Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 29

   Don Taylor
   Robert C. Dennis (teleplay); Rick Edelstein (story)
   John McGiver, Vivian Nathan
   20 April 1958
   25:00 (total) • 21:31 (film) • 2:13 (Hitchcock)

Fatal Figures
Harold Goames (JOHN McGIVER) lives with his sister Margaret (VIVIAN NATHAN). One morning the postman brings Margaret an Almanac which contains the previous year's crime figures. She sends him off to work and warns him not to miss his bus. Harold proudly boasts that in 13 years he hasn't missed it once before calculating out loud just how many days that has been!
As Harold passes a florist he is taken aback when his regular wave is not returned by the owner, only to be told by the storekeeper next door that the florist has recently died. Harold claims the florist was a friend of his for 13 years despite having never spoken to him or even knew his name! That evening at supper Harold is upset with it even though Margaret can't understand why because they weren't even real friends. Harold complains that when he dies there will be nobody to remember him. He hasn't married, he has no children and has had the same job for thirteen years. He claims that he is just a number; a vital statistic and nothing more. His only contribution to the world is that he has added one number to the 160 million people who are alive today.
Margaret gets her Almanac book and quotes that there are in fact 172,823,104 people alive - making Harold even less important than he thought! Harold starts reading the book and becomes fascinated with all its statistics. He gets to the page detailing crime figures for 1957 and finds that there were 226,530 auto thefts for the year. Harold decides he wants to increase that number by 1 so goes out and steals a car. He checks the newspaper the following day to find that it made the news and gives him a feeling of self-importance.
The next evening he comes home after robbing a chemist and ignores his sister's expectation for them to play Chinese checkers, as per their usual routine for every Sunday for the past thirteen years. Harold refuses, stating that he is bored with doing the same old thing all the time and goes upstairs to update his almanac with the new robbery statistic. Margaret comes up to his room shortly afterwards to find Harold has a bottle of perfume for her. She starts to suspect that he is going to bring a woman back to the house, which sends her into a rage as she reminds him that without her, he is nothing.
The next statistic on the list is Murder. A detective comes to the house to get some details from Harold, following Margaret's sudden death. Harold eventually confesses to killing her but the detective says the cause of death was food poisoning, which renders Harold's murder invalid. Later Harold says he used rat poison with strychnine and that his reasoning was simply because of statistics. The detective arrests Harold, who first requests that he can collect his coat first. He goes upstairs to his room where he picks up the book again and reads the next statistic.... suicides.

•Originally published in the march 1958 issue of "Mystery Digest".
•Harold and Margaret live at number 372.
•Harold sounds as though he spent the entire time drunk!
•The name of the florist who died is Mr. Ruben.
•Harold's middle name is George.
•The book is The Universe Almanac - 23rd edition.
•We see Harold adding the number "1" to the almamac after he reads about his success in the newspaper, but when we see the book next the marking is not there.
•Margaret claims that Harold is almost 50 years old. At the time the episode aired John McGiver was 44 years old.
•Vivian Nathan would later appear in the episode "Final Arrangements".
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 9 secs):
[Hitch is standing by a large computer] "Good evening, telewatchers. I am about to demonstrate this amazing electronic brain. Uh, may I have the problem please? [a young lady walks on and hands Hitch a card] Figures fascinate me. [Hitch opens the card and it says "2+2"] Two plus two. Now we feed this problem into the machine and the answer will appear there. [he waits but nothing happens] Perhaps we should have started with something simpler. [the lady picks up the plug and hands it to Hitch] Of course! Would you please? [lady plugs the machine in] As you can see it's almost human. And now for the problem. I think the answer is coming. [the word "THINK" comes up on the computer screen] If this machine persists in these do-it-yourself suggestions, he may find himself replaced by a human being. Now while I tinker with this, suppose you watch tonight's play 'Fatal Figures'.

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 4 secs secs):
[Hitch looks at the ticket in his hand] "I'm giving the brain one more chance. 3,137 multiplied by 38,915. Please, no help from the audience. While the brain digests the problem, see if you have an answer to the following, after which I hope you'll rejoin me. [commercial break; when we return Hitch is standing behind a sheet of glass writing a formula on it] There's nothing difficult about mathematics. I found an answer in a few seconds. I'm now trying to get a problem to fit it. This is all now until next week, when we should be back with another story, Perhaps I should erase this so you can see the following show. Good night."

When Harold excuses himself to go and get his coat, he refers to his Almanac one last time when he reads the statistics for suicides. Excitedly, he grabs his gun and announces one more number to the stats as the camera pans past him, we hear a gunshot and the screen wobbles before fading to black. Pretty predicatble really.

Weird episode with John McGiver obsessed with numbers. To be fair I haven't seen anything else with him in so I don't know if he always sounds pissed, but here he definitely does! He's completely off his rocker. A light-hearted episode, not to be taken too seriously, I don't think. It's okay; a bit lacking in parts and with a limited cast, but it just about stays interesting up until the predictable conclusion. Hitch's segments were brilliant.

(click any image to enlarge)

Harold Goames... JOHN McGIVER
Detective McBane... WARD WOOD
Shopkeeper... NESDON BOOTH

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 16 June 2022