A Bullet for Baldwin
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A clerk in an investment banking firm is fired for incompetence after an insignificant lapse, and kills his boss.

The following Monday morning, everything is as it was before, the boss is alive and smiling, the other partner in the firm even gives the clerk a raise. Stress is thought to have caused his hallucination.

But the partner really is dead, replaced by an actor at the other’s behest, with the idea of floating spurious stock and joining the widow elsewhere.

The clerk is thought to be a loose end after all, and is fired. Exactly as before, he takes a revolver from his desk and shoots his boss, this time the other one. But now he doesn’t face the prospect of a weekend racked with guilt, persuaded as he is that it’s all in his mind.

The great performance by John Qualen is ably seconded by Philip Reed as the polished schemer, and Sebastian Cabot in a dual role (his American accent as the actor is rare). The scene is laid in “San Francisco, 1909”, to accommodate the revolver.


Safe Conduct
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

They’re “throwing gold watches down the midway” over there behind the Iron Curtain, an American lady reporter is all but obliged to conclude while visiting.

A tortured bishop’s dogged utterance on microfilm is the goods.

Hitchcock wears Lang’s eyepatch for this tale aboard a train to West Germany.


Nightmare in 4-D
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Jane Austen might have written this, in the sour frame of mind with which she regarded Georgie Porgie. It is, relative to her acerbity, enormously detailed, but it comes to the same thing.

The husband in 3-D helps the struggling actress in 4-D with her groceries. She’s just won her first Broadway part, she has champagne, a friend is coming over.

At two a.m. she knocks on his door. Her friend is dead, shot from the fire escape. They carry the body down to the basement.

His wife is wise to his flirtations. The police learn she’s been seeing the friend in her loneliness. The husband reads crime novels, they give him nightmares. He was watching television at the time.

The police know this because the lady upstairs called down to complain. The wife is innocent, she took the call.

Amid the mad intricacy, it’s the husband who slipped out the window and down the fire escape to kill his rival. Next morning, it all seemed a dream to him, a nightmare in which he had to go a second time to recover the sash of his robe where he dropped it, under the body in the basement. But the sash isn’t stuffed in his robe pocket, it’s right through the loops where he left it. And when he goes downstairs to look, the body is gone. There’s a police lieutenant standing there instead.


The Night the World Ended
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Newspaper headline, as a joke. The stumblebum tries to make his last hours happy, do good works, all a shambles. The joker gets the punchline.


Martha Mason, Movie Star
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A wife in her own world, girded by night for her beauty sleep, caught up by day in her identification with the title character, star of Forgotten Woman, a face on a magazine cover.

The punchline is part of the joke, so sublime it fuses ineluctably.

The dull husband fertilizes the garden, away with another woman who calls the police to report her lover missing.

The beauty, as in “Revenge”, is the wife’s surprise.

Hitchcock introduces between trips to Mars and Venus.


The West Warlock Time Capsule
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The small-town memorial to a long-serving horse (named Napoleon, as it happens) stuffed for posterity includes a time capsule for a century hence, as well as the taxidermist’s brother-in-law, under the stress of circumstances (cp. McCarey’s Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!).

Hitchcock the deer poacher.


The Indestructible Mr. Weems
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Knights of the Golden Lodge are businessmen as well, confusing the two functions a lodge member digs a pit for his fellows and is the first to fall therein.

Hitchcock resting in “this draughty studio”.


Miss Paisley’s Cat
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The mocking super and vulgar bookie each have a part to play in its death, the one is executed for the other’s murder, its owner at length remembers and confesses.

Hitchcock, butcher of “contented mice”.


Night of the Execution
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

As Hitchcock points out with a recondite joke about the Elvis Presley grenade and the old lady’s apple, the Fall of Man.

Prosecuting attorney wins a case, a political career beckons, another man confesses, the future governor quashes the testimony on his wife’s urging, the result is another homicide, particularly gratuitous.


The Odyssey of Flight 33
The Twilight Zone

The absolute surrealism of this episode is a continuous narrative. A stewardess enters the cockpit and jocularly announces that her colleagues are eager to land, some having dates, one going to the opera, and one available if there are any takers. The captain feels a sudden surge, a tailwind carries the plane forward at a fantastic pace, they experience a “sound shock wave”. Out of radio contact with the ground, and flying above the clouds, they descend to observe landmarks. New York is denuded of buildings and people, only the forest primeval being sampled by an ithyphallic brontosaurus.

They regain altitude to repeat the experiment. The first stewardess tells the operagoer that a real Valhalla is looming, and she is to maintain a “coffee, tea or milk” demeanor. A second descent reveals the city, and radio contact is made with Idlewild, which denies all knowledge of the airline, of radar or of jets, but invites the crew to land according to the demands of fuel. The runway is short, they prepare to land anyway, and below them see the Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 World’s Fair. They regain altitude to repeat the experiment.

The script is related both to Fellini’s “Toby Dammit” (in Histoires Extraordinaires) and the television series The Time Tunnel as well.


The Rip Van Winkle Caper
The Twilight Zone

Homage to a great American author from another. Washington Irving’s story is about a man who goes to sleep in a colony belonging to the Crown and wakes up in a state belonging to the Union.

Serling combines the parable of the talents to create a future in which hoarded gold is worthless because the commodity has become a manufactured article.

The construction is based on identifiable models such as Stroheim’s Greed and Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Kubrick was evidently struck by the upraised arm and the automobile of the future, two pivotal images in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Thematic interrelationships among the various Twilight Zone episodes are many and profound, often to a surprising degree. An idea is developed or considered from another angle, or given a comic reversal, which obtains here by comparison with “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”, for instance, or “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air”.


No Time Like the Past
The Twilight Zone

The stuff of human perversity is so constant that in every age men seek out nonsense and will have it.

That is the essential formulation of a key Serling idea, that one is living in the past if one knows better, surrounded by those who, in their time, cannot see the future that is one’s present.

Even to try is vain, “going back” to address difficulties that are not yet perceived by one’s fellows.

Most importantly, and that in a devastating way, the realization that one’s efforts make for historical disaster, as expressed here in a fire caused by wrestling with a patent medicine drummer in order precisely to keep such a fire from breaking out.

The ills of our time, analyzed and understood.


The Quiet Warrior

Lt. Hanley is advancing through woods at night in the rain. Shells land nearby, he flings himself face-down in the mud. Battalion HQ has orders for him, his face caked with mud he sits on a transport plane, showers and sips a drink in the cocktail lounge of the Hotel Savoy, London.

He is to accompany an OSS man on a secret mission to extricate a French physicist, on the strength of a youthful acquaintance. There is a similarity to Lang’s Cloak and Dagger.

J.D. Cannon provides the portrait of an agent. He is calm, natural and cheerful, with a working London cover as a brash American journalist. In France he is a careless villageois or a hatchet-faced German officer.

One of his Maquis associates is a traitor, he gives each of them a different rendezvous point, then explains to all at once what he has done, they will climb the belltower together and see where the Germans have gone to meet them. “OK,” he concludes, “let’s go to church.” The traitor bolts and is shot by a German sentry.

Hanley knows better than to volunteer, he accepts the assignment for an old college chum, the physicist’s son, an exchange student killed by the Gestapo in a previous unsuccessful attempt at escape.

Levitt’s teleplay introduces two recondite terms of use in this branch of service, “exfiltration”, which simply means getting back out once you’re in, and “authentification”, looking like you belong there.


The Night of the Human Trigger
The Wild Wild West

The earthquake motif has a series of duple subsets, the two giant sons (Thaddeus and Hercules), the two inept henchmen (Sidney and Sam), the pendulum switch attached to West per the title.

The mad scientist is Orkney Cadwallader, Ph.D., LL.D., chairman of the geology department at Harvard, out to turn Wyoming into a sovereign Utopia by setting off quakes and claiming possession.

His beautiful daughter Faith is all for chores, but fears there won’t be a man left in Wyoming for her.

Gordon is briefly an admiring colleague from the University of Vienna in pith helmet and side whiskers.

“From Antigone to Electra... the whole gamut of Greek drama,” by way of dynamite applying pressure on a fault.