The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Series 2, Episode 17

   Norman Lloyd
   James Bridges (teleplay); Ray Bradbury (story)
   Pat Buttram, Collin Wilcox, William Marshall
   14 February 1964
   48:06 (total) • 45:54 (film) • 1:45 (Hitchcock)

The Jar
As a carnival is closing up for the night one man remains behind. Charlie Hill (Pat Buttram) is completely transfixed on a large 'magic' jar sitting on a table which is part of the attraction. The midget barker who owns it agrees to sell the jar for $12 to the man who then takes it home to his small farm town of Wilders Holler, stopping off at Gramps Medknowe's fishing tackle store along the way to show him and others the jar. When Charlie arrives back at his home, a farm house, he shows his slightly unhinged daughter/wife Thedy the jar (I actually couldn't tell which she was supposed to be - but she is 20 years younger than him in real life and she refers to him by his first name all the time, so.....!) She doesn't like it and tells him to take it out of the house.
A few weeks later and half the town are invited over to take a look at the mysterious jar. They just sit there staring at it trying to figure out what the odd shape inside it is? One of them, a hillbilly named Juke begins telling the story of when he was a kid and was told by his father that he had to drown a litter of cats. Yes.... and in other news... the rest of them try to figure out what they are looking at! Mrs. Tridden believes the thing in the jar is her dead son (yes, I heard it too, don't worry). Next up to give their opinion is Granny Carnation (Jane Darwell) whose rambling and theorizing is equally as stupid as the last guy's. Then we have Eva Ann, a nine year old girl who claims the thing in the jar is the Boogeyman. Okay kid, sit down. Later that evening the jar is stolen from the house.
Charlie drives into town to report the theft to the sheriff who says he will file a report in the morning. As Charlie is about to leave he receives a tip-off that Jahdoo has the jar after conspiring with Thedy and Tom to steal it, so Charlie goes looking for Jahdoo armed with his rifle.
Charlies goes to Heron Swamp where he sees the jar sitting on top of a tree stump but as he makes his way to it he falls into the swamp and is sucked down and almost drowned. Jahdoo comes out of the bushes and begins rambling on about what the jar contains, ignoring Charlie's constant and desperate pleas for help before the swamps sucks him under the surface. After an eternity Jahdoo does finally rescue Charlie from the swamp. Charlie returns home and threatens to hit Thedy with a spoon (yes you read that right) before she runs out and leaves.
She does finally come back, courtesy of Tom, and tells Charlie that she has just been to the carnival and had spoken to the man who sold him the jar. Thedy starts telling Charlie what the contents of the jar is but he doesn't want to hear it. She also tells him she plans to tell the entire town about the jar and Charlie pleads with her not to spoil his moment and embarrass him. She then does the unthinkable and starts emptying out the contents of the jar. Well, when I say emptying, I mean picking it all out and throwing it around the room. She then starts purring and meowing like a cat. This girl is not well!
Charlie does indeed get to invite the town round to his place for one more viewing of the jar. Only this time the contents of it have been replaced with something else.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (49 secs + 22 secs):
[Hitch is standing inside a large glass bottle with a model of a ship is on a table in front of him] "Welcome to the Alfred Hitchcocktail hour. The next time I buy a ship model kit I intend to read the directions more closely. I have one consolation to being unceremoniously bottled like this. That is wine connoisseurs will say this will be considered a good year. However, I fear I have aged enough. I only hope I am let out while I still have some fizz. During my absence you'll be entertained by 'The Jar', a story about some people who found a very strange source of fascination. It begins sixty seconds from now."

"We have come to the station break and speaking of breaks I wish this bottle would! I've been hearing the disturbing rumour that this is a no deposit, no return bottle and that I may end up in the trash. All this will be continued after we hear from our local stations."

"I wish to make one thing clear at once. Any resemblance between the jar and any other type of home entertainment is purely coincidental. There is just no comparison. However we are working every day to lift the level of television. Some day, who knows. Getting out of the bottle proved to be easier than I imagined. However, I had the help of an angry genie who claimed I had invaded his home. That is all I have to offer this evening. Until next week then, good night."

The jar contained just some random crap until Thedy throws it all around the room. She later becomes the new resident of the jar herself - her and that silly hillbilly ribbon of hers.

Hmmm yes there was certainly something not quite all there with that Thedy girl! Well there is no denying that the intrigue about what that thing is inside the jar stays with you all the way through the story but the ending was very poorly done. It was a huge mistake to show the reveal and the ribbon - we didn't need to see it and I felt it ruined the ending, especially with the little girl and her mother reacting; a big let down and showed a weakness in the storytelling. Another thing, there were far too many hillbillies in the story! A nice subtle hint at the beginning though with Hitch being in the large jar himself!
Side fact: This was the very first episode from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour I ever saw (July 5th, 2020).
Like The Jar itself, this episode exudes a strange fascination as it trundles along in its somnolent way. For we are in the world of the American hillbilly, where everyone thinks and speaks at half-speed, and the whole town shares the same brain cell. It's like The Beverly Hillbillies without the comedy, although one of the characters actually seems to be called Tom Comedy. He's the young dude having a fine time with his '32 roadster and an equally fine time with the slutty-but-lovely wife of the main character, a hick so dim that he overpays 5 cents for his wife's name on a hair ribbon (65 cents, 5 cents a letter, and her name has 12 letters). This loser also pays 12 dollars for The Jar and its repellent contents. Did an America like this ever exist, where large numbers of bumpkins are so easily impressed and totally transfixed by a huge ugly lump ? It wouldn't happen now, would it ? Oh wait, I just remembered the 2016 election. Halfway through, it slows down even more, but after the actors all finish their dreary monologues (I'd like to think that after the filming's finished, they all speak like Noel Coward) it gets quite exciting, with a dip in the swamp from which our hero emerges miraculously clean (but still smelly) and a truly startling ending. There have been whole generations of actors specialising in hillbillyish portrayals, and we have a mighty fine selection of them here. Yes sir, mighty fine : the lovable lunk Pat Buttram, who has the slightly unsettling ability to look in two directions at once ; the splendidly-named Slim Pickens in his usual role as the lazy sheriff who can barely stay awake, let alone alert ; and the glorious Jane Darwell who gave The Grapes of Wrath its heart. It's an interesting episode with some sly humour at the expense of the rural thicko, and an undercurrent of lurking horror ; but dang mah britches, an hour of this stuff is just too much. I'm high-tailin' it outa heah !

(click any image to enlarge)

Charlie Hill... PAT BUTTRAM
Thedy Sue Hill... COLLIN WILCOX
Granny Carnation... JANE DARWELL
Gramps Medknowe... CARL BENTON REID
Tom Carmody... JAMES BEST
Clem Carter... SLIM PICKENS
Mrs. Tridden... ALICE BACKES
Milt Marshall... SAM REESE
The barker... BILLY BARTY
Townsman... HERMAN MACK
Townsman... JOE PLOSKI

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 05 July 2020