Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 26

   James Neilson
   Sarett Rudley (teleplay); C.B. Gilford (story)
   Dennis Morgan
   30 March 1958
   25:00 (total) • 20:23 (film) • 1:01 (Hitchcock)

Bull In A China Shop
Detective O'Finn (DENNIS MORGAN) is invited to meet his neighbors, four elderly women who seem to be excited to see him in their home. He is introduced to them by head of the house Hildy Lou (ESTELLE WINWOOD). The ladies giggle excitedly and even tell him they know when he exercises, they know his job and that he has a tattoo on his shoulder. Creepy. Impressed, O'Finn asks what he can do for the ladies. At this point the strange old ladies move out of the way to reveal a dead woman called Elizabeth lying on their sofa. The slightly surprised detective asks them if they have called a doctor? Hildy Lou: "There's no need - she's dead!" As the detective goes to leave, the women appear to be disappointed that he doesn't question them over the death. At this point the viewer knows that something is screwy!
At the police station O'Finn explains to a colleague about the experience and says he feels sorry for the women at the house but is confused as to the why the corpse was decked out in such fine clothing. Just then a phone call comes in from the coroner who states that the cause of death was arsenic.
The crazy old ladies set up their dinner table with much fussing as their detective neighbor friend turns up to return some of their belongings from their dead friend. He informs them that Miss Elizabeth did not die from natural causes but the ladies ignore this fact and invite him to sit down to join them for supper. O'Finn tries to be serious and says that he is there on official business but the giggling ladies continue to laugh their way through the conversation. He concludes that the unfortunate woman simply mistook the arsenic for the sugar and leaves, must to the disappointment of the women who beg him to return to look for clues. Weirdos.
The next day one of the other women suddenly dies and the inspector is called back to the house. When the inspector tells the women they are in trouble and could be facing murder charges they all seem excited! He discusses the strange case with his colleagues and the returns to the house to arrest Hildy Lou for murder. Hildy Lou is delighted and leaves with the inspector. O'Finn tells his colleague that he has now asked to be taken off homicide and put on arson cases instead. That evening as O'Finn sits in his apartment he is disturbed by the sound of a fire truck pulling up outside his house...

•There is no bullfighting in this episode! The title is mentioned by the detective back at the station when he states that he "felt like a bull in a china shop" in the women's house.
•The ladies live at 909 Lexington.
•Dennis's character is 45 years old according to the story. In real life Dennis Morgan was 49 at the time of filming.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 1 sec):
[Hitch is dressed as a matador] "Good evening, aficionados. Tonight's story is called 'Bull In A China Shop', so we decided to indulge in a bit of bullfighting. [Hitch pulls a spear out of his back] An obvious case of mistaken identity. Originally I was to have appeared in the skin tight pants of a matador, however at the last moment it was decided that this was a sight for which the television audience was not yet ready. Television is like bullfighting in one respect. They both have what is called 'the moment of truth'. In bullfighting it is the moment the matador faces the bull; before he converts him to hamburger. Ladies and gentlemen, the moment of truth."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 12 secs):
"I hope you weren't too disappointed that our story contained neither a bull nor a china shop. As for the ending, eventually Miss Bessie became enamured of a fireman. A love which ultimately consumed her. And now a word from our sponsor after which I shall flit back. [waits] Now a word from out sponsor. The foor fellow is just too modest to come out. We'll have to encourage him, with some applause. [commercial break] That will teach you to encourage someone. Fortunately I have no such reticense. I shall be back next week, whether you want me or not. But I do hope you'll see fit to join us. Until then, good night."

The ladies obviously thrive on committing murders amongst themselves just to have the inspector come to their home and see if he can figure out the guilty party. When eventually he decides to be transferred from homicide to arson the old ladies stop killing each other and start setting fire to their house! Oh my god, you couldn't make this stuff up.

This has to be one of the most bizarre episodes of the entire series! The old ladies are completely bonkers, which makes them unpredictably entertaining. It's a humorous episode, a massive step up from the previous few in this season. The viewer is left guessing as to the culprit(s) and their motivation but it doesn't matter in the end because the whole thing isn't meant to be taken seriously. A light-hearted episode which delivers a good amount of comedy and head-scratching. I liked it.

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Detective Dennis O'Finn... DENNIS MORGAN
Miss Samantha... ELLEN CORBY
Miss Birdie... IDA MOORE

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

This page was last updated on: 13 February 2022