Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 5, Episode 26

   Herschel Daugherty
   James P. Cavanaugh (teleplay); Q. Patrick (story)
   William Shatner, Jessie Royce Landis, Gia Scala
   10 April 1960
   26:11 (total) • 21:56 (film) • 2:08 (Hitchcock)

Mother, May I Go Out To Swim?
The story opens in the coroner's court with a board of officials meeting to determine the cause of death and circumstances of the deceased. John Crane (William Shatner) sits in the room awaiting the verdict. His voice-over admits that he is guilty of murder. Through flashback, we see that John is in his apartment with his mother Claire (Jessie Royce Landis) preparing to leave on a trip and for her to join up with him later on. On his travels John stops by to pick up some photography film from a gift shop where he meets a beautiful young cashier named Lottie (Gia Scala). When he tells her he is interested in taking some photographs in the area she suggests a beautiful place by a waterfall and offers to show it to him.
The two of them waste no time in getting acquainted when they sit together by the waterfall (which is so obviously rear-projection footage) and she tells him of her struggles in Germany during the war. Their conversation breaks when John has to leave to take a telephone call which he is expecting from his mother.
Before you can blink, John and Lottie are dancing together, making love and talking about getting married. (Apparently these things happen that quickly?) But again, John cuts their time short by returning to his hotel because he has missed a call from his mother, whom he finds in his room having just arrived there. They embrace warmly and Claire says she is looking forward to meeting Lottie. The next morning over breakfast John tells his mother that Lottie has been so nice to him and had helped him overcome his phobia of dancing. Claire looks less than thrilled. John leaves to go to the airport to pick up the rest of his luggage, leaving his mother at the hotel.
That morning Claire visits the gift shop and asks for something to buy for a man. The unsuspecting Lottie gets interrogated by Claire who picks up on her foreign accent and suspects Lottie is seeking marriage in order to claim citizenship. The rude encounter ends when Claire leaves without buying anything. Later Lottie meets John for lunch at the hotel and is formally introduced to his mother. Hmmmm awkward. They clear their tension and settle down to talk over tea until Lottie suddenly gets up and leaves without warning.
That night John meets Lottie back at the waterfall and Lottie openly admits she doesn't like his mother and accuses of her deliberately trying to sabotage her relationship with John. She takes the dangerous step in suggesting to John that only after his mother dies will he ever be free of her. Lottie gives John the ultimatum and makes him choose between her and his mother. Back at the hotel John confronts Claire but she tells him she has met someone and plans to live together with him, effectively freeing John up to live his life with Lottie.
The next morning Lottie says she is going to leave on vacation without him unless John acts immediately. She suggests the three of them go to the waterfall. When both women peer over the cliff edge John pushes one of them over, to her death. But which one? The final scene concludes in the coroner's court with the verdict, as John walks away with the remaining woman.

•Gia Scala is given a separate credit in the opening titles as "guest star".
•When John finds his mother in his hotel room he calls her Claire. Who calls their mother by their real name?
•John and his mother share the same cigarette over breakfast. Smoking is bad enough as it is, but sharing a cigarette where both of your mouths have been on it?
•At around 13 minutes there is a bit of dialogue which sounds as though it was two different takes. When Claire says, "It's always been my ambition to meet someone with a [change of camera angle] lurid past". Listening to the tone of her voice and the way the line is delivered, and with the edit in the film it sounds as though the "lurid past" line was a separate take and not just a different camera angle.
•When Lottie and Claire are formally introduced at the hotel, Claire asks "Whatever must you think of me?" I could tell you, if you would really like to know! •The vital clue is with that cigarette... Claire clearly had control of John, likely in more ways than they could show in 1960, and when she told him she was going to live with somebody, well, that had to be the final straw for him. Oedipus Complex.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 18 secs):
[Hitch is standing on a diving board] "Good evening. I've been talked into making a high dive for publicity. I was told it would be excellent for the show. I'm not certain what it will do for me. [cut to a shot from a rooftop looking down to the street below from several floors up] I was promised there would be someone to demonstrate how easy the dive is. Actually it's not the dive I'm worried about, it's the landing. [a man wearing swimming trunks walks on to the set, climbs up the diving board as Hitch steps aside, and then does a somersault off the end of it. We wait to hear a splash but there is no sound] Jumping from the high diving board into a small tub of water is exactly like presenting a play on television. You may have a big hit but then again you may miss. But in either event you make a big splash. While we're waiting for our friend to land let's put the time to good use."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (50 seconds):
"A word about our story in a moment. I've just been told that our diver landed but I am awaiting confirmation. [splash] Well I suppose it's nice to know that he arrived safely. By the way, in tonight's story the police ultimately found the correct answer to that age-old question. Was she pushed or did she jump? Now for a jump of my own. [opens umbrella, and cut to an aerial shot of New York City before cutting back to Hitch] I don't mind jumping but not if they keep moving things. Until next time, good night."

The court rules that it was an accidental death. We have to wait until the very end to find out that it was Lottie who was pushed to her death.

To be honest, the title of the episode alone is a bit strange isn't it? It doesn't exactly set the mood. It begins at the end of the story, with John Crane admitting he is a murderer and we have to sit through a story heavy with dialogue in order to discover what happened and who it was he allegedly killed. His mother became overprotective and rather jealous of the new girlfriend, whose quick-start relationship with John seemed a bit unusual. As the clock ticked down to the final moments of the story it became more and more intriguing as to which one of them John does away with - Lottie or Claire? A nailbiting finale makes up for the padded middle section of the episode. Good.
This episode was enlivened (is there such a word as endeadened ?) by the performance of Miss Royce Landis as the mother from hell. All nice and sweet on the surface, her flashing eyes soon revealed the gorgon within. You know that she'd soon start wrecking that marriage. Resistance would be futile, so the young bride-to-be tried to ensure that the old boot wouldn't live long and prosper. The twist at the end was partly to be expected, almost inevitable, and we just knew that this young man's life was boldly going nowhere. The tension built up nicely during this one, even though we had to (we didn't have to ; we have the fast-forward button to travel through time and space) sit through some really dreary dialogue scenes while young Mr. Shatner - for it was him, Jim - dithered about what to do or what not to do, in front of that waterfall. Ah yes, that waterfall, the worst example of inept and obvious back-projection since "County Hospital". Did they plan it that way ? Who on earth designed it ? You may think that the ending was morally corrupt, that the young guy got away with murder, but just consider the rest of his life with that poisonous ratbag. Horror stories don't always have to involve ghosts and vampires : there are enough monsters in real life. It was a compelling episode, but a better script would have made a world of difference.

(click any image to enlarge)

Lottie Rank... GIA SCALA
Inquest board chairman... ROBERT CARSON
Clerk of the court... DONALD ELSON

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Acknowledgements: [IMDb]
Steve Wright (some trivia)

This page was last updated on: 20 October 2020