Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Relative Value (03/01/59)

We open with a tight shot of a check.  What can we deduce from this?

ahprelativevalue1

  1. A 50 pound check was written by Felix Manbridge to his son John Manbridge .
  2. John Manbridge has hauled this unwieldy check from Felix Manbridge to the Townbridge Branch.  They are in London; probably near the bridge.
  3. It is 1930; Felix has foolishly purchased check stock with “19__”  pre-printed which will be obsolete in 70 years.

After actually watching for 5 seconds, I see my errors.  The check didn’t weigh 50 pounds; WTH was I thinking?  However, I had no way of knowing that John forged his cousin Felix’s signature.  He explains, “You needn’t blame me for that.  I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had any alternative!”  He is now back to shamelessly ask for another £100.

Felix tells his parasitic brother that he simply doesn’t have the money.  I believe he is sincere, but coming from a guy in a snappy three-piece suit, sitting in the mahogany-walled library of his country home, being attended to by a butler, I can see how John would be dubious.  On top of that, Felix says he is very ill and John will soon inherit everything anyway.  So no reason to murder him, nosiree . . .

ahprelativevalue3Felix warns John that if there is another forgery — just one more little felony — he will prosecute.  Denholm Elliott must have specialized in portraying this kind of upper class leech.  In The Crocodile Case, he murdered his girlfriend’s husband and assumed his comfortable life [1].  In The Coffin, he constantly sponged off his brother [2].  Indiana Jones was wise to keep him away from that Crystal Skull.  Or maybe his agent was wise to keep him away from it. [3]  He leaves in a snit, complaining that this was a waste of his time.

Like any responsible broke bloke, his first stop is at the bookie.  He finds the odds never in his favor, but really just stopped by to see if the bookie had cashed the check “from Felix” he gave him yesterday.  Sadly, it was deposited and will soon be bouncing back the bookie’s way, causing Felix to call the coppers.

Like any responsible broke bloke, his second stop is at the pub.  This time it is just to make an appearance to establish an alibi.  If only he worked this hard at getting a job.  He trots down the road in his nice shoes, three-piece suit and gloves to where he stashed a bike to throw off the timeline.  He ditches the bike in a pond near the house and continues on foot.

ahprelativevalue4Through the window, John sees Felix has understandably dozed off listening to the most boring radio show in history not airing on NPR — a lecture about life insurance and actuarial tables. Getting no answer at the door, he knocks on the window. Felix does not respond, so he opens the window and climbs in.  Felix still doesn’t move, so John takes this opportunity to poke him in the head with a fireplace whacker; no wait, to whack him in the head with a fireplace poker.

In his dead brother’s pocket, John finds a check made out to him for £100.  Awww, what a softy the old guy is; especially around that bloody spot on his noggin.  For some reason, John burns the check — the one piece of loot he actually is legally entitled to.  John dumps Felix out of the chair and ransacks the library to make it look like a robbery.

He then doubles back to make it appear he just arrived.  A constable is biking by as John is rapping on Felix’s door.  I guess the police don’t get guns or cars in England.  The constable walks around to thewindow and sees Felix on the floor.  He climbs in, checks the body and goes through the house to let John in the front door.  The constable tells John he doesn’t know what happened, then produces a suicide note signed by Felix.  This guy is not detective material.

The 2nd half of the episode is a real detective trying to makes sense of the crime scene.  Both the writer and John Manbridge did fine jobs of planning the crime, establishing an alibi, and enabling the detective to deduce his way to the truth.  Elliott’s performance made the first half and the unraveling of the story made the second half.  I can’t bring myself to spoil it.

Despite being pointlessly set a long time ago in a country far, far away, this was another great episode.

[UPDATE] Going back in for pics, I realized I had missed some awesome foreshadowing when John read his brother’s suicide note.  Bravo!  Just great stuff!

Post-Post:

  • [1] Until he was sent to prison for murder.
  • [2] Until his brother murdered him from beyond the grave.
  • [3] Or maybe he had been dead 15 years.
  • AHP Deathwatch: No survivors.

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