The Great Dan Patch

A top-notch account of the great trotter’s career, transmuted by the application of a rare and subtle cast into something of a “biography”, as well as something of a treatise on horse breeding, horsemanship and horse sense.

There is an interesting development of a little song (“Don’ wanna be yoked to no mixed team”) into the horse trainer’s marriage with a woman who doesn’t understand the passion, along the lines of II Cor. 6:14.


711 Ocean Drive

Boulder Dam is a sufficiently complex metaphor for what stops the criminal mastermind, not a paperhanger but a wirestringer for the phone company, who mobilizes a small operation to cover the state, big interests move in, covering the nation.

This very elevated masterpiece completely eluded Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, who still wanted to put his bet down.


The Outcasts of Poker Flat

The opening sequence of three men robbing the assayer’s office (which forces the bank out of business) advances slowly up a Western street at night, the outcasts are incidentally seen along the way, Howard Hawks and John Ford (who filmed a different version in 1919) borrowed it for Rio Bravo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

A.W. of the New York Times admired it, but of the rest he thought “dishyer screenplay ain’t got no likelihood of vrai-semblance to Mr. Bret Harte what he wrote,” and as much as said so. Harte never wrote the robbery, either.

The outcasts find the cabin, the outlaw leader finds his wife there. The snowbound cabin figures importantly with its two fireplaces sharing a single blocked chimney held open by Oakhurst’s gun wedged in there.

The numerous dramatic details in Edmund H. North’s screenplay (Piney Woods is expecting, she and Tom are on their way to Poker Flat for a preacher) are the meat and potatoes of Newman’s conscious direction.


This Island Earth

A stark memory of the war and an intensely plain analysis for reasons of catharsis.

The style and tenor go directly into the Star Trek series, of which this is a vital element.

Barry Crane pays special homage to the film in Frank Telford’s “Woe to Wo Fat” (Hawaii Five-O).

A very beautiful color production remarked in that aspect at least by H.H.T. of the New York Times.


The Big Circus

When it rains, you walk across Niagara Falls. If there’s a subway strike, you go on television.

The bank sends a junior executive to mind the store, he gets into the act. A rival, one Borman, has a psychopath amongst the acts.

The circus and something more, Newman’s masterpiece.

“One hour and forty-nine minutes of clichés... in CinemaScope and Technicolor, which is almost too violent to endure” (Bosley Crowther of the New York Times).

The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “hackneyed”.

Leonard Maltin, “corny and predictable, but still entertaining hokum under the big top.”

Time Out, “pleasing big-top melodrama”.


Dear Uncle George
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

He’s the advice columnist on a New York newspaper, well-paid, writing a novel in his spare time. His wife looks down her nose at him, and is having an affair with his boss.

The Rear Window theme posits an elderly lady (Charity Grace) across the way who writes in asking what to do about a neighbor who visibly cheats on her husband. And so, Uncle George murders his wife (Patricia Donahue).

He blames the wrong man for it, so a chum from the art department (Dabney Coleman) is locked up for no other crime than accepting a commission to paint a portrait of the deceased.

Nobody knows that Uncle George is really vain budding novelist John Chambers (Gene Barry), except the rather Einsteinian Lou Jacobi as Det. F.H. Wolfson, so when the lady is brought in to incriminate the boss (John Larkin) and mentions her letter, it’s all over.

Newman’s great direction accents the set of a Manhattan apartment, etc. The murder weapon is a bronze Cupid.


Death of a Cop
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Hitchcock introduces the Biblical play at a signpost between Sodom and Gomorrah, standing next to a pillar of salt, then says these things have nothing to do with what follows.

This is the parable of the vintner’s son, a detective kidnapped on Blake Street by some thugs who murder him in a ditch outside of town.

His father, also a detective, hounds the gang and its boss (Lawrence Tierney), who runs a bottling company as a front for drugs and murder. His harassment leads to his resignation. He sets a trap, kills the murderer and lets the boss shoot him down in the street before an appointed witness. He dies, going off as he says on that fishing trip with his son.

Victor Jory and Peter Brown are the detectives, Richard Jaeckel is the killer. Hitchcock turns into a pillar of salt himself, looking back.


In Praise of Pip
The Twilight Zone

The very knotty exposition culminates in the image sought. A young man has placed company money on a horse and lost, his bookie gives it back to him, the mobster holding all the bets intervenes, there is a fight, a gunman is stabbed by the bookie, who knocks out the mobster, the young man escapes with his money, but the gunman has mortally wounded the bookie.

This is devised to reflect, as in the house of mirrors later on, the situation of the prologue set in Vietnam, where the bookie’s son is mortally wounded. “There isn’t even supposed to be a war there,” says the bookie just before the fight, on receiving the telegram.

What follows is very skillfully worked from Emily’s dream in Sam Wood’s Our Town, with an important nuance or two suggesting King David. Klugman’s performance, Serling’s script and Newman’s direction are equals in this, one is not to be considered without the others. All the acting is remarkable, notably that of S. John Launer uncredited as the mobster.

Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs has something of a similar valuation, and so does Graham Theakston’s Vig, with Peter Falk and Tyne Daly.


The Last Night of a Jockey
The Twilight Zone

Three sets depict the “four dollar room” life-sized, four-fifths and one-half, to express the sudden growth of a jockey banned from racing for doping a horse. In a long conversation with his impeccably groomed conscience, he protests his innocence and is granted the rock-bottom wish of his existence. He wants to be big.

This is a tour de force for everyone involved. The tough script by Serling establishes its ambiguity by distributing the elements of the composition piecemeal around the set, as it were, where Newman adroitly picks them up separately (dope, the two senses of “stature”, the record of infractions, etc.), and the division of the character is functional in this sense as a preparation. The biggest effect, however, preparing for and balancing the visual coup is the idea of a wish granted from the depths of the character’s being that expresses him in one way or another. Mickey Rooney’s violence in the role is matched by the virtuosic nuances of the “alter ego”.


Three Wives Too Many
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Robert Altman did not direct this episode, which later sprang from his mind as That Cold Day in the Park.

At thirty minutes, “Three Wives Too Many” would have made a fine black comedy with a sharp, pointed ending. Twice that long, its succession of jokes acquires a breathing room of deadpan that makes for the inescapable conclusion derived by Altman.

Newman’s direction is faultless and superb. Teresa Wright plays a Southerner, the Baltimore wife of a traveling salesman whose route includes Newark, Hartford and Boston. Dan Duryea is the salesman with a system for betting the horses.


Black Leather Jackets
The Twilight Zone

Hamner’s reading of motorcycle gangs is on two levels. The world is hateful, and must be destroyed. He gives them telekinesis manifested through their gaze, and makes them soldiers of an eye on a communications screen.

Three of them are seen, out of thousands in a combined operation to eliminate, with bacteria in reservoirs (a two-day operation), every living thing on Earth. A colony, for their planet.

One of the three loves an earthling and warns her in vain, he’s mad, she thinks. Her father calls the sheriff, a deputy answers, displaying the curious symbol of the aliens, a yoni.


Beast In View
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A plain, bookish girl frames her brother’s fiancée for a theft of family funds, ending the engagement. The jilted bride, a vivacious Southern belle tutored by the girl, takes up drinking and loses her looks, the girl becomes a beauty in her own right.

Maddened with guilt, on top of her father’s admiration for the fiancée (“she could be a professional model, why can’t Helen be more like Dorothy?”), Helen visits a photographer’s studio and creates a ruckus. She then claims Dorothy is threatening her life.

The family lawyer looks into the matter, and only finds the truth when Helen, alone in her apartment with a pistol, claims to be Dorothy holding Helen hostage, after murdering the photographer. The girl looks into her mirror, which becomes a screen of surreal imagery after the manner of Hans Richter’s early films, a gloved hand missing an elusive finger, a spider and web, the reflected image fractured and piecemeal. She shoots it, the police burst in.


The Gentleman Caller
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

An American version of The Ladykillers with the great exterior comedy plowed back into a great role for Ruth McDevitt, not the suburban housewife of “The Cadaver” but a mildly drifting recluse (“I’ve got shares of Allied Gas and Colorado Uranium, I’m not a reckless,” she malapropizes) with a cabbage in her purse and a carrot in the hope chest.

At a “nightly sing” in the park she meets a nice young man who has just robbed a safe and killed a guard, and because he’s so nice she invites him to dinner, which is to say she can’t remember not having invited him.

He hits upon a scheme to store his hundred thousand in her stacks of magazines all over the apartment, which are full of events in the past and “make ‘em seem more real” to her. The signing of a will and a push down the stairs are the fulfillment of his plan.

But he takes the tumble himself, merely bruised, while his girl back at the hideout toys with thousand-dollar bills in her toes.

He brings the girl over as his cousin, exciting the old girl’s jealousy. McDevitt’s infinite variety has Midwestern salt around the edges, which she always finds.

Roddy McDowall plays this on two middle strings, neither sporting the gentility nor flaunting the larceny. “Aunt” Emmy’s father’s gold watch hangs in her empty bird cage, the young people take her out window-shopping and dash across the street while she coos at stuffed birds in a display. A car hits her rushing to catch up once she’s realized her mistake, it’s only a broken leg but it exacerbates her mistrust of the girl, who later must be the one tampering with her stove so wastefully. As a shareholder, she calls Allied Gas, who call the police.

Her landlady wheedles her into throwing out all her magazines as “dust-catchers”, but absentminded Emmy keeps a copy of Milady in the freezer compartment and counts out icy thousand-dollar bills from it saying, “I must remember to defrost.”

And there is another source of Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park.


The Bewitchin’ Pool
The Twilight Zone

Unloved children of divorcing parents dive into the pool and come up in a river by which children play tended by a kindly old woman. This is a powerful representation of The Night of the Hunter as well as Miracolo a Milano, a masterpiece to end the series.

The one instance where a June Foray is regrettable occurs here, dubbing Mary Badham’s lines on the exterior set, very nearly a tragic loss and thus providing a taste of bitterness for the conclusion of The Twilight Zone after so much critical misunderstanding in its later seasons, some of which persists today. Happily, however, the rest of her scenes are recorded in her voice, and her performance is visible throughout.

Georgia Simmons as Aunt T. is a great discovery in this part, devised by Hamner and realized by Newman as the source of happiness beyond the reach of hapless parental types.


Body in the Barn
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The complete, detailed record of a murder and suicide is written out in longhand and discovered quite by accident among the effects in an estate for auction.

The main variant of Rear Window (cp. “Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale”) on the distaff side. The wife is hanged, but so after his travels is the husband, a hired hand having previously died in his place.

Robert Frost is opulently alluded to and cited out of context.

The watcher takes poison voluntarily and is played by Lillian Gish as a feisty, cross-minded New Englander. A fence on the old shortcut must be a breach, pitching the hired hand into the white water below. A neighbor’s headstrong wife’s to blame, and then he disappears only to turn up as the title, to all appearances.


See the Monkey Dance
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A humiliated lover gains vengeance on his rival. This is a tour de force for Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as the lover in wig, glasses and mustache, belting out an inspired rendition of a certain well-known English actor. Roddy McDowall plays the most foolish of all men, the title character, a stockbroker in the City.

Patricia Medina is the wife, sumptuous and fey arranging a rendezvous, laughingly contemptuous when confronted. The poor lover drags himself on one good leg to the meeting-place, hectoring all the way, and gets the sap to kill the girl under the misconception that he as her husband has uncovered a murder plot against both men.

And this is where the Hitchcock of Rich and Strange announces himself as a progenitor of Pinter and The Collection, when there is a knock on the door of the caravan parked on a dairy farm in Wales, and a young girl is there with the morning milk.

There is also a great resemblance to Mankiewicz’ Sleuth in the disguise and the cat-and-mouse, a wily cat, a witless mouse.


The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Lewis Davidson’s teleplay is an important variation on the theme of “See the Monkey Dance”. Even more severely it abstracts the exposition as pure action for a Nabokovian effect of humorous tries in a chess problem.

The gas man is the wife’s lover and a private detective who is the husband’s half-brother, robbed of his inheritance.

He has come to kill them both, has studied the suburban domicile, gets them down into the basement with an open gas pipe.

“You’re a strange gas man,” she says after their tryst.

“I know where it’s been,” says her husband, admiringly, of his father’s silver fork.


An Unlocked Window
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A basement window, a strangler of nurses, storm and rain, a dark house.

The new nurse is an old hand, the younger is afraid of mice. The patient is a university professor in an oxygen tent.

The housekeeper drinks. “You show me a snake, and I’ll show you how fast my little legs can carry me.”

The young nurse is ditherbrained, gets a proposal from the patient, a reproof from the old hand.

“I read in the papers about someone who only killed trombone players,” says the housekeeper, “they were beaten to death with their own trombones.” She remembers a friend of her father’s who stabbed people, “I know why he killed those people, but why does this person kill nurses?”

The old hand is a man.


The Second Wife
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

“The Second Wife” is a tale in the vein of “Back for Christmas” (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and “Change of Address”. The new wife finds it cold in the basement where the washing machine is, a furnace is expensive to install. The camera shows the tip of a spade in the husband’s hands testing the soil. He has a sideline making paupers’ coffins for the county. Her friends are hens, he plans a trip. She finds a trench newly dug in the basement, and buys a pistol.

Bluebeard locks the basement, comes home with a box on the pickup truck. Departure is advanced to the night before, his laconic manner is distant and aloof as ever. Just before they leave he wants to show her something in the basement. He unlocks the door, she fires, he tumbles down the stairs, dead. In the trench she finds a fuel tank connected to an upright rectangular Heat King furnace blazing away.