Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 4, Episode 2

   Robert Stevens
   Sidney Carroll (teleplay and story)
   Chill Wills, Cloris Leachman, Biff McGuire
   12 October 1958
   25:57 (total) • 21:53 (film) • 2:22 (Hitchcock)

Don't Interrupt
The story takes place on a night train travelling through New Mexico. Johnny Templeton (PETER LAZER), a young boy dressed in a cowboy's costume, is crawling around in the passageway on a moving train and trying to break into the passengers' rooms whilst holding a toy gun. His father (BIFF McGUIRE) comes and rescues him before the boy gets into any mischief. When the boy and his parents move into the club car to order some drinks, a radio bulletin announces that an escaped mental patient is at large. Johnny's mother (CLORIS LEACHMAN) gets upset with her son for acting up and reminds him of how he got expelled from his school. His father tries to defend Johnny but his mother carries on with her blaming and arguing.
A gentleman enters the carriage and asks if he could have a drink with the family, as he prefers not to drink alone. After sweet-talking Mrs. Templeton, she invites the man, Mr. Kilmer (CHILL WILLS) to join them. He orders a drink and encourages Johnny to drink his "cow juice" (his milk), which Johnny does enthusiastically. Kilmer turns on his charm and warms himself to the family, especially Johnny. A little while into the journey and the train suddenly makes an unexpected stop on account of a snow storm knocking out the generator.
A second radio bulletin reminds us all that the escaped mental patient is still at large and isn't dangerous. Okay, that sounds reasonable.... so anyway, Kilmer prepares to tell them all another story as Mr. Templeton bribes his son with a silver dollar if he promises not to interrupt for the ten minutes duration. Kilmer says that he doesn't mind if Johnny interrupts but Johnny's pretty damn-fine looking mother explains that he requires discipline and insists on the condition.
Kilmer begins to tell his story of when he was a sheep-herder in 1905 (fascinating) when Johnny sees a man's hand at the train window and tries to interrupt the story to tell the others but he is told off. With five minutes still remaining until the story is finished Johnny sits there desperately eyeing up the prize of the silver dollar and trying not to interrupt despite the impending danger he senses. Finally, Kilmer finishes his story just as Johnny sees the man at the window again. The lights come back on and Johnny tells his father of what he saw but he isn't believed. Johnny does get his silver dollar but he drops it before he leaves to go to bed.

•This was Cloris Leachman's second appearance in the show. She also starred in "Premonition" (from Season 1) and "Where Beauty Lies" (from Season 7). In this episode she talks about dying. She passed away in real life at the age of 94 in January 2021.
•The title of the episode, "Don't Interrupt" is first said by Cloris Leachman at around the 6 minutes mark when she is talking to her son after he tries to tell her about the radio announcement concerning the escaped criminal. Later, Biff McGuire also reprimands the boy and tells him not to interrupt whilst Chill Wills is talking. On both occasions, the boy was not interrupting at all.
•Mr. Kilmer tells Mrs. Templeton that she is "the best looking woman on the train by a mile and a half". He isn't wrong. I mean, fair enough we don't get to see any other women on the train, but she IS good looking, no doubt about that.
•The snow which is falling outside does not correspond with a train moving at high speed.
•It is presumed that the man at the window is the escaped mental patient but this is never confirmed.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 23 secs):
[Hitch is lying down, tied to some train tracks] "Good evening fellow tourists. I think this proves that in some areas the aeroplane can never replace the train. The gentlemen who tied me here was most thoughtful. In order to keep the railroad ties from chapping my hips, he put me on an ant hill. And in the event that I wanted to do some reading he left me a railroad timetable. I have found it most useful. You see, my assailant was a railroad executive who took exceptions to some of my remarks about the promptness of trains. I have the last laugh however, for I see by a footnote that the train he expected would trisect me runs only on the Friday preceding Decoration Day and the Tuesday following Labor Day except on leap year. There isn't another train scheduled to pass for thirty minutes. That should give us just enough time to watch a half-hour television show. Keeping to to theme of tonight's program, I must warn you that before you get a look at the pleasant scenery, we must first pass through one of those dismal tunnels."

[Hitch is still tied to the train tracks and now it is snowing] "I suppose you expect me to be discouraged but I'm not. I have faith that the railroad will not allow a man to lie her indefinitely. As a matter of fact, some passing workers have assured me that the train will be by in a few seconds. [train whistle] There it is now. If you want to turn away you may. [train approaches and crashes] Look, a complete loss. Fortunately no one was hurt. No one on the train, that is. I seem to have sustained a very bad bruise on one finger. If you've enjoyed our story or any of this trivia, perhaps you'll be interested in tuning in next week, when we shall have more of the same. Until then, good night."

No spoilers really. The coin that Johnny spent ten minutes trying to earn is retrieved by the waiter who puts his shoe over it when he sees the coin fall from Johnny's belt. He effectively steals it from the boy. Also, the escaped lunatic is only briefly seen at the window and doesn't interact in the film whatsoever.

Well that was a riveting twenty minutes, wasn't it? The boy starts off being really annoying; I mean really bloody irritating to watch but as the story moves forward his character becomes an integral part of the film. We feel his anxiety after he sees the hands at the window and his desire to tell the others what he saw but how desperately he wants to earn his silver dollar. So there is an element of tension and suspense in the final scenes. Cloris Leachman is drop dead gorgeous (my opinion) here and albeit an overly strict parent she is wonderful in her scenes. Nice to see Scatman Crothers (the waiter) and a very young Geoffrey Lewis (the man at the window) in the episode. Biff McGuire we have seen before in three previous episodes, most memorably "Crackpot" but he offers nothing of significance in terms of performance here. All things considered it was a fairly decent episode but had a very unsatisfying conclusion.
Also, I have to acknowledge Hitch's opening and closing scenes being of a very high quality as well. Very entertaining.
The presence of an annoying bratty kid in these episodes is always disheartening, as we feel guilty about wanting him to be the murder victim. We could reason that in these more enlightened times he might be diagnosed as autistic, but they didn't know about such things then. However, by the time he's been sufficiently calmed down by the prospect of financial gain, we can discern that inept parenting is the problem here. Both of them are terminally useless in different ways : the father is weak and ineffective, giving in to the kid's every demand, and the mother is harsh, bored and uninterested. In fact it's hard to decide who's the most repellent character on display here. Chill Wills is effective as a sort of Western Willy Wonka, fluctuating between kindness and a slightly menacing creepiness as he succeeds in boring the audience to death with his pointless anecdotes. Scarcely better is the waiter who cheerfully justifies pocketing the kid's silver dollar. The only sympathetic character is the poor guy stuck outside the train in the snow. With this crowd on board, that's the best place for him. There's a good measure of suspense in this one, but ultimately it's not at all likeable, an unpleasant trip. Hitch's contributions are amusing, and the real star - apart from the glorious Cloris Leachman - is the hilariously elaborate model train mock-up during his closing remarks, which at least gives us a chuckle at the end. After all that, we need it.

(click any image to enlarge)

Mr. Kilmer... CHILL WILLS
Mary Templeton... CLORIS LEACHMAN
Larry Templeton... BIFF McGUIRE
Johnny Templeton... PETER LAZER
Timothy, waiter... SCATMAN CROTHERS
Conductor... JACK MULHALL
Waiter... ROY GLENN SR.
Escaped criminal... GEOFFREY LEWIS

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 31 January 2021