Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Belfry (S1E33)

A number of books and a couple of movies have made the assertion that Alfred Hitchcock had — shall we say — issues in dealing with women.  There is enough smoke to suspect a genuine fire of some sort.

pat01Some of that weirdness seemed to fester in his own family.  Hitchcock had a daughter Pat that appeared in several of his films and TV episodes.  She is not particularly attractive, certainly not anything like the cool blonde type that Hitchcock like to cast.  What is strange, is that he seems to go out of his way to point that out.

Here she is cast as a school marm (in the pre Hot for Teacher days).  Earlier in the season, she had played a maid, and then a woman traveling with her mother.  In his movie Stage Fright, he has her playing a character named Chubby.  Worst of all, he just uses her looks for a joke in Psycho.  After a client has been flirting with the uber-hot Janet Leigh, Pat says, “He was flirting with you.  He must have seen my wedding ring.”  I’ve seen Psycho a couple of times with crowds and it gets a good laugh. Maybe that’s the reason Psycho was her final big-screen appearance for Sir Alfred.

After the one-room schoolhouse lets out, teacher Ellie gets a visit from Clint.  He is too old to be a student and it is soon obvious that he is a little slow.  He invites Ellie to see the house he is building for them.  She reminds him that she is engaged to marry Walt, who just happens to walk around the corner at that very second.

In his brief screen time, Walt seems to be an OK guy.  The actor is none too bright, though, as he seems to think Ellie’s name is Ella.  Really, her father’s name is the title of the show; you couldn’t put a little effort into your 4-line part?  IMDb says the actor was born in Lynchburg, TN.  Home of Jack Daniels.  Just sayin’.

Clint is none too happy at this turn of events.  He and Walt have words; but no big ones. He tries to take the ring from Ellie, and Walt admirably comes to her defense.  Clint gives him a hatchet to the chest right in front of the school.  Clearly he was not aware this was a hatchet-free zone (no thanks to the NHA).

Clint has been carrying this hatchet for the entire episode.  Including in the schoolhouse when he asked Ellie if she was alone — some sort of bell should have gone off.  Luckily, this schoolhouse doubles as the town bell tower, so there was one available.

Clint goes on the lam, hiding out in the woods.  Being no steam-engine scientist, he figures this will blow over in a couple of days.  After eluding the search party which was so close that their lanterns illuminated his face, he returns to the scene of the crime. Literally, right back to the schoolhouse where he climbs into the belfry.

He spends the rest of the episode in the cramped belfry except for a brief trip downstairs into the classroom where he cryptically writes “Lee git you to” on the board.  The next 15 minutes are a series of near-discoveries, the bell CLANGING just inches from Clint’s noggin, and him eavesdropping on conversations below.

kid02I do appreciate that a couple of times when kids are attempting to retrieve a softball, they are shown climbing up onto the roof.  It appears to be the actual child actors.  Like the young smokers in The Incredible Melting Man, it just shows how far we’ve come as a society.  Or the growing power of the Midget Stuntman Union Local #302.

The next day, Clint hears a funeral service for Walt below, as the schoolhouse apparently also serves as a church.  No wonder Clint was so proud of the house he was building, it will apparently be only the second structure in town.

The ending is completely botched.  One of the search party, for no reason, goes to the schoolhouse and rings the bell, startling Clint.  He yelps, giving himself away.  A better ending would have been to give Walt the bell version of a 21-gun salute at his funeral service.  The constant CLANGING would have driven Clint mad.  In a way, it would have been Walt himself bringing him to justice.

Post-Post Leftovers:

  • “Our father which art in heaven . . . ” ?
  • I was sure posse member Elmer was played by Newt Kiley from Green Acres, but no.
  • OK, after reviewing, we see a book signed by Ella Marsh, so maybe Walt wasn’t Jack’d (as in Daniel’d) up after all.
  • C’mon, with that giant hole the the bell rope goes through, no one thought the baseball might have dropped to the ground floor?
  •  Where else has a bell tower figure prominently in a Hitchcock joint?  Vertigo!  Surely this episode and drawing were Easter Eggs, a callback to that film.  Oh, wait — Vertigo would not be released for another 2 years — never mind.  Orrrr,  maybe it gave Hitchcock the inspiration – yeah, I’m going with that.belltower01