Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 1, Part I (E1-E10)
Hitchcock television reviews tv series Alfred Hitchcock Presents spoilers
[#040] When I was a little kid, my family had a Saturday Night family time ritual: We'd get Little Caesar's pizza and watch Morgus the Magnificent, Tales from the Darkside, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Maybe not in that order, but whatever.
I recently stumbled upon AHP on Netflix, or at least just Season 1 of it, consisting of a whopping 39 episodes. I'm going to post quick summaries and reviews here for anyone interested in "watching with me". These are not going to be spoiler-free. After all, each episode is designed to have a plot twist. Some work better than others.
Since there are 39 episodes, I'll divide this into a four-parter with ten episodes in the first three and the final nine episodes in the fourth and final blog.
Here we go; Part One.
Episode 1: "Revenge"
There's a couple who just relocated from wherever to a trailer park due to the woman, Elsa, having some kind of mental breakdown. On the man's first day back to work, Elsa begs and pleads for him to stay with her. He says she'll be alright and off to work he goes. We then see her interact with her neighbor gardener lady who gives her a smug look when Elsa strips down to a 2-piece to sunbathe. When the man comes home from work, he's learned that Elsa has been attacked and that she had a flower in her grasp. When she comes to, she describes her attacker; a man with a suitcase and a gray suit. Having nothing else to go by, the investigation comes to a halt. The man decides to take matters into his own hands and takes Elsa on a long drive. He repeatedly asks her if anyone looks familiar. Soon enough, Elsa points out a guy with a grey suit and a suitcase and says "that's him". The car gets parked, the man follows the guy up to his hotel room and kills him with a wrench. The man returns to Elsa in the vehicle and they pull off again. She then points to another guy in a grey suit with a suitcase and says "that's him". The man looks over at her then back straight ahead as police sirens are heard and the scene fades out. Hitchcock fades in and explains that the man went to jail. This was obvious. What he should have pointed out is that the gardener lady was most likely the attacker. It was pretty clear that Elsa was unstable, and I predicted the plot twist that she was going to pick out someone else because she has no clue what's going on in the world around her anymore. This episode starred Vera Miles (Elsa) who also starred in Psycho & Psycho II. Frances Bavier (gardener lady) was also Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show.
Episode 2: "Premonition"
This one is about a guy named Kim who left home to live in Paris for four years to focus on his music career. He returned to his hometown with the intention of making amends with his father as they did not get along throughout the years. He is not welcomed home by the family attorney, who he bumps into first, nor is he welcomed by his own brother or sister-in-law. He notices his father's gun collection is collecting dust and demands to know where his gun-loving father is. Soon he learns that his father is dead and suspects dishonesty, especially after finding his father's hunting license which makes the death story illogical. He treks up to the mountains to a cabin in hopes that his father is actually in hiding from his twisted family. He finds his father's final resting place inside the cabin just by the fireplace. The plot twist in this one is that Kim's premonition is just his memory coming back to him. He is actually responsible for murdering his father four years ago and has just escaped an asylum; he was never living in Paris. This episode doesn't have any big names in the cast familiar to me, and it's also the same episode that made me realize that almost every single person on this show is now dead.
Episode 3: "Triggers In Leash"
This is my favorite episode so far of the three I've watched at this point. The entire thing takes place in one room and only four people. An old lady named Maggie runs a small restaurant in the middle of crossroads between towns. She has a goofy helper that she sends out to go get supplies, namely firewood and maybe something else I forgot. Two cowboys named Red and Dell had gotten into a scuffle the night before and have unfinished business. They cross paths in Maggie's roadhouse. They spend most of the episode talking trash and ready to draw their gun. Maggie spends most of this time trying to talk them out of killing each other and even prepares a meal for them. She even cuts steak for one of them while they continue to talk shit, stare at each other, and eat at a table. I laughed out loud when one of the cowboys knock the coffee cup over, which may have been a blooper that they kept in because it worked perfectly. Anyway, the cowboys make a deal with each other that no one shoots until the cuckoo on the cuckoo clock comes out. Maggie removes a large cross from the same shelf that the clock sits on, talking about how her husband got killed in a shootout and this cross is all she has left of him. She started getting religious on them when they realized that the clock stopped ticking, and that God wants them both to walk out alive and go their separate ways and live. The cowboys depart, and the goofy guy finally returns with the firewood. He and Maggie discuss how the shelf isn't level and that the clock won't work without the cross weighing down the shelf. This "plot twist" was predictable. Possibly so predictable that the real twist came after the story's conclusion when Hitchcock returns to the screen to say Maggie poisoned the meals so both cowboys died anyway. Cowboy Darren McGavin would later become the awesome dad in "A Christmas Story". Ellen Corby (Maggie) was in a shit ton of stuff throughout her life. Gene Barry too (he appears again in Episode 6).
Episode 4: "Don't Come Back Alive"
Couple Frank and Mildred are in a financial bind and he's out of work with no luck in sight. Frank schemes up a disappearing act for his wife Mildred, presumed dead. In order for Frank to collect on the life insurance policy, he has to wait seven years for her to officially be declared deceased. During this entire period, an insurance investigator suspects foul play and that Frank is a murderer. Mildred's attempts to have any contact with her husband are rebounded by Frank in an attempt to keep the investigator from the truth. Within hours of the seven year mark, Mildred returns to Frank to declare her love for someone else and that she wants a divorce. Naturally, this enrages Frank. He kills Mildred and buries her in the backyard. The next day the insurance guy comes to Frank's house to apologize for his allegations and notices fresh dirt. Frank says that he was doing some gardening and the guy offers to help. The scene fades out with the shovel digging where Mildred's body is buried. Sadly, don't remember what Hitchcock's epilogue is but I think it might be along the lines of Frank being busted, going to jail for life, and never seeing a penny of the insurance policy. Sidney Blackmer, Virginia Gregg, and Robert Emhardt star in this one.
Episode 5: "Into Thin Air"
This one was really fun. A young lady and her sick mother check into Hotel Madeleine in Paris. The sickness is rapidly taking over the mother, so the daughter has the hotel's inhouse doctor come and check her out. The doctor then sends her out to get a prescription takes a very long time to get filled. Upon returning to the hotel, there's no sign of her mother, the hotel room looks like a completely different place, and none of the staff recognize her. Sure of herself yet also confused, she turns to the embassy. Only one guy there takes her serious, so they both go back to the hotel, speak to the staff, and insist on seeing the room again. Once there, the girl rips the wallpaper down revealing the wallpaper she had previously described when she first entered the room with her mother. The girl learns that her mother had the bubonic plague and is now dead, and the whole scenario was a cover-up by the French authorities. Hitchcock's introduction to this story is that it had been done several times over (and this is film from 1955). I guess I don't watch enough stuff like this because I didn't know what the hell was going on; I was just as sure-of and confused-as the main character. Like I said, it was fun. This episode starred Pat Hitchcock, daughter of Alfred Hitchcock. She's STILL ALIVE at the ripe age of 88. Alan Napier would go on to become Alfred in the 1960s Batman TV series.
Episode 6: "Salvage"
This is my favorite episode so far. From circumstances I don't remember, the lead female character Lois is responsible for the death of a jailed mobster's brother. Said mobster, Dan, was just released from prison. When he goes to break into Louis' apartment to kill her, she's in tears because she just doesn't care about crappy life anymore and wants to die. She begs him to end her life. Getting zero satisfaction from this revenge attempt, Dan second-guesses himself and spares Louis' life and even convinces her to be business partners with him to get her back on her feet and make them both some money. Dan sinks money into the building, the supplies, and the advertising all while his mobster buddies try to talk some sense into him as he's spending all his time and money on the woman responsible for his brother's death! Dan even convinces Lois' ex-boyfriend to come back into her life. Once she exclaims that she is the happiest woman in the world, Dan basically says "good, bitch!" and kills her. I did not instantly realize what was going on in Dan's head, but when I did, I was grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the skit. That was great. Nancy Gates (Lois) gave up acting in 1969 and is currently 90. Gene Barry (Dan) was just in Episode 3 "Triggers In Leash". He's still dead. But seriously, this guy was awesome in both episodes. I wonder how many more he will appear on in this season. I could look it up, but I prefer the suspense of going into each episode blindly.
Episode 7: "Breakdown"
This was probably my least favorite episode so far. It starts off with a pointless scene depicting the main character, Mr. Callew, being an asshole boss and firing some poor employee whom we never see again. There are several other characters too and none of them are seen again either. So yeah, pointless. The next scene we see Callew driving from work to I guess his home but he gets detoured down a dirt road due to some construction or something, I forget. An idiot driving a tractor t-bones his car and Callew is left paralyzed sitting upright in his bashed car. The remainder of the skit is 20 minutes of Callew not shutting the fuck up; never-ending internal monologue as a group of people come and steal stuff out of his trunk, then another group of people steal the clothes off his back. As he enters a morgue, Callew loses all hope and his tears alert the morticians that he's still alive and the credits roll. Jesus Christ. I went to work the next day and talked to a co-worker about how much this episode sucked. As I was explaining it, he finished the story and said he never saw the episode but that it was made into a full-blown movie. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!? This story was written by Louis Pollock (cool story, bro). Joseph Cotten (Callew) was a very busy actor in his lifetime and died in 1994.
Episode 8: "Our Cook's A Treasure"
This is another great episode. Husband and wife, Ralph & Ethyl, hire a new housemaid named Ms. Sutton. Ralph is frustrated that every morning, Ms. Sutton is already up and looking through his newspaper, which he likes in pristine (undevirginized in his own words) and unread condition. On Ralph's walk to the station with a neighbor-coworker, they talk about the front page news how some serial killer woman is on the loose. Ralph complains that he never read the paper because his maid had it. Later at work, Ralph then gets bad stomach cramps. He comes home to find a can arsenic in the garage while doing some cleaning (or something) in there. He starts researching this serial killer lady and is piecing together what is happening to him. Suspecting that the maid is continuously poisoning his hot cocoa each morning, he takes a sample to have tested. Sure enough, there's evidence of arsenic; enough to kill someone in a week's time of continued consumption. Without actually saying it, he warns his wife to stay out of the house if he isn't there so she isn't alone with Ms. Sutton. When Ralph gets home from work, he fires Ms. Sutton. While she is packing her belongings to leave, Ralph learns that the serial killer has been caught, so he tries to make amends and keep Sutton on the job. She declines, stating that she is miserable working for them as she has been covering up for Ethyl, who has been having an affair with some actor that she's been starring in a play with. Ms. Sutton leaves the house. The skit ends with Ethyl (who is unaware that Ralph is in the know) offering a cup of hot cocoa to her husband. Like I said, great episode! I never saw that coming. Everett Sloan (Ralph) died from an overdose in 1965 at age 55. He was in "Citizen Kane" along with Joseph Cotten (from episode 7). Janet Ward (Sutton) died much later in 1995 at age 70. She appeared in 2 episodes of Kojack and 1 episode of Law & Order, among other stuff. Beulah Bondi (Ethyl) was previously in "It's A Wonderful Life". She died in 1981 at age 91, by tripping. Over a cat. Yep.
Episode 9: "The Long Shot"
Yet another good one here. The opening bar scene shows main character Charlie Raymond a gambling addict strapped for cash and owing some guy who calls looking for him a payment of $40k. Charlie sees an ad in the paper posted by a man named Walker Hendricks who needs a driver to get him to San Francisco. Mr. Hendricks needs someone who knows a lot about London, for reasons made obvious to the viewer/audience but not to Charlie. During the trek, the two head downstairs to the hotel bar for a nightcap, which is when Charlie slips away to still Hendricks' wad of cash out of a suitcase, but finds documents showing he's about to inherit a $200k estate which is why Hendricks needs to get to going to Cali in the first place, to see the attorney and finalize the claim. Charlie hatches a scheme and ultimately leaves Hendricks' dead body in the Nevada desert so that he can pose as Hendricks and collect the estate. When he gets to the attorney office, the police are there to capture the fraud. The twist is that Walker Hendricks was murdered years ago and Charlie traveled all this way with a convict known as English Jim. If you pay close attention to the dialogue in the car, you figure out early on this this Walker Hendricks guy is hiding something and is really just learning as much as he can about London. I'm referring to conversation of the mix-up with the deceased barkeep and her look-alike daughter. My favorite line is from the acquaintance of Charlie who randomly finds him at that hotel bar. Charlie asks him if he's sure of a bet they discuss, and the guy's response is, "This, death, and taxes!" Peter Lawford (Charlie) was in 32 episodes of Dear Phoebe and 72 episodes of The Thin Man. He was also in Lucille Ball and Judy Garland. Literally. John Williams (English Jim / Fake Hendricks) was in eight more episodes of this very series, plus Family Affair, Twilight Zone, Columbo, and (my favorite TV series) Mission: Impossible.
Episode 10: "The Case of Mr. Pelham"
This makes three awesome episodes in a row. I'd rank this better than Episode 9, though. Right of the bat we have Mr. Pelham ordering a drink in the bar. The bartender asks him about his usual drink, and Pelham says no he'll have something else instead, with an inquiring look in his face. So within seconds we're already exposed to the meat of the story without even knowing it. Pelham bumps into his psychologist friend who demands they have lunch so he can explain his observations and theories about a man posing as him. During the course of this skit, you get a strong impression that Pelham is suffering from a mental illness, perhaps split personality or schizophrenia. And you'd be kind of right, as when Pelham mixes up his daily routine he finds his exact "clone" in his clothes and in his home and has a mental breakdown, being locked away for the rest of his life while the imposter takes over Pelham's life. Tom Ewell (Pelham), who looks a lot like the guy Dick York on Bewitched, went on to star on the Tom Ewell Show (imagine that!) but it only lasted one season. He died in 1994 at age 85. Raymond Bailey (the psychologist guy) went on to become Milburn Drysdale in the Beverly Hillbillies. He died in 1980 at 75.
A quick ranking of these ten episodes from best to worst, including solid story (no loopholes and a working twist) and acting. "Triggers In Leash" would have probably been ranked #2 or #3 had it not been for the weak twist/ending I mentioned, but the acting and tension was good enough to keep it in the top five. "Breakdown" sucks no matter what angle you look at it.
Best ---> Episode 6: "Salvage"
---------> Episode 8: "Our Cook's A Treasure"
---------> Episode 10: "The Case of Mr. Pelham"
---------> Episode 5: "Into Thin Air"
---------> Episode 3: "Triggers In Leash"
---------> Episode 9: "The Long Shot"
---------> Episode 4: "Don't Come Back Alive"
---------> Episode 1: "Revenge"
---------> Episode 2: "Premonition"
Worst -> Episode 7: "Breakdown"
Well, that's it for Part One. the next one will cover Episodes 11 through 20. As of this writing I haven't watched any of them yet, so these posts will be about 1-2 weeks apart. That gives plenty of time for discussion for these ten episodes. What do you think? Leave a comment below!