Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 4, Episode 5

   Norman Lloyd
   William Fay (teleplay); Harold Q. Masur (story)
   Barry Sullivan, Leslie Nielsen
   02 November 1958
   26:08 (total) • 21:47 (film) • 2:48 (Hitchcock)

The $2,000,000 Defense
The majority of the story takes place in the courtroom where Lloyd Ashley (Leslie Nielsen) is on trial for murdering a man whom he suspected was having an affair with his wife. The prosecution, led by Mr. Herrick (Wendell Holmes) grills Lloyd on the details of how he went to the home of his wife's lover and confronting him with a .32 calibre pistol. Lloyd admits his intentions were to scare the man but claims the gun went off accidentally despite the safety catch being on.
A gun ballistics expert from the New York police department is called in to give his testimony on whether or not it is possible for such a weapon to fire off a bullet 'accidentally' despite the safety catch being on. He adamantly claims that such a thing was virtually impossible. When the court adjourns Lloyd feels the squeeze on his chances of his acquittal and proposes to his defence lawyer Mark Rosen (Barry Sullivan), who is also an old friend of his that he is willing to pay him two million dollars to get him off and acquitted. Rosen agrees and gets Lloyd to put the offer in writing for him.
Knowing that the one thing that could save Lloyd in the trial is if Rosen can prove in court that the gun was indeed capable of firing a shot with the safety catch on. One night, in a desperate attempt to clear his client Rosen shoots himself in the arm with the gun and later claims his wound was the result of himself slamming the gun down on a hard surface which caused the gun to fire. He takes this fabricated story into the courtroom and challenges the ballistics expert to prove that his own theory stands up by inviting him to take the gun and have him slam it down on the ground. The expert cannot bring himself to do so and this wins the jury over in Lloyd's favour.
Lloyd is acquitted of the murder and he celebrates with Mark back at Mark's apartment. But the celebrations are short-lived when Lloyd tells him that his private detective discovered who the real man is who was sleeping with his wife...

•The gun is a .32 calibre Colt automatic.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 36 secs):
"Good evening. My name is Alfred Hitchcock and the program is 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. In the interest of enlightening our audience we are inaugurating a new policy for this portion of the program. From time to time we plan to interview important figures in various fields. Tonight we have with us one of the world's outstanding mathematicians. If you will, sir. [a horse walks into the studio] Good evening, sir. I shall begin the interrogation at once. My first question concerns a matter which has no doubt been bothering members of our audience for many years. How much is two and two? [the horse shuffles its feet on the floor] The opinions expressed by our guest are his own and in no way reflect my own views or those of my sponsor. And now sir, what is your favourite television story? [the horse bangs his hoof on the floor repeatedly] I think he's telling us that his favourite television play is 'The Two Million Dollar Defense' in which case we are in for a very long time of it. Long enough, in fact, to show you 'The Two Million Dollar Defense'. But first my sponsor wishes to put his two cents in."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 minute 12 seconds):
[Hitch is still counting the number of times the horse has been scraping the floor with his hooves] "One million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and thirty eight. One million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and thirty nine. [He turns and faces the camera] So much for our story. Fortunately Lloyd actually spent all his money on his first murder trial. And when his trial for the shooting of Mark Rosen came along he didn't have another two million dollars for a good lawyer. I believe that's forty-two, or ...was it one million? Oh, I give up! I don't know how he does it without fingers. Now for something you can always count on, after which I'll be back. [fade out; fade in and Hitch is now standing by a blackboard] Before our guest left I discovered him scribbling on this blackboard. Frankly, I don't know how long we can hold our scientific superiority over the horse but I think we better do something drastic. That is, unless you relish the thought of suddenly finding yourselves on the wrong end of a plough or chasing each other around racetracks while the horses do the betting. And on this grim note I must leave you until next week when I shall be back with another play. Until then, good night".

After Lloyd is acquitted of murder, he confesses to Mark that he had hired a private detective to keep an eye on his wife whilst he was in prison waiting for his trial. The detective revealed that Lloyd's wife, Eve, was having a secret affair with Mark. Lloyd then shoots Mark dead in his office.

Intriguing episode. The story wastes no time in getting straight to the heart of the matter as we begin in the courtroom with the focus being whether or not the gun that was used in the killing could have discharged accidentally despite the safety catch being on. The story is told within the boundary of twenty minutes allotted for the episode, which I think is pretty good going. Some good suspense is exampled by the moment when the guns expert is asked to demonstrate dropping the gun in order to prove it cannot accidentally misfire. There is an obvious connection between Lloyd's wife and Mark Rosen when they have their brief interaction halfway through, and a lacklustre ending in which Lloyd seemingly gets away with murder for a second time. But in general, and given the limited time needed to tell the story this was a fairly entertaining and above average episode.
This episode asks the question : would you shoot yourself in the arm for $2,000,000 ? Mr. Sullivan's character is an excellent lawyer. It's a pity - but necessary for the purposes of the story - that he's a thoroughly crooked one. He knows his client is guilty. If he hadn't been offered the $2,000,000, would he have made less of an effort to get his guy off the hook ? Despite several holes in the story - and the cast - this one zipped along so swiftly that I didn't realise how enjoyable it was until it had finished. There was bound to be some sort of a twist, and SOMEBODY was going to be shot with that gun, but the way it turned out was unexpected. Did Mr. Nielsen expect to get away with the incredible coincidence of his gun shooting someone with the safety catch on AGAIN ? Once could be argued to be accidental (it wasn't) but three times is pushing the boat out too far. And having shot his hot-shot lawyer, how does Mr. Nielsen know he'll get an equally dodgy and wily lawyer to get him off the next time ? Still, no quibbles - apart from all of the above ! This was good solid late 50s courtroom drama telly. And Hitch was having a great time with that horse.

(click any image to enlarge)

Mark Rosen, defense councel... BARRY SULLIVAN
Lloyd Ashley... LESLIE NIELSEN
Mr. Herrick, district attorney... WENDELL HOLMES
Eve Ashley... LORI MARCH
John Keller, gun expert... HERBERT ANDERSON
Judge Cobb... EDWIN JEROME
Police officer... RALPH BARNARD

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 17 October 2020