Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 8
Joel Murcott (teleplay); Helen Fislar Brooks (story)
Harry Guardino, Cara Williams, Hugh Marlowe
24 November 1957
24:19 (total) • 21:09 (film) • 1:57 (Hitchcock)
Gerald Daniels (HARRY GUARDINO) is in his cell on Death Row, just hours from his execution. Daniels claims he is innocent and was with Dr. Raymond's wife at the time of the killing, but she is a respectable woman and therefore doesn't want to be exposed for having an affair with Daniels. Daniels asks for a typewriter and some paper as his last request. A typewriter is brought to his cell and Daniels begins putting together a letter to a newspaper.
Five years ago Daniels was introduced to District Attorney Bernard Butler in his office. Butler, whose ambition is to eventually become Governor of the state, gives it to Daniels straight about how he knows of Daniels' poor reputation for crime involving married women who never press charges against him. The D.A. also warns that if he ever has to come after Daniels he will get an indictment and conviction on him.
Daniels recalls how he would frequent bars and clubs to exploit women who were willing to pay him for his affections. On one such occasion he imposes himself upon a woman sitting alone and offers to buy her a drink. Her name is Nancy Judson (JENNIFER LEA) and after spending the entire evening together and him continuously looking her up and down Daniels offers to escort the woman home and cheekily asks for a nightcap by way of return. When the two of them get back to her house Daniels grabs Nancy and starts giving her some tongue, just as her husband returns home and catches them.
Mr. Judson slaps his wife and threatens to kill Daniels, but in the struggle Daniels shoots him dead with a gun he finds in Nancy's purse. Nancy tries to telephone the police but Daniels grabs her and shoots her dead as well. Daniels wipes the gun clean of his fingerprints and leaves. Later, the D.A. concludes that the two deaths were a result of a murder-suicide, committed by the husband and wife. Daniels points out this observation in the letter he is typing.
Things go from bad to worse when Daniels is confronted in the bar by a bookie who is owed $500 by him. The waitress, Mona Carstairs (CARA WILLIAMS) also demands $200 from Daniels after she tells him she knows he was involved in the murder of the woman whom he met in the bar two nights previously. Daniels agrees to keep her quiet but later murders her as well in a dark alley. The ex-husband of the waitress is the prime suspect in her murder and is wrongly convicted and executed, all because of D.A. Butler.
Daniels moves to another part of town where he shacks up with yet another married woman. Just before they are about to get down to it the phone rings. The bookie demands to speak to Daniels and warns him he has one hour to pay the $500 he owes him. Daniels tells the married woman he needs $1000 to pay off the guy or else he is likely to phone again when her husband is at home. She agrees to give him the money and tells him never to return. Daniels goes to meet the bookie as planned but finds him in his car shot dead. He is seen by a police officer who then gives chase and arrests him.
Daniels completes his letter in his cell, admitting to three murders but explaining his innocence over the one he is convicted of. He seals the letter and hands it to a cell guard. Shortly afterwards Daniels is paid a visit by his old enemy, District Attorney Butler who has some good news for him. But whilst the D.A. delivers the good news, the prison secretary is reading Daniels' letter for censorship.
•When Harry slaps his wife across the face the sound of the slap is heard before the impact.
•As Daniels tries to put the gun into the hand of the dead woman you can clearly see her chest breathing. Whereas in the shots of her just prior to her being killed you can just see her chest! Well, I could anyway!!
•The Grams/Wikstrom book wrongly lists Robin Morse as "the cheating woman". He is in fact the bookie, Clark.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 28 secs):|
[Hitch is sitting in a large cooking pot which is being boiled on a fire] "Good evening fellow gourmets. Have you ever been in a position where the success or failure of a dinner party depended entirely on you? Of course not all of this is without its compensations. It is always reassuring to learn that other human beings still find you desirable. And, I am the main course. It would be horrible to go through this and be nothing but a hors d'oeuvre. Confidentially, they are miserable chefs. I certainly would never cook a pot roast with its shoes on. Actually I still haven't explained why I'm here. It's seems that one of the natives was condemned to death, and as a last request was granted the right to indulge in a hearty meal. I'm proud to say I was his first choice. And now, while I'm coming to a boil, suppose you watch tonight's story which is also about a condemned man." [Hitch stirs a ladel in the pot, tastes it and then adds salt]
HITCH'S EPILOGUE (29 secs):
"I've never been so insulted in my life. I've been dropped from the menu. The chef claims I'm not tender enough. But of course that means I shall be back another time with a new story. Until them good night and bon appetit."
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION...
A slow builder of a story with a dramatic and explosive finale. Harry Guardino's character is just one of the worst. A manipulator, a con man, a cheat and above all a murderer. We almost sympathise with his frustrations as he sits alone in a cell just one hour before he is due to be executed as he pours out his heart and soul in the letter he writes in order to redeem himself just to get revenge on the District Attorney. He has concluded that he will die so he is going to take someone else with him. And yet despite his honesty, we still can't quite find it within ourselves to excuse Daniels and the human being he is. The ending was very good, but justice will be served in at least some form with his premature confession. Stick with it, because despite the slow build up, it races to a heart-stopping climax.
This is an excellent episode with an unexpected twist at the end, an echo of the Season One classic "The Big Switch" in which a gangster gets away with multiple murders but is ultimately nabbed for an accidental death. We could also mention "Kind Hearts and Coronets", wherein a last-minute reprieve takes Dennis Price by surprise and he leaves his confessional memoirs in his cell. There's also a reminder of the ending that Hitch had intended for "Suspicion" but wasn't allowed to use because studio bosses felt that the public would never accept Cary Grant as a killer : having despatched Joan Fontaine, he obligingly posts a letter she'd given him earlier, blissfully unaware that the contents prove his guilt. So in a roundabout way, Hitch got his "Suspicion" ending made. There's no "Cary Grant" problem about the casting of Harry Guardino as a ruthless smarmy creep who is irresistible to women, yet secretly hates them. (Maybe Cary Grant COULD have played a murderer......) Harry's performance is superb, proving once again that Alfred Hitchcock Presents doesn't need to have honest, heroic leading men. George Mathews, Oscar Homolka and any number of ominous Roberts (Middleton, Emhardt, H. Harris) have all had star billing - which they would rarely get in a movie - while portraying nasty pieces of work. Harry Guardino continues this fine tradition : he's aggrieved about being executed for the wrong murder but shows no remorse for his genuine victims. The Hitch telly series is truly back on form.
(click any image to enlarge)
Gerald Daniels... HARRY GUARDINO
Mona Carstairs... CARA WILLIAMS
Bernard Butler... HUGH MARLOWE
Sheila Raymond... KARIN BOOTH
Nancy Judson... JENNIFER LEA
Frank Carstairs... MIKE ROSS
Warden... FRED KRUGER
Harry Judson... ROBERT CARSON
Clark, bookie... ROBIN MORSE
(click any image to enlarge)
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book)
This page was last updated on: 01 March 2021