Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Dead Weight (11/22/59)

Courtney Masterson is making out with 21 years younger Peg, perhaps as over-compensation for having a girl’s name.  They are at a Lover’s Lane overlooking the city.  Rudy Stickney approaches the car, pointing a flashlight and a gun in their eyes.  He forces them out of the car and nabs Courtney’s purse wallet.  The wallet is loaded with dough, but Rudy isn’t satisfied.

He has Courtney open the trunk and tells him to get in so he can have his way with Peg, perhaps as over-compensation for having to rely on phallic objects to get people to notice him.  When Peg makes a run for it, Courtney knocks Rudy to the ground causing him to drop his gun.  Rudy pulls a knife, but Courtney has his gun.  He forces Rudy into the trunk. Ya know, if the episode ended right here, I would be happy.

Courtney locks Rudy in the trunk, throws his golf clubs in the back seat, and prepares to drive to the police station where he will probably be arrested for kidnapping.  Peg points out that this could generate headlines which might be of interest to his wife.

Courtney drives back to Peg’s apartment.  He had a chance to reveal Rudy to a cop stopped beside him at a light, but did not. He sees Peg to the door, realizing he’s not going to get the kind of junk in the trunk he had anticipated tonight. He drives Rudy back up to Lover’s Lane.  And by the way, this is the biggest f*ing  car I’ve ever seen in my life.

He lets Rudy out of the trunk.  Rudy says he isn’t going to forget this, which is remarkable given the brain damage the carbon monoxide must have caused.  Courtney does the right thing, the fair thing, the honorable thing, the responsible thing, the mature thing, the civil thing, the just thing — he shoots Rudy dead.  At the police station, he says he picked Rudy up hitchhiking and it went bad.  The detective asks a few questions, says he’s a lucky man and sends him home.

This is all excellent, but the episode regresses to the mean pretty quickly.  Luckily, the mean on AHP is still pretty great.  Spoiler:  Courtney’s wife had a PI tailing him who witnessed the whole evening.  He blackmails Courtney to keep his shenanigans secret.  The nerve of his wife having a PI tail her husband; it’s just that kind of distrust that can ruin a marriage.

The ending just doesn’t seem worthy of what preceded it.[1]

Other Stuff:

  • [1] In the light of day, I have no idea what my beef was.  It was a pretty good twist.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Julie Adams (Peg) is still with us.  She was just in an episode of Lost.
  • Holy crap!  That was 10 years ago?  What have I done with my life!  Also alive: Reita Green, suspiciously credited as Reita.
  • Title Analysis:  A perfect AHP title, just not for this episode — there was no dead weight.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Blessington Method (11/15/59)

In one of the great opening scenes of the series, JJ Bunce (Dick York) is sitting on a pier.  OK, it doesn’t sound like much so far, but stick with me.  An elderly fisherman approaches and says York is in his spot.  York is an affable guy, so scoots to the side so the 93 year old can sit.  York helps him out by pointing out a big fish.  The old man leans over the water to check it out.  York pushes him into the water.  Maybe he had a cement hip because he sinks like a stone.

Dick York was ludacris playing a thug in Vicious Circle.  However, in The Dusty Drawer, he seemed to find his niche.  He is a smiling sociopath who has no problem ruining or ending people’s lives if it fits his idea of justice or commerce.  Or maybe he’s just smiling because he knows he will be playing Elizabeth Montgomery’s husband in a few years.

Bunce walks into the offices of uber that-guy Henry Jones[1] This being the exotic future year of 1980, we get a couple of bits of business that aren’t all that far-fetched.  Bunce introduces himself as being from the Society for Experimental Gerology.  He seems to know every detail of Jones’ life including that he fell madly for Adlai, and has a shrill 82 year old harridan living with him.[2]  Even worse, Bunce’s statistics show that with 1980s medical advances, the old shrew [3] — his mother-in-law — could live another 32 years.  Bunce suggests he could make the problem go away.  Jones is outraged and throws him out of his office.

After an awful evening at home with his mother-in-law, Jones strides purposefully into his office the next morning.  Bunce is waiting for him. He has a plan to knock off the old woman for the low, low price of $2,000 with insanely low APR.  He is instructed to leave his mother-in-law for a nice day in the park.  Bunce finds her there in her wheel-chair.  After a brief conversation about how the old have an obligation to make way for the young — hint, hint, Bill & Hillary — he wheels her right off the pier.  Bravo!

Bunce finds Jones fishing in a transparent row-boat.  Whether that was a past thing or a future thing, I don’t know.  Bunce gives him the good news.  However, he suggests that some day Jones might have a “strapping young son-in-law” who will find him a burden.  On the other hand, his daughter will finally be somebody else’s problem. [5]

If I ever used the word delightful, I would use it for this episode.  It has great performances from Jones and York.  York goes a little overboard with the fluttering eyelashes, but I just take that like Norman Bates’ manic twitchiness.  The peeks into the future aren’t particularly prescient, but are pretty amusing and well sprinkled through-out the episode without being jarring.  Finally, the callous murders of the old people are so over-the-top that they are just a hoot.

The minorest of minor issues:  Jones realizes that he might face this same treatment from his kids.  Yeah, but in 30-40 years, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.[4]

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I guess this is the new Uber that-guy.
  • [2] Well, I threw in the Madly/Adlai part because I liked the sound of it; and being embarrassed about your vote is one thing all Americas can share.
  • [3] The shrew seems fairly amiable as rodents go; it’s not really even a rodent.  How did they become synonymous with nasty women?
  • [4] Actually, part of his response — and it is well-handled — is a new self-awareness.  He is suddenly aware that his smiling, loving kids might some day have him killed.  He was once that respectful younger person, and realizes what an ingrate he has become.
  • [5] His teenage daughter is 29 and living at home.  At least they got that prediction right.
  • Saying grace before dinner, Jones says, “Our father, who art in space.”
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Nancy Kilgas is still hanging in there.  Of more interest is Elizabeth Patterson who was born just 10 years after the Civil War.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Dry Run (11/08/59)

Welcome to guys talking.  I hope you like guys talking because that’s all we serve. Catch of the Day: guys talking.  Soup de Jour: guys talking.  Happy Hour: half price on guys talking.  Ladies Night: Sorry, still guys talking — this is Hollywood after all.

We begin with three guys talking.

They are admiring the piranha in Mr. Barberosa’s office.  Barberosa likes the piranhas’ dependability.  Prentiss says, “Yeah, you can depend on him to snap your finger off the minute you put it in the water.”  He says he will stick to raising rabbits which is just bizarrely random and never followed up on.

After Prentiss leaves, Barberosa lectures Art about dependability.  He says in his organization, “I am the coach.  I depend on teamwork.  Maybe that’s why we keep going strong while most of our competitors fold up when the going gets a little tough. Because I can depend on everybody on the team.  And they can depend on each other, too.”

He says he has had his eye on Art and is ready to move him up in the organization.  Art said he appreciates the chance and Barberosa busts him, “I don’t like that word, chance.  I hand-pick the people who work for me and I look for one quality, dependability.”  Dude, how did you not see that coming!

Art says, “Well, you can depend on me.”  Good boy!  You’ll go far!

Barberosa has one last test for Art before promoting him.  He just did a deal with a man named Moran, and wants Art to deliver the payment; and then kill him.  He even gives Art an untraceable pistol.   Barberosa specifically instructs him to hand Moran the cash before killing him; which should be a tip-off that something is awry — why does it matter if he is going to kill Moran anyway.  He will get the new job if he can handle that hit; oh, and pass the typing test.

Art drives out to the Old Valley Winery — are there really any new valleys?  He looks around the dark winery.  The lights come on and Moran is holding a gun on him.  He demands that Art hand over the $10k which must be in $1,000 bills because the envelope is pretty slim.

They have a glass of wine while Moran goes on and on about Barberosa.  Moran offers a toast to Barberosa, “May his cheap heart burn in — hey, that’s pretty good, huh kid? — cheap heart burn.  Cheap heartburn, don’t ya get it?”  If he does, he’s smarter than me.  OK, heart and burn go together to make heartburn, but where does cheap fit in?  He specifically repeats it like it is a real bon mot but it is barely even a mot.

Over the next 15 minutes, Moran talks Art into joining his organization.  All Art has to do is betray (i.e. kill) Barberosa.  Art is convinced.  As he is leaving, Moran pulls a gun and tells him Barberosa will be disappointed that he flunked the dependability [1] test.  Bang!

Yeah, you could question why Moran let Art walk up the long stairway and get the high ground before pulling his gun.  Or you could question why Moran drank twice as much wine as Art if he knew he had a tough shot coming up.  Or you could question why Barberosa gave Art a revolver where he could even see there were no bullets in the chambers.[2]  But none of that matters.

They had a very talky episode that was redeemed with a good twist.  To make it palatable, they recruited four heavy hitters:  Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple, Fail Safe, Bad News Bears), Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE) [3], David White (Bewitched), and Tyler McVey (OK, three heavy hitters)[4].  Their big roles were in the future, but there’s a reason they had such success.

Matthau did the heavy lifting.  He had to make a 15 minute conversation tolerable, and pulled it off expertly.  The winery set, though small, was very well designed to allow for gloom, movement, casks and an interesting place for the conversation.

So, unlike Touché, we have a very talky AHP episode that works due to good performances.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] It finally hit me that loyalty was the word that should have been used throughout the episode.  But then they would have lost the piranha metaphor.  I guess a Cocker Spaniel wouldn’t have been exotic enough.
  • [2] OK, maybe there were dead bullets in the cylinders.  They weren’t blanks because all he got was a click.
  • [3] As an aside, I saw the Man from UNCLE movie last week.   I learned that Henry Cavill’s stiff portrayal of Superman is one thing you can’t blame Zack Snyder for.  But his suits are fabulous.
  • [4] To be fair, Tyler McVey had a huge career, he just never had a truly iconic role.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Anniversary Gift (11/01/59)

Hermie Jenkins tells a caged toucan, “Shut your stupid beak.  A dog gets house-broken in 3 months.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”  Well, what could the bird have possibly done wrong?  He sits on a perch in a cage and shits.  There’s not a lot of room for error.

Hermie takes care of his wife Myra’s menagerie.  She has cages of birds, monkeys, raccoons, etc and bowls of fish around the house.  Hermie is also kept on a pretty short leash as Myra gives him a shopping list for the animals’ food along with his $10 allowance.

Hermie’s neighbor George envies his “family” and 15 years of marriage.  His wife died 9 years earlier.  The homophobic transphobic fascist patriarchal h8er George says “a home ain’t a home without a woman.”  And speaking of transphoboic, WordPress better get their ass in gear and update their spellcheck dictionary unless they want trouble.

Given his own unhappy situation, Hermie comically just assumes George killed his wife (i.e. death by natural causes on AHP).  Turns out she died from pneumonia.  Strange this had never come up before — they live in Florida where “How did your [husband / wife] die?” is second only to “Hot enough for you?” in conversation starters.  George spent two years trying to get over his wife’s death.  He traveled to “Hawaii, Acapulco, Las Vegas, Monte Carlo” which sounds pretty good to Hermie. George laments, “Since she’s gone, my life is nothing but beer and fishing.”  Which also sounds pretty good.

After going to the store to buy brine shrimp, Hermie picks up Myra’s copy of Pet News.  He sees an ad for Hansel Eidelpfeiffer selling snakes by the seashore.  He drops the hint to Myra that “Snakes are the most affectionate pets in the world.  Everybody knows that.”  He tells her that snakes are great, just misunderstood.  He reminds her of “that act in Tampa you wouldn’t go see — the snake dance striptease?  That dame had ’em twining all around her.”  He convinces her she should get a little one and she says she could carry it around with her.

The next day, Hermie goes to see Hansel Eidelpfeiffer.  And if you’re going to have a Hansel Eidelpfeiffer, he should probably be played by Michael J. Pollard.  Hermie tells Hansel he is a professor working for “that Cape Canaveral thing”.  He says they need a poisonous snake for an experiment.  Hansel suggests a Coral Snake, very handsome with bands of black, red and yellow which might have been diversity overload for 1960s NASA.

He gives the snake to Myra as the titular anniversary gift.  From a safe distance, he tells her the snake loves to be used as a garter or a necklace.  Garter snake — ha, I just got that!  After unsuccessfully trying to make friends with the cold-blooded snake, she tosses it back to Hermie.  The snake bites him and he drops dead — literally just drops right of frame — in a classic death scene.

After the coroner arrives to collect Hermie’s body, now also cold-blooded, George finds the snake.  He and the coroner both identify it as a non-poisonous King Snake.

George assures the grieving Myra, “Hermie would never slip you a hot snake.”  No wonder she was such a shrew.  Heyoooooo!

Turns out Hermie had merely died of a heart attack, thinking Myra had just handed him a poison snake.

There is a lot to like here — several live animals, a real snake.  Barbara Baxley is entirely adequate as the controlling, emasculating, oblivious Myra.  I really did despise her, but I think it was more from the writing than the performance.  Hmmmm, maybe that means she played it just right.  She was childlike and pleasant, yet evoked those negative reactions. On second thought “well done!”

Harry Morgan, like The Wizard of Oz, is both great and terrible.  He wasn’t much of a nuanced actor. His stiffness worked for him in roles from Dragnet to MASH.  When he loosens up, it seems so against type, that it is pretty funny.  He milked a lot of good laughs out of this one.  On second thought, he was great too.

20 year old Michael J. Pollard was just magnificently odd as Eidelpfeiffer.  My only minor complaint is the handling of his character.  Both the coroner and George identified the snake as harmless, so I’m taking their word for it.  I just don’t see Eidelpfeiffer making that mistake. [1]

Great stuff.

More, More, More:

  • [1] For more background on the story and production, head over to bare*bonez e-zine.  Jack says Eidelpfeiffer took advantage of Hermie.  So I was wrong about that too.  Man, I suck at this.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Michael J. Pollard is the sole surviving performer.  However, director Norman Lloyd will be 103 in November.  Or maybe I should say, he is currently 102.
  • The 35th wedding anniversary is Coral, but I guess Hermie couldn’t wait that long.
  • On two occasions, Hermie calls Hansel “Assenpfeffer.”  What the hell?  [UPDATE] After some research (mostly of the theme to Laverne & Shirley), I guess he was mocking Eidelpfeiffer’s moniker by calling him “hasenfeffer.”
  • It has stuck with me for years that Harry Morgan on MASH once referred to snakes as a poison ropes.  That’s pretty good.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – No Pain (10/25/59)

Millionaire Dave Rainey — make that Six Million Dollar Man, Dave Rainey — is stuck in an iron lung. He’s pretty insistent on making sure everyone knows he’s worth six million.  I don’t know if people still know what an iron lung is — kids today, with their science and progress!  Actually, I never knew what was going inside those contraptions until I just looked it up.

The body from the neck down is sealed into metal tube.  A ventilator creates an oscillating atmospheric pressure inside to facilitate breathing.  It doesn’t seem like it would work, but people were’t spending years confined in these things for their health. Well, I guess they were in them for their health, but it was no fun.

Dave has a mirror angled over his face so he can see something other than the ceiling. His wife Cindy enters in a striped shirt over a bathing suit and a snazzy yachting hat. Their handsome pal Arnold has invited Cindy out on his boat.  In a brilliantly callous bit, Cindy uses Dave’s mirror — his sole lifeline to the horizontal world — to check her hair before boating off with another man.

While Cindy is gone, Nurse Collins turns the iron lung so Dave can see the ocean out their window just in time to see Arnold’s boat go by.  The nurse suggests that Dave should get out of the iron lung for 8 – 9 minutes as his doctor recommended.  Dave says he would rather just watch the boats. Although, really, who knows what he’s doing with his hands inside that thing.[1]

Dave flashes back to his days before the iron lung.  He and Cindy were having fun on the beach.  He tells her he’s “seen more cover on a loaf of bread” which I can make no sense of.  They start making out and Dave asks Cindy to marry him.  He admits he was a mug 5 years ago, but having six million in the bank has changed him.

At Dave’s invitation, Arnold sticks around for dinner after the cruise with Cindy.  When he drives the nurse to the bus station, Cindy and Dave are left alone.  After a few drinks, Cindy, the director, and the composer take a long look at the electrical cord that poweers Dave’s iron lung.  Dave says, “I hope it will be painless . . . however you planned it for tonight.  The killing, I mean.”  She asks when he first suspected.  She does unplug the ventilator, but she is just doing as the doctor prescribed.  She slides him out a few inches like a file cabinet.

While she pours herself a drink, she compliments Dave on how well he is taking the news that she is going to murder him.  She admits they had a few good years before his disability.  She tells him that now he is more dead than alive and, “You know me.  I was never meant for those nobler forms of solitaire.”  What the — is she talking about masturbation on TV in 1959?  After the almost-incest of Touché and the almost-cannibalism of Arthur, AHP’s slide into depravity is getting more explicit.  Well, the 1960s are just a couple of months away.

Cindy says seeing him in this condition, she almost thinks he wants to die.  He says, “I haven’t figured out yet why a man with six-million dollars would want to die.”  He was already worth six-million a few years ago before they got married.  What, is he keeping it buried in the back yard?  Make it work for you, dude!  She says, “I wonder if you know how unfair this whole thing is to me.”

Sadly, despite this intriguing premise, there is a huge lull in the middle of the episode.  Brian Keith has never been the most expressive actor other than conveying a coiled spring of rage.  He is just a strange choice to play the helpless Dave.  I guess it was to contrast his former virility with his current condition, but it doesn’t work.  This scene we are observing should be more about the mind than the physical body.

Joanna Moore’s low key performance does not help. Cindy had 5 drinks on the boat and 3 more after they returned.  Played slightly inebriated, this just drags the episode down even more.  I can imagine this scenario being suspensefully played out with a more intelligent, manipulative Dave, and Cindy arrogantly thinking she is in charge while he works her strings. Unfortunately, these two and the script just aren’t up to it.

There is a twist, but even that is kind of hum-drum.  There was just a lot of potential in this one that did not get exploited.  Of course, this still might be the best episode I watch this week.  The AHP bar is pretty high.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Upon further research, I see that he is probably paralyzed . . . I feel terrible.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.  However, if IMDb is to be believed, director Norman Lloyd, will be 103 in November and is still working. He was in Trainwreck with the odious Amy Schumer in 2015, and optimistically — dare I say quixotically — has a new series in development for 2018.
  • Joanna Moore (Cindy) was the mother of Tatum O’Neal.