Death at Dawn

Before the credits, Mr. Cameron of Cameron’s General Merchandise tells a man in his store that he won’t buckle under anybody’s threats. “Too bad,” says the fellow, who draws a pistol and kills Cameron on the spot. Mrs. Cameron screams, Hoss and Little Joe are outside loading supplies.

Virginia City is terrorized by a protection racket operated by wealthy Sam Bryant, hired “to keep order in the mines”. His man, Farmer Perkins, is arrested by the one lone sheriff, who swears in the Cartwrights to protect Mrs. Cameron. The trial under Judge Scribner on the circuit is adjourned because of the lady’s absence. At its resumption, Perkins is sentenced to death by hanging at dawn.

Bryant kidnaps Ben, threatens to hang him in retaliation, and sends a note saying as much to the sheriff. A second messenger is followed, but draws on the sheriff and is killed by Little Joe.

Adam gambles all on Sam Bryant’s mind. No-one’s ever laid a serious charge at his feet, if Ben were hanged, Bryant would be next, which is exactly what Ben tells him.

Perkins is hanged, Bryant shows up with Ben and is shot down by a disappointed henchman as “yellow” and “hiring other men to do his killing for him”.

Haas’ direction is calm, steady, proceeds by rapid dissolves and takes in the fine performances of Gregory Walcott as Perkins, Robert Middleton as Bryant, and Paul Carr as the giggling henchman.


Forecast: Low Clouds and Coastal Fog
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A lonely beach house is the setting. Surf bums drain a Mexican’s gas tank, kill his wife while he walks to a gas station, and come back later to kill the housewife who refused to help the stranded motorist, then burn her house down.

A neighboring writer with strange preoccupations is suspected of the initial murder, and the Mexican has vengeance on his mind, but both come to the rescue at the last.

These events are told obliquely, the surfers are friends of the housewife’s, nice young men who only later reveal what else they do for kicks.

The husband is away in San Francisco on a big deal, drives down in a hurry after the murder only to find her surfing with her friends, then flies back and is again socked in.

The direction is excellent, with a subtly bizarre turn from Dan O’Herlihy as the writer (watching what’s done to his work on television is a form of masochism he doesn’t enjoy), the blankness of the surfers (Chris Robinson, Peter Brown, Richard Jaeckel) slowly replaced with mania, Christopher Dark as Sanchez and Inger Stevens as the housewife.