Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 13

   Justus Addiss
   Bernard C. Schoenfeld (teleplay); Henry Slesar (story)
   Pat Hingle, Georgann Johnson
   29 December 1957
   24:42 (total) • 21:22 (film) • 2:05 (Hitchcock)

Night Of The Execution
Warren Selvey (PAT HINGLE) is a prosecuting attorney who has had little success with getting convictions inside a courtroom. His father-in-law (VINTON HAYWARTH) has a heart-to-heart with him in his office and warns Warren that he could make it in life as a senator but he must get a murder case conviction at all costs. One man, Rodman (EDWARD SCHAAF) is on trial for murder and Warren is trying the case and is convinced he has done everything possible to win, but still his future hangs in the balance on the outcome of the verdict.
The day of judgment arrives and the jury retire to consider the fate of Rodman. The defense attorney Hank Vance (HARRY JACKSON) is so convinced that he will win the case and that Warren will again fail that he makes a wager with two fellow lawyers in a bar. In the same bar Warren telephones his wife Doreen (the beautiful GEORGANN JOHNSON) to come down and join him whilst he awaits the jury's return. Warren is nervous and apologises for not making it to the top of his game as quickly as she and her father had hoped but Doreen assures him that she is supportive and patient.
Just as word reaches the bar of the jury reaching their verdict an elderly gentleman named Ed Barnes (RUSSELL COLLINS) enters and desperately tries to talk to Warren but the bar quickly empties as everybody flocks to the courtroom to hear that Rodman has been found guilty - and Warren has finally won a case.
A few days later and Warren is at home with Doreen when she reads a congratulatory letter from Vance over the conviction. Doreen is excited with the prospect of Warren being Governor one day but just as they're about to start having sex (well that's how it looked!) Ed Barnes shows up at the apartment and again tells Warren he desperately needs to talk with him. Barnes confesses to the killing of Rodman's wife and that Rodman is innocent. Warren gives Barnes a drink and sits down to hear the details of Barnes' murder claim. When Warren plays down the old man's claim, Barnes prompts him into asking questions about the case. Warren interrogates Barnes and deliberately feeds him false facts but Barnes corrects him on every false detail. This plants the seed of worry in Warren that Barnes may actually be telling the truth and that Rodman could be about to face the electric chair despite being innocent.
The tension is broken momentarily when Warren's father-in-law telephones him and discusses him running as a representative. When he gets off the phone Warren tells Doreen that he cannot take the job because he cannot let an innocent man die. She passes off Barnes as an old drunk and urges her husband to disregard the fantasy of the old man's confession and threatens blackmail and separation if Warren chooses to pursue a pardon for Rodman. Warren tells Barnes that he wants his confession in writing but Barnes thinks twice about it and quickly leaves after saying he was lying all along.
It's the night of the execution and Warren is at home getting drunk and suffering with his conscience. He refuses to attend a dinner engagement with his wife and her father so they go without him. Barnes shows up once more at the apartment and tries one last time to convince Warren to stop the execution but in a struggle Warren strikes him with a clock and kills him. Moments later Doreen and her father return to the apartment and find Warren standing over the body. But if only Warren had waited an extra couple of minutes he would have been given an all-important piece of information...

•Based on the short story "The Day Of The Execution" by Henry Slesar, originally published in the June 1957 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
•As Warren is addressing the jury he refers to them as "men", but there are at least three women on the jury.
•The jury take less than two hours to reach their verdit of guilty.
•Doreen and Warren took their honeymoon in Europe.
•I do like the fact that when Barnes shows up at the apartment at the end he has the cheek to just let himself in without knocking yet has the manners to take his hat off!
•In his opening remarks Hitchcock refers to the song "All Shook Up". This was an Elvis Presely record which had recently been released around the same time. Talking of Hitchcock, his closing remarks are bordering on the sinister!
[Hitch is holding a grenade] "Good evening. Er, this looks like a hand grenade, doesn't it? Please don't be frightened. It isn't really a grenade it's a music box. You see if this was real and I were to pull the pin I'd be blown to bits in a few minutes. But when I pull the pin on this one we shall hear the sweet strains of 'I'm All Shook Up'. Watch. [Hitch pulls out the pin in the grenade, waits a few seconds] There must be something wrong. [shakes grenade] Oh it's alright, I just got the wrong grenade. The music one's didn't have this inscription on it. It says, 'Whoever finds this grenade I love you'. While I wait here waiting for something to happen suppose you observe as our drama unfolds."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 6 secs):
[Hitch is now holding an apple] "Thus as it so often happens a life is ruined. A promising career is nipped in the bud. All because of one mistake made in the heat of the moment. There's a lesson here for all you good folk. Just one mistake. If Juan had only killed his wife first he would have gotten away with it. I'm sure you are wondering what happened to the grenade? A little grey haired old lady came by selling apples and I managed to slip the grenade into her basket. By now she should be selling apple sauce. She very kindly gave me this. However I just don't feel hungry. [throws apple away, loud explosion] How shocking. She gave me a grenade disguised as an apple. It's getting so you can't trust anyone these days. At any rate we shall be back another time to explore further the dark alley ways of human behaviour. Until then good night."

Afraid that the old man's confession of murder would ruin his political career, Warren murders him in the apartment with the clock (which was rather ironic in itself). Mrs. Selvey and her father walk in and discover the aftermath. Warren's father-in-law recognises the old man lying dead on the floor and says that he was well known in the courtrooms and had a reputation for studying cases and then later confessing to the murders of all those involved. But nobody took him seriously. Warren has killed an innocent man to save his own career though he does spend the entire episode troubled by his conscience of wanting to do the right thing. In my opinion the wife is just as bad by urging her husband to let a seemingly innocent man get executed just so that she can watch her husband attain success. Dark. But in her defence, she was right.
By the way, in a twist of fate Barnes dies at 9pm, the exact same time of Rodman's execution. So in the end an innocent man WAS killed but just not in the way we were expecting. Well, unless you correctly guessed the ending.

Decent story, great acting by a perfect cast. Pat Hingle looks so young; Georgann Johnson looks so beautiful and Russell Collins is just so typically brilliant as usual. No problems with the cast. There is a bit of a time-stretching dead spot in the middle of the episode with Doreen and Warren sitting on their sofa discussing their future plans but it quickly passes into the third act where unfortunately the story becomes a little predictable. The ending was quite obvious very early on which doused any form of suspense from the episode. That said however, I really enjoyed it and felt the editing was tight and the plot flowed nicely for a solid episode. Try not to look too much into the obvious and just enjoy the ride. It's still a good episode. I actually watched it twice in the space of an hour in preparation for the review just to be thorough.

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Warren Selvey... PAT HINGLE

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

This page was last updated on: 12 May 2021