Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 20

   John Meredyth Lucas
   Ralph Meeker, Phyllis Thaxter
   10 February 1957
   24m 09s

Malice Domestic
At a party, Lorna Jenkins tells her friends Carl and Annette Borden that she is leaving for San Francisco and has to give up her dog, Cassandra and asks them to take care of it. Carl and Annette arrive home after the party and find the dog in their apartment and Carl takes an immediate liking to it. Annette, an artist in the studio and in the kitchen (according to their friend Perry Harrison), is working on a vase, whilst husband Carl, an author, is working on writing a book to meet a September deadline. Carl notices that all is not quite right with Annette and puts her on the spot to explain herself. He mentions that she hasn't been the same since she returned from a trip recently but she assures him that she is fine. He asks that she proves it and they kiss (although she doesn't put her arms around him - twice!). Their brief moment of passion is broken when the dog begins barking.
After dinner, which includes Perry as their guest, Carl starts to feel unwell. When Carl goes into the kitchen Perry quietly invites Annette to lunch during the week and also offers to buy her vase when she finishes working on it. Carl, meanwhile telephones for a doctor before collapsing on the floor. The doctor calls round and puts it down to the rich food Carl had for dinner. As the doctor leaves, Perry boldly tries to confirm his proposed luncheon date with Annette, in full ear shot of the doctor.
At the lunch, the doctor sees Annette and Perry together and wanders over to enquire about Carl, who is apparently feeling much better now. Judging by the expression on Perry's face he doesn't look too impressed with the doctor's presence. Even less so after the doctor offers to drive Annette home as he is passing that way. They arrive back at the house and find Cassandra barking so they go inside to discover Carl on the floor. After an examination from the doctor Carl is told to get some rest and stay off solid foods.
The next day the doctor returns to the house with some startling news: he tells Carl that the reason he has been sick is due to somebody feeding him arsenic. Carl refuses to believe it and orders the doctor to leave. Annette then shows Carl her finished vase and when she is called to the telephone Carl realises that she has been using a special colouring which contains arsenic. He doesn't tell her, and the next day they pack for a fishing trip to Lake Taho. Carl is outside putting the gear into the car when he forgets something and goes back indoors and finds Annette lying dead on the floor. Carl is consoled by Perry and the doctor and he cannot seem to understand why she tried to poison him?
The episode looks as though it is about to reach its climax but there is one last scene which wraps it all up and explains just what a sinister bastard Carl really is!
[Hitch is pacing up and down] "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. The first case on today's docket is entitled 'Malice Domestic'. I hasten to add, however, 'Malice Domestic' is not about the servant problem. Nor is it a puff for imported wines. It is concerned with some mysterious doings in a family of three. Carl Borden, his wife Annette and their charming dog Cassandra. To give you a clearer picture of exactly what happened we now transport you to the scene of the crime where we shall reenact it."

[Hitch is pointing in the direction of the camera (at us)] "You are all wondering, no doubt, how Carl Borden ended up in the jug. It is quite simple. His dog Cassandra was really a detective in disguise and turned him in at the next town. It's getting so a man can't even trust his best friend. This concludes this session of our little court of inhuman relations. I hope you will rejoin us when we next present a different case. Good night."

The returning Ralph Meeker and Phyllis Thaxter (both had big parts in previous episodes) star in this somewhat confusingly named episode. But I guess it's explained later on... well kinda. What this episode lacks in suspense it gains with intrigue. We are almost convinced that Annette is the bad guy (or gal) here and we are just waiting for it to be confirmed when the rug is completely pulled out from under us with a shock ending. Ralph Meeker only threatens to kill an innocent man in this episode, unlike in "Revenge" where he actually did kill an innocent man. Phyllis Thaxter is marked early in the set up as the most likely candidate for us to focus our attention on as the antagonist. In the end it turns out to be a whole load of red herrings, with the suggestion that Perry was sneaking around with Annette and Carl playing the innocent husband desperate to hang on to his marriage. The sneaky bastard! By the way did anybody else notice the figurine of Laurel and Hardy tucked away on a book shelf?
Really tough trying to rate this episode, because I genuinely take every point very seriously and don't just award marks out of ten at random. I would have rated it six and a half out of ten but I don't do 'halves' so I'm afraid I settled with a 6.
All the while it was looking as though Carl was the victim of his wife, who seemed to be flirting with the impression she was having an affair with Perry, when in reality Carl was deliberately taking the arsenic to make it appear that she was trying to kill him. The reality of it being that all along Carl was the one having the affair with the young lady from the beginning of the story. Why, you dirty no-good son of a......! Had me completely fooled.

(click any image to enlarge)

Carl Borden... RALPH MEEKER
Annette Borden... PHYLLIS THAXTER
Perry Harrison... RALPH CLANTON
Dr. Ralph Wingate... VINTON HAYWORTH
Lorna Jenkins... LILI KARDELL

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 14 May 2020