Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Specialty of the House (12/13/59)

Oh joy, another episode set in England.

Laffler takes his friend Costain to an exclusive dining club; so exclusive that it is down by the docks, hidden behind a plain door like that secret restaurant at Disneyworld with the topless Snow White waitresses. [1]  The club has only 40 members and they come from as far away as Singapore to dine there.

There is no menu and only one meal is served each night.  Sadly the titular Special of the House is not being served tonight.  The waiter brings out a cart with the soup course.  Costain takes a sip and finds it a little flat.  He suggests it could use a little salt and is chastised as if he had put ketchup on a steak. [2]  He is told no condiments are allowed, although, I would put that more in the seasoning category.

The main course comes.  Laffler says it is fine but nothing compared to the titular Specialty of the House, Lamb Amirstan.  They make plans to return the next night.

They have another fine meal, but Laffler is disappointed that they again are not offering the titular Specialty of the House.  He tells Costain that the lamb dish is prepared only with lambs from a certain flock on the Ugandan border.  This is the only restaurant in the world where it is available, although I suspect the Ugandan farmer sneaks a rack occasionally.

Costain finally meets the owner, Spirro.  She modestly says she only supervises the kitchen.  The only dish she actually prepares is the titular Specialty of the House, Lamb Armistan.  She says the meat takes 3 days to marinate, that it should be ready for tomorrow night.

The next night, Laffler tries to prevent his friend from entering, but Spirro allows him in.  They are sitting at the same table when the titular Specialty of the House is served.

All seems to be forgiven as Laffler leaves Costain in charge of his Import / Export business while he goes on vacation.  Before going to the airport, Laffler has time for one last meal at Spirro’s.  Costain will join him later after drawing up a memo about a bauxite shipment.  Laffler spills the beans that he is becoming a lifetime Spirro’s member and has nominated Costain as a member.

Outside the club, Laffler finds the waiter fighting with another man.  The man falls and cracks his noggin.  Laffler wants to call the police, but the waiter says Spirro will take care of it.  When Laffler learns the titular Specialty of the House is not being served that night, he demands to see Spirro.  She consoles him by taking him into the kitchen.  The other members are astounded as this has never happened before.

She shows him around the kitchen, then introduces him to the chef who is holding a butcher knife.  When Costain arrives, she promises him that the titular Specialty of the House will be on the menu soon.

The story here is counted on to sweep you away, and it pretty much does.  When you look closer there are a few problems.  I just watched the episode, but I couldn’t pick Costain out of a line-up 5 minutes later.  Robert Morley was fine as Laffler, but I always get the feeling with him that I’m supposed in awe of his awesomeness, and I never see it.  Spirro was a man in the short story.  IMDb Trivia says the character was changed to a woman to appeal to a wider audience.  It also might have helped to not cast a woman that looked liked the love-child of Kathy Bates and Aunt Bee.

  1. In the plot, I see no reason for the scuffle involving the waiter.  All it does is telegraph the twist if you give it any thought.
  2. There is no need for another body anyway.  They already know Laffler is going to be next on the menu.  Proof of that is that Costain is bringing Laffler’s picture for the lifetime member wall.
  3. And why is that, anyway?  Is Costain in cahoots with Spirro?
  4. He did seem to settle into Laffler’s office pretty quickly.  In England, does the temp who fills your position inherit your estate?  That would still make more sense than that crazy entail on Downton Abbey.
  5. At the end, why is Spirro vague about when the next titular Special of the Day will be served?  We know it takes 3 days to marinate the meat.  Three days would have been a perfect answer to end the episode.

Still, it is a great episode.  I appreciate the subversive subject matter just as I did on the previous cannibalism episode Arthur.  In that episode, people were eating chickens that had been fed people.  Here, the cannibalism is direct.  As AHP edges closer to the sixties, it just gets weirder.  Groovy!

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Further research suggests I might have dreamed this.
  • [2] I planned linking to an article about Trump giving the media vapors by eating ketchup on his steak.  They were all asinine, just looking for a reason to spew hatred.  Who gives a sh*t; dude likes ketchup.  It’s not like he put it on a hot dog — now that is grounds for impeachment.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Costain is still on the menu.
  • The original short story won the Best First Story Award in the Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine contest of 1948.

One thought on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Specialty of the House (12/13/59)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.