Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Mrs. Herman and Mrs. Fenimore (12/28/58)

ahpmrs03

Her master’s vice.

Mrs. Herman runs a boarding house which, like the United States, has only one boarder — her crotchety Uncle Bill.  Money is tight as he apparently doesn’t cut her in on the revenue from his still on the hill.[1]   He also has an unspecified fortune which Mrs. H thinks he should contribute to expenses. Maybe part of the problem is that her two favorite hobbies are playing the Victrola at concert hall pitch and knocking back the hooch which she conveniently stows in the Victrola cabinet.

Mrs. Fenimore comes in response to Mrs. Herman’s ad in the paper.  The rent is $10 per week, which I can tell you won’t even get you an hour these days.  Mrs. F says she is an actress with a travelling show but has decided to take a rest.  Mrs. H takes her upstairs to see the accommodations.

Mrs. F takes the room.  One day as the gals are sharing a drink, Mrs. Herman says that Uncle Bill is an old man who has outlived his usefulness.  “What has he to look forward to except the lingering agony of a helpless old age?” asks the lonely old spinster running out of money and hitting the bottle.  She has been waiting for the right boarder to come along.  Mrs. H offers Mrs. F $2,500 [2] to help kill Bill so she can inherit his loot and maybe get some nice Bose speakers.

ahpmrs17Their scheme begins with Mrs. F becoming much more friendly with Bill.  As they are playing a game of crokinole, Bill is actually smiling for the first time in the episode, and maybe ever.  She begins reading to Bill in a soothing voice similar to his late wife’s.  The first selection is The Lay of the Last Minstrel [3] by Sir Walter Scott.  If he weren’t eighty years old, I would think Bill was more interested in being the last lay of this minstrel.  Or maybe he is — i just don’t want to consider it.

Bill is still a nasty beast to his niece.  He is irritated by her presence and stomps off to bed.  Mrs. F thinks the plan is a failure, but Mrs. F predicts Bill will ask her to read to him in his room the next night.  When he falls asleep, she is to leave, and Mrs. H will make the arrangements.  The next afternoon, though, Mrs. H is a little concerned to see Bill and Mrs F dancing.  He is still a cranky old shit, but does seem to be excited about going to a matinee, dinner and dancing with Mrs. F.

Bill’s character is baffling.  Clearly he is just an asshole.  You would have thought his orneriness was due to depression or loneliness.  Going out with Mrs. F barely raises a smile out of him even though he eagerly goes through the motions.  He just can’t help complaining constantly, though.  I think the actor’s sneering face has always been his paycheck, so he’s going to use it.  Mrs. F is a master at manipulating him; more so than the director.

ahpmrs13That night, Bill falls asleep to Mrs. F’s soothing voice.  Mrs. H executes her plan . . . and Bill.  She turns on Bill’s gas hot-plate and leaves him to die.

The next morning, Mrs. F drops the bombshell that she and Bill were secretly married. She will be inheriting his fortune and giving Mrs. H just $2,500.  This is one of those endings that is satisfying until you think about it.  The best AHP endings have justice being served.  Here, however, who are we to root for?  It is nice to see the scheming Mrs. H get swindled out of the loot she coveted.  On the other hand, Mrs. F carried out the scheme and is just as guilty of the murder.

Alfred Hitchcock famously said “Television has brought murder back into the home — where it belongs.”  Lately, it has brought murder back to the old folks home.  After the previous AHP and Passage on the Lady Anne, I’m ready for a nice episode set in a college; maybe a women’s college.

ahpmrs27Post-Post:

  • [1] I could have sworn it was “My Uncle Bill”, but it seems to be “My Brother Bill” in all the versions I can find.  It’s just too catchy to delete, though.
  • [2] $21-Large in 2016 dollars.
  • [3] You can connect the poem to the episode via the aging minstrel / actress, story-telling and feuding clans / relatives.  It’s a bit of a stretch, though.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.  Really, how could there be?  I think the Victrola outlasted this bunch.
  • AHP Proximity Alert:  Wesley Lau was just in the previous episode, for crying out loud.  Give someone else a chance!
  • For a much more in-depth look at the story and production, check out bare*bones e-zine.

 

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