Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 5, Episode 15

   Norman Lloyd
   William Fay (teleplay); Roald Dahl (story)
   Steve McQueen, Peter Lorre
   03 January 1960
   26:02 (total) • 23:02 (film) • 1:30 (Hitchcock)

Man From The South
A young lady sits on a barstool at the bar of a casino and buys a brandy with her last bit of loose change. The kick from the drink makes her shoe fall off which is picked up by a young man (Steve McQueen) who offers to buy her coffee. As they sit at a table they are interrupted by Carlos (a rather fat Peter Lorre who kind of resembles Winston Churchill!) His unwanted presence pretty much kills the mood so the young man and lady get up to leave. Carlos is interested in the the efficiency of the the young man's cigarette lighter and offers to make him a bet on it. Carlos offers that if the young man's lighter can work for him ten times in a row without missing then he can win Carlos's brand new convertible car. But if he loses, Carlos will cut off the young man's little finger. This is observed by another man in the bar who shows some interest in the bizarre bet. The young man has confidence in his lighter but not enough to accept the bet and so walks away.
But Carlos isn't done, and tries to talk the young man into taking up his proposition. After laying down the rules of the bet Carlos show the Intrigued man his convertible car before taking him up to his room with the girl. She tries to talk sense into him but the man simply says "I like convertibles.... I think?" (great line)
Carlos invites the young man and the lady up to his room along with the other man from the bar whom he asks to act as a referee in the bet. After ordering some drinks, Carlos instructs the steward to get him some items required for a 'game' he wants to play and sends him out for some nails, a hammer, a length of cord and a chopping knife. All of this is overheard by the young man who starts to look nervous.
Carlos asks the man to sit down at a wooden desk in the middle of the room so that he can take the measurements of his left hand. He then bangs two nails into the wood and ties up the man's left hand between the two nails. Then the game begins. And due to the outcome of the story, I'm going to leave it there. The "spoilers" below will fill in the remaining bits for you!

•Steve McQueen and Neile Adams were real-life husband and wife.
[Hitch is standing by a betting booth] "Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the land of two-dollar windows and quarter horses. Racing has been called the sport of kings but here at the two-dollar window I've met relatively few of them. [another man enters the frame and goes to place his bet at the "Show" window; Hitch looks around to notice him] Well apparently there's no business like showbusiness and speaking of shows we have one following the next race. [P.A. system makes an announcement and another punter goes to make a bet in the background] Those of you who wish to bet may still do so. Naturally I can't give you any tips. But there's one entry that has been timed at just one minute flat. {referring to the sponsors' advert usually placed in the show} [another punter goes to the betting booth and the bell rings to signal the start of the race] Ah, there he is now." [P.A. system: "They're off and running!"]

"Now you know how Venus De Milo got the way she is. By the time the poor old girl won an automobile it was impossible for her to drive it. Of late there's been a great deal of talk about paid television. Actually most of us already have it. And here is the gentleman that makes us pay. [fade out; fade in] I'm not sure what to say. That last commercial left me completely underwhelmed. Perhaps I shall simply bid you adieu until next week when my erm, sponsor and I shall return with another story. Good night."

Holy shit, this was great. The young man was up to 7 when Carlos's wife suddenly bursts in and stops the game. She says that her husband has done this many times before and that the car he was trying to gamble away was in fact hers. Relieved and disappointed at the same time, the man gets up and goes to light his lady's cigarette for her, but the lighter then fails! In another twist, the wife then declares that it was HER that won the car to begin with (and all the other cars from previous games) and as the camera zooms in on her left hand we see she only has two fingers left in her glove (well you can see she is scrunching up her hand but you get the idea!)

What a fabulous episode this is! Naturally one of the headline highlights of this episode is the starring performance from a pre-fame Steve McQueen with Peter Lorre getting a separate on-screen credit for "guest star". Both are utterly brilliant here. Lorre does look like a pudding though, a shadow of his glorious former self and there is no doubt about McQueen's screen presence being totally captivating at all times. The set up for the intriguing story was fascinating. By the time we get to the ten-minute mark, before the episode goes to its interlude, I was totally hooked with suspense. Wow, where was this going?
Three-quarters of the way through and it was just getting better and better. When the game begins and McQueen lights the lighter and Peter Lorre raises and lowers his meat cleaver was a touch of genius! Yes this one is right up there with the very best episodes.
Just a bit of trivia but the girl whom accompanies McQueen throughout the episode was in fact his real-life wife at the time, Neile Adams.
Director Norman Lloyd started his movie career with Hitch, hanging off the Statue of Liberty in "Saboteur", so he was an expert in nail-biting suspense - and it's fortunate that he had a full set of nails, unlike.....well, you'll have to watch this episode. Like Norman in the movie, it's really gripping. Peter Lorre is on great form here, looking like a sad, overfed lemur and revealing very little about the workings of his mind. He barely moves his face at all, apart from that fascinating thing he can do where he's able to make the top of his head slide back without any apparent effort. (He does this A LOT in "The Maltese Falcon".) Mr. Lorre is not always this relaxed in Hitch's work : in "Secret Agent" he's an excitable Mexican who completely loses it at one point and does serious damage to a toilet roll. Steve McQueen is also completely at ease and already displaying his star quality. Personally I'm glad the bet only got as far as the seventh attempt. By this point it was hard to tell who was the craziest one here : Mr. Lorre, Mr. McQueen for taking the bet, or the lady who burst in just before the end and revealed why Mr. Lorre was the "man from the south". I didn't guess the ending but I noticed that the lady had her hand in her pocket, and I correctly surmised that when she pulled it out, she'd only be able to order two drinks with it. Absolutely top-quality telly.

(click any image to enlarge)

Young man... STEVE McQUEEN
Carlos' wife... KATHERINE SQUIRE
Referee... TYLER McVEY
Bellhop... MARC CAVELL
Bartender... PHIL GORDON

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 01 July 2020