Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The secondary or background material of Wilder’s Double Indemnity (nurse and invalid), presented with the rest as forming the basis of a taped narrative from the third victim.
The Last Remains
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Ed Gardner and John Fiedler, two nonpareils, in the one about the toymaker and the mortician, a case of executive murder and irreducible evidence.
Hitchcock walks the plank.
The Tender Poisoner
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The initiation of this tour de force by Horn is in the subtle rhythm of the opening conversation at a restaurant table between Howard Duff and Dan Dailey, but even before that, it’s there in the casting and in the actors’ treatment of the roles. The very strangeness of this is seen in all the players as a counterpoint to some spectacular effects like the night exterior with rain and accident, the study of these performances is very worthwhile for their concentrated mummery set into counterpoint with each other as well.
The secret is an open revelatory punchline at the end to spring it all like a jack-in-the-box, which Horn and Heller (from Bingham) deal out in small but firm increments well short of the finish. An insidious chess move here, a bit of prestidigitation there, the closing of the trap and the simultaneous possibility of a very happy ending or two.
Duff is unusually light, sober, considerate, reflective and keen, Dailey wears a pair of glasses that put him in a somber, smoldering sort of backwater. Philip Reed as the paramour is unrecognizable again in another crumbling fašade, Bettye Ackerman is highly acute as the widowed mistress, and the wife is played by Jan Sterling with an amazing sense of innocent duplicity.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
The components are suspense and surprise, a Hitchcockian demonstration.
“Fear gas” sinks the Polidor at crush depth, Seaview descends to investigate. An enemy agent is aboard.
The gas turns deadly in a matter of hours, Horn places the wrong lens on to render alarm.
An hour is needed to expand the sense of fear, which is dispelled by knowledge of its cause, as the nerve gas is raised to the ceiling by heating the sub.
Lloyd Bochner is the agent, Edgar Bergen the scientist in charge. Capt. Crane almost loses his wits, Adm. Nelson is more afraid of failure (the Polidor was his design).
The castle is a feint to make the monster feel at home. He is hoist on his own petard after all the dumbshow.
“Operation Rogosh” begins at the Knickerbocker Hotel, and ends outside the false Stefan Castle with the monster restored to his associates, who have seen him in the enemy’s hands.
The plot is to destroy the waterworks of Los Angeles with botulin. The lapse of time comes from 36 Hours, the encouragement from Beat the Devil, and the trial scene from The Defector or The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.
This is played on three levels, the Iron Curtain’s parlor medium links hands and calls the widow home, the Impossible Missions Force engineers a projection with a contrary purpose, and a psychic allied with them interprets signs and trumps the medium.
There is a running image of bees and flowers. Zubrovnik wasn’t killed but taken captive, it was the beekeeper who died. It is divined at length that Zubrovnik is now dead, and the medium dies covered with bees.
An extraordinary passage has Barney and Rollin attempting to open a trunk when the door closes and locks. Barney rummages in this storeroom and finds a coil of wire and a metal rod, to which he applies an electric cord, creating an electromagnet that slips the bolt.
The Short Tail Spy
He has no “lever of love”, no ties. His opponent within the assassination service of the adverse party is a colonel who passes himself off as a Texan.
Cinnamon is mixed into this. Briggs addresses the Texan by his military rank, the colonel suspects the short tail spy of betraying him. The older man with his “WWI methods” is humiliated in a confrontation, the love affair with Cinnamon lands the short tail spy in even worse humiliation, ending his career. The professor guarded by the Impossible Missions Force laughs with wonderment at these Americans.
Horn films the affair in a suite of setups (tennis, driving, dining) nearly as fast as the flash and freeze-frame of the IMF trap.
Amid all the superb acting, Albert Dekker’s colonel is a tribute to Emil Jannings. Julian Barry’s script rises to a point of comedy. “Lovely reception,” says Cinnamon after allowing her radio transmitter to be discovered at a cocktail party.
The Reluctant Dragon
It’s a question of extricating a Soviet scientist whose wife has defected, but the poor man wants to prove himself to the authorities as a good comrade.
Joseph Campanella plays this part with inspiration and mastery even before he appears, his dossier photo is a truly Russian portrait.
Rollin is inserted as an East German assistant police chief on a training mission, who recommends the scientist be shown the hospitality of the State, in order to make him confess his Western leanings. In prison, the good doctor finds his teachers and colleagues, some of them elderly men, and begins to doubt himself. He’s released, still protesting his innocence, and by and by is brought to the West.
The inspiration comes from the representation of a Soviet-bloc film studio (Cinefot), and a peculiarly elegant script. Cinnamon’s audition footage of A Doll’s House (Act III) sets the stage for the IMF filming the studio filming American soldiers violating the Geneva Convention, which is spliced into news footage with Hitchcock’s Rope trick.
Horn takes Cinnamon on a crane ride anticipating The Stunt Man, and shows the Swiss flag parting on a blank screen as the camera pulls back into a projection booth for the press screening. “Standards are declining everywhere,” says Professor Butley. “Ruskin's char threw Carlyle's history of the French Revolution out with the other rubbish. But then they took a pride in their work in those days.”
A South American country sells its Incan treasures, they’re purloined, a corrupt government official wants them for himself. In this ultimate stage of the enterprise, he’s caught defending the loot against federales, while Phelps rides away on a helicopter rope ladder (Barney is the pilot), and the thief lies dead.
Rollin plays a campesino killed for his horses. Much labor is expended on the dummy, Indian Joe, representing his body fallen down a cliff in the desert.
Cinnamon is the wife of an archŠologist, dying of thirst with a simulacrum of the old El Dorado.
ArchŠology is the theme, what is the witness borne by a Nobel-prizewinning practitioner in a friendly nation about to undergo a coup? None at all, and he’s dying. Let him die, says the plotter, hospital space will be needed on the morrow.
The IMF persuade those involved that the unconscious archŠologist is not only an agent but one working for the other side, who awakens and spills the beans.
A heart surgeon is brought in for the nonce. A bomb in the operating theater objectifies the situation wonderfully. It is removed, with the patient underneath, leaving Rollin to gasp the truth in the president’s presence.
Trial by Fury
This is an analysis of Stalag 17 along lines suggested by The Ox-Bow Incident and Lonely Are the Brave. An opposition leader is kept incommunicado in a prison camp, a lawyer has himself arrested and becomes a trusty in order to effect communications with the outside world. One of the inmates is an informer, the trusty is suspected.
Rollin is a prison guard, Cinnamon is a Red Cross nurse whose fluorescent lipstick is a black-light signal smeared on a windowpane. The camp and warden are very like Cool Hand Luke, the murderers and thugs receive the offer of a suicide note from their victim, to escape punishment.
Phelps and Barney go in as malefactors to ferret out the informer. The supporting cast (including Paul Winfield) is notable for its ferocity.
Horn’s way of dealing with a compressed shooting schedule is to “follow the affair,” for example by filming all around the aircraft as it prepares for takeoff. This produces a cumulative, composite image that prepares the introduction of the passengers en masse and later individually (compare this to the takeoff sequence in Cliff Robertson’s The Pilot, which gives a picture of unified civilization in power).
There is a significant departure from Lord of the Flies in that this adult cast is not a mirror. Half of the film is devoted to the flight and the storm, to show the necessary forces that provoke a reaction.
The first thing is a revolt against the captain’s authority led by a big businessman (Ralph Meeker). This is significant enough to send a party of men on an ill-advised journey by life raft in search of rescue. And then, a lecherous bigot (Andrew Prine) brings the situation to a murderous head when he is irked by a black Marine sergeant (Billy Dee Williams). The unusual treatment allows these forces to bubble up naturally, and then you have the captain (Lloyd Bridges) handling them as best he can.
The structure is very subtle, without straining for its effect. Two symbolic images frame the film, a bar fight over a girl, and the captain flinging away his pistol. You may say these show man’s primitive nature and the refinement of nonviolence, respectively, but rather do they show a democratic idea of free will calmly expressed.
Night Train to L.A.
McMillan & Wife
A great thing of feints and foils. Aaron Hildreth (Murray Matheson) is a police booster who arranges a private train on his railroad to accommodate twenty policemen, and invites along Tommy Brown (Michael Callan), author of an exposÚ of the San Francisco Police Department that “really did a number on us,” according to Mac.
Mac rebukes one of his officers, Sam Dubin (James McEachin), for serving as an unwitting source to all these accusations of graft, but Dubin is already rueful and outraged over the book.
Brown’s mistress Nicole (Linda Evans), whom he belittles and who belittles him back, is a prime suspect. At a stop, she tries to get away in a taxicab, but Mac halts it after a turn around the parking lot. “I hope,” she tells the cabdriver, “you don’t expect a big tip.” She’s taken possession of Brown’s notes on “a big police official who’s been corrupt for years,” and owns an 8.5mm pistol, made in Spain, “for small bores.”
Horn’s direction takes advantage of numerous precedents (Hitchcock is mentioned by Mildred in a running gag that carries a torch of nostalgia), among them Terror By Night, but the gag is constructed around Strangers on a Train.