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.


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.

Twilight Zone – The Elevator (01/31/86)

At a svelte 11 minutes, I’m not getting 500 words out of this one.  But that’s not a bad thing, as readers of this blog can attest.

Two brothers are curious what their father has been up to late nights at an old ware-house, although it only seems to require two nights per year.  They know he was doing some sort of experiments to produce cheap, plentiful food.

Inside, they find huge dead rats, then huge dead cats, then the titular elevator.

There is virtually no characterization, no story, no irony, no twist, no arc.  It raises a warehouse of questions that are never addressed.  And yet I really like it.  It is creepy and suspenseful.  The score doesn’t torpedo the segment as frequently happens on TZ.

It is just one of those short TZ time-fillers, but this one happens to work.

Good stuff.


  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Ray Bradbury wrote one episode.  This simple segment didn’t require a writer of his talent.  Luckily they did not use this on Ray Bradbury Theater.
  • The director of this segment also helmed one episode of RBT.
  • The actors portraying the brothers are 7 years difference in age and look every bit of it.  In a flashback, however, they both look about the same age as kids.

Twilight Zone – The Burning Man (11/15/85)

tzburningman01In 1936, Doug and his Aunt Neva are driving through the country.  An old man in a dirty white suit runs into the road and flags them down.  He climbs into the car without an invitation and tells Neva to drive off because the sun is after them.

He tells her that on days like today, it feels like the sun is going to split you wide open.  He says Lucifer was born on a day like this.

“Ain’t this the year when the 17 year locusts are supposed to come back?” he asks.  “If there can be 17 year locusts then why not 17 year people?”  This piques Doug’s interest for some reason.  The old man continues, “Sure, why not 24 year people or 57 year old people?”

Somehow this leads him to ask, “Who’s to say there ain’t genetic evil in the world?”  The car blows a tire and the man allows the old woman to change the tire herself, answering his own question.  He tells Doug to imagine that on a hot day like this, an ornery 57 [1] year man could be baked right out of the dried mud and arise.  That evening he would crack open like a snap bean and a new young human would emerge.

“I think I’ll eat me some Summer, boy.  Look at them trees, ain’t they a whole dinner?  And that grass down there, by golly there’s a feast.  Them sunflowers, there’s breakfast.  Tar-paper on top of that house, there’s lunch.  And Jehoshaphat, that lake down the road, that’s dinner wine.  Drink it all up til the bottom dries up and splits wide open.”

At this point, I think they need AA more than AAA.  Neva finishes changing the tire and inexplicably doesn’t leave the crazy bastard behind.

tzburningman05Doug says he is thirsty and the old man says, “Thirst don’t describe the state of a man who’s been waiting in the hot mud 50 years [2] and is born but to die in one day.  Not only thirst, but hunger!”  C’mon, you just had some tar-paper!

He yammers on — and by he I mean Bradbury — about eating all the cats in the county. [3]  When he finally, inevitably gets around to talking about eating people, Neva slams on the brakes and orders him out of the car.

Proving that he is not the only long-winded son-of-a-bitch in the car, she rants, “I got a load of bibles in the back, a pistol with silver bullets here under the steering wheel, I got a box of crucifixes under the seat, a wooden stake taped to the axle, and a hammer in the glove-box.  I got holy water in the radiator filled early this morning from three churches on the way.  Now out!”  And by she, I mean Bradbury.

They leave the old man literally in their dust.  Soon they arrive at a lake.  Whether this is their destination or just a chance to cool off, I don’t know.  God forbid we get 5 seconds of exposition between the monologues.  I guess a refreshing minute at the lake was the point of their drive.  Hearing some locusts, Doug gets the willies and asks if there is another road back to town.

tzburningman20They see a little boy in a clean white suit in the road.  Neva offers to drive him home.  After it gets dark, he leans in from the back seat and whispers to Neva, “Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as genetic evil in the world?”  The car stalls, the lights dim, then nothing. We couldn’t at least get a scream?  I think we deserve that.

This was like a flashback to Ray Bradbury Theater — not much of a story, monologues better-suited to the printed page, set when times were simple and presidential candidates weren’t, and an unsatisfying ending. Unfortunately an average episode of Ray Bradbury Theater equals a disappointment from TZ.

To be fair, Roberts Blossom as the old man delivers Bradbury’s poetic words as well as anyone on RBT.  And Danny Cooksey’s smile at the end is worth the price of admission.  As I seem to say for every segment — it’s OK, just not what I’m looking for from a Twilight Zone reboot.


  • [1] 47 year man in the short story.
  • [2] 30 years in the short story.
  • [3] Country in the short story.
  • The episode closely tracks with the short story, except for the flat tire.  Much of the dialogue is verbatim from the story.
  • TZ Legacy:  Sadly, none.
  • Roberts Blossom will show up in Amazing Stories if I last that long.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Design for Loving (11/09/58)

Charles Brailing is growing annoyed watching his wife play with a set of magic rings. Nothing so bold as presenting them as only intermittently interlocking — no, she’s just spinning the damn things like an idiot.

He calls his pal Tom. Tom’s wife Anne is playing kissy-face with her oblivious husband and refuses to hand over the phone as it is Tom’s night to stay home with her.  Charles tries to engage his wife in conversation, but she is not interested.  He suggests a vacation, but that somehow turns into her snapping at him for them having no children.

He takes her hands and she gasps as if something a little more intimate occurred.  She is astounded because he “hasn’t done that in years.”  She recalls a time when he once kissed her hand.  The lack of children is starting to make sense.  She gets on her knees and says she’ll go on a trip with him if he will only kiss her hand again.  Apparently that price is too stiff for Charles.  Or maybe he isn’t stiff enough.

Charles manages to get Tom on the phone and they agree to meet.  Lydia tells him to be home in 10 minutes.  Charles sneaks down to their basement and laments that he “gave her a chance.”

We cut to Tom & Charles stumbling out of a bar.  Charles complains that Tom’s wife doesn’t want him to go out because she loves him; and his wife doesn’t want him to go out because she hates him.  It’s a pithy line, but Charles clearly doesn’t have any idea what women want.  Not that Lydia is making it easy — she is alternately accusatory, frigidly cold, and pathetically needy. Charles makes the bizarre claim that he is at home with his wife as they are standing outside the bar.  Tom is drunk enough to take the bet. In easily the best moment of the episode, they stuff the ante into a lawn jockey’s hand for safe-keeping.

Sure enough, they look in the window and Charles appears to be inside with his wife. Charles II really knows how to light Lydia’s fire as they are both dressed in snappy outfits, playing chess.  Charles blows a whistle and the other Charles comes outside. Charles shows Tom a card from Marionette Inc which created a robot in his image. They card says he is a 1965 model [1], which is a very optimistic 7 years in the future.

Tom claims not to be able to tell them apart even though Charles II, made to his specifications, seems to have about 4 inches on Charles I.  I suspect Lydia would be thinking the same thing.  Charles I announces his intention to fly to Rio for some fun while the iron man services Lydia.  Say, maybe he does know what women want.

ahpdesing17Tom thinks this is a swell idea. But when he goes home, he is horrified to discover that his wife has beaten him to the punch and replaced herself with a robot.

Charles bought his robot to give Lydia a companion while he flew off to Rio and later, I suspect, Thailand. That plan could work, but Anne bought her robot to leave with her husband who didn’t appreciate her smothering him. She’s just going to end up annoying some other poor sap.  So her problem is not really solved.

Back at the Brailing house, Lydia starts to come on to Charles II, so Charles I literally blows the whistle and summons him back to the basement.

Charles II says he doesn’t like his box in the basement because it is too cramped. Charles I wittily proposes relocating to a closet which I suspect he has some experience of living in.  Charles II ominously tells Charles I that they Marionettes are far more advanced than the company is aware.  Charles II grabs the Rio ticket and stuffs Charles I in the box.

Tom shows up that the Brailing house and tells Charles that his wife has replaced herself with a Marionette.  Charles II tells him these are strange times when strange machines are moving into our lives and taking over.  Strange days indeed.

ahpdesing23That night, Charles II brings Lydia a martini in bed where she is still playing with the rings.  Even Charles II is annoyed at this.  He kisses her hand and takes the airline ticket out of his pocket.  He places it on the nightstand for reasons unknown.  Is he going to now take Lydia to Rio? Then how to explain the single ticket? Has he decided to cancel the trip and stay happily with Lydia?  Then he better not let her see that ticket or it will not be so happy.

There is an imbalance here that might have required an hour to remedy.  Tom and Charles are in the same situation, trapped — in their eyes — with an incompatible, annoying wife.  However, it is Tom and Lydia that will benefit from the new robots.  They will both be happier despite having been deserted by a spouse and being out $15,000 in 1965 (or 1985) dollars.  Or maybe that lack of symmetry is the point.

Overall it is a fine story, just done in by some weak characterizations and a couple of married schlubs who think themselves superior and entitled due to mores that were out-dated even in 1958.  No, I’m thinking of the lawn jockey scene.


  • [1] To be fair, when the card is shown, it says 1985.  Of course even in 2015 we have nothing like this technology.  That I’m aware of.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  If IMDb is to be believed, Norman Lloyd is 101 years old.
  • Title Analysis: All I can think of is that it was originally titled Designed for Loving and the ed got cut as being too suggestive.  Love really doesn’t play a role in the story.
  • Based on the same short story as the first episode of Ray Bradbury Theater. Luckily, I saw it years ago, thus did not need to rewatch it for this blog.  And I ain’t going back.  The story leaves it ambiguous as to whether Charles I or II is with Lydia.
  • Back at Tom’s house, we see a couple of signs of the future.  The light comes on automatically when he enters.  And there are faucets on the wall in the hallway to dispense coffee and orange juice.  Are these public utilities now?  Has “Big Beverage” bought off the local government?