Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 5, Episode 12

   Robert Stevens
   Victor Wolfson (teleplay); Bernard C. Schoenfeld (story)
   Robert Morley, Kenneth Haigh
   13 December 1959
   25:00 (total) • 21:01 (film) • 1:22 (Hitchcock)

Specialty Of The House
Two men Mr. Laffler (Robert Morley) and his employee Mr. Costain (Kenneth Haigh) hurry along a dark street near the waterfront when Laffler invites Costain into a restaurant/club named "Spirros" - apparently the only one of its kind in the world. They enter the premises through a back door and are shown upstairs to a dining room. Laffler introduces Costain to some of the diners; firstly Henlein, who tells him that Mr. Jackson has recently resigned, and then Lum Fong Ho - a businessman from Singapore.
Laffler enquires to the waiter whether the specialty of the house is being served that evening but he is told that unfortunately it is not. Laffer tells his guest that all members at the exclusive club eat the same meal at the same time on any given night. The two men are served with soup but Costain doesn't seem to like it much. Then comes the main course... a rather small plate of lamb, which Laffler gobbles up quickly.
The next night Laffler and Costain revisit Spirros in the hope they may be serving the specialty of the house but alas they are not. But the owner, Spirro - a heavyset woman - does make an appearance and announces that they will indeed be serving their specialty soon. After dinner Costain tells Spirro that he is interested in becoming a member at the club but she tells him there is a long period of testing before applicants are approved. She invites him to return the next day to savour the speciality of the house, saying it ought to be ready by then but Laffler is furious at being snubbed in favour of his employee.
The next evening Laffler and Costain enter the restaurant separately and are sat at the same table and are served the much anticipated specialty of the house. A few weeks later Laffler leaves Costain in charge of the office while he goes away on a business trip. But before he goes Laffler pays one last visit to Spirros where he witnesses a fight between Paul (the waiter) and a man. Paul thanks Laffler for saving his life, and tries to repay the favour to Laffler later on when Laffler is invited into the kitchen by trying to stop him from going inside. But Laffler is determined to see with his own eyes just how the specialty of the house is prepared.

•This was Robert Morley's only appearance in the series.
[Hitch is standing in a garden with a picnic basket next to him] "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. A dear friend invited me to this picnic but he doesn't seem to be around. I seldom go on safaris of this kind. They can be simulated perfectly in your own home thanks to these two shakers. You just sprinkle these on your sandwiches. This one contains sand, and this one ants. Ah, the reason for my invitation is now obvious. Rattlesnake steaks - in the original package. While I attempt to unravel this mystery we have one for you to puzzle over. Here it is."

[Hitch is seen in close-up] "I trust you understand that our having Mrs. Spirro on our programme does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of her or her restaurant. [camera switches back to Hitch from the prologue section, sitting on the grass with the picnic laid out in front of him] You know erm... I'm wondering if picnics might not be as bad as I imagined. I haven't even seen any ants. [camera pulls back to reveal a giant ant invading the set] Until next time when I shall return with another story. [Hitch sprays the ant with bug spray until it seemingly dies] Good night."

Yep, the specialty of the house is human beings. Mr. Laffler becomes the latest item on the rather unique menu. After spending so much time begging to get into the kitchen, he finally gets his wish. He gets to meet the chef who gets to make HIM into meat!

Robert Morley is just so excitable in this, isn't he? Okay so the ending was very predictable but you can't help relishing in the build-up and wondering of maybe you'd got it wrong and it was something else? Unfortunately the twist ending can be seen quite early into the story but even so.... Decent amount of suspense and atmosphere and wondering though...
You say specialty and I say speciality, but let's not call the whole thing off, for this episode is as succulent as those lovely meat pies in Mrs. Lovett's shop next door to Sweeney Todd's......and we're in the same territory, where "come dine with me" has a much more sinister meaning. "This is monstrous !" booms Robert Morley, and he's right. Noel Coward expressed the opinion that Mr. Morley had only one performance in him, and we get it here, He always plays himself, but that can be a good thing. Even when he's making W.S. Gilbert or Oscar Wilde seem exactly like Robert Morley, he's a joy to watch, and he's in full flow here, alternatively kind and generous or petulant, childish and greedy. His mid-episode shift to jealous anger is a bit abrupt, and I suspect there was a cut in the middle section which might have been tasty. Should we have heard a song at the piano from that strange and spooky club owner ? Madame Spivy was the real deal : she's on YouTube and she's a treat. Amidst such flamboyance, Mr. Haigh is bland by comparison - hardly surprising - and we can see why he lost out on the movie version of "Look Back in Anger" to the more charismatic Richard Burton. Both he and Mr. Morley are English, but where is this place supposed to be ? The opening location shots are indistinct but they suggest an unsavoury dockland area, apparently not London. No matter : this is an excellent episode, and the tension builds nicely, even though I'm sure we'd all guessed the ending before the chef appears with his big chopper. And for a low-budget telly episode, that's a magnificent staircase they have in the club. Was it borrowed from some other production ? There's another mystery.....and now if you'll excuse me, it's time to tuck into a nice big bowl of Soylent Green. Yummy !

(click any image to enlarge)

Mr. Laffler... ROBERT MORLEY
Mr. Costain... KENNETH HAIGH
Lum Fong Ho... TETSU KOMAI
The chef... LEE TURNBULL

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 30 June 2020