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.