnson is right that the 3rd murder was a copycat.  But was it done by the girl’s mother or by the grinning Mrs. Johnson?  There is always the possibility that I am dumb as a post (or this post), but I really had to work through this to figure out what happened. Ultimately, it was a good twist, just maybe needed to be set up a little better.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Actually, this blog is pro-police.  This is just an example of how easy it is to take cheap shots.
  • AHP Deathwatch: Jackie Loughery and James Westmoreland are still with us.
  • Jackie Loughery (the awesomely-named Slats) was not only Miss USA in 1952, she was married to Jack Webb.
  • Hulu sucks.

3 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Listen, Listen! (05/11/58)

  1. You goofed, I think. Herbert DID tell (the priest) how he was “a friend” of the Jamison girl and her family, etc. At least, that it set up just fine for me….. (it was Mrs. Johnson who was the murderer and they were strict parents).

      • Rewatching it, I think you’re right that the old couple is the girl’s parents. It bugs me that the old man stressed to the priest that his “real name” was Johnson. That’s not playing fair with the audience.

        I was also wrong about the picture above. He outside, it is night, and the light is coming from inside. Although what is generating that incredible light is curious.

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