Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Coyote Moon (10/18/59)

Julie is stuffing the failing Sentinel Mesa Times newspaper into her shoe to compensate for a hole in her soul sole when a disguised VW Bus rolls into the Desert Hawk Service Station.

Things increasingly rare in 2017: Phone-booth, Real Boobs, Newspaper, General Store . . .

The Professor has rescued a baby coyote that was hit on the road while it was installing a giant Acme spring. The proprietor laughs at the thought of rescuing the animal. “Mister, we pay a bounty on coyotes in this part of the state!”  Inexplicably the Professor does not ask how much.

The gas-jockey says they are the most useless animal God created [insert political reference of your choice here; any answer will be correct].  The Professor says without coyotes, within a year they would be overrun with a plague of squirrels and rabbits; and presumably road runners. [1]

Julie hits him up for a lift to Sentinel Mesa.  The service station owner calls a vet, but the vet refuses to come work on a coyote.  When he comes back to tell the Professor, they find the coyote has ingeniously escaped from the cardboard box he was kept in.

On the way to Sentinel Mesa, Julie spots a man sleeping under a tree by the side of the road.  She yells, “Pops!” and tells the professor to pull over.  Pops jumps in the car and helps himself to the Professor’s cigarettes, and lighter.  The Professor is next railroaded into picking up Julie’s brother Harry, who is kind of a thug.

The rest of the episode is very, er, episodic.  That is not to demean the episode — far from it.  This is a fun episode which is well-performed and looks great.  It just gets tedious to document every scene; for you, I mean.

Throughout the episode, the Professor is constantly taken advantage of and scammed.  Edgar Buchanan is perfect as Pops.  He has an old-timer, country-bumpkin charm to him that masks what a snake he is.  You really want to like him.  Collin Wilcox Paxton as Julie is a paradox.  She seems to be a terrible actress, but she might have out-smarted me.  She comes off as such a sexy, feral maniac that you can’t help but like her.  Maybe Harry was adopted.

They descend on the Professor like a swarm of three locusts.  When they are done with him, they quickly ditch him by the side of the road and jump into a passing truck with their next victim.  The Professor isn’t done with them, though.

Not pictured: The Professor.

Excellent.  I rate it a full moon.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Actually, the coyote did not do much to suppress the road-runner population. But then, running down the road was his idea of having fun, so maybe there weren’t going to be a lot of little road-runners anyway.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.
  • Title Analysis:  Meh.  I guess the family was predatory like a coyote.  Not sure what the moon has to do with it.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Appointment at Eleven (10/11/59)

Rated dead last of 268 episodes in IMBb’s increasingly credible User Ratings.  99.6% of the episodes were deemed better than this one. You could watch AHP every weeknight for a year and not get to this episode.

Even Hitchcock’s intro is off-putting. He is playing a bartender, but the TV is blasting so loud — gunfire, screeching airplanes, etc — that we can’t hear him speak.  I initially fast-forwarded through it because I thought it was an audio problem.  It isn’t just loud, it is offensively grating . . . like this episode’s Clint Kimbrough as David Logan.  I fear as AHP enters the 1960s this year, this episode signifies a change.  Will we lose the stoic war veterans, proper businessmen, reserved bankers, sturdy farmers, etc. [1]  Enter the weepy, screaming, self-indulgent man-child throwing tantrums in public.  I blame James Dean.

Sweaty David Logan is tossing and turning in bed before he wakes up from his dream shrieking.  He is living in a cramped apartment with his mother.  His bedroom has a window that is so comically close to their neighbor that he can see her nervously getting dressed to go to her first day on the job as the new librarian.  Wait, that’s my dream. His window faces a wall that is so close it looks like a framed painting of bricks.

I’m always happy to see directors get creative with their composition, but who thought this was a good idea?

David laments his father leaving them as if they meant nothing to him.  His mother just doesn’t want to hear any more about it.  She says what happened was between her and his father.  He has put on a suit and is going out.  His mother asks him to “stay here with me.”  That works about as well with David as it did with his father.

A blonde is hitting on David in a bar but he says, “I don’t like blondes.”  His blondist tendencies only seem to apply to girls with blue eyes, however, and this floozy has brown eyes.  He lays a big kiss on her and tells her a secret — he’s only 17. She seems more concerned with him repeatedly saying he will be born at 11:00 tonight than the fact that he was actually born just 17 years ago.  He tells her a story about his father fooling around with a blonde.

He goes on at length about his father with the blonde and how he left without even saying goodbye.  When he shoves her, a sailor takes him out back to teach him some manners and, strangely enough, how to tie a bowline knot.

In a nice scene, he is able to talk David down.  Like all sailors on leave, the old salt takes the 17 year old boy to the hot dog stand.  No that’s not a euphemism — they actually go inside and he has a frankfurter.  The sailor tells David about the Chief Gunners Mate that he is really going to “let have it” one day; maybe he was jealous of the Chief Gunner.  See, cuz he had a mate . . . . David commiserates that there is someone in his life he would like to see dead also.  He says ominously, “Tonight, somebody dies.” Well, I wouldn’t ever bet against that.

He leaves that bar and goes to Dooley’s [2] where his father played piano.  The bartender is more concerned about his age than the blonde, but relents and gives him a boilermaker — way to ramp up.  When the new piano player starts playing, David attacks him.

Blah blah blah, a news flash comes on the TV that David’s father has just been executed for the murder of his blonde girlfriend.  Who says the news is always bad?  As if that isn’t enough good news, he got fried only 2 months after the murder.  David doesn’t take it as well as me, however. He hurls a glass through the TV screen and tries to pull it off the wall.  He continues making a spectacle, crying, “I’m glad he’s dead!  I hated him!  I hated him!”

The failure of this episode falls squarely on the character of David Logan.  I point to the character because I suspect the actor Clint Kimbrough did a great job doing what the script and director asked for.  He is just such a whiny punk, though, it is hard to care. On the other hand, I found Norma Crane to be excellent as the blonde.  The sailor was either great or terrible; I’m just not sure which.  He did make an impression, though.

Rating it the worst episode of the series is pretty harsh.  While David Logan was insufferable, the supporting cast really came through.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Of course they were all thieves and murderers, but they were otherwise of good character.
  • [2] Reference to Dooley Wilson, the piano player in Casablanca?
  • AHP Deathwatch:  A new record, three survivors!  Most notably, Michael J. Pollard and Clu Galager still show up occasionally.
  • Written by Evan Hunter who would later write The Birds for Hitchcock.  He also wrote 55 books about the 87th precinct.  Or was it 87 books about the 55th precinct?  It bugs me that he has a character named Meyer Meyer which is a rip-off of Major Major in Catch-22.  It is especially galling that he did it 5 years earlier.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Crystal Trench (10/04/59)

In September 1907, a train rolls across one of those impossibly huge bridges in the Alps.  I’m not sure we could build one of those now.  It’s like those gigantic statues and titular towers in Lord of the Rings; how did those simpletons build such colossal structures?  There is probably a 50 page LOTR answer replete with Elvish songs, so I retract the question.

Mark Cavendish [1] is arriving in Switzerland today to climb the Schwarzhorn, which I hear is very popular in German porn.  He sees the other members of his climbing party arguing on the veranda about whether they can see some dumbkopfs atop the mountain at 4:00 PM.  That would very dangerous as the weather is unpredictable, visibility decreases, and the pro shop charges you another full day for carabiners and crampons.

That night, the concierge — possibly the hotel manager, but concierge is so much more fun to say . . .  Concierge!  Concierge! — informs Cavendish there has been an accident on the mountain.  Mr. Ranks led a pair of young men up the mountain, taking a route that was beyond their skills.  Only Ranks and George Liston made it back. The other young man, Michael Ballister, died before reaching the summit.  Ranks and Liston were too fatigued to haul him down.  The manager thinks since Cavendish is from England like Ballister, he should be the one to tell Mrs. Ballister to cancel that couples massage.

They find the lovely Stella Ballister sitting alone in the ballroom as others dance around her.  Apparently, they feel this is the perfect place to let her know her husband of six months is dead.  Before Cavendish can give her the news, she asks him to dance.  She is not flirting; she loves her husband, but just feels like having a little fun with a fellow Brit.  They get in a few steps before he takes her aside and says, “Mrs. Ballister, your husband is dead. His body is up on the Schwarzhorn.”  Amuse-bouche?

Stella insists that he retrieve her husband’s body off the mountain. Cavendish and his pals brave a Frosty Blizzard and a blinding Blast of McFlurries to find Ballister. Despite the heavy snow, they are wearing lederhosen (also fun to say  . . . Lederhosen!  Lederhosen!) [3] and hats that don’t cover their ears.  They find Cavendish Ballister draped frozen along the side of a cliff.  As they are hauling him up, they lose their grip and he comically slides down the mountain like Stallone rode that dude in Cliffhanger,[4] until he disappears into a crevise, then a crevasse.

Cavendish returns and again must give Stella tragic news — maybe during pool aerobics this time. She asks him to go with her to see Ranks and Liston in the hospital where they are recovering from frostbite.  Stella thinks Michael was too strong to just die of exposure. She wants to get “the truth” out of the two men.  At the hospital, Ranks is wheeled in.  He gives Stella his condolences.  Ranks admits they left with too little food and that the boys were too inexperienced for the route he took.  Even in a wheelchair, he’s a stand-up guy.  However, he insists that he and Liston stayed with Ballister until he died.

Stella doesn’t buy his story and shouts, “You left him up there to die!  I know it!”  The nurse wheels Ranks back out and Stella gets her groove back.  She tells Cavendish that she will keep her husband alive through her memories.  She — not me, she — says it will be easy because being packed in ice, he will never change.

Back in London, Cavendish and Stella begin attending dinners and concerts together.  One day, she invites him to tea and he shows up with a ring.  She refuses his proposal.  To explain why, she takes him with her to see a professor.  He describes — in very authentic sounding jargon, BTW — how glaciers move and transform over time.  He blows his credibility when he absurdly predicts the glacier will poop Ballister out in 40 years on July 21, 1947, around tea time.  Stella plans to wait all that time to be with her beloved, perfectly preserved Michael.  In a stunning Hollywood reversal, the wife would be 40 years older than the husband.  Madness, I tells ya!

Forty years later, Cavendish and Stella return to the glacier. [5] Some men picking at the ice, not realizing it will never get better, reveal Ballister’s frozen face, unchanged after 40 years in the glacier — I guess . . . we never saw him before.  Cavendish retrieves a locket from around Ballister’s neck.  Stella doesn’t seem thrilled.  When Cavendish opens the locket, the picture inside is another woman.  He tries to protect Stella, but she knows her husband had no such locket with her picture.  She takes the locket and chucks it back into the ice.

There is a lot to like here . . . I seem to use that phrase a lot in a passive-aggressive way.  I enjoyed the location.  This ain’t a James Bond movie — you’re working with a 1950s TV budget, meaning stock footage, papier-mâché rocks and snow made of deadly asbestos shavings.  But they were all cut together great.  In particular, the shot of Ballister sailing down the mountain sticks with me.  That is too specific to be stock footage, and didn’t strike me as a model. It was just a great drawn-out Hitchcockian “uh-oh” moment like Norman Bates trying to sink Marion’s car.  If that shot cost half the budget, it was worth it.

Although I respect the twist, it rings hollow.  While I enjoy seeing other people waste their lives — the Dead-Heads always made me feel like my life actually had direction — the premise is just too flimsy.  OK, Stella’s handsome young husband died tragically.  I can imagine her going into seclusion.  I can imagine her heart-broken.  I can imagine her never remarrying.  I can imagine her expressing her grief by having a steamy affair with the proper young woman who just arrived on the train to be a dance instructor at the local academy, who wears jodhpurs even though she doesn’t have a horse, and never had time for men and their boorish ways.  However, I can’t understand her waiting 40 years for her dead husband’s body to reappear.  To what end?  And Cavendish, dude!

Still, 30 minutes well-spent.

Other Stuff:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Only one survivor, but his character had no name.  However, the professor (Patrick McNee) had a good run, dying at 95 in 2015.
  • [1] James Donald, Senior British Officer at Stalag III.
  • [2] Werner Klemperer, Senior German Officer at Stalag XIII.
  • [3] Or maybe they were knickers.  They were pants that did not break at the shoe, but ended with socks from the calf down.  Just seems a strange choice for freezing weather.
  • [4] I didn’t find a clip, but everyone should watch Cliffhanger (again).  It’s just great fun.
  • [5] I think it was meant to be a stunning reveal when the actors turn to the camera and are made up to be older.  However, we already knew it was 40 years later.  I do admire the restraint of the make-up, though.  Rather than the hideous job done on Guy Pearce in Prometheus (or anyone ever in any series of Star Trek), for example, just some gray hair and an ashen complexion are perfectly adequate.
  • The Twilight Zone premiered 2 days before this episode aired.
  • This is the end of Hulu’s AHP line-up.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Arthur (09/27/59)

The titular Arthur addresses the camera while stroking his c**k.  Oh come, it’s a chicken!  He is quite proud of his New Zealand chicken farm which he operates solo, and the fact that he got away with a murder.  In fact, he chokes his chicken — oh, grow up! — right on camera, committing another murder most fowl.  “Yes, that’s right,” he says a little too chipperly, “I am a murderer.” [1]

We cut to Arthur taking a roast chicken out of the oven, but I don’t think that was the corpus delishti he was talking about.  Even after making this gourmet dinner for one, his tie is still tight and his white apron is neat, form-fitting, and spotless.  I get more stains than that making reservations.  I thought he was done addressing the audience, but this guy won’t shut up.  He continues jabbering as he carves the bird.  He goes on about his fiancee Helen to the point where I’m begging for a flashback.  Oh . . . .

Helen drops by one evening and tells Arthur that she can’t marry him.  She is going to marry gambler Stanley Brathwaite.  She is not happy cooped up on the chicken farm with Arthur — ha, get it?  Cooped up?  She wants to travel the world with Stanley.  She says she only agreed to marry Arthur because she wasn’t sure anything better would come along.  Oh sh*t!  Did she not watch Fargo (Season 1)?

“Well, that’s the end of these shoes.”

A year after that carnage, a couple of government workers stop by.  Fortunately it is the Police and not the Health Department.  He proudly shows Sgt. Theron his high-tech gadgets which enable him to murder so many chickens single-handedly.  For instance that feed grinder, which is big enough to put a woman into.  He tells Theron he’ll meet him at the pub for chess and goes into the farmhouse.  Helen is there.

She has come crawling back from Stanley.  This being 1959, she doesn’t move in, but she does take over.  She cooks meals, but leaves the dishes stacked up.  She fills the ashtrays with butts.  Arthur likes being on his own and tells her so.  She is so upset that she knocks a coffee pot over on the carpet.  He asks her if she would be miserable if he threw her out.  Having never seen AHP, she says, “I’d rather be dead.”  He strangles her and she makes the same hilarious sound as the chicken — I mean, literally the same sound clip.   Well-played!

Three weeks later, Sgt Theron drops by again.  Seems Helen is missing.  Theron and an Inspector take a look around, but don’t find anything.  They leave, but have an officer keeping an eye on the place.

For reasons I can’t figure out, Arthur strategically decides to disappear for three days.  As he leaves, he tells us he wants them to believe he is making Crippen’s mistake. [2]  Arthur hides out in a cave for three days, then returns home.  A cave would seem to be the last place this fastidious, anal-retentive twerp would hang out.  It is also strange that they serve up this blatant resurrection reference but do nothing with it.

Arthur returns to find the police tearing up his farm looking for Helen.  They even try to dupe him by saying they found a body in the barn.  While I fully support tricking murderers into confessions, this is a stupidly specific way to do it.

Yada, yada, after the police fail to implicate Arthur, he sends Theron a nice chicken dinner to show there are no hard feelings.  Theron also raises chickens and asks Arthur what feed mixture produced these fabulous birds.  Arthur gives him all the ingredients except one.

Less than the sum of its mixed parts.  You better like Laurence Harvey because you’re going to get a lot of him.  I liked the farm which was probably just a backdrop after the first building.  However, it worked because it was well-crafted and also seemed like just the kind of perfectly clean operation Arthur would run.  The scenes inside the coop are great, although probably not so great for the chickens.  On the other hand, the scene we see is probably practically free-range compared to the industrial torture chambers chickens live in now.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The sound the chicken makes as Arthur snaps its neck is laughably human.
  • [2] The story at the link is pretty interesting; but I don’t know who would have ever gotten that reference before Google was invented.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Tragically, no survivors in this cast of thousands.
  • AHP is getting pretty edgy — after the indirect incest of Touché, this episode features indirect cannibalism.
  • The lead character is named Arthur Williams.  The story is credited to Arthur Williams.  The title of the episode is Arthur.  Get over yourself!
  • Alternate title:  The Murders in the Perdue Morgue.
  • Strangely, Hulu calls this episode 37 of Season 4, but IMDb calls it episode 1 of Season 5.  The opening theme has a new arrangement.  The change, like all change, is for the worse.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Invitation to an Accident (06/21/59)

Just a quick aside.  Or since this is the beginning, maybe it is an atop. Rather than being here, you should be watching Fargo.

It took me a while to find it, but holy crap!  Season 2 is merely great so far.  Season 1 was an absolute freakin’ masterpiece.  They’ve been making TV & movies for a hundred years.  Why can they only crack the code about .5% of the time?  Is there no learning curve in Hollywood?  Anyhoo . . .

Tuxedoed buttinsky Albert Martin tells Mrs. Bedsole that her niece-in-law Virgilia [1] is out in the garden among the vidalias, azaleas, and bougainvilleas with a man who is not her husband.  Even worse, it is Virgilia’s ex-husband Cam. She asks Albert to check on them.  He finds them fooling around in the bushes.

On the way home, Virgilia’s husband Joseph asks her where she disappeared to.  She says she was just visiting with old friends.  He says that is fine and even insists they have one of them over for dinner.  She says she will invite “a very old admirer.”  Once again, we have an AHP marriage which makes no sense.  While Virgilia is beautiful and vivacious, Joseph comes off as a sad sack.  He knows his wife is cheating on him, but is so needy he wants to be friends with the other man.  The scene in the car is shot so that, not only is Virgilia driving, she towers above her husband.  Why would she have left Cam, inventor of the Condo Fee, to marry Joseph?  Maybe Joseph invented the Assessment.

She invites Albert over for dinner. There seems to be some point to Albert asking for a sherry, but I’m not sure what it is.  Joseph McFlys away to find a bottle.  After dinner, Virgilia takes Albert out to see some metal chairs Joseph made.  She says she thinks Albert prefers to have a woman on his arm rather than in his arms.  Hmmmm, I think I see where they were going with that Sherry thing.

As they are going back inside, some scaffolding falls on Virgilia.  If this were a play, the audience would applaud.  Albert examines the frayed rope.  Joseph conjectures the wind must have cause the pulley to wear away the fibers.

The next day, Albert is finishing 20 push-ups.  He says to himself, “I’m out of condition. I got no wind.”  If he is doing push-ups so fast that he can get winded, I’d say he’s in extraordinary shape.  That reminds him — there was no wind when the scaffold fell. Why would Joseph cite the wind as the cause of the frayed rope?  Well, it might not have been windy at the second it fell, but it was heard clanging against the house earlier in the evening.

Pajamaed buttinsky Albert calls Virgilia to check on her.  She is OK, but bedridden.  He asks if she has had any other “accidents”.  No.  End of brutally expository scene.

One evening, Albert goes back to their house.  Joseph is napping and Virgilia has been delayed, so he goes to Joseph’s workshop to look for evidence that Joseph is trying to kill his wife.  He finds rope like that used on the scaffolding.  After only a few strokes with a metal rod, he manages to cut into the rope.  The demonstration actually makes Joseph’s story more credible; although he is buying some cheap-ass rope.

Then he notices a can of arsenic is missing from the spot he saw it on the night of the accident.  Necktied buttinsky Albert goes to Mrs. Bedsole and tells her Joseph is going to murder Virgilia.  They agree he can’t go to the police, but he will let Joseph know he is watching him.
He returns to Joseph & Virgilia’s house.  Joseph is just getting over a case of ptomaine.  His doctor prescribed fresh air, so he invites Albert to go fishing with him in Mexico.

They grill up some fish and make some coffee over a camp fire on the beach.  They begin discussing murder.  Fishinghatted buttinsky Albert begins a story about “a man I knew who intended to commit a murder”.

He continues that the murder did not occur because “a third person who was a friend of both the intended murderer and his victim intervened.”  This third person caused the murderer to weigh the consequences against the small satisfaction of killing his wife.

Joseph says it is very similar to a situation he knows of.  The husband knew his wife was cheating on him.  He says the man was kind of a slob but did love his wife.  “The fellow set out to protect his property.”  Wait, his what?  “The way he did it was simple.  He encouraged his wife to bring friends to the house.”  Then he saw them fooling around in the garden.

Albert is increasingly uncomfortable at the story which is clearly about him and Virgilia.  He realizes the scaffolding was meant for him.  Joseph says the man had another plan — to take the wife’s friend camping.  In a lonely spot, they made coffee in a tin can because the man had forgotten the coffee pot.  Both men got arsenic poisoning, but the man had built up a tolerance.  The other man died, but he got well.

Albert blurts out, “”But it wasn’t me!  It was Cam!”

“Cam!” Joseph cries in horror.

All the pieces are here.  It is a well-constructed piece with nice misdirection and great twist.  Joseph’s apparent tolerance of his wife’s fooling around just irritates me.

I was also distracted by the resemblances of both male leads to other actors.  Gary Merrill (Joseph) reminded me very much of Humphrey Bogart.  Sometimes it was the PTSD’d Capt. Queeg, sometimes it was Fred C. Dobbs, and sometimes it was his hot decades-younger blonde wife, [2] but the specter was always there.  Alan Hewitt (Albert) was a dead ringer for James Gregory in both looks and voice.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Cam was present in the episode more in spirit than he was in person.  Now as the only survivor, he is the only one who is a person and not a spirit.
  • AHP Proximity Alert:  Lillian O’Malley (Flora the Maid) was just in an episode two weeks ago — give someone else a chance!  There she played “Housekeeper”.  In the very first AHP episode, she played “Hotel Maid.”  Whatever happened to Pat Hitchcock?  This used to be her beat.
  • [1] Virgilia was the wife of Coriolanus in Shakespeare’s play.  Heh, heh . . . anus. Virgilia was like June Cleaver, though, so the name doesn’t really carry any meaning here.
  • [2] Lauren Bacall has the honor of being ID # nm0000002 at IMDb.  Fred Astaire is # nm0000001.
  • For a more in-depth look at the episode and its source material, head over to bare*bonez ezine.  Where the heck do they find this stuff?