Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Last Dark Step (02/08/59)

ahplastdarkstep03On some Brad and Janice evening, the aforementioned Brad has just given Janice “a kind of pretty piece of glass”.  Janice is thrilled with it and eager to get married.  She asks if they might set the date in the next couple of months and he counters with three weeks.  He just asks for two or three days to clear up some business before the announcement is made.

As he is leaving for a business meeting, she says she hopes it is not to see “that lady novelist.”  He assures her that it is over with Leslie.  BTW, that’s a nice accusation to throw at a guy who not only just proposed, but gave you a phat ring and fast-tracked the wedding!  What an ungrateful shrew!  What a finger-pointing harpy!  The nerve of that suspicious insecure bitch!

Then he goes to see Leslie.  Oh.

ahplastdarkstep23Leslie greets him with a big hug and wet kiss.  Brad is not very responsive, so she says, “You’ve either been out with another woman or you need a new brand of pills.” Taking place in 45  BC (before Cialis), I have no idea what that means.  Is this what Geritol is for? I’ve heard of it all my life, but never had any idea what it does — good job Madison Avenue!  Also in that category — Gold Bond Powder. What the hell?  Something for old people, I think.

She is selling out by ditching the novel to write for TV.  She tells Brad it is so she can continue to afford him.  She tactfully reminds him of how she has financed his failed business ventures.  He bravely tells her that he is going to marry another woman.  Well, he doesn’t say it is another woman, but it was kind of assumed back then.  Leslie threatens to cause a scene with Janice threatening “phone calls, letters, shrieking matches [1] that will raise the hair on her head like a $3 wig.”  She threatens to harass  both of them until they either break up or have a “nervous collapse”.

Kind of whipped, she asks him to put her car [2] in the garage before he leaves.  And to call her when he gets home, which he agrees to.  Before moving her car, he opens the hood and removes a couple of parts.  This is so she will take a cab to work.  Then he will pick her up and they will go to her beach house.

ahplastdarkstep41The next day, he dresses as a mechanic and takes her car to the beach house, but hides it behind some bushes.  That night, he picks her up from work in a rental car and they go to the beach. [3]  Before they go for a midnight swim, Leslie returns a knife he left at her place.

After a minute of frolicking in the surf, Brad stands in chest-deep water with his hands on Leslie’s head as he chokes her.  Wait, he isn’t choking her, he’s killing her!  That is, she isn’t going down on him, but she is going down.  After drowning her, he moves her car in front of the beach house, then drives away in his rental.

When he arrives home, he find two detectives there.  This being before the Constitution was written, the detectives had the super just let them in.  They tell him “your lady friend has been murdered . . . and real good, too — the full treatment.”  So not just a little murdered.

They have no hesitation opening his suitcase and rummaging around.  When they find his wet, sandy robe he insists he has not been to the beach for a week.  They then start patting him down.  Next thing these guys will be quartering soldiers in his house.  They do find a knife, though, so stop & frisk is once again proven effective.

ahplastdarkstep34In a superb double-twist, Leslie stabbed Janice to death, then set Brad up for the murder and his only alibi is that he was murdering Leslie at the time.  Oh sure, we could quibble over the time-line.  Or how she certainly seems devoted to Brad even after he threatens to end their relationship.  But why overthink it?

This is a near-perfect example of what AHP is supposed to be.  I especially appreciated the business with the cars.  The sabotage of Leslie’s car, hiding it at the beach house, picking up Leslie at work — all carried out silently and directed so clearly and methodically that I had to look to see if Hitchcock had directed this episode.

Great stuff.


  • [1] The stilted delivery of this line makes it sound like a book of matches is shrieking.
  • [2] A Triumph TR-3, just like Lila Kirby.
  • [3] I love this undeveloped beach and the lone beach house on it.  You just know it is now packed with condos or estates with no public access.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Robert Horton just died just four months ago.  Joyce Meadows (Janice) and Herbert Ellis (Detective Breslin) are still with us.
  • Title Analysis:  Once again, no idea.  These titles are more cryptic than The X-Files’s’s’.  At least they are in English.

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