The Deadly
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The malevolent con game is a relatively straightforward and leisurely matter, so Taylor has some time at the end for a fine bit of fancywork. A plumber called to repair a leak in the basement sizes up the household income, scans the bedroom, spends two hours all told and asks for $500 or he and the lady of the house have had an affair, or else he sprained his back in the bathroom, it’s a regular racket, several wives nearby are his victims. A yearly tax-free income.

She gathers the wives for afternoon tea. He comes to collect, and henceforth does their plumbing for free. “I knew it wouldn’t last forever,” he says. Taylor begins a new shot on the last word, and cuts again when she finishes his phrase, “That’s just plain...” “Blackmail.”


The Right Kind Of House
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Who overpays? He who knows there’s stolen loot on the property.

“So much for life in these United States,” says Hitchcock, realtor to the moon.


Fatal Figures
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A comic masterpiece on the mental breakdown of a quiet bookkeeper in middle age who lives with his sister and is only, as he thinks, a “vital statistic” among those compiled in her almanac.

Hitchcock and the electronic brain, “figures fascinate me.”


Listen, Listen...!
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The entire structure rests upon the final frames, a reaction shot that could go either way but does not, an application of pure cinema.

Theory is one of the themes, and practical application, and The Scarlet Letter.

One of the great masterpieces of the series, deeply-laid in its New York settings of tough practicality and genuine understanding.


The Crocodile Case
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

It is what she is most attached to, it was given her by her husband, only his murderer could know it now has her initials on it, “P.C.”.

Hitchcock a shadow on the screen (“And the Desert Shall Blossom”, dir. Hiller).


Total Loss
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The young widow with a back inventory is “just a good account” to the salesman with a line in dresses, she says.

His arson scheme would solve her problem and make him a partner.

Her own gizmo for brewing tea goes off in the middle of the night.


Invitation to an Accident
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The ex-husband, describing himself as a “devout coward”, fleeth.

The suitor, a fop, persists.

The husband, describing himself as a “slob”, teaches him to drink deep.

One of the profoundest, most brutally surrealistic works in the series.

The host reads from Uncle Alfred’s Story Book on children and adults and sponsors.


Ride the Wild Surf

The unacknowledged legislator of this film is none other than the great Bruce Brown, whose films have been considered at some length in the preparation of it. The essential premise is Waimea and how it got that way due to a storm down from the Aleutians, the skyrocket gag is here, Waimea Falls and so forth.

A curious double structure is doubly illuminating. Goldilocks is three girls, the three surfers are too hotshot (a self-confessed “surf bum”), too cold potatoes (he drains the gunpowder from Yankee Chang’s skywriter), and just right in the tube (he pays his bills). These are among the first to surf Waimea, the prize is a cash endorsement. Cold potatoes cracks a rib on the Falls, just right breaks his board in half (mother-in-law is a surf widow, has one in the barn for next year), hotshot is persuaded by a Mills College co-ed to go back to school, surfs and wins to that end.

Beautifully filmed in Hawaii with a lot of top surfing and acting to match.


Night of the Casual Killer
The Wild Wild West

There is but the one joke, and various entertainments in the telling of it. John Avery is a presidential confidant exposed as corrupt and vicious, he has fled to a deserted mining camp with a small army, leaving a stain on the Grant Administration. West and Gordon have to take him in alive, he has already killed a Federal agent come to arrest him, the local marshal is on Avery’s payroll.

The joke is that Avery has pretensions to grandeur, he takes West out of the dining room to smoke after dinner because it bothers his mistress. Ruta Lee has built the character of a perfectly blank but ideally sympathetic blonde for just this moment, the mistress is still eating and merely says it doesn’t bother her. John Dehner as Avery stands at the back of her chair and quietly refutes her.

The tour de force comes when she indicates with her eyes alone, step by step for West’s benefit, the secret mechanism of the emergency escape down to the mine below. A fiery exit thence in iron ore-carts on an inclined track, hurling dynamite and returning gunfire, concludes the thing.

Gordon plays the violin expertly, has contemplated a return to the stage, is undercover as an itinerant showman with West as magician (Conroy & Whitney, Songs, Comedy, Dramatic Readings). He gives a startling rendition of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the nineteenth-century manner, looking rather different behind the histrionic technique, and has a payoff in a drunken ruse to knock out Dub Taylor as a guard. It’s a Road picture gag, distraction and punch, given a Shakespearean analysis. “O that this too too solid flesh would melt,” he says gesticulating, “Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.” The guard with low admonishment says, “Cut that out.”

Avery’s palatial quarters are camouflaged, “if this town were suddenly overrun, who would bother with a deteriorated storefront?”


The Messiah on Mott Street
Night Gallery

Serling’s Ordet (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer), a conscious study or plain kinship. The Angel of Death preys upon the mind of Mr. Goldman, dying in his bed. “The Messiah will come!” And so he does, heralded by a John the Baptist on a streetcorner.

The Angel of Death departs, Mr. Goldman is well. His crazy brother Sam sends money, not so crazy after all.

As anticipated by Mr. Goldman, the Messiah is “big and black against the sky”, the guardian angel of Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poète. He comes at the bidding of a child, Goldman’s grandson, because “that’s the trouble with ghetto dwellers, and former ghetto dwellers like me,” Dr. Levine says, “we’re mystics, believers, children to our dying day,” and because “getting celery tonic from a boulder would be easier than getting money from my brother Sam,” Goldman says, “it would take the Messiah himself to do it!”

Serling writes, “big and black against the sky,” because the old man (Edward G. Robinson) has seen the Angel of Death as a shadow in his room and wishes to spare the boy from grief. Who is the Messiah? “A messenger from God, striking down our enemies, lifting us up to health and wealth and heavenly contentment!” Yaphet Kotto has the role.

Tony Roberts plays Dr. Levine, whose father was a rabbinical scholar.


They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar
Night Gallery

Capra’s Meet John Doe begins with a jackhammer chiseling away the letters on a newspaper building, and ends with a reliance on Christ crucified. Serling understands the sacrifice in the same way, and shows the jackhammer driving in nails.

An executive sees the sign, “20 Story Financial Building / To Rise On This Site”, the house he lived in with his late wife is to be replaced by an apartment complex. His young assistant is torpedoing him at work. The boss is unsympathetic.

Tim Riley’s Bar & Grille has a “welcome home” sign, it’s like a vision of Fezziwig’s Christmas party. He breaks in drunk and spends the night in jail.

Next day, he’s fired. His father and wife and Tim Riley are at the bar singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. The jackhammer silences them. He walks down the street and hears it again, from Antoine’s. The office staff are there (after a word from his secretary in the boss’s ear), he receives a warm toast, while the wrecking ball swings in a slow arc by intercutting toward the sign on Tim Riley’s Bar, to the last 25 years on the job, and the next (cf. Donner’s Nothing but the Best).



The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday

The title is a cute one from the period, as later on you might have Fucking Morons.

The film is a masterpiece that ends in a rivulet known as calumny to Verlaine.

The great political push for Taft in Colorado is financed by a millionaire and would-be governor (Robert Culp) who filched his fortune from two mining partners (Lee Marvin, Oliver Reed).

For various reasons of the utmost interest the pair have a scrawny whore (Kay Lenz) with a lesbian madam (Sylvia Miles) after her and a case of clap and a houseful of whores to contend with as they try to recoup, also Strother Martin as an ally.

Reed benefits most as a Harvard-educated half-breed, also Lenz going barefoot in a well-filmed scene like Char’s poésie.

Elizabeth Ashley (“you stupid cock-wallopin’ shit!”) is the great scout’s former “angel of the Panamint Mountains” now married and cheating on the mogul, who’s got a championship bout in Serenity (cp. Hawks’ Rio Lobo) that looks like an idealized version of Taft vs. Bryan.

William Jennings Bryan, “The Great Commoner”.

Variety’s foolish review is strictly from the back of Bourke.


The Island of Dr. Moreau

Between Kenton and Frankenheimer, Taylor adopts a straightforward reference along the lines of Ibsen, perhaps. Humanitarian in the worst sense, meddler, busybody of a strain that is hopeless and dreary at the best, and then the tragic notes appear (Richard Basehart delivers them as the Sayer of the Law), and you leave it all behind.

The raw Wellsian allegory of civilization and the brutes, with a Viking funeral.

Borges’ “Story of the Warrior and the Captive” has an echo of it. Still more, the raising of nature means the lowering of man (Michael York), under the ægis of Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster). Memory is a great weapon, as in Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.

The filming acknowledges a certain debt to Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes.

A sad and terrible epic. “I created you!”

The mainspring of this vision is Maria (Barbara Carrera), found by Dr. Moreau “in a crib in Panama City” where at the age of eleven she could be had “for the price of a dozen eggs.”


The Final Countdown

This fantastic tale leads to a single image, actually a surreal contraposition of two shots, one of the Japanese air arm on its way to Pearl Harbor, matched by one of U.S. Navy jets advancing to meet it.

All the technical elements are well-filmed (aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz with the actual crew), the main special effect is by Maurice Binder, and the editing is derived from Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin.