Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 28

   Alfred Hitchcock
   Roald Dahl (story & teleplay)
   Barbara Bel Geddes
   13 April 1958
   25:04 (total) • 22:01 (film) • 1:41 (Hitchcock)

Lamb To The Slaughter
Pregnant Mary Maloney (BARBARA BEL GEDDES) is at home when her policeman husband arrives from work. She greets him warmly but he completely ignores her, pours himself a drink and tells her he wants a divorce because he wants to marry somebody else. Mary doesn't take the news well but tries to be reasonable and goes out to the garage to get a leg of lamb to fix him his supper. She pleads with her husband repeatedly not to go but he simply barks "just try and stop me". Mary flips and smashes him on the back of the head with the wrapped-up lamb, killing him immediately.
Afterwards Mary casually strolls into the kitchen and places the leg of lamb on a baking tray and puts it in the oven to cook. She briefly checks on her now-dead (ex) husband before sitting down to feast on some grapes. The calm-as-you-like Mary telephones her friend Molly to excuse herself from a pre-arranged dinner date with her on account that her husband is tired before heading off to the shops to pick up some groceries.
When she gets back home, her husband is still lying dead on the living room floor (how inconsiderate of him). Mary creates a mess to resemble some sort of struggle/disturbance had taken place in her absence. She phones the police and they come to her house. Lieutenant Noonan (HAROLD J. STONE) sits down with Mary and begins to question her as to the events of the evening whilst the doctor arrives to examine the dead body. He concludes that the man was killed by a heavy, non-sharp object such as a rounded club which is probably still inside the house.
After the doctor takes the body and leaves, the detective continues to grill Mary on some points about her husband's behaviour after he came home from work. The detective is keen to find the murder weapon and asks Mary to escort him around the house to see if anything is missing. A little later the detective notices the oven is on and removes the tray with the leg of lamb on it. Mary suggests that the detective and all the other cops at the house should share it between them as a meal for reward for their hard, tiring work. The men gladly oblige and devour the meat between them, thus getting rid of all the evidence of the murder weapon in the process. Ingenious.

•Based on Roald Dahl's short story of the same name.
•"I'll arrange for the divorce, naturally you can have the baby when it comes". Oh his generosity is too much!
•When Mary attacks Patrick with the leg of lamb we don't actually get to see the connection. We cut to a close up of Mary just at the critical moment.
•The oven Mary uses to cook the lamb is a Robertshaw. I'm guessing this wasn't endorsed by the actor of the same name!
•When the doctor comes into the house to examine the corpse he looks at Mary and asks the detective "is that his wife?" Using "that" instead of "she" shows a lot of insensitivity doesn't it!
•Mary calls the detective by his first name, Jack, when she talks to him in the kitchen after he removes the lamb from the oven. Yet he still continues to refer to her as Mrs. Maloney.
[A policeman is issuing Hitch a fine in a supermarket; Hitch is standing behind a shopping trolley] "He gave me this ticket for blocking an aisle during rush hour. I don't understand, I was in the slow lane. I'd just stopped a moment at the condiment shelf where the store's having a get-acquainted sale on low calorie calories. Tonight's play is not unrelated to this milieu. It is called 'Lamb To The Slaughter'. But before we see it, the store has asked that I direct your attention to their very best bargain."

"Well that's the way the old meatball bounces. As for Mary Maloney, she would have gone scot-free if she hadn't tried to do in her second husband the same way. Unfortunately, he was the forgetful type and had forgotten to plug in the freezer. The meat was as soft as jelly. Speaking of plugs, that is precisely what our sponsor wants to do for his product. After which I'll wheel back. [commercial break] And now, ladies and gentlemen, those of us who work in television have a technical term for this part of the program. We call it, 'the end'. Next week we should be back with another story. [car horn honks] I must be going, I can't risk another ticket. Good night."

There aren't really any spoilers because it is established very early on that the police are looking for the murder weapon and the viewer is already in on it. But in case you missed it, it was the leg of lamb that Mary cooked in the over for her husband's supper.

Much has been written about this famous episode. As part of my project to document all of these episodes on this website, I first saw this one on February 17th, 2022. My initial reaction was that yes it was a good story but there are better episodes from season 3. There are some flat spots. The best performance comes from the detective played by Harold J. Stone. Barbara Bel Geddes stars once again as the jilted woman whose husband wants to leave her for somebody else. She was recently seen starring in "The Foghorn" just a couple of episodes ago. Her performance is okay but doesn't shine. Directed by Hitch himself, this has a solid story, a relatively satisfactory conclusion, albeit a bit obvious. One clue which was overlooked in the story was the phone call Mary made to her friend just after the murder but before she went out to the grocery store. If the cops had picked up on that then that would have been Mary's alibi shattered. It's good and I can see why so many fans rate it so highly. Is the best one? No.

(click any image to enlarge)

Lt. Jack Noonan, chief inspector... HAROLD J. STONE
Patrick Maloney... ALLAN LANE
Grocer... ROBERT C. ROSS
Fingerprint cop... WILLIAM KEENE

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 18 February 2022