Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 7

   Alfred Hitchcock
   Louis Pollock (teleplay & story); Francis Cockrell (teleplay)
   Joseph Cotten, Raymond Bailey
   13 November 1955
   24:48 (total) • 21:43 (film) • 1:53 (Hitchcock)

New York businessman William Callew (Joseph Cotten) sits in his off-beach lounger chair dictating a memo to his secretary when he takes a telephone call from his New York office accountant Hubka. Hubka (Forrest Stanley) is upset that he is being let go after so many years of loyal service and begins to panic so much that eventually Callew has to put the phone down on him. Callew confides in Ed Johnson (Raymond Bailey) that he thinks Hubka is weak and ought to be more in control of his emotions and not resort to having a breakdown.
That evening Callew is back to New York along the highway when he is forced to take a detour down a small lane where a group of prisoners are being ushered back into a prison bus. Suddenly a JCB pulls out from the side of the lane and as Callew swerves to avoid it he crashes into the back of the prison bus and wipes himself out.
Conscious, yet paralysed and unable to communicate, he reasons with himself as to what happened through thought dialogue as we the viewer watch an almost static shot of him lying in the front seat of his car with the steering wheel pinned against his neck. Eventually, three men arrive to help but they instead jack up the car and steal the wheels. Soon after two of the escaped prisoners return to the car and initially show some compassion for the man lying there in the front seat but quickly relieve him of his clothing, thinking he is dead.
The poor man's thoughts start drifting towards the worry of being buried alive but he does find comfort when he realises he is able to tap his finger and figures this will be enough to alert others he is still alive. As the day slowly turns to night, the sheriff finally shows up with a crew to rescue Callew. Callew starts tapping his finger to let them know he is alive but with all the machinery noise nobody can hear it and he is taken to the morgue and left until morning. After a long, lonely night morning finally comes and the doctor is just about to cover Callew's motionless face when something unexpected happens....

•This was the very first episode to be filmed.
•The scene where Callew puts down the telephone receiver is very Hitchcock.
•When Callew crashes his car he was barely moving and the JCB was only driving at a minimal pace, so it's hard to fathom just how he crashed his vehicle to the point where it would cause him so much physical damage?
•There are a lot of contradictions and confusion regarding which actor plays which role between the IMDb and the Grams/Wikstrom book. I have tried my best here to credit the cast correctly.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 9 secs):
[Hitch is reading a book] "Oh, good evening. I've been reading a mystery story. I find them very relaxing. They take my mind off my work. These little books are quite nice, of course, they can never replace hard cover books. They're just good for reading, but they make very poor door stops. Tonight's story by Louis Pollock is one that appeared in this collection. I think you will find it properly terrifying but like the other plays of our series it is more than mere entertainment. In each of our stories we strive to teach a lessor or point a little moral. Advice like mother used to give. You know, walk softly but carry a big stick. Strike first and ask questions later. That sort of thing. Tonight's story tells about a business tycoon and will give you something to ponder if you have ever given an employee the sack, or if you intend to. You'll see it after the sponsors' story, which like ours, also strives to teach a little lesson or point a little moral."

"Well that was a bit of a near thing. It reminded me of my own situation. Imagine, if you can, the terror of being inside a television set, knowing that any moment the viewer may shut you off and being powerless to prevent it. And I go through this every week. My only consolation is that some portions of our program are so fascinating that they hold the viewers spellbound. Such an episode follows immediately and then I'll be back again. [commercial break] There now, that really held you in suspense, didn't it? For more of the same, I recommend you tune in next week at this time. I shall see you then. Bon Soiree."

In a final moment of desperation, a tear rolls down Callew's face just as the doctor is about to cover him up for the autopsy. This proves he is still alive.

First of all I have to applaud an absolutely fantastic performance from Joseph Cotten. The story itself is an ingenious idea, and one of the few episodes directed by Hitch himself. The episode is almost flawless and the direction makes you suffer along with Cotten's character with long static scenes of him lying there motionless whilst we listen to his inner thoughts. We endure his suffering in long, uncomfortable chunks - genius film making. Despite the obvious continuity errors with the position of Joseph Cotten's mouth every time we see him, this is certainly one of the more memorable episodes of the series with a very scary ending, which fortunately works out for the best. Pretty fantastic.

(click any image to enlarge)

William Callew... JOSEPH COTTEN
Clothes thief... JAMES EDWARDS
Clothes thief... MIKE RAGAN
Clothes thief...ELZIE EMANUEL
Tire thief... JIM WELDON
Tire thief... HARRY LANDERS
Tire thief... AARON SPELLING
Ambulance driver... RICHARD NEWTON
Coroner's assistant... RALPH PETERS

(click any image to enlarge)

(click any image to enlarge)

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book) [IMDb]
Jesse Brisson (identification of Harry Landers, Murray Alper and Aaron Spelling)

This page was last updated on: 28 June 2021