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.

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.

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.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Road Hog (12/06/59)

I wouldn’t mind seeing London.  I guess it would be interesting to see France.  But in the opening shot of this episode, I did not need to see a little girl’s underpants; and she is literally credited as “Little Girl” on IMDb.[1]

She is a butterfly whisperer, playing with a Monarch Butterfly on the porch of a rural gas station / cafe. Salesman Ed Fratus takes pleasure in grinding it under his shoe as he steps up on the porch. [2] When she starts to cry, he laughs and musses her hair.  He obnoxiously tries to sell the cafe owner on various salacious products — key chains with nudie picture viewers, risque playing cards, Pomade lubricant — oh wait, that’s for your hair.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch — literally, the Pine ranch (although they do not literally raise pine trees) — Davey Pine has just been gored by a bull.  His father and brother load him into the bed of the pickup to take him to the hospital.  They get stuck behind Fratus, poking along on a narrow dirt road.  Clay Pine blows the horn, trying to get by, but that just irritates Fratus who yells, “Stupid farmers!  Cornholing Cornpicking yokels!”  Clay yells that it is an emergency.  Fratus yells back, “So what, ain’t no skin off my nose!”

Pa Pine tells Clay, he has to get around the car, no matter what it takes.  When Clay tries to pass him, Fratus runs him off the road into a mudhole.  The Pines have to fill in the mudhole so they can drive out.  They finally make it to the hospital, but it is too late.  Davey is dead.  The doctor says if they had only gotten Davey there 15 minutes earlier . . .

Sons Clay and Sam Jr are ready to find the man and kill him, but Pa says they will do things his way.  Pine psychically goes to the gas station and demands to know who the driver of the station wagon is.  The owner rats out Ed Fratus.

Pine sits in the cafe day after day waiting for Fratus to return.  He just sits and stares at the cafe door, even refusing a free beer.  Eventually Fratus does return — and fortuitously on a day when Clay and Sam Jr are in the cafe.  When he enters, Clay and Sam Jr go outside.  Clay puts a hose in his mouth and starts siphoning the gas out of Fratus’s car.  They leave him enough for 2-3 miles, which would have been about a gallon back then.

Pa says nothing as Fratus and the owner do a little business.  Fratus leaves, and a few minutes later, the Pine family finds him stranded by the side of the road.  Pa says he has a drum of gas back at the ranch and uses his truck to push the car back to his house.  He tells Sam to gas up the car while he and Fratus have a drink.  As we are all guilty of doing, Clay was storing two bottles of unlabeled clear liquid on the same shelf — one liquor and one poison.  They make a big deal about preventing Fratus from drinking the poison.  After a few glasses, Pa tells him the story of Davey and how he died because of a titular road hog.

The perfectly-cast sweaty, fat-faced Fratus says, “You did poison me.”  He screams that he still has time to get to the hospital.  He takes off in his car, but darn the luck, Clay’s truck is blocking the road.  Trying to pass Clay, Fratus runs off the road and is killed.  Of course, it is revealed that there was no poison.

Classic AHP.  Robert Emhardt (Ed Fratus) was so smug and full of hate, I don’t know how he went out in public without people punching him in the face.  If I ever meet Stephen Colbert, I’ll ask him.

Other Stuff:

  • [1]  I always thought the rhyme referenced “a little girl”, but it seems to be the more generic “someone.”  I guess I could rewrite the opening, but do I appear to put that much effort into this?
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Richard Chamberlain, Jack Easton and Betsy Hale are still making the effort.
  • [2] Unlike Eckles in A Sound of Thunder, this was done on purpose and gleefully.  I actually did expend some effort to add that above, but couldn’t figure out how to do it.
  • These were the two filthiest vehicles I’ve ever seen, even before running off the road.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Special Delivery (11/29/59)

10-year old Tom is excited to receive a box of mushrooms in the mail from the Great Bayou Novelty Greenhouse. [1] He hasn’t been this wound up since the Spinach Telegram of ’56.  These are Sylvan Glade Jumbo Giant mushrooms that can be raised in your basement for fun and profit.

Tom’s father Bill is flagged down by his neighbor Roger.  He asks if Bill has noticed that people are disappearing.  Roger says, “Something strange is going on in the world.  Something terrible has happened.”  Bill recalls Mrs. Goodbody said something about flying saucers.

What the . . . Mrs. Goodbody was just mentioned three posts ago in The Screaming Woman.  That was a reference to the Ray Bradbury Theater episode Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!  This AHP episode was adapted from the same short story, 30 years earlier.  Mrs. Goodbody does not actually appear in this episode, so viewers and readers had to wait three decades to be disappointed.  By the 1980s, TV technology had advanced so far that RBT could disappoint viewers on a weekly basis.

Tom tells Bill he is “afraid for me, my family and even right now for you.  And your friends, and your friends’ friends” although their friends can go f*** themselves.  He advises Bill to keep his eyes open for the next few days.  He predicts something terrible is going to happen.

Tom’s mushroom crop is, er . . . mushrooming.  They give his mother the willies, but she wouldn’t know a toadstool from a toad’s tool.  Roger’s wife Dorothy calls and tells Bill that Roger, “vanished, disappeared, dropped out of sight.”

Bill goes to Roger’s house to interrogate his 10-year old son Joe.  The boy says he didn’t see or hear anything.  His dad’s closets were just empty, and he was gone.  As Dorothy begins speaking, Joe turns and stares directly into the camera.  This might be the single creepiest image I’ve seen so far for this blog.  Dorothy says there was no history of insanity in Roger’s family . . . that maybe he was kidnapped.  Bill snaps at her about why the kidnappers would take all his clothes.  Dude, she just lost her husband and is left with a demon child — give her a break!  Joe turns away from the camera and goes down to their cellar.

Bill goes home and tells Cynthia, “He’s gone all right.”  She says, “Doesn’t this kind of thing happen to a lot of men in their 40s?”  They get a telegram  from Roger: TRAVELING [SIC] NEW ORLEANS.  THIS TELEGRAM POSSIBLE [SIC] OFF-GUARD MOMENT.  REFUSE ALL SPECIAL DELIVERY PACKAGES — ROGER.

Bill gets a call from the police.  Roger was just picked up on a south-bound train in Green City.  The police say “he was polite, cheerful and in good spirits” and denied sending a telegram.  The only special delivery package they received was Tom’s mushrooms.  Bill calls Dorothy to see if they received any packages.  She says, like all the boys on the block, Joe has taken up mushroom farming.

Bill ponders whether Roger was right.  Maybe the earth is being invaded by things from other worlds.  “How could creatures from outer space invade us without us noticing?”  He realizes it could be done by dust, spores, fungi, mushrooms.  And the swamps of Louisiana would be a great places for them to take root.  Bill stares directly onto the camera and asks “Tonight.  In this very minute.  In how many homes all over the USA are billions of mushrooms being grown by innocent boys in their cellars?”

Seeing Tom has stored some mushrooms in the refrigerator, Bill conjectures that the alien species would propagate by people eating the mushrooms and being controlled.  Bill opens the cellar door.  Tom tells him to not turn on the light because it is bad for the mushrooms.  There is a very tense confrontation and an ending that that leaves just the right amount to the imagination.

It is strange that AHP let Bradbury get away with sci-fi stories like this and Design for Loving.  I can think of only one other sci-fi / fantasy episode in the 4 1/2 seasons I’ve watched.  On the other hand, they seemed to have an excellent system of vetting stories.  This episode is so good that I’m surprised it is not as iconic as Lamb to the Slaughter or Man from the South.  It certainly isn’t representative of AHP, but is one of their most effective episodes.

Since the RBT version was not as good, I have to wonder how much of the success is due to Norman Lloyd’s direction.  The episode was filled with great moments such as two characters addressing the camera (and I think the kid was going for 4th wall breakage), the glowy white mushrooms at the bottom of the stairs, and Bill almost being hit by a car.  The ending becomes more like Thriller as Bill realizes what is happening, yet is drawn into the conspiracy.

Excellent.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] The return address is 713 Canal Street — a McDonald’s.  I might have known.
  • Cheers that I’ve actually eaten there.  Jeers that I was in New Orleans and ate at freakin’ McDonald’s.  C’mon, it was just breakfast.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Roger’s family — Dorothy and Joe — is still with us.  I must say, though, Joe’s photo on IMDb might be even creepier than when he stared into the camera.  It looks like he has just wrapped up a porn shoot.  He is naked, daintily holding a towel over his junk.
  • [UPDATE] I somehow missed that this was covered in depth over at bare*bones ezine.  Interesting and well-written as always.
  • [UPDTE 2] Another blog reminds me that this is suspiciously similar to Bradbury’s Zero Hour.  Both feature aliens taking over the world by using children to carry out seemingly innocuous tasks that are baffling to their parents.

 

Completely off-topic, but this story of the nurse being arrested is burning me up.  As a supporter of the police, the first shorter video is infuriating.  The longer second video makes me question my beliefs.  A cop, with other officers standing by, explains to the nurse why this is her fault like every guy who ever slugged his wife.