Episode 2.3: De Mortuis.

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Starring: Robert Emhardt, Cara Williams, Henry Jones, Philip Coolidge
Written by: Francis M. Cockerell (teleplay), John Collier (story)
Directed by: Robert Stevens
First aired October 14, 1956

Episode Grade: A-

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. “Of the dead, nothing but good.” ….or, as we roughly translate: “Never speak ill of the dead.”

I really like this one. Like the first two, there isn’t a lot of action. But there’s a lot going on….it’s a very tense, twitchy episode, like a rubberband about to break.

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary:

Professor Rankin (Robert Emhardt), known affectionately as “Prof,” enters his house carrying a bag of cement. He’s a very very round fellow, overweight, out of breath, sweaty. He looks like he’s in pain….well, he probably is. He brings the cement down to the cellar, empties it into a wheelbarrow, and fills the wheelbarrow with water. By the way, a very “love theme from Fahrenheit 451” is playing here, which is an odd choice, but whatever. Continue Reading »


Episode 2.2: Fog Closing In.

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Starring: Phyllis Thaxter, Paul Langton, George Grizzard
Written by: James P. Cavanaugh (teleplay), Martin Brooke (story)
Directed by: Herschel Daugherty
First aired October 7, 1956

Episode Grade: B

This episode stars two of my favorite character actors: Phyllis Thaxter and George Grizzard. There isn’t a whole lot of action in this one, and it’s not playful like “Wet Saturday,” but it’s still very watchable, and strangely touching at times. If you like stories about mental patients, read on, my friends.

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary:

Arthur Summers hands his wife Mary a revolver. She says “No,” and he says not to worry, it won’t go off. “I know how to handle a gun,” he says. He got Mary a gun so that she’ll feel safe while he’s gone away on another business trip. He travels a lot for business. He’s a business man. Oh, I’m sorry, a salesman, he says. We never know what he’s selling. Maybe it’s guns.

Continue Reading »

Episode 2.1: Wet Saturday.

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Starring: John Williams, Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Written by: Marian B. Cockerell (teleplay), John Collier (story)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
First aired September 30, 1956

Episode Grade: A

Foregoing the Hitchcock intros, because, let’s face it, it doesn’t make for good copy and also, who cares.

This episode stars my favorite actor in the Hitchcock canon: John Williams. Not the composer. There was an actor named John Williams, who was featured in three Alfred Hitchcock films (The Paradine Case, Dial M for Murder, and To Catch a Thief). He was a very likable, watchable, very natural actor. Tall, and dignified, but also witty and expressive, he was cast as Audrey Hepburn’s father in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, one of the most brilliant casting decisions in cinema history.

Some of you will recognize him from the television commercial “120 Music Masterpieces” (its famous opening was “Stranger in Paradise”), which first aired in 1971, and ran until 1984, the year after Williams died. This makes me sad, because he was a talented and intelligent man, and should be remembered for his craft. Continue Reading »

Hello again.

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Dear friends:

I gave up on Season 1, there weren’t any good episodes left except “The Creeper,” with Constance Ford, Steve Brodie, and Harry Townes. It’s a good one, but very very upsetting: A man is going around New York City strangling women in their homes, and hasn’t been caught. Constance Ford starts going crazy and suspecting all men of being The Creeper, and has the locks on the door changed. Her husband calls to tell her, after investigating, that The Creeper has been posing as a locksmith, and ends with him listening to his wife be murdered.

Ta da.

Let’s just skip ahead to Season 2, which opens with a great episode starring John Williams. I’ll meet you over there.

Episode 1.33: The Belfry.

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Starring: Patricia Hitchcock, Jack Mullaney, Dabbs Greer
Written by: Robert C. Dennis (teleplay), Allan Vaughan Ellston (story)
Directed by: Herschel Daugherty
First aired May 13th, 1956

Episode Grade: I CAN’T

I’m gonna be honest with you here, friends. There is only one more actually decent episode left in Season 1, and it’s not this episode. Or the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. It’s the one after THAT one, the penultimate episode of the season. Then the season ends with another boring episode. (<–this might not be true, I’ve never actually watched the entire episode….because it’s TOO BORING)

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary & Twist & Blah Blah: 

I’ve tried to do a decent job on this one but I JUST CAN’T. I CANNOT. It’s not happening. It’s not a bad episode, but it’s disturbing, and also slow. That’s not the best combination, is it? It’s almost as bad as “depressing and expensive.” It’s not particularly moving, the way Never Again was moving, it’s not even really suspenseful…..Even the very boring Triggers in Leash had more suspense (“Will they shoot each other? Yes/No”), and also Ellen Corby. It’s not as boring as Safe Conduct, which is an episode I forgot existed until I was scrolling through the links just now, that’s how boring it is.

The Belfry stars Patricia Hitchcock, Hitch’s daughter, who I like very, very much, but she isn’t given much screen time, or much to do. Her lovely character is terrorized by Jack Mullaney (who was also featured in Never Again), who is obsessed with her.

But wait, that makes it sound interesting. There’s no action here, except in the first minute, when the murder occurs. This episode just gets right to it. Ellie (Hitchcock) is a 19th century schoolteacher who is greeted by the strange and obviously undiagnosed autistic Clint (Mullaney). He’s building a house for the two of them, because he thinks they’re getting married, since he walked her home from the school two separate times. Ellie tries to reject this “proposal” firmly and kindly, telling him that she just got engaged to Walt (John Compton). Clint loses his temper, and when Walt arrives to greet Ellie, Clint takes an ax and buries it in Walt’s back.

As you can imagine, Ellie is traumatized. Clint hides, first in the shrubs, then in his “house,” and then in the belfry of the schoolhouse-slash-church. The rest of the episode is Clint hiding. There are some scenes with Dabbs Greer as the sheriff; those are nicely done, because Dabbs Greer was a good actor, but the scenes are just too short and too sparse. (Greer was also featured in Little House on the Prairie; you will recognize him as the Reverend Alden. We saw him earlier in my favorite AHP episode of Season One.) There’s one brief period where Clint, still holding his ax, might kill a little boy who’s climbing towards the belfry to retrieve an errant baseball, but it’s quickly resolved when the boy’s father yells “Get down from there.” Clint spends days and days and days and days and days and days and days and days in the belfry. He sucks his thumb when he gets sleepy. I don’t want to think about where he goes to the bathroom.

It ends, as you probably guessed, since it’s called THE BELFRY, with someone ringing the bell after Walt’s memorial service. The sound startles Clint awake, he lets out a cry, and the jig is up.

Please make a note of it:

Because the rest of this season is lackluster–except for “The Creeper,” which is the last very good episode of this season, I will give some brief rundowns like this, take a hiatus, and reformulate the blog. There are some really, really good episodes in Season Two, and I’d like to incorporate film and TV history–what was revolutionary, why it was revolutionary, influences from cinema seen in vintage TV, and how vintage TV has influenced television as we know it today.