Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 39
Francis Cockrell (teleplay); Fredric Brown (story)
Albert Salmi, Robert H. Harris
23 June 1957
24:35 (total) • 22:10 (film) • 0:46 (Hitchcock)
|The Dangerous People|
It's 7:25pm and sirens are sounding as a nervous looking Mr. Bellefontaine (ROBERT H. HARRIS) walks into a waiting room at a train station. There he meets a tired Mr. Jones (ALBERT SALMI) who is waiting for the next train to Milwaukee, due at 7:55pm. After striking up some introductory small talk with the stranger Bellefontaine buys a ticket from the station clerk who tells him that the sirens he can hear is from the asylum a few miles away which is sounding because one of the inmates has escaped.
At this point the viewer is probably considering that one of the two men in the waiting room is the escaped inmate. Jones is sitting in front of a stove waving a poker around and trying to ignore Bellefontaine who is agitated and nervous. Jones says that he doesn't blame the man for wanting to escape, and goes on to suggest that the escapee must be intelligent enough to fool others and would most likely be capable of killing somebody. When Jones seemingly plays around with the poker he is holding, Bellefontaine reads the behaviour as suspicious and starts to doubt that the man could be the escaped inmate.
Bellefontaine works himself up into a paranoid state of frenzy, observing with suspicion in every move Jones makes. When Jones gets up to take a drink of water from a fountain Bellefontaine considers taking the poker for self defence. He then excuses himself by going to the toilet where he pulls a gun from his briefcase to prepare himself in the event of being assaulted. Predictably at that moment Jones also wants to use the bathroom and walks in.
In the second half of the story it's now Jones starts to wonder about Bellefontaine. He figures that Bellefontaine has a gun in his pocket and that this was the reason he went into the washroom, to get it out of his briefcase. To even the odds Jones tries to get to the poker but Bellefontaine anticipates this and grabs it first, using it as an excuse to poke the furnace. As the battle of wits plays out it's Bellefontaine who gets the upper hand and prevents Jones from getting to the poker after he gets up to buy some gum from a vending machine in the waiting room.
The tension is broken when a policeman enters the waiting room. The two men are relieved momentarily but quickly become allies as they overpower him after the cop reveals his true identity. The 'cop' is recaptured by the asylum attendants before Jones and Bellefontaine head off for their train that has just arrived in the platform.
•Based on the short story "No Sanctuary" by Fredric Brown, originally published in the March 1945 issue of 'Dime Mystery'. Subsequently collected as 'The Dangerous People' in both 'Mostly Murder' (Dutton, 1953; Boardman, 1954) and 'Carnival Of Crime' (Southern Illinois University Press, 1985).
•The 39th and final episode of series 2.
•Jones says that he is a book keeper, from Madison. Bellefontaine says that he is a lawyer.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (29 secs):|
[Hitch is wearing a blindfold] "Good evening. You will excuse me if I speak rapidly but I haven't much time. I'm playing some idiotic children's game and I'm supposed to stand against this wall, blindfolded with my hands tied behind me. While I'm standing here waiting for something to happen [camera zooms out] you may watch tonight's drama, 'The Dangerous People'. I shall join you later. [shots are fired from a firing squad and the bullet holes appear on the wall behind Hitch] Thank you, but please no more applause."
HITCH'S EPILOGUE (17 secs):
[Hitch is standing against the wall which is strewn with bullet holes. He is clutching his waist] "That's all for this evening. Er, I think we shall be back at another time with another story. Until then good night."
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION...
Well if I had to describe this episode in one word it would be 'tense'. A story which sets up two characters early on and has the viewer trying to figure if either is the suspect in the story. The camera work is clever in establishing Jones as the most likely candidate as he tries to keep a low profile and then holding the poker tantalisingly close to Bellefontaine's face. However, Bellefontaine enters the story looking over his shoulder and being nervous, as though he is trying to avoid being caught. It's all very clever. The ending was good, albeit a little predictable once the cop entered the story but all in all a pretty solid episode, one of the very best of the series.
A deserted railroad station, an escaped lunatic, and two strangers, both a little creepy - and by chance, each of them thinks the other one is a killer. We're exploring the nightmarish prospect of being trapped with a maniac. Fortunately we have two fine actors to play this out, and we have the benefit of the "internal monologue" technique whereby we are allowed to hear what each character is thinking as they become increasingly worried. Hitch himself was a pioneer of this technique in his early talkie "Murder". Here there's plenty of tension, racked up by the darkness outside, the restricted set and the intermittent wail of the asylum siren. In a beautifully lit and very scary shot in the finale, the "cop" allows us to see the full range of his mania as his face bursts into an evil grin. Surrounding all this, Hitch's opening and closing bits amount to nothing, a throwaway, but it doesn't matter; this is a fine end to Season Two.
(click any image to enlarge)
Mr. Jones... ALBERT SALMI
Mr. Bellefontaine... ROBERT H. HARRIS
Escaped lunatic... KEN CLARK
Station agent... HARRY O. TYLER
Asylum worker... DAVID ARMSTRONG
(click any image to enlarge)
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book)
This page was last updated on: 03 December 2020