This one is hard to get much hold on, and I mean that in the best possible way. Hitchcock did not necessarily save the best scripts for himself to direct, but he did direct this one which was perfect for “The Master of Suspense.” This one is very simple, and it plays out just about perfectly (it could have used Bernard Herrmann in a couple of spots).
David Wayne is Sam Jacoby. We see scenes from a marriage through the window of the house he shares with his wife. Poor guy is just trying to read the paper and his wife just won’t shut the hell up. She throws his paper in the fire, and goes on and on, finally slapping him in the face. Eventually, Jacoby has had enough and nails her with a fireplace poker.
The first several minutes of the episode are silent, which is perfect for the story. Well, silent of dialogue other than their muffled voices through the window. Many saw this as something of a trial run for Psycho which also had long silent stretches and depended on suspense above action.
Jacoby stuffs the old bag in his trunk . . . I mean the old bag he stuffed his wife into. He shrewdly tosses in some chains and random hunks of metal, so I’m expecting a water landing. He heads south on Route 99 to dispose of the body. Along the way, he is pulled over by a cop for having a broken tail-light. It is easy to see Hitchcock’s fear of police in this episode, and also to see it a predecessor to the cop who wakes up Janet Leigh in Psycho. In both cases, our empathy is with the criminal, and the cops sticking their beefy face in the car window is an intrusion and a threat.
It is the cop who finally breaks the silence of the episode almost 11 minutes in. In several encounters, the cop alternates between being the most helpful and least helpful officer imaginable. All the while, though, he is a threat to our guy — you, know, the killer.
It is a great exercise in suspense, almost devoid of plot or twists. To say any more would spoil the fun. This is one of the best.
- AHP Deathwatch: No survivors.
- F.J. Smith wrote 2 AHP’s, and that’s it.
- Cop from Psycho: