Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 7, Episode 2

   Alfred Hitchcock
   Harold Swanton (teleplay); Margery B. Vosper (story)
   Steve Dunne, Biff Elliott, Lucy Prentiss
   17 October 1961
   24:20 (total) • 19:51 (film) • 2:13 (Hitchcock)

Bang! You're Dead
5 year-old Jackie is playing cowboys with a couple of friends in the street, loading the toy gun he got for his birthday and pretending to shoot it but he gets upset because his gun isn't as good as theirs. His father returns home with Uncle Rick who has just arrived back from a trip to Africa. They go indoors where Rick produces a witchdoctor's mask he picked up on the continent before being led upstairs to his room by Jackie whilst Jackie's mother makes a telephone call to organize a party she has planned for later. Rick starts to unpack whilst Jackie continues to fire his fake gun at Rick and orders him to pay up. Rick plays along and promises Jackie he has a surprise for him which he will present later after the party. Jackie's father asks him to finish unpacking for Rick whilst the two men go downstairs. When Jackie discovers a real gun and ammunition in the suitcase he is consumed with temptation and switches his own fake gun for Rick's real one and loads a single bullet into it and stuffs the rest of the bullets into his trousers pocket.
Jackie walks around his house with the loaded gun, playfully threatening his mother when she won't pay him any attention. Not knowing where the bullet is within the chamber of the gun, Jackie flips the trigger but nothing happens. He does it a second time with the same result before going outside.
Jackie accosts the mailman with the gun before heading off to the store. Back at the house Rick realizes his gun is missing and his box of bullets is empty as Jackie arrives at the supermarket. He decides to take a ride on a mechanical horse but not before loading a second bullet into the gun. His parents frantically try to find Jackie by asking around among their neighbours and the boy he was playing with earlier until Uncle Rick pulls up in the car and takes them to the supermarker after getting a tip off from the mailman.
A young girl at the store wants to ride the coin-operated horse that Jackie is on but Jackie won't relinquish the ride. After a lot of persistence the girl's father manages to get Jackie off and put his daughter on. Again, Jackie almost presses the trigger on his gun but manages to resist before heading inside the store. A short time later Jackie's mother turns up at the store looking for her son. Ominous music starts to play, and the camera finds Jackie and zooms in on him loading the gun with even more bullets, making it more likely that the next time he fires the weapon it will discharge a live round. It's now truly a race against time as the viewer becomes more on edge waiting for the inevitable.
After some frantic searching Jackie is seen out in the parking lot by a customer as his parents rush out to find him but Jackie has headed back home. When he gets there the maid is fixing the table and gets irritated with Jackie's insistence on wanting to play. When she refuses to engage with him he warns her that he will shoot her. She bluffs him, so he takes aim at her and fires....

•One of the few episodes to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
•Billy Mumy who played Jackie steals the show as the central character despite his poor billing in the credits. He would later appear in another episode, "The Door Without A Key".
•Steve Dunne is the only actor who receives credit in the opening credits. Billy Mumy is the real star of the story.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 21 secs):
[Hitch is in a booth outside a theatre] "Good evening and welcome to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The feature is about to commence. Please don't be alarmed, we are not charging admission. This is not pay-TV. As usual, all we ask is that on those occassions when you can't view our show that you let us know so that we can send it to someone else. Please don't be a no-show. [Hitch walks out of the booth holding a pistol] This is not a hold up. I wish to dramatize the title of tonight's play. [Hitch pulls the gun and it produces a "Bang" sign] Tonight's story is called 'Bang! You're Dead'. Despite the fact that it has been introduced with my usual flippancy it concerns a very serious subject, and I would be doing you a dis-service if I led you to regard it lightly. Now I must hurry into the theatre. For I don't want to miss the beginning. Fortunately, I have a minute to find my seat before the feature starts, for it is preceded by an unselected short subject. It's the management's way of discouraging those who might stay through more than one show." [Hitch turns and walks away]

[Hitch walks towards the camera] "After an experience like that we need something to break the spell and I have just the thing. I shall rejoin you in a moment." [commercial break] "On rare occasions we have stories on this program which do not lend themselves to levity. 'Bang! You're Dead' is a case in point. We only hope that this play has dramatized for parents the importance of keeping firearms and ammunition out of reach of children. Accidents of this type occur far too frequently nowadays and the tragic fact is that with proper precaution they could be avoided. That is all for tonight. Please join us next week when we shall return with another story. Until then, good night."

Jackie fires his loaded gun at the maid when she dares him to shoot her, but his father bursts into the room and throws the African mask at Jackie's arm just in the nick of time causing Jackie's shot to hit the mirror instead. Nobody gets hurt and hopefully a lesson has been learnt.

After what seemed to be an extraordinarily long intro and despite a relatively mediocre start to the story, the tension builds to an incredible level as we have to guess what happens next, or who Jackie's victim(s) will be. The little brat girl who tries to steal the horse ride, her father who forces Jackie off in favour of the girl, the customers at the supermarket, Jackie's mother, or Jackie's boy friends playing in the yard? Each time he loads another bullet into the chamber we anxiously hope he won't fire the trigger. The scenes at the supermarket when the PA announcements are drowned out by noise at the crucial moments, and the temperamental behaviour showed by the boy himself all add to such drama. There are touches of typical Hitchcock direction with some solid camera movements where we are focused on Jackie in the house despite the conversations of others when the mother gets off the phone. With regards to the story, is it possible to be both relieved AND disappointed with the ending? A very good episode.
I don't wish to bring politics or American gun laws into this review so I shall refrain from doing so. Others will naturally have their own thoughts. But to say that Hitch's closing remarks are completely on point is an understatement!

(click any image to enlarge)

Rick Sheffield... STEVE DUNNE
Fred Chester... BIFF ELLIOTT
Amy Chester... LUCY PRENTISS
Cleo, the maid... JUANITA MOORE
Jiffy snack girl... MARTA KRISTEN
Supermarket manager... JOHN ZAREMBA
Mailman... KARL LUKAS
Darlene's dad... OLAN SOULÉ
George Webster, supermarket clerk... CRAIG DUNCAN
Jackie Chester... BILLY MUMY
Little Stevie... KELLY FLYNN
Little Gary... DEAN MORAY
Lady customer... MARY GRACE CANFIELD
Darlene... JOY ELLISON

(click any image to enlarge)

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book) [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 11 June 2022