Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Cure (01/24/60)

Marie Jensen, like Rhona Warwick in NG’s The Caterpillar, is a beautiful woman living in a remote jungle outpost with her husband. [1] Also like Rhona, she seems perfectly content with this isolated life and loves her husband.  No, wait, she stabs him in bed within the first 10 seconds.

Luckily, handyman Luiz is there to pull her off.  He holds a knife to Marie’s throat, but her husband Jeff stops him.  Jeff’s partner Mike comes in.  He suggests that Marie is suffering from “the fever.”  While Luiz dresses Jeff’s wound, Mike takes Marie back to her room and ties her to the bed.  So do Marie and Jeff have separate rooms?  None of my business.

Jeff goes to see her.  She is bound with her arms tied to the headboard.  She says she doesn’t remember what she did to deserve such treatment.  Jeff unties her and calls their servant Chita in to sit with her.  Marie laughs at him and rolls over.

Jeff asks Mike to take Marie 200 miles upriver to a doctor.  Mike reminds him that he warned Jeff not to marry her.  When Mike suggests that Marie might not come back, Jeff says, “I know what you think of her, and I know what she was.  But I pulled her out of that place and I married her.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Game.

Mike says he hates her, but somehow that devolves into them having a long kiss.  This is accompanied by a grotesque melodramatic orchestral flourish that is unworthy of AHP.  She then gets dressed in some snappy safari-wear and goes to Jeff’s room.  He is also down with fever.  She claims to remember nothing, but agrees to go to the doctor.

Luiz, Mike and Marie take off in a very small boat.  After a while, Luiz pulls over to the side of the river to scout a place to spend the night.  While he is gone, Marie says they can kill him here.  Mike prefers to just lose him in the city.  The next morning, after Marie eggs him on, Mike tries to kill Luiz, but Luiz stabs him.  Though out-of-frame, the knife visibly lands to the side of Mike.  I still have to give them credit, Luiz’s knife would have landed squarely in Mike’s melon.   Luiz chases Marie back to the boat.  More kudos are due for the knife darkened by Mike’s blood.  He forces her back in the boat to “do what master want.”

Later returns to the outpost.  He says bad things happened.  “Senor Mike dead.  He tried kill me, so I kill him.”  Luiz says Mike was mislead by “bad woman.”  He says, “I do what you ask.  I take her to my people.  Best headshrinkers in the world.”  And pulls out the shrunken head of Marie.

R-r-r-r-r-right.  I have no problem with an episode that hinges on a one-word pun.  Really.  The episode was based on a story by Robert Bloch [2] who, among many great accomplishments, wrote the novel Psycho was based on.  The teleplay was by a guy with a thousand other credits.  Who am I to criticize?  Nobody, that’s who.  Walking erect is about all I have in common with these titans.  Still . . . it’s a little thin.

I get that calling a psychiatrist a headshrinker might be a colloquial term not ever used in the Amazon; also not ever used in the Amazon: colloquial.  However, Luiz was never in a scene where he heard that word spoken.  And Jeff still loved Marie — inexplicably, sure — so why would Luiz think he intended for her to be killed?  However, the reveal is fun, and who doesn’t like a little head?

Other Stuff:

  • [1]  In fact, the Amazonian outpost is so far out that they can hear the Kookaburras from Australia.
  • [2] Robert Bloch would do the shrunken head thing again 11 years later in Logoda’s Heads on Night Gallery.  It was so uninteresting that it didn’t rate its own post.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  There must have been something in the water down there.  All three of the leads are in their 90s and still alive.
  • OK, the F. Scott Fitzgerald thing makes no sense.  I couldn’t think of another way to reference Gerald’s Game.  Edmund Fitzgerald’s Game?  Gerald Ford?

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Ikon of Elijah (01/10/60)

Mr. Carpius returns from a buying trip for his junk antique shop.  His assistant tells him he just missed a visit from a monk.  The monk mentioned that he had a titular Ikon of Elijah, but it was just a copy.  Carpius says, “Where there is a copy, there must be an original; and the original may have been worth a fortune!”

A hot young woman emerges from the back of the shop and calls Carpius to dinner.  He has brought her an amber necklace, but tells her someday she will have sapphires.  She accuses him of being a dreamer, but nothing ever happens.  Well, at some point he probably dreamed of marrying a woman 40 years younger than him, and that happened. [1]

Malvira says she is leaving him.  He says, “Where will you go?  Back to the market where I found you?  And your filthy stall to sell pots and pans?  Have you forgotten so soon?  Your ragged dress, your sandals split at the seams.  Look at you now!  Everything you are you owe to me!  I took you in, I fed you, I clothed you . . . if you leave me, I will kill you.”  Which is the same speech Harvey Weinstein gave to Jennifer Lawrence.  Except instead of threatening to kill her, he jerked off into a potted plant.  See, he could have been worse.

The monk returns with the ikon of the prophet Elijah, a small painting.  He says it was painted by one of his brothers.  He was the first Ikon Copier. [2]  Heyyyyoooo!

The next day Carpius goes to the monastery.  He tells the head monkety-monk that he just couldn’t sleep last night because he paid so little for the ikon.  He admits to being less than honest in his business, and says the meaning of life tortures him, although the bit with Mr. Creosote was fun.  He seeks true religion.

He asks to see the original ikon.  The head monk takes him to see the original, guarded by brother Damianos who mouths his prayers silently in obeisance to God, his vows, and union pay rules for non-speaking parts.

That night, after torches-out, Carpius sneaks back to the ikon room.  He swaps the original ikon for the copy.  The lumox manages to wake the snoozing Damianos.  He brains him with a candlestick.  Immediately, several monks show up to the ikon room.  Carpius claims it was an accident.

The head monk says, “You say you are sorry. I choose to believe you.”  Carpius is relieved, but the head monk says he must pray for divine forgiveness, starting immediately.

Sensing a good deal, Carpius starts praying.  The monk says, we will bring you food and water twice a day, and oil for the lamp.  He locks Carpius in the ikon room and says, “We shall feed you as the ravens fed Elijah.  As long as you live, this will be your world and you will pray for forgiveness.”  If they really wanted to punish him, they’ make him listen to The Raven every day. [3]  Oh well, as daily visits from birds go, he got a better deal than Prometheus; also better than the eagle, who had to eat liver every day.  Who did he piss off?

Oskar Homolka (Carpius) is a fast-talking, inarticulate, not particularly likable, hammy actor.  Last time we saw him, he was killing his wife in Reward to Finder, but that’s half the husbands on AHP.  He is the whole show, though, so you better get used to him.

On the other hand, I find monasteries fascinating, from the Odd Couple to The Twilight Zone.  And I like seeing some frontier justice handed out.  Those aspects and Malvira earn a marginal thumbs up.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] The actress is 22 and the actor is 62.
  • [2] Ikon was founded in Malvern, PA.  Pretty similar to Malvira.
  • [3] This is another case where, in the light of day, I have no idea what I meant.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Carpius’s assistant and his wife are still in business.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Man from the South (01/03/60)

The first AHP of the 1960s!

However progressive this sounds, the first shot is decidedly retro.  We see the old Las Vegas strip — The Golden Nugget, the giant mechanical cowboy.  It is all very gritty, with steel and bolts compared to the smooth, mirrored high-rises built today.

Neile Adams (no character name, so just call her Neile) has just bought a Brandy for $.45.  She is sitting at the bar dangling a shoe in the way only a pretty girl can without looking like trash.  When her shoe drops to the floor, Steve McQueen slips it back on her foot in the only way a guy can without getting kicked in the f***ing head — by being Steve McQueen.

After her brandy, they get a table for a more nutritious breakfast of coffee and cigarettes.  As cool Steve McQueen lights the exotically beautiful Neile’s cigarette, then moves to light his own, it is comical when Peter Lorre leans into the shot for a light.  Not only is he crassly intruding on their flirtations, compared to these two uber-specimens, he looks positively otherworldly.

Lorre takes a couple of puffs, then purposely breaks his cigarette.  He bums a new smoke from Neile, then compliments McQueen’s lighter as he lights it for him.  McQueen says, “I don’t wear it as a badge.  It’s a good lighter and it works.”  Then he makes a click noise.  I think he made that same click in The Great Escape.  Did I discover the secret of his cool?  Was it the click?  I’ll have to rewatch Papillon:  “We’re something, aren’t we? The only animals that shove things up their ass for survival . . . click.”  No, not very cool.

Lorre says he is a very rich man, and a sporting man.  He wonders if McQueen would like to make a wager on the reliability of the lighter.  If McQueen can make his lighter fire 10 times in a row, Lorre will give him a convertible.  If the lighter fails even once, McQueen will get a finger chopped off.  But just the little one.  And on off the left hand.

McQueen eventually accepts the bet.  After checking out the convertible, they go to Lorre’s room #12 — so the rich sporting man has a first floor room?  We don’t get to see the car inspection.  I’m sure it was the standard kicking of tires, making the roof go up and down, making sure there is 750 pounds of chrome, and checking the registration for Lorre’s name.

When they enter the room, Lorre removes some women’s lingerie that is lying around.  This is never explained, but suggests a scene more blood-curdling than anything that will follow here.

Two set pieces follow.  First is the preparation for the game.  Second is the contest itself.  The contest is what everyone remembers from this episode, but credit is also due to the prep-work.  Realistically showing something being built or prepared is always fascinating.  Lorre has a bellhop get some supplies, and he constructs a device to secure McQueen’s hand.  It gets the suspense ramping up early as you see that Lorre is serious — thought has actually gone into this.  It also increases the stakes.  If McQueen loses, he isn’t going to just be able run out.

There is no way to do justice to the contest.  I can’t believe Hitchcock didn’t grab this script for himself.  It is just a masterclass in suspense.

SPOILERS:

After 7 successful flicks of the non-Bic, a woman bursts into the room.  She takes the butcher knife away from Lorre and chews him out.  Lorre is a fraud.  He doesn’t even own the convertible.  Over the years, he lost 11 convertibles and picked up 47 fingers from other rubes.  She says over the years, she was able to win all his possessions from him, so he has nothing to bet with.  As proof, she reveals her left hand which now has only a thumb and little finger left.  Although how she drives without a middle finger is not explained.

Three talented, charismatic performers and a great script with a classic suspense scene come together to make this the best episode of a very good series.

Other Stuff:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Steve McQueen died at 50 years old, but Neile Adams is still with us.  Director Norman Lloyd . . . I’m double-checking at 11:18 PM — yes still around at 103.
  • How did Norman LLoyd not have a massive career directing theatrical movies?
  • This episode was remade in 1985 for an AHP reboot.  John Huston was pretty good in the Peter Lorre role.  Steven Bauer and Melanie Griffith just couldn’t compete with Steve McQueen and Niele Adams, though.  But, really, who could?
  • No subtly was allowed on TV by the 1980s, so the contest goes all the way to 10.  Huston brings the butcher knife down but the ending is so muddled that it is not clear if he missed on purpose or was startled.  It is really a decent remake, though.
  • Adams and McQueen were married when this was filmed.  According to IMDb, she is 26% Chinese, Japanese & Mongolian, 7% Polynesian, and 67% Spanish; she plays a woman pretending to be Russian, then admits she is from Iowa.  Only in America.
  • For a more complete and coherent look at the episode and production, check out bare*bones e-zine.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Graduating Class (12/27/59)

Miss Siddons arrives at Briarstone Women’s College to accept a job offer from her old pal who is now the principal.  After a meet and greet with her friend and the vice-principal, she heads to her first class, European Literature.  The VP expresses doubt, but the P says Miss Siddons has had a tough life.  She lost her mother and father when she was in college.  Then she went to Germany to visit her uncle.  Darn the luck, the war started and she was stuck there for the duration.

When Miss Siddons enters her classroom, the well-groomed, neatly-dressed students turn to face the front, stop yakking, and give Miss Siddons their full attention.  Wait, is this AHP or TZ?  Well, it is AHP’s last episode of the 1950’s. Buckle up Al, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. [1]

Miss Siddons gets right to business as if these students were there to learn.  She humorlessly says, “You will find that I insist on punctuality and on attention.  You will also find that at the end of the semester you will have learned European Literature.”

After class, Miss Siddons is standing at the bus stop looking like Mary Poppins with her flat pork pie hat and valise.  A carload of girls pulls up in Gloria’s car and offers her a ride, which she surprisingly accepts.  She says she was under the impression that the students were not allowed to drive cars to school.  Vera says Gloria is PC.  Wait, what?  Gloria explains that means Privileged Character.  Privileged, really?  These girls women were really ahead of their time.  I eagerly await the scene where they pull down the statue of Jedediah Briarstone.

Another girl explains that Gloria’s family is still at their summer place.  So I guess she really is privileged.  Until they come back to town, she is allowed to drive the car to school.  They offer to take her to the malt shop, but she declines.

She asks to be dropped off at her apartment at the Clifton Arms.  As she is searching for her key, her tubby neighbor across the hall introduces himself as Ben Prowdy.  He invites her to the local bar — she says she doesn’t drink.  He suggests a movie — she says she expects to be busy for several weeks.  Wow, I didn’t get this much deja vu from yesterday’s Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon.

The next day in class, Miss Siddons lectures, “It is not generally known that the author of the classic European horror story Frankenshtein was the wife of the English poet Shelley.”  C’mon, you lived in Germany for years and you say Frankenshtein?  She writes the name on the chalkboard.  Sadly, before I can see if she spells it with an H, Vera sneaks in late.

Miss Siddons admonishes her for this third violation.  To put her on the spot, Miss Siddons asks Vera if she knows who Prometheus was.  Vera says, “Isn’t it one of those funny little things we studied in Zoology?” which got a laugh out of me.  The stern Miss Siddons tells her, “The ancient Greeks regarded Prometheus as the creator of the human race.”  Vera replies, “I don’t see why we have to waste our time on a lot of people who’ve been dead for hundreds and hundreds of years!”  Rather than cowering, apologizing, asking Vera’s permission to go to the restroom, and ultimately resigning, the teacher calmly explains to the immature student that she has just demonstrated why she desperately needs to be educated.  Well, bravo Miss Siddons, but that’s no way to ever be promoted to Administration.

Gloria catches Miss Siddons in the hall after class.  Apparently, the lecture continued on to cover Shelley’s The Last Man.  Gloria was hoping Miss Siddons had a copy she could borrow. Miss Siddons tells Gloria what a great student she is, and Gloria invites her home to have tea with her mother.  While there, Miss Siddons sees Gloria’s mother is sickly and learns that her father is in Iraq — their summer place in Iraq, I guess.  Although I would picture that as more a winter getaway.

Miss Siddons doesn’t have the book Gloria asked about, but cares enough about her to check out an antique bookstore — the book is the antique, not the bookstore . . . the bookstore won’t last long enough to become an antique.  Ben Prowdy happens by and hits on her again.  She says maybe some other night.  We can tell by her rare smile that she actually means it.  She is startled to see, across the street, Gloria going into an establishment called 7th Heaven with a man.  She tries to follow, but the doorman says, “No ladies allowed without escorts.  You wouldn’t want the club to get a bad name, now would you, lady?”  I think this place will have a shorter life-span than the bookstore.

The next day, Gloria dozes off in class.  After class, Miss Siddons asks her to stay.  Gloria lies and says she was up late taking care of her mother.  That night, Miss Siddons goes to a movie with Ben.  Robert H. Harris is a little bit of a mystery to me.  He is 50ish, short, balding, and shaped like a fat potato.  Yet on AHP, he seems to be quite a success with the ladies in more than one episode.  He is kind of shaped like Hitchcock — maybe it was some kind of wish-fulfillment on Hitch’s part.

After the movie, she and Ben again walk down the only street in the city.  She sees Gloria wearing a fur coat, coming out of 7th Heaven with a man and they start swapping spit.  She explains to Ben why this is so upsetting to her.  They follow the couple to an apartment building where they see them as silhouettes in the window until the light goes out.

Seeing Miss Siddons is upset, Ben says, “Let me take you home.  Young people have different ideas about things today.  What was wrong when we were young — .”  Miss Siddons cuts him off, ” — is still wrong!”  Well, there’s the cost of two movie tickets shot to hell.  Miss Siddons enters the building to slide a note under the door.

The next morning, Gloria comes to Miss Siddons’ apartment, furious at being tracked.  When Miss Siddons explains that she was just trying to protect her, she explains that she is secretly married and the man is her husband. She was afraid the shock would kill her mother, so she was waiting for her father to get back from Iraq where he become used to both shock and awe.

The next day, Gloria is absent from class.  She left a letter that the other girls have already read.  There is a twist, but I’ll stop here.  Not to avoid a spoiler, but because the episode is wearing me out.  It is a little bit of a slog, and I’m not sure why.  Yeah, Miss Siddon is a very proper, stoic woman, but she is a believable character.  Prowdy and Gloria both provide some energy and humor.  It just feels like it is 2 hours long.

Back in November.  Or December, but I really prefer the 30-day months.  January.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Yeah, yeah — the quote is wrong in 3 different ways.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Julie Payne and Gigi Perreau have not graduated yet.
  • Marlon Brando’s sister Jocelyn makes her 2nd AHP appearance, and she is even more poorly utilized here.  AHP has one more chance to do right by her.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (12/20/59)

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is really kicked around by TV.  The 1960s Twilight Zone famously aired a pre-fab French production in order to afford the final season supply of Lucky Strikes for Rod Serling.  I assume AHP is just using it to give them time to prepare for the smelly 1960’s which begin in 12 days.  At least AHP made an American production of it.  No wonder Bierce was bitter.

Three Union soldiers are installing a plank on the titular Owl Creek Bridge.  A fourth is tying a hangman’s noose while a few others stand by.  This seems like a lot of resources to kill this one guy, but it is a Union job – heyyyyooooo!  C’mon, a train runs right over this bridge, just give him a shove; plus, you have guns!  As they work, Farquhar flashes back 12 hours.

He was “safe and secure” in his home being served dinner by his sassy housekeeper slave, Hattie. [1]  He is depressed over the death of his wife and child.  She says she can sympathize because she was depressed over the death of her son Joshua; she  seems pretty chirpy with her slave status though.  Farquhar spots a harp in the corner and imagines his wife playing it, which would make any normal person actually miss her less.

A Rebel sergeant (James Coburn) rides up.  He says the Yanks are moving closer, all the way to the titular Owl Creek Bridge.  Farquhar was a soldier, but lost a leg and a brand new sock in Shiloh.  He speculates on blowing up the bridge so the Yanks can’t advance.  The sergeant warns him that any civilian caught around that bridge would be “hanged on the spot.”

Farquhar ignores the warning and sneaks down to the bridge.  He pulls out a can of Short’s Solidified Greek Fire.  When he tries to throw it at the bridge, the same sergeant, who had only pretended to be a Rebel — he’s the world’s first confederate Confederate — shoots him in the arm.

Back on the bridge, the sergeant puts the noose around Farquhar’s head.  He prays for the frayed rope to break.  After he walks the plank, he finds himself in the river below.  He struggles to pull the noose off his head.  Fortuitously, he is being executed by seven men so addle that Farquhar is actually able to escape by swimming up-stream.  He further confounds the squad by coming ashore the last place they would suspect — the riverbank.

Farquhar runs back toward his house.  On the way, he finds his old friend slave Josh.  I still can’t figure out whether he was Hattie’s husband or son.  Either way, he is supposed to be dead.  Josh leads him home on an unfamiliar trail.  He is surprised when Josh leads him through a Union camp and no one notices them.

Clickable pic. Pretty obvious where it goes.

When Farquhar arrives back at his house, his uncredited (i.e. dead) wife runs out to greet him.  We snap back to him hanging by the neck at the bridge.  His escape only occurred in his mind, in the seconds before he died.

The episode is not as stylish as the TZ version, but then, that was actually an Oscar-winning short film.  It is a change of pace — or really, change of location — for the series.  As always, AHP turns out a quality product.  It really works best if you haven’t seen the TZ episode, read the short story, or had it spoiled by some idiot blogger.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] C’mon, they named the slave Hattie?
  • From the director of Old Yeller, The Absent Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, Mary Poppins, and The Love Bug.