Like And So Died Riabouchinska, this is a story that appeared first on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (under the title Shopping for Death), and has been recycled 30 years later for RBT.
During a heatwave, a couple of retired insurance salesman are observing the adverse reaction, carelessness or violence, that people have to the heat.
The AHP version gives a few illustrations of their theory — a traffic accident where the driver was reckless, a surprising graphic suicide (we clearly see the body fall 12 stories), and a raging warehouse fire.
In both versions, the men have selected a particular woman that they have calculated is about to crack. Or more specifically, this being an Alfred Hitchcock joint, she is portrayed as such a shrew that she will bring the violence upon herself. So it’s really her fault if, for example, her husband guts her with a longshoreman’s hook.
Considering themselves to be good Samaritans they want to protect her from harm. Waiting outside her apartment, they follow her to the local butcher shop. Jo Van Fleet (AHP) is just a lunatic — shrill, sneering, yelling at everyone, shoving them, littering. Eileen Brennan (RBT) is less of a caricature. We will still get the sneering, but at least she isn’t yelling at everyone. Although maybe she did chew out the producers for misspelling her name in the credits. And for both women — the hair! My God, the hair!
In both versions, the aptly-named Mrs. Shrike is rude and abusive to the butcher. She criticizes his meat — ouch! — and accuses him of putting his thumb on the scale. The AHP version is more true to the concept, having the butcher glance at large knife probably thinking of adding a new cut to his inventory.
Her next stop in both versions is a fresh-produce store, with similar results. Her behavior further convinces the men she is a ticking time bomb of insanity, just begging to be murdered. Or rather, creating a situation where the man has no free will and must kill her and end up in jail, ruining his life.
They go upstairs to her apartment. Even before entering they can hear her yelling and music blasting. They try to explain that she is putting herself in danger, but her natural reaction is to yell at them. She is abusive to the point where one of them actually fulfills their own prediction and whacks her with his cane. Well, technically, he merely brandishes it on AHP, but he does swat her on RBT — but it’s still all her fault,mind you.
Leaving, they pass her husband on the stairs. He is racing up, carrying a longshoreman’s hook. Damn her for driving him to this!
- Sadly, this blog picked up AHP Season 1 after this episode, so I have to slog through it now.
- AHP Deathwatch: No survivors. Michael Ansara, last seen in The Baby Sitter, gave it a good try, making it to age 91 last year.
- The RBT episode was directed by Roger Tompkins who also directed the previous episode.
- I like that, even though it is a heatwave and even though they are retired, the two men are still wearing suits. Different time.
- The AHP butcher was at least wearing a a full t-shirt whereas the RBT butcher was wearing a wife-beater. But I’m sure Sir Alfred would have approved.