Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 4

   Robert Stevens
   James P. Cavanagh (teleplay); Henry Slesar (story)
   Mildred Dunnock, Darryl Hickman, Nehemiah Persoff
   27 October 1957
   25:05 (total) • 21:25 (film) • 2:16 (Hitchcock)

Heart Of Gold
Jackie Blake (DARRYL HICKMAN) has just got out of jail and goes to visit Martha Collins (MILDRED DUNNOCK), the mother of one of his fellow cons named Allie. Jackie is initially met with hostility from Martha's burly son Ralph (NEHEMIAH PERSOFF), but he is eventually invited into the apartment and offered some food. Over dinner Jackie tells Martha about his conviction for being involved in an armed robbery how he ended up in prison with her son. Martha reveals that she has a small nest egg she has been saving so that she can leave the run down area she lives in. Before Jackie goes to leave he tells Martha that his parole officer has got him a job in a garage and all he has to do now is to find a room to rent. She invites Jackie to live with her and take up Allie's room which is not being used. Naturally Jackie accepts the kind and unexpected offer.
The next morning Jackie gets the loving treatment from Martha when she offers him breakfast and says that he already feels like a member of the family. At the garage, Jackie is visited by Mr. Brown (EDWARD BINNS), his parole officer. Brown tells Jackie that detectives are searching for the missing $150k from the robbery he was involved in but he swears he doesn't know where it is.
That evening as Jackie is closing the garage he is paid a visit by a hoodlum demanding to know where the money is. Jackie insists he was only the driver and doesn't know where the missing money is. Unfortunately Jackie gets a beating and staggers home where he is attended to by 'Ma'. The next morning the parole officer comes to the apartment to see Jackie. He tells Mrs. Collins that Jackie is not permitted to reside with her due to his association with her son, a convicted criminal. But when both Jackie and Martha protest to the unfair rules, the parole officer relents and agrees to let Jackie stay. Jackie becomes frustrated and says that he just wants to be left alone by everybody.
That night Jackie comes home from work and is confronted by drunken Ralph, who demands to know where the stolen money is. The two men begin fighting and Jackie pulls a knife on Ralph. When Ralph refuses to adhere to Jackie's warning to keep away from him Jackie plunges the knife into Ralph. And then Ma returns home to catch the aftermath....

•Based on the short story, "M Is For The Many" by Henry Slesar, originally published in the March 1957 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Subsequently collected in Clean Crimes And Neat Murders (Avon, 1960).
•The Collins family lives at 1275 Nicholas Street.
•The episode is referenced in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called "You'll Be the Death of Me" (1963). In it, Hitchcock makes the comments: "Those of you who watched our broadcast of October 27, 1957 [Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Heart of Gold], will remember that four minutes were lost due to a power failure. You will be glad to learn that those four minutes have been found. They were discovered just west of Billings, Montana, by an elderly prospector who, unfortunately, used three of those four minutes to soft-boil an egg. However, he has returned the other minute, and we show it to you now."
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 24 secs):
[Hitch is working on a lathe, a workbench with a large circular saw] "Oh there you are. Oh pardon me, um. Good evening fellow hobbyists. I've decided to do it myself. I'm sure most of you would expect me to be all thumbs. This is definitely untrue. The way things are going I should be lucky to have any thumbs at all. Tonight's story is about a parolee, and so I thought you would be interested in this machinery, which has been designed as a therapeutic measure for paroled convicts who may still harbor homicidal tendencies. It gives them a healthy outlet for their energies. We have a saw, lathe and drill. As my first project, I've been, uh converting Chippendale furniture into kindling. I'm sure my work here would only bore you. So we've arranged to show you tonight's story in just a moment. Perhaps I should explain. This is a circular saw. [Hitch flicks a switch to operate the machine and the camera pulls back to reveal a half-clothed woman tied to a log which is moving slowly towards the saw's blades]

[Hitch has caught his tie in the workbench] "Excuse me a minute. [cute his tie with a pair of scissors] There, I have decided to give this machine to a very dear friend of mine. For two reasons. He's insufferable and wears long ties. As for the girl you saw earlier, you will be pleased to know that she acquired a job as the result of appearing on our program. A talent scout saw her and immediately signed her up as a pair of bookends. And speaking of ends, that is what this is. Of our show, that is. But we shall be back another time with another story. Good night".

'Ma' and Ralph were in on it all along. They knew about the money and used Jackie to try and get their greedy hands on it. Ralph was also instrumental in having Jackie beaten up by the hoodlum at the garage as well. After Jackie kills Ralph in self defence, Ma reveals her true motive in letting Jackie stay with her. We never know for sure whether Jackie knew where the missing money went, as he continued to claim his innocence throughout.

I must admit I didn't see that twist end coming. Although it was never quite shocking, it was a little surprising to learn about Ma's secret motive. Ed Binns, who was fresh off filming 12 Angry Men - one of the best movies ever made - adds a strong, albeit brief performance to the story. Nehemiah Persoff has a strong screen presence in a role which is hard to know whether you like him or hate him. The two leads in Mildred Dunnock and Darryl Hickman could really have been played by anyone and don't really make the difference here. All things considered it was a decent story, a kind of potboiler episode which is preceded by a hilarious opening segment from Hitchcock. Not bad, but not great either. When considering my rating for the episode I was settled on a 6/10, but I think the presence of Ed Binns just did enough to push it up to a 7. Just.
This one presented a problem. It would be unfair to call it a bad episode, because it isn't, but it is absolutely horrible. Hitch's introduction certainly proves that less is more : it's unnecessarily elaborate and sadistic, with the glamour girl all tied up as she approaches the circular saw in an unamusing mockery of the silent melodramas. The episode continues in the same vein, being one of the most unsettling so far. In terms of suspense it works very well, with a clue to its outcome neatly hidden in the title. Various red herrings are laid out along the way, such as the young guy's smile at the ten-minute mark, which could be interpreted as either joy or the satisfaction that his plan is working. He seems to be perpetually sweating and edgy, which is hardly surprising as he's persecuted along the way by just about everybody, Nehemiah Persoff as the thuggish son being particularly nasty; and it all takes place in a hot, claustrophobic hellhole. It's all so relentlessly downbeat, even the ending, that Hitch's closing pleasantries can't save it. Not a nice experience at all. One viewing is enough.

(click any image to enlarge)

Martha Collins... MILDRED DUNNOCK
Jackie Blake... DARRYL HICKMAN
Hoodlum... LEN LESSER
Little girl... CHERYL CALLAWAY

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 11 February 2021