Alfred Hitchcock Presents – A True Account (06/07/59)

A reel-to-reel tape tells us, “The following is a true and full account and hereby sworn by me, Paul Brett, Attorney at Law.”  Dang, you had me right up til that last part.  The tape continues on, leading into a flashback . . .

Mrs. Cannon-Hughes comes to Brett’s office and tells him she knows of a murder that was committed.  He agrees consulting a lawyer is a prudent move and bills her four hours.  She begins her story, leading us into the rarely seen flashback within a flashback.  Or is it three-deep, with the tape being the first flashback, Mrs. C-H being the second, and her recollection being the third?  This is why Inception didn’t win the Oscar vote . . . or did it?

Miss Cannon is a live-in nurse to the elderly Mrs. Hughes.  We join the story just as Mrs. Hughes croaks from natural causes (“natural causes” on Alfred Hitchcock Presents = MURDER!).  Mr. Hughes keeps her on the payroll until the funeral, then gives her a severance check.  It isn’t long, however, before Mr. Hughes gives her a call.

She puts on her white uniform, white shoes and white cap and goes to casa de Hughes. When she gets there, she finds this was just a ruse to get her to go to a concert with him.  She eagerly accepts.  Things progress quickly through the concert phase, dinner phase, driving to the airport phase, and now he is helping her paint her living room. After a few horizontal strokes of latex — has this guy ever picked up a paint brush before? — he asks her to go away with him.  Soon they are married.

Once back from the honeymoon, she feels Mr. Hughes has become “distant, hard to reach”, perhaps fearing another room needs painting. He refuses to let her see her old friends.

One night, she notices he is not in bed.  She gets up to look for him, but he sleepwalks into the bedroom.  He mutters, “Here, drink this and go back to sleep.  I know you took some earlier, but this is doctor’s orders.”  He goes through the motions as if giving medicine to his dead wife.  So we have a ultra-rare sighting of a flashback within a flashback within a flashback.  Or is it . . . nevermind, it’s getting late.

She tells Brett that she suspects murder because he never should have given his wife that medicine; that was her job.  Brett suggests that maybe their marriage is an insurance policy — Hughes married her just in case there were questions, and a wife can’t testify against her husband in TV court [1].  She says that if he knew she saw him sleepwalking he would kill her!

I’ll say this for AHP, they get right to it — the next shot is at her funeral with Brett in attendance.  Zing!  It is staged so that it is impossible to see until the end — this is Mr. Hughes funeral, not hers.  Kudos!

On the reel-to-reel, Brett tells us the coroner has ruled Mr. Hughes’ death a suicide. This leaves the new Mrs. Hughes very rich; she asks Brett to help settle the estate.  Before long he is touching her hand.  Soon he will be making some horizontal strokes of his own; coincidentally, also in latex. [2]

One night after they are married, his wife is having a nightmare.  She says, “Drink this, Mrs. Hughes. Have another dose.  Mrs. Hughes, I know you took some earlier, but you have to have another dose.  Drink it.”

Brett continues on the tape stating that he believes she committed two murders and would kill him if she suspected he was on to her.  That is very perceptive as we see him lying dead on the floor as the tape plays.  His wife washes the glass that contained the poison, and tosses the tape into the fireplace.

Hitchcock returns for his usual closing remarks.  Or was this whole episode a flashback by him?  And was that framed in a flashback to 1959 by Hulu?  And am I flashing back in recalling it now?  And will you flashback as you remember reading this in a few days?  Probably a “no” on that last one.

Good stuff.


  • [1] This doesn’t make much sense.  How would spousal abuse ever get prosecuted? Or maybe it didn’t in the 1950’s.
  • [2] Just an assumption on my part on his part.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.
  • Mrs. Cannon-Hughes-Brett gets no first name, but three last names [UPDATE below].
  • For a more in-depth look at the episode and its source material, check out bare*bonez e-zine.  Jack says Miss Cannon’s first name is Mabel in the original story and Maureen on AHP.  I was going by IMDb, which is on thin ice with me anyway after deleting the IMDb Message Boards — now how will I know the worst movie ever?
  • Miss Cannon has a roommate well-played by Marlon Brando’s sister.  If you grew up with Marlon Brando, could rooming with a serial killer be any crazier?
  • There is a strange opening vignette where a cute nurse is taking Hitchcock’s blood pressure.  He is lying on a table with a sheet over him.  As he ogles her pumping the device, a bulge emerges from his mid-section.  This really was a different time.

Twilight Zone – Gramma (02/14/86)

There is just not a lot to grab on to here, but that is a reflection on my deficiencies, not the segment’s.  For almost all of the run time, the only character is 11 year old George and he is very good.

The story taps into some shared but seldom discussed fears:  Fear of the otherness of really old people, fear of responsibility, and fear of helplessness.  And all are handled well.  There is some witchery involved, but the human elements are the scariest.

George is left alone with his Gramma while his mother goes to see his brother in the hospital.  The ancient, morbidly obese, intermittently senile old woman is terrifying to George under the best of circumstances.  When he is the temporary man of the house, his anxiety escalates.

I watched it, then watched it two more times with different commentaries, then read the short story.  Both the segment and the story are very good.  The short story really didn’t need to be 28 pages, but that’s typical Stephen King.

And that’s about all I have to say about that.


  • Based on Stephen King’s short story in Skeleton Crew.  I have the hard-back with a cover price of $18.95.  That would be $42 in today’s dollars so I must have bought it hugely discounted at CostCo.  I’m not sure I ever actually read this story since it was the 3rd to last story and I have a habit of bailing before I finish anthologies.
  • There is a toy monkey on the kitchen counter that looks suspiciously like the one on the cover of Skeleton Crew.

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.

Twilight Zone – Nightcrawlers (10/18/85)

tznightcrawlers1I have nothing clever to say.

Which has certainly never stopped me from my obligatory daily post before.

Maybe it is the serious subject matter — a Viet Nam vet having psychological problems.

Or maybe just because it is just a really fine episode.

Sadly it does not seem to be on YouTube or Hulu.  Wherever you happen to find it, it is well-worth a watch.  Some places cite it as the best segment of the series and I can believe that.  [UPDATE — YouTube link in Comments]


  • The original short story by Robert McCammon is followed almost exactly.  The only significant difference is a visit from a couple of Men in Black at the end of the print version.
  • And whatever happened to that hot agent at the end of MIB?  That’s the sequel I wanted to see.


Fear Itself – The Sacrifice (06/07/08)

In place of the increasingly tedious Tales From the Crypt, I selected the one-and-done season of Fear Itself that I had always intended to watch.  Technically, it is season 3 of the Masters of Horror series which had aired on Showtime.  Showtime opted to dump MOH as prettier girls such as Dexter and Weeds [1] began actually making people aware of the network’s existence.  NBC then picked up the series as a companion to their other fictional horror show, MSNBC.

fearitselfsacrifice03Little things matter.  Usually little things matter correspondingly little; but you never know. Thus, it was not taken as a good omen that the packaging for the series was among the worst in history, or at least since the Homer’s Head season of the Simpsons.  Or, really, any season of Herman’s Head.[2]  But, I digress.

The Outside:  The probably-sounded-good-at-the-4:30-on-Friday-meeting case consists of a rounded 3D plastic tombstone with a 3D skeleton molded into it.  This slides down into a little cardboard sleeve which has the episodes listed on the inside.  Some probably like this design, but I like my DVD cases like my women — flat on top.  No, wait.

fearitselfsacrifice04The Inside:  Opening the case creates two disappointments.  The first is immediate as a little black rubber ring falls out onto your lap and rolls under the desk behind the power-strip where it is difficult to reach and you realize how long it has been since you vacuumed (your yardage may vary).  This is used to protect the the facing DVDs from scratching each other — that would be the double-sided flipper DVDs with no listing of the Titles on them.

The Content:  Again, a couple of issues.  First, the menu screen loads and runs for an interminable 45 seconds before listing the episodes.  First, why are these animated screens on DVDs even a thing, much less often touted as a feature?  For our 45 second investment, we get a wet window with FEAR ITSELF fingered into the condensation, and not much else.  Second, when you see the titles, ya might think the episodes would be in the order aired.  But no — remove disc one, flip it to play side 2 for the premiere.  And WTF — 2 episodes per side?  They could have gone for 4 per side and actually put snazzy episode listings on one side.  Based on the crummy resolution, they had plenty giga-acres of space available.  However, credit where it is due — this is the rare horror series to instill me with a sense of dread even before it started.

On the other hand, I must say the first episode is pretty awesome.

fearitselfsacrifice09The very first shot is simple but feels perfect — a nicely composed muddy road with the remains of a snowstorm still piled on the sides.  An SUV roars by carrying the brain-trust of Point, Lemon, Diego and Navarro.  Lemon is taking care of the injured Navarro in the back seat.  Telling Diego to stop smoking like a chimney might have helped.  We are left to put the pieces together, but it is pretty clear that they had a Reservoir Dog Day Afternoon — just with a lot more flannel.

The SUV jolts and grinds to a stop.  Point and Diego get out and see what appears to be the vehicle’s drive shaft lying in the mud a few yards back.  They see smoke on the horizon, so begin walking across a large snowy field to seek help.  As Navarro can’t walk, they pack him into a canoe and drag it with them — sadly, there is no scene of them running the rapids in a travois.  This is forgivable, however, as we get some great Fargo-esque shots of them trekking through the snow.  The camera draws back to show a figure with a rifle watching them.

fearitselfsacrifice14After a few interesting shots of Lemon dragging the canoe across the snow, they arrive at an old fort.  Again, the show exceeds expectations — this is not only a great, substantial wooden fort, it has an unsettling array of animal horns and antlers plastered across its face.  As with every show I’ve watched for this blog, the men have no hesitation in opening the door and walking right in.

They find 3 hot blonde sisters living at the fort.  Chelsea stitches up Navarro’s wound; also his mouth.  The smoking hot Virginia lures Diego into a barn where she promptly tricks him into falling down a well — but one o’ them wells with an iron door which she closes against his protests.

Point and Lemon are treated to a meal by the Chelsea and the mute Tara.  Things start going off the rails as Point discovers Navarro’s body which now also features a stake through the heart.  Also, he finds a man chained in the same room as bait for a creature.  The creature then finds Diego in the well.

fearitselfsacrifice20Virginia, quite the little Rambo, then manages to whack Lemon in the head and string him up by his feet.  Point finds a room full of license plates hanging by strings.  The girls have been luring men, and not in the good way.  What appeared to be pieces that had fallen off the truck were actually junk left in the road by the girls to force stranded travelers to their fort.  As long as they feed the creature, it will stay within the fort and not go out into the world.  That is the titular sacrifice the girls have made.

There are a few problems with the story.  The production is so well-designed and some of the performances are so good, though, that it doesn’t matter.  Guns, a vampire, rolling heads, fire, and a heartbreaking twist.  What more could you want?

No time was sacrificed in the viewing of this episode.


  • [1] To be fair, Stargate was also in its 27th season at the time.
  • [2] Again, to be fair, I recall Herman’s Head being a pretty good show.  I just couldn’t think of any other shows with Head in the title.
  • Lemon went on to play Todd on Breaking Bad.
  • Filmed at Fort Edmonton Park in Canada.
  • Based on The Lost Herd which is available here.  The episode follows the short story in only the most superficial ways.  There is a fort occupied by three women, and some dudes show up.  The names of 2 men — cowboys in the story — are the same; Joplin is inexplicably changed to Navarro.  Maybe screenwriter Mick Garris prefers alternative rock to ragtime.  Whatever he was listening to when he did the adaptation, it worked because he made an iffy story into a very good episode.

The short story pales in comparison to the episode, but even standing alone it has problems. If I dare indulge in some kettle-shaming, the writing just isn’t very good.

  • A 30-year old woman is described a “a girl with the experience of a woman.”  Upon seeing her, one of the cowboys “wrapped his hands around his saddle horn.”
  • Virginia is described as “thin” but later is said to be built for comfort rather than speed.  That is a jarringly anachronistic phrase to use in a story set in the old west.  But then, as speed at the time was represented by a horse, maybe comfort would equal thin.
  • Chelsea is described as heavier than her sister, but later Ray’s hand “could almost wrap itself completely around the soft top of her leg.”  And even for the thin sister, that would be anorexically thin.
  • Chelsea reaches inside Ray’s pants and says, “If you loosen my pistols, I’ll loosen yours.”  What could that even mean?
  • Ray rips open Chelsea’s shirt and “her skin was cleaner under the clothesline, as if the material had protected her from the dirt.”  That does seem to fall within the job description of clothing.  And the use of clothesline as if it were like timberline is distracting.
  • I keep rereading the last 3 lines of the story and can’t make sense of them.  But then I never could figure out the last line of Stephen King’s version of The Mist either.  Maybe it’s just me.