Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Out There: Darkness (01/25/59)

ahpoutthere09Bette Davis, cinema’s biggest mystery to anyone under 75, is talking to her little frou-frou dog.[1] And I mean really talking, like asking its opinion of her hat.  She is a little sad as this is her anniversary.  It has been 15 years since her husband died in the war; or went into hiding.

Davis is going out tonight to play Bridge with a dull couple [2]. Vanessa the dog will be going out with her “boyfriend” according to Davis. The boyfriend — well-groomed Doorman Eddie — rings the bell.  As soon as Vanessa sees Eddie, she barks and runs to him.  He is very anxious to get his $5 dog-walking fee in advance.

A few days later Eddie arrives unannounced on his day off.  This time he is unshaven in a ratty jacket and asks for more money.  His needs it for his girl who has been in a sanitarium for a year with lung problems.  She refuses his request for $50, instead giving him a lecture on budgeting.

ahpoutthere21The next night as she is ignominiously forced to walk her own dog, Vanessa leads her down a dark alley.  Dark alley in the 1950s meaning well-lit and clean with a couple of tidy cans.  She is attacked from behind by a man in a hat. Repeat, suspect is hatted.

Later in her apartment she tells the police she lost her wedding ring as well as $180.  That’s a wad of money — $1,500 in 2016 dollars — so she must be either pretty well-off or was looking for Joe Buck [3]. She describes the attacker — tall, rough cheap jacket material.  Vanessa didn’t bark at first, almost as if she knew the man. She goes down to the station to identify a suspect. She says it is not him.

The next day, Eddie is back at work, shaven and in uniform.  Davis tells him she was robbed, but all she cares about is the ring.  They have a conversation about whether the thief would return the ring for $500.  Eddie says he doesn’t think that plan will work, and Davis dismisses him.  This a tricky role to play as Eddie needs to appear only plausibly guilty.

ahpoutthere30Sgt Kirby shows up as Eddie is leaving.  Davis tells him about Eddie asking for $50 the day before.  She is a little upset that Eddie did not take her $500 offer.  She says she can still feel his jacket as he choked her. Eddie protests that he did not take her ring.  She IDs Eddie as the thief.

A year after she sends Eddie to the big house, Sgt Kirby stops by.  He tells her Eddie never had her ring.  It was found at the home of the suspect she let go.  When Kirby reminds her that she sent an innocent man to jail, she protests, “Well if I made a mistake, it was an honest one.  After all you are the detective.  It’s up to you to check these things!”

She continues, “He had no alibi at the trial.  A jury found him guilty.”  Kirby reminds her that it was based on her identification.  He says he will feel better when Eddie is released.

ahpoutthere36

World’s first money shot

She asks for the ring, but Kirby says they will need it as evidence until Eddie is free.  She says she hopes it isn’t weeks and weeks. Kirby suggests that Eddie is probably thinking the same thing. Bravo.

Eddie gets his old job back.  One day, Davis is taking Vanessa out when she sees him in the elevator — awkward!  She tells him she spoke to the manager about him being rehired — so I guess he should be grateful.  And that it wasn’t easy testifying against him — so I guess he should feel sorry for her.  And that Vanessa has missed him — so I guess he should feel guilty about being out of town.  Still attempting to ease her conscience, she gives Eddie the $500 she had offered a year earlier.

Davis:  Oh by the way, how is your fiancee?

Eddie:  She died while I was in prison.

That wipes the oblivious smile off her face.  Some time later, after walking Vanessa, she is strangled in her apartment.  This time it is Eddie.  He spills the Benjamins over her body in what might have been the cinema’s first money shot, and is back in jail quicker than Tobias Beecher.

Davis was hard to figure out in this one.  Clearly she felt some guilt at sending Eddie to the slammer, but it certainly didn’t consume her.  I think it was more a matter of him being merely a doorman.  She didn’t look down on him, and was always nice to him, but she knew there was an understood, unspoken distance between them.  When he asked for money that unspoken pact was breached.  That said, she didn’t purposely send him away.  She was just able to conceive that a mere doorman might have done this.

Her decision was partially based on Vanessa not initially barking, but only when she was attacked — therefore, she believed the attacker to be someone she knew.  This is laughably false as the dog gives a bark at Eddie every time she sees him — except the time he killed her.  I think this is more of a production goof than any maliciousness on Davis’ part.

Davis is a little over the top as the crazy cat lady — OK, it’s a poodle, but that is soooo close. And James Congdon is a little stiff as Eddie.  It could have been given a little more energy, but it was a decent episode.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Seriously, what were people thinking back then?  If Charlize Theron went back in time would the people’s heads explode at her beauty?  Would they even recognize it?
  • [2] Contract Bridge sounds dull.  Contact Bridge, now you’ve got something.  Play a thousand hands of Bridge and . . .
  • [3] The prostitute, not the sports announcer.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  James Congdon, born in 1921 still hanging in there!  He is the father of Amanda Congdon who I vaguely remember as hosting Rocketboom ten years ago on YouTube.  It appears to no longer exist, and the website is dark.
  • Title Analysis:   Pretty murky.  What’s with the colon (which sometimes appears as a hyphen)?  It is almost as bad as the Star Trek reboot titles.

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