Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 7

   Paul Henreid
   Joel Murcott (teleplay); Clark Howard (story)
   Jean Hagen, Steven Hill, Steve Brodie
   17 November 1957
   24:34 (total) • 20:36 (film) • 2:28 (Hitchcock)

Enough Rope For Two
Joe Kedzie (STEVEN HILL) has just got out of jail and he is the only person who knows where the money is. So says Maxie (STEVE BRODIE) who shows up abruptly at Madge's (JEAN HAGEN) apartment. Ten years ago Max helped Joe to pull off a robbery of $100,000 but when Joe hid the money Max decided to double-cross him and tipped off the police, and it was Joe who did hard time in San Quentin for it. Max is back to get his hands on a share of the money, which he claims he is entitled to.
Joe comes to the apartment and Madge fixes him a drink and tells him to freshen up whilst she goes out to get some stuff. Madge heads straight for a telephone box. Next thing you know Maxie is knocking on the door and acting surprised to see Joe in the apartment. Max gets straight to the point by telling Joe that the money was never recovered because Joe didn't leave it where he was supposed to. Joe tells Max that he left the money 100 miles out in the Mojave desert. Max proposes a drink to their future success and insists he is still entitled to half of the money, but Joe reminds him that Joe spent just as long waiting for the money as Max, and he did so from behind bars. Joe offers Max a 'take it or leave it' deal of $25k. Max reluctantly accepts. Max is also told to pay for a hired truck, as well as other necessities to help them retrieve the money in the desert. And just to top it all off, Joe also wants $100 in cash up front 'just because'.
The next morning the Joe, Madge and Max hire a jeep and set off to the desert, stopping off at a hardware store along the way in order to buy some rope and shovels. And when Max leaves the store Joe also buys a gun as well. But Max sees him through the window and becomes worried and tells Madge he suspects Joe knows about Max and Madge screwing him over for the money to begin with. Max produces a knife and tells Madge to keep it in her purse for safe keeping. The viewer at this point probably starts to suspect that the two men will kill one another and Madge will end up with all the money.
After a long drive the three of them arrive at an abandoned mine in the desert. Things quickly go pear-shaped when Joe pulls out his gun and shoots Max dead and then gives Madge a good thumping as well. Joe throws the rope down the mineshaft and climbs down. He digs up the money and tells Madge to lower down some twine so that he can tie it up for her to pull back up. She does this but as soon as she gets the money in her hands Madge decides to keep it all for herself. She cuts the rope which Joe is climbing back up, causing him to fall and break his leg. Madge gets the money and has gotten rid of Joe. Except there is one thing she hasn't accounted for...

•Based on a short story "Enough Rope For Two" by Clark Howard, originally published in the February 1957 issue of "Manhunt". Subsequently anthologized in "Hitchcock In Prime Time" (Avon, 1985).
•Jean Hagen says she is 32 years old in the story. In real life she was 34 at the time of filming.
•What I don't understand is why did Max throw the shovel at Madge, especially as he was relying on her to save his life by stabbing Joe? You are not going to tell me he meant to throw the shovel at Joe in order to disarm him so that Madge could kill him? He clearly throws it at Madge. When Joe then smacks Madge around the face she almost hits her head on the rock as she falls to the ground.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 30 secs):
[Hitch is holding a rope] "Good evening, television addicts. Thank you for your kind attention. Please don't jump to conclusions. We have not joined the stampede for western stories. Tonight's story does take place in the far west. But it is not about cowboys and their playmates. I feel the cow has been very much over rated as a performer. By way of further contrast, my portion of tonight's pot-pourri will have a definite eastern flavour. [Hitch throws the rope onto the floor] Now for an amazing demonstration. [He claps his hands and the rope stands up on end] Charles. [a man, presumably named Charles, walks towards the rope and the climbs it] I can see that this is especially useful when you have a place you want to get away from but no place you want to go to. He doesn't seem to be coming down, perhaps we ought to have our play. It will begin in a moment and is called 'Enough Rope For Two". I hope you appreciate how skillfully we have woven the theme throughout our introduction."
[the DVD abruptly cuts off at this point, but in the original transmission he continues with...]
"Uh, oh, our next performer is an old, old friend. If we give him plenty of rope... he may do us a big favour."

"In case you are wondering what happened next Madge Griffin was found by a uranium prospector. So our story had a happy ending. For the prospector, that is. You see, he didn't find Madge for two years. However, you'll be glad to hear that the money was in an excellent state of preservation. Perhaps I ought to reel our little friend in. He'll catch cold if he stays up there too long. [Hitch begins pulling on the rope and finds a note attached to the end of it, which he then reads] He's left a note. I just came to the end of my rope. That, I'm sure is enough mystery to last until next time when we shall return with another story. Now we come to that part of the program for which you have all been waiting. Good night".

The ending became predictable the moment Joe was stupid enough to send up the money to Madge using the twine. With the climbing rope hanging down the shaft and knowing she still had the knife, which the story made a very deliberate point in letting us know about earlier on at the hardware store, we (and Madge) knew that the only way Joe was getting out of the hole was by climbing the rope. As soon as she gets the money in her greedy hands she cuts the rope whilst Joe is climbing up it to get out. He falls and breaks his leg. He also has on him the keys to the jeep, which means Madge cannot drive away. Before Joe goes down the shaft, when he is shooting Max he also shoots the water canteen. Madge is screwed. She has no water, no vehicle and is a hundred miles away from anywhere. Sure, she gets the $100,000 but...

An extraordinarily lengthy intro from Hitch leads into... another story of complete and utter greed. Going to rate this one a 6 due to the scenes in the apartment at the beginning, though would have probably rated it a bit higher based on the second half of the episode. The scenes drag a little bit and the characters are instantly forgettable. Steve Brodie (Max) probably has the best part as the associate who returns to get his greedy hands on a share of the money. Jean Hagen is awkwardly a double-crossing, greedy little cow who pretends to be friends with Joe but has only the money on her mind. The story starts to get interesting about halfway through when the three head off for the desert. Despite the predictable ending the episode just about saves itself from mediocrity with a couple of good scenes and the surprising murder of Max.
This may not be the best Hitchcock telly episode (although it has to be near the top of the list) but in some ways it's the most typical. Three hardened criminals out in the middle of the desert, on the trail of hidden loot, none of them trusting each other : we know it won't end well, but we don't know HOW it won't end well, so a high level of suspense is maintained throughout. The atmosphere of unpleasant heat is introduced early, with both male actors sweating profusely, and they're both nasty pieces of work. Equally hard-boiled is Jean Hagen, late of Singin' in the Rain ("I caaan't staaand 'im !") with a sneer that would curdle milk. All they're interested in is the money, which naturally is in the most inaccessible place possible, in order for the disasters to unravel to maximum effect. Jean Hagen gets a slap, which isn't pleasant to see, but all three characters are equally no good and the end result is as expected. The photography is wonderfully sharp, and there's a superb mirror shot where the purchase of the gun is revealed to the baddie in the jeep. This changes the dynamic and ramps up the suspense even more. As for the delightful Hitch, his rope-trick business works well, although the string is apparent when he lets go of the rope and it momentarily hangs in mid-air before dropping. This is a minor point : overall this one's a stunner.

(click any image to enlarge)

Madge Griffin... JEAN HAGEN
Joe Kedzie... STEVEN HILL
Hardware store owner... DON HIX

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 19 February 2021