Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 1

   Alfred Hitchcock
   Francis Cockrell (teleplay); Samuel Blas (story)
   Ralph Meeker, Vera Miles
   02 October 1955
   25:09 (total) • 22:36 (film) • 1:28 (Hitchcock)

A young married couple, Mr. & Mrs. Spann move to a trailer park on the Californian coast after Mrs. Spann suffers a breakdown. Carl (Ralph Meeker) wakes up early one morning and makes breakfast for himself and Elsa (the beautiful Vera Miles). Worried that she will be bored all day whilst he is at work, Carl asks for a middle-aged neighbour, Mrs. Ferguson to check in on Elsa during the day just to keep her company. Mrs. Ferguson pops over to the trailer and shares a drink of apple juice with her as they get acquainted. Mrs. Ferguson invites Elsa to come to the market with her but Elsa elects to stay behind because she is baking a surprise cake for Carl. Elsa goes outside to do a spot of sunbathing, wearing next to nothing and showing us all her incredibly well defined legs.
Later that afternoon Carl arrives home with some groceries to find the trailer engulfed in smoke and Elsa lying motionless on the bedroom floor. He picks her up and places her on the bed and finds the head of a carnation scrunched up in her left hand. Else explains to Carl that she was attacked by a man acting as a salesman. When Mrs. Ferguson comes over to the trailer to see what is wrong Carl tells her to fetch a doctor.
Two police detectives show up to investigate and and begin asking Carl questions while a doctor examines Elsa in the trailer before giving her a tranquiliser and recommending to Carl that he and his wife ought to move out of the trailer and go to a hotel. The police take a look around the trailer but are unable to find any clues to prove any crime has been committed. When they tell Carl there is nothing more they can do Carl decides to take matters into his own hands.

•The first episode to air, but "Breakdown" with Joseph Cotten was the first to be filmed.
•Alfred Hitchcock directed the episode.
•Carl gets up at 6am. Elsa tells Mrs. Ferguson that Carl works as an engineer. Carl later tells the detective he works for Millet Aircraft.
•Elsa says she trained as a dancer in a ballet. Later, she tells Carl that her attacker "killed me".
•The flower that Carl finds in Elsa's hand is a carnation.
•When the policeman speaks to the lieutenant he says that a lady, Mrs. Jones (third trailer from the right), saw a man come into the trailer park from the beach and described him as 6ft tall, grey suit and dark hair. Carl tells the detective that Elsa described her attacker as dark, tall and wearing a grey suit.
•The reason Mrs. Ferguson didn't see or hear anything relating to the alleged attack on Elsa was because she was away at the market during the afternoon.
•When Carl is driving around town later on he passes the same stores twice.
•How convenient was it that Carl happened to get a free parking spot right outside the hotel!
•The hotel is the Windsor Hotel.
•The guy whom Carl challenges in the hotel resides in room 321.
•Carl isn't very conspicuous when he waits for the suspect in the hotel lobby, is he?
•Carl takes an awfully long time to enter the suspect's room and again when he leaves. If you are going to kill someone surely you would be in and out of the room much quicker than that? He also waits for the elevator afterwards as well to take him back down to the ground floor, further risking being seen by anybody on the floor. For his sake, it would have been much better to have taken the stairs which were right next to the elevator. Very clumsy.
•A terrible rear-view projection is used in the final scene after Carl drives away from the hotel. The road bends sharply before Carl even turns the wheel.
•How did the maid know that "something terrible has happened in room 321"?
[Hitch appears standing in front of a chair] "Good evening. I'm Alfred Hitchcock and tonight I am presenting the first in a series of stories of suspense and mystery called, oddly enough, 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. I shall not act in these stories but will only make appearances, something in the nature of an accessory before and after the fact; to give the title to those of you who can't read and to tidy up afterwards for those of you who don't understand the endings. Tonight's playlet is really a sweet little story. It is called 'Revenge'. It will follow... [he turns to his left and pauses] Oh dear, I see the actors won't be ready for another sixty seconds. However, thanks to our sponsor's remarkable foresight we have a message that will fit in here nicely."

"Well they were a pathetic couple. We had intended to call that one 'Death Of A Salesman' but there were protests from certain quarters. Naturally Elsa's husband was caught, indicted, tried, convicted, sentenced and paid his debt to society for taking the law into his own hands. You see, crime does not pay; not even on television. You must have a sponsor. Here's ours after which I will return. [fade to black] That was beautifully put. In fact after hearing that there's nothing more I wish to add. So good night until next week."

It is very likely that Elsa was attacked even though we only have her word for it. The description of the alleged attacker seems to match that of a man seen on the premises earlier in the day by another woman who gave her statement to the police, but it's hard to know for sure given Elsa's mental state.
What is definite is that Carl seeks retribution for the attack and so he decides to drive Elsa around town looking for the man. Elsa sees a man fitting the description of her attacker and points him out to Carl who then follows him into a hotel and supposedly kills him with a large spanner (we don't witness the killing; it is only implied) before returning to the car. As Carl drives off, Elsa points out a second stranger on the sidewalk and claims he is the man who attacked her. Elsa doesn't even register any emotion at pointing out a second man and just stares blankly ahead. Police sirens signal the end for Carl.

For a first episode in a brand new tv series, this is pretty good! Hitchcock directed the episode himself and is pretty generous in his sexually provocative shots of the beautiful Vera Miles throughout, with a series of tantalising shots of her legs! I just couldn't take my eyes off her, and there was at least one shot that was so risque I can't believe it got past the censors (the scene where Carl puts Elsa on the bed and lowers her legs). [see here.] This should have been called "Vera Miles Presents"!! The twist ending was to become a trait of the show, which leaves the viewers trying to guess what the plot twist would be, and often we'd get it wrong!
This is a stunner - and so is Vera Miles. It's quite startling to see how she changes into a dowdy, mousy little thing after being attacked. What intrigued me is that after we get that lingering shot of her lovely legs, the old bat in the trailer next door looks her up and down and PURSES HER LIPS. Whatever it is she's thinking, she certainly couldn't say it on 1955 American telly ! Apart from Vera's legs, the photography is exceptional, great shots of sunny California. Clearly Hitch took charge of this first episode himself to give it a good sendoff. It has the same high quality as his features - but oh, it's bleak.

(click any image to enlarge)

Carl Spann... RALPH MEEKER
Elsa Spann... VERA MILES
Mrs. Ferguson... FRANCES BAVIER
Man in grey suit... RAY MONTGOMERY
Detective... RAY TEAL
Police lieutenant... NORMAN WILLIS
Hotel maid... LILLIAN O'MALLEY
Hotel desk clerk... HERBERT LYTTON

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 08 July 2020