Coming Home
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The extremely economical image of a phone booth in a bar is an echo of Blackmail. An ex-convict just released with a wallet full of prison earnings calls his wife but hangs up at the sound of her voice. A young girl at the bar sees the wad and rolls him for it.

He goes home, he and the wife sort things out. He shot at a cop during an armed robbery twenty years earlier, “we needed that money.” His wife refused to divorce him, doesn’t believe in it. He learned a trade in prison, the construction foreman praised him as “the best he ever had.” Now he’s lost $1636, he saved every cent. He’ll find employment.

The daughter he’s never seen walks in, the girl at the bar.


Captive Audience
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A major precedent is Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake, in which Philip Marlowe takes up the profession of writing. “Captive Audience” is very similar in its satire of publishing, but Link & Levinson writing from John Bingham’s novel have a slightly different arrangement of the view.

The subjective camera in Montgomery’s film naturally gives the writer’s vantage. Here we have a set of tapes dictated by the writer for his blue-penciling publisher, to whom the title refers. They detail the events leading up to a murder which the writer plans to commit. The drama shifts between the publisher’s office and the scenes described on the tapes.

Most of this is a publisher’s nightmare vision brought to life. The man (who is not yet a writer) and his wife meet a wealthy couple, he falls in love, his wife is killed in an auto accident which damages his brain slightly.

The lovers meet in San Francisco and begin an affair. He has changed his name and become a writer, they innocently imagine how they might kill her rich old husband, she makes it serious, but the plan falls through. The writer learns that she has had other lovers and that her scheme is to let him take the fall for the murder while she absconds with her latest and her late husband’s fortune. She becomes the writer’s target.

The publisher calls in another of his writers to hear the tapes, and they try to avert the murder. This is the essence of the story, which begins in the milieu of To Catch a Thief (the left front wheel of the crashed sports car lying on its side spins in a fine reflection of the roulette table just before). A deliberate evocation of Rope puts a man’s back to the camera for a cut, anticipating the writer’s joking hypothesis turned deadly earnest by his mistress. The view from the publisher’s office window recalls Vertigo. The subtlest allusion is to Psycho in a night-filter exterior as the writer brings the girl to his secluded home, a subliminal sketch of guilt for his wife’s death just figuring later.

James Mason as the writer undergoes a personality crisis after the accident. He wears glasses, and seems to be modeled on Bernard Miles and Farley Granger, a combination which fuses briefly under the stress of jealousy, but the mental breakdown caused by his injuries gradually supersedes this, leading to the final scene of clinical derangement (it may be that he briefly evokes Cary Grant and Gregory Peck in the kaleidoscope of this most unusual performance).

It should be obvious, even from this description, that Kjellin’s direction is inspired and first-rate. All the actors in their very difficult parts benefit by it. Angie Dickinson, Roland Winters, Arnold Moss and Ed Nelson give superbly controlled performances that are crucial at every moment. Observe Moss as the publisher stare implacably as a clue is said which he doesn’t notice, or Dickinson’s demeanor at the chess table in the last scene before the coda, or Winters begging for his life, or Nelson egging on a lunatic to reveal himself.


The Thirty-First of February
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A woman falls and breaks her neck on her way down the steps into her basement wine cellar, because the light bulb is burnt out. A book of matches is found beside the body, but no burnt matches.

A coroner’s inquest exonerates the husband, but a detective sergeant baits the man at home and at work until, having suffered battle fatigue in the war, the latter loses his mind and is committed. The sergeant still isn’t content, because of the matches. He is made to see how easy it is for a man to have a hole in his pocket.

The title comes from one of the detective’s pranks, a gag calendar interpreted by one of the man’s fellow executives to romantically signify a “Super Leap Year”.

The company is the leading industrial design firm. After his wife’s death, the man is assigned to the Whisker-Off account and is supposed to come up with a new container for this new men’s razorless shaving cream, but it leaves his face raw to the touch.


A Tangled Web
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The connection is shown very clearly here between Blackmail and The Birds, with the major difference that the inner drama from Paradise Lost in the former has been replaced by considerations of Moses and Aaron, by reason of the blackmailer now being a society wigmaker and partner of a jewel thief, whose wife he covets.

The surrealism is highly realistic, even when the thief cracks open a coffin to purloin a matron’s last request.

A dramatic courthouse scene recalls The Front Page. The entire episode (from one of Cecil Day Lewis’s crime novels) lays the basis for Alex March’s The Big Bounce and Bud Yorkin’s The Thief Who Came to Dinner.


The Cadaver
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A tale of the university. Horatio makes from Wittenberg a truant disposition, and is taught to drink deep.

A cadaver rises from its dissecting-table in the classroom, making girls scream. It’s only a medical student.

A cadaver with a wig goes in his roommate’s bed, to stop him from drinking.

The roommate carefully dismembers the body and leaves it for the garbage men. When the punchline is delivered, the medical student takes the place of the cadaver in a university locker.

Ruth McDevitt plays a nice widow, her late husband kept a workshop in the garage, she’s used to cooking for three, can’t stop throwing out the extras, takes a nip to keep her cheer.

Michael Parks stares to see the bar waitress alive whom he strangled in stupor, supposedly. Rafer Johnson collects his thigh pads, hip pads, shoulder pads and so on, as team captain (too many cut classes). Joby Baker takes a pie in the face for a quarter at the Halloween Carnival, in his capacity as an honor student.


How to Get Rid of Your Wife
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A worm turns after fifteen years, but she is implacable. The plan works like this, the neighbors get a load of her bullying and door-bolting, he digs a hole in the yard (“it’s for a fishpond, dear”), walks around with a knife in his hand or an open razor (“just shaving, dear”), till she becomes a nervous wreck.

The critical point is reached with the purchase of two rats from a pet shop. She finds them under the sink, buys rat poison, and is further induced to put it in his hot chocolate when he threatens to walk out. The plan is exquisitely timed, and calculated to suit her personality.

She calls it a suicide, the police call it attempted murder (he was only sleeping, didn’t drink his hot chocolate). It takes the jury one hour to give her five years.

Dinner after the last show with Rose Feather, a stripper, is canceled by the pet shop owner, an avid reader of newspapers who wasn’t mentioned in the trial, a woman who understands loneliness and wants to share the rest of her life with the unfortunate customer.


Beyond the Sea of Death
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Two great poems, major and minor, by Christina Rossetti are cited in part by Jeremy Slate (“A Ballad of Boding” and “One Day”) in a list of names beginning with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Swinburne, to prepare the medium, Dr. Shankara. He preys upon the heiresses whom his youthful accomplice betrothes before dying in Bolivia.

Diana Hyland models hers after Grace Kelly, a change of hair, a completely different person from the young housewife in “To Catch a Butterfly”. Mildred Dunnock with the utmost sensitivity and tact finds the reticent truth, but is shot to death by the young woman who has been deceived not once but twice, the particular grossness of the confidence game is overwhelming.

Kjellin’s direction follows a line of Suspicion from the front door up the stairs to the boudoir, where the butler delivers his telegram on a silver tray.


Night Caller
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The surface construction of the teleplay is very musical with running themes that recur and develop, and a handsome finish. Even more remarkable are the broad planes brought into play out of Psycho and Marnie to isolate and identify a young second wife not ready to take on the burdens of motherhood.

Much of this rests on the strangeness of Bruce Dern’s performance. Felicia Farr cuts a perfect study of the wife rattled by a neighbor eyeing her as she sunbathes and talks on the phone to her lover. She calls the police, the young man is admonished.

Lewd phone calls molest her, the neighbor befriends her stepson, her husband confronts him, he denies any involvement.

Rather, he goes to see the woman alone one evening, berates her for her infidelity, like that of his stepmother who killed his father with it. She shoots him, the phone rings. “You’re exciting,” says the voice again.

The young man’s girlfriend mirrors the theme, he and the stepson are playing basketball in the park, she asks him to buy her a soda, he refuses (and buys the boy one instead), she and her girl chum pedal away.


Ten Minutes From Now
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A mad bomber keeps the police and a psychiatrist busy with bombs that never go off. His object is the Memorial Museum, he’s a painter forever rejected by the city, who therefore blames the Commissioner of Parks & Recreation.

There is a fine study of the paranoiac, not “paranoid-critical”, mind of an artist not good enough for anything but envy, and a still finer one of the psychiatrist (Lou Jacobi) probing his works for the key. “That’s either heightened psychotic color sense, or he has some training.” With Lonny Chapman as Lt. Wymar (Goethe and Van Gogh laughing in the background), a good bit of hilarity is injected into the case. According to the lieutenant, the doctor knows enough psychiatry to miss the truth, while the painter (Donnelly Rhodes) knows enough law to avoid being caught.

On further thought, the psychiatrist demurs, “I wonder why some paranoids use such an excessive amount of yellow when they paint?”

Each bomb is an alarm clock in a box, except one. “You see, only the tools of my craft, a harmless brush, a defenseless tube of paint, neutral oil.”

“This building is mine,” crows the bomber, having bluffed everyone out. His cronies switch the Vermeer for his copy, etc.


The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The woman’s choice lights upon a man seemingly at random, he falls down in the street. The police bring him to her, he is identified, tried and convicted.

Out of prison, he robs a bank messenger of the salary he’s lost, not a penny more. Back in town, he opens a record store and makes the woman’s acquaintance.

On their honeymoon, he plans to kill her. Their rented boat has two fuel tanks, switching from one to the other will cause an explosion.

She survives. A police lieutenant wise to the robbery warns him about future accidents. Thereafter, says Hitchcock in conclusion, “he became a model husband. A miserable husband, but a model one.”


Where the Woodbine Twineth
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Davis Grubb (The Night of the Hunter) has another tale here of children and a doll menaced by a warped adult, somewhere upriver from New Orleans.

The Captain and his daughter Nell bury her brother Amos, leaving Eva an orphan. Nell has spent her life caring for others and is now a “snippy old maid”. Eva is offered a boat ride to the city by her grandfather, but prefers to stay with her aunt.

Nell is greatly perturbed by Eva’s imaginary friends, Mingo and Sam and Mr. Peppercorn, who live under the davenport. Suse (soft esses), the black housekeeper, smiles indulgently, but Nell pokes them away with her umbrella.

The Captain brings Eva a doll, as promised by her friends, whose name is Numa. Nell takes it away when two voices are heard in the child’s room, and places it atop a player-piano out of reach in the locked parlor.

Suse’s husband Jesse, the gardener, chauffeur and handyman, has to turn off the player-piano when it begins playing a ragtime number. “Loose spring,” he notes.

Eva finds the keys, takes the doll (which is a girl and black) and goes out to play. “Sometimes Numa gets bored, then I play the doll in the box,” Suse has been told. Nell finds two little girls playing, she chases off the black one with a switch and sees the little blonde doll in the box, Eva gone to that happy place full of candy canes which she was promised if Numa was sent away, “where the woodbine twineth”.

Robert Redford’s The Legend of Bagger Vance has a similar view of American culture as inseparable.


Completely Foolproof
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

It ends, to explain the title, in two places at once. Aboard the S.S. Princess Alana “one day out of New York,” Mrs. Brisson’s private detective shoots Mr. Brisson with a pistol and silencer moments after a telephone call has assured her lover that it’s time to enter her bedroom and do the same to her, in California.

They’re divorcing, she wants sixty-five or seventy-five percent of his land development company. He’s paid off his mistress like a zoning commissioner, they won’t meet again.

He got his start in blackmail, now he’s on his way to London town. The lover wants his deed and promissory note, finagled from him by the lady after losing at the track in Miami.

The private detective remembers a beating received in the parking lot where he interrupted a deal with city hall, where it begins.


The Warlord
I Spy

General Chuang-Tzu, who dreamed himself a butterfly dreaming itself a Chinese philosopher.

“I know nothing of women, Mr. Scott. They are not—my cup of tea.” Vd. Capra.

A relief from the burden of utterance, a lady reporter finds him.


The Bank
Mission: Impossible

Arbeit Macht Frei. The last shot tilts 180° to show a topsy-turvy view of things. East Germans pay a neo-Nazi top dollar to reach the West and die in the attempt. Their life savings go to found another New Order.

The Impossible Missions Force play cops and robbers, holding up the Berliner Sozialvolksbank (the scene of operations) and catching the crooks.


A Game of Chess
Mission: Impossible

A chess master plans to steal a million in gold seized from the underground resistance in a hostile country. He burns down the bank that is to receive the gold, so that it must be stored in the vault of a hotel where he is playing a tournament.

Rollin wins their first game with the help of Barney’s chess computer, and lets the master know it. The computer has an effect on timepieces in its vicinity, they run faster.

Phelps has a time lock put on the vault. The master joins forces to open it with the apparatus. The IMF immobilize the army guard with symptoms of typhoid fever, take the gold and leave the master with his aide-de-camp in the vault.


The Condemned
Mission: Impossible

A friend of Phelps’ is in a Latin American prison, framed for murder. Phelps asks for volunteers, they’ll be “improvising all the way.”

Rollin and Willy as priests secrete the condemned behind a false wall in his cell. His girl is the victim’s mistress, part of a plan to steal a 1500-year-old Greek crown.

The victim is alive in hiding and partway through plastic surgery. His former partners are after him. He dies before making a getaway.

Rollin as the victim with his original face is seen by the authorities alive and on the run in a fast car on a mountain road. A body is put in the driver’s seat, Barney operates the car by remote control, it leads a merry chase and goes over a cliff, exploding in flames. The crown is recovered in a flameproof container.

On a signal, the condemned steps out from the wall, summons a guard, who stares incredulously at the supposed escapee. “Got a cigarette,” asks the prisoner, “I seem to have run out.”


The Deadly Dream

The supreme tribute to the author of Florey’s “Perchance to Dream” and Brahm’s “Shadow Play” for The Twilight Zone, Charles Beaumont.

To place the secret of intelligence in the hands of everyone is to make a world of Einsteins and Freuds, the Tribunal believes on the contrary that “some are born to rule, some to serve.”

The film is neatly divided between the overworked scientist’s wakeful life at an institute with a disapproving board, and his running nightmare of persecution (the nonexistent Friends are from 1984).

A Polaroid camera under his pillow brings back evidence, a pistol goes with him into the dream.

Lloyd Bridges, Janet Leigh, Carl Betz, Leif Erickson, Don Stroud, Phillip Pine et al.


I Do Not Belong to the Human World
The Sixth Sense

One GI stabs another in a Vietcong prisoner of war camp, for selling out. The man he stabbed died in combat, he tells everyone on his return.

Visions of the wounded man haunt his girl. She writes in two languages simultaneously, though she knows no Chinese. His father is an Orientalist at the university, his sister has a demon role in the Kabuki.

Dr. Rhodes traces the Chinese quote from a treatise on astral projection. He has a vision of the battle, flames fill his home. Arson, says the fire captain.

The professor is murdered. An accident, says the GI, dying himself after another attempt on Dr. Rhodes’ life. He sold out to the Vietcong, escaped in an old tunnel. Dr. Rhodes learns its whereabouts from him.

On the same day, the other GI finds the tunnel and escapes.


Goodnight Baby—Time to Die!
Hawaii Five-O

A million-dollar theft of gems from a museum is finally solved by McGarrett with a psychological ploy. The curator was murdered, and one of the burglars. The other is in state prison. McGarrett holds his former girlfriend in protective custody at a Waikiki hotel.

The prisoner escapes. His progress toward Honolulu is followed in police reports, his telephone calls to the girl threatening revenge, and in her mind’s eye conceiving his whereabouts as they are described.

Nervous, shaken, she drinks throughout the day and gradually dispenses information. She knew the robbers long ago, was the curator’s mistress, he was in on the plan and then betrayed, etc. One robber shot the other in self-defense.

An eyewitness confession and the boyfriend’s arrival bring out the truth. She and the other two robbed the museum, the curator threatened to turn them in, she killed him and arranged a frame for the other murder. A deal with the insurance company netted her half a million. McGarrett arranged the man’s release, he’s been calling from the hotel manager’s office.


Can a Dead Man Strike from the Grave?
The Sixth Sense

A piano teacher yearns for vengeance against the sister she envies, whose husband begins to have startling visions. His grandfather died “in a sanitarium with manacles” after the murder of his own wife, now the old gentleman appears to be making his presence felt by means of his bequest to the grandson, a piano.

Dr. Rhodes investigates the matter. The husband seems to see his wife in an affair with the investigator, this grows so strong in him as to provoke a drawn pistol at the evident sight. Dr. Rhodes breaks the spell, the two are not where he thinks.

The piano teacher’s daughter is a telepath who, when she is not being coached at her Chopin, is sending specific visions to the husband at her mother’s command.

The truth comes to light, the piano teacher grabs the pistol, her daughter intervenes fatally, the woman dies. “You’ve had everything, I’ve had your handouts.”


You Don’t Have To Kill To Get Rich—But It Helps
Hawaii Five-O

A blackmail operation on a grand scale results in two suicides and a girl’s murder. Computer data and telex communications give a profile of the incoming sucker, a well-to-do tourist on vacation, who is set up with a beautiful girl or two and a hidden camera.

One man from Texas doesn’t like the irksome sensation of being on the hook, let alone the money. He sends a private investigator to the Hawaiian Regent Hotel under a carefully-prepared alias. This canny operator turns the tables with a secret video camera, but instead of reporting to McGarrett (who is busy tracking the gang on his own) moves in on the chairman of the board as a partner and eventual sole owner, with a hit man referred by a Chicago associate (“that’s right, honey,” he tells the hotel operator, “Chicaguh, just like them old movies”).

The speed of execution in the script and direction compresses the ironies. Five-O is on to him almost at once, the hit man is impersonated by Det. Ben Kokua, McGarrett has a stakeout on the hit at a beach house owned by the chairman, William Speer, whose “company” is called Veritex.

Speer turns the tables back by sending two thugs to Dallas, where his would-be partner has a wife and two sons.

The standoff is averted when Ben’s wire is discovered. Speer flees to his launch with the negatives, McGarrett closes in.


Jury of One
Hawaii Five-O

The teleplay by Ken Pettus is an intricate marvel, the structure is revealed in the biography of a suspect juror. This Army colonel is too tough to be suborned, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, a POW tortured in Korea, a widower. His service record is the key, explained in three other suspects.

The first is $5000 richer, he won it in a poker game. The second is the actual victim, his daughter has been kidnapped to obtain a hung jury. The third has wooed and won the wife of a state senator.

The case is a mobster killing a welcher. The jury is sequestered, the bailiff is corrupt. His calls are traced ultimately to the mobster’s partner in Union Building Supply Co.


One Big Happy Family
Hawaii Five-O

A country fiddle plays the tune in a wide reach of harmonies as each murder is committed in a killing spree that leaves the mainland for Honolulu and Maui. The modus operandi is to take a job, work for a short time and then slaughter the management, for whatever is in the cash register.

McGarrett is shocked and requires an explanation. It is given to him by the culprits themselves, once they are arrested. Kin are not in question, therefore no murder is involved. The dead cannot be deprived of what they can no longer be said to possess.


Mind Over Mayhem

It’s WWIII at the wargaming tables of the Cybernetics Research Institute, a think tank. “Oh, a place full of geniuses,” says Lt. Columbo, “may I ask what you do here, Sir?” Marshall Cahill (that’s his name) replies, “I’m the director.”

His son’s been very naughty, written a paper someone else actually composed. The “radical” Dr. Nicholson wants the lad to confess, or by gad he’ll turn him in. Marshall Cahill does the doctor in.

Of course, he has to send young Spelberg to the movies (a child prodigy). “Everyone can use a robot,” says little Spelberg, who has invented one. The robot types instructions to the wargamers while the deed is done.

Lt. Columbo’s dog washes out of obedience school. The lieutenant abandons his notebook for a tape recorder, miniature. “Bad dog! Bad dog!”, it says when benefiting Marshall Cahill with a demonstration.

There is much amusement. Elderly Dr. Nicholson has a young wife (Jessica Walter, marvelously aggrieved). Burnt match and missing pipe at the scene of the crime. Is there any hope for the natural gas car? They’re testing them at the Institute.

The good doctor (Lew Ayres) was researching heroin for the government. Jose Ferrer as Cahill manages an impression of, say, John Van Neumann.


Negative Reaction

“Negative Reaction” is closely related to “Blueprint for Murder” (dir. Peter Falk) as a study of an ęsthete whose practice of his art is murder. A photographer with two not one Pulitzer Prizes and nine count them nine books under his belt crops his wife right out of the picture, and takes up where he left off with his secretary in the Philippines, or so is the plan.

The photographic theme is developed further on the ground of Lt. Columbo’s gradually-lessening ignorance of the art, and positively flowers in set pieces around the central allusion: the soup kitchen manned by nuns (and the chiefest of them Joyce Van Patten), Mrs. Galesko’s funeral, and the driving test given by Larry Storch behind a pair of eyeglasses windshield-clear. And there is the lake, a silvery blue apparition behind Galesko and his dummy.

Kjellin rides this all like a bronc-buster, early on focusing in on the gas station like Walker Evans on a tear, followed by a superb crane shot winding down into the auto junkyard, and a tight shot ą la Harry Callahan on Skid Row that zooms out to show photographically how it was done.

A black limousine with a vinyl top exhibits bright clear reflections in Kandinsky patterns on its hood with simultaneous soft foliage shadows on its roof, which would have pleased Graham Greene, a stickler for cinematography.

A reversed negative tells the tale, amid myriad details such as the secretary skipping over the grave markers in her short skirt. Galesko dreams of escaping his role as a portraitist of society dames. “The creator lops the fruit from his trees,” intones the clergyman at the funeral. Whistler threw the best print onto the ashes, so as to keep it for himself. Galesko is merely fussy, by comparison. Vito Scotti contributes a most surprising masterpiece, among his magisterial drolleries: a drunken Irishman. Mr. Wong is hardly more skilled an actor than the lieutenant at the close, who acknowledges his own performance for the audience with his back to the camera, coat half-on, half-off...

There is even, perhaps, a relationship to Antonioni’s Blowup, and this at a time when TV Guide’s synopsis of that film wasn’t sure if a murder had taken place or not.