Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 1, Episode 33

   Herschel Daugherty
   Robert C. Dennis (teleplay); Allan Vaughan Elston (story)
   Jack Mullaney, Patricia Hitchcock
   13 May 1956
   24:51 (total) • --:-- (film) • -:-- (Hitchcock)

The Belfry
The bell rings at the top of the tower above Clark County School, which also doubles as a church, as we pan down to see all the kids running out of the building excitedly. The teacher, Ellie Marsh (Pat Hitchcock) locks up for the day when she is joined by Clint Ringle, who upon first impression seems like a simple, shy, stuttering man but whose manners prove to be anything but when she rejects his advances of proposed marriage.
Her new fiance Walt Norton shows up but when he confirms his engagement to Clint, Clint suddenly kills him with an axe. The murder is seen by one of the schoolchildren who runs off to tell others of what he has witnessed. As night descends and the rain falls, the unhinged Clint walks around in a haze with the voices in his head reaffirming his love for Ellie and how he has it all planned out to build a house for them and a future together.
A search party hunts for Clint as he decides to take refuge in the belfry above the school house. The sheriff and the volunteers have a conversation downstairs inside the school house and within the earshot of Clint with the sheriff telling the men the first one of them to find the wanted man to come back and ring the bell. The next morning the hunters stop by outside the school house, which has now been closed on account of Ellie being at home disturbed by the events of the day before. When Clint overhears the men saying how Ellie referred to his house as a "shack" he becomes irritated and thinks less of her for mocking his efforts. We also see that Clint has stuffed his jacket up inside the bell to prevent it from making any sound in the event that somebody tries to ring it and give his position away.
Clint climbs down and into the school house where he stumbles upon a book with Ellie's hand-written signature in it. He throws it in rage across the classroom before chalking "I'll git you to" [sic] on the blackboard. The next morning Ellie is teaching her class when she sees it and begins to freak out. Later, when the kids are playing outside one of them throws a baseball up and hits the bell. As the boy climbs up to retrieve it the bell begins to ring, signalling the children to go inside the classroom. That afternoon the end of school means Clint can now 'escape' from his perch but misses his opportunity to accost Ellie when the sheriff escorts her home safely.
Over the course of the weekend, the boy re-attempts to climb up onto the roof of the school house and retrieve his ball but at the very last moment is talked down by two passing men as they enter the school/church for Sunday service. Afterwards the funeral for the deceased man takes place followed by the ringing of the bell as a mark of respect. The fugitive is discovered....

•When it begins raining the rain can clearly be seen in a cross-cross formation, which means there must have been more than one source for the water.
•After the sheriff leaves the school house with the men they each brush past the rope holding the bell above, yet in the next shot when we see Clint the rope is perfectly still.
[Hitch is standing in front of two "wanted" posters with his own photographs on it - one photo shows his face and the other shows the back of his head] "Good evening. Perhaps I should explain this. My wife had these posters printed up as a joke. Of course she doesn't really want me. Anyway there isn't a chance that I'll be recognised; they're passport photographs. This one [points to profile photo] is for going abroad, and this one [points to photo showing the back of his head] is for coming back. My excuse for making these undignified remarks is that tonight's story, 'The Belfry', contains a wanted man. In fact an entire town is looking for him. Such popularity must be deserved; and in this case it is. But I shall allow you to learn the details on your own. First however, I want you to hear this description of a much-wanted product. Listen closely: it may be in your neighbourhood store. If it is, apprehend it at once. The reward is high."

"That was satisfying wasn't it? It couldn't have happened to a nicer person. And speaking of nice people, before I return we will have a few quips from television's most tolerant sponsor. Surprised you, didn't I? [fade to black] [Hitch has his back to the camera and is penciling a moustache over his "wanted" photograph before turning to the camera with a false moustache!] Good night."

As Elmer rings the bell, it wakes Clint but he doesn't have time to dodge it as it hits him in the face and presumably kills him.

Shucks-a-tarnation, folks, we're in backwoods America at some unspecified time in the past. It could be 1880, it could be 1920. Pat Hitchcock is the sweet-natured schoolteacher, but sadly she and her predecessors must have been a tad sloppy as everyone uses double negatives all the time ("We ain't gonna ketch nuthin' but new-moaney stayin' heah !"). We know from the outset that this isn't going to end well, due to the unsettling presence of the nerd's nerd Jack Mullaney. He's the mumbling, sweaty horror who's stuck on her, and is liable - guaranteed - to do something appalling in the face of rejection. And he does, chopping Pat's boyfriend in the face with an axe and then, in true Hollywood baddie style, finding the highest possible place to hide. All this is well made, but the central character is quite repellent. Today we'd be able to diagnose his condition and treat it, but even so, he's evil - and evil-smelling, too, I imagine, after several days up in that belfry with no lavatorial facilities, not that it seems to bother him. He's almost a dry run for Norman Bates in Psycho except that he's not very dry. Well, he wouldn't be, after several days...... Jack Mullaney's performance is startling. What's going on in this man's mind, this twenty-something who behaves like a six-year-old and SUCKS HIS THUMB ? (Excuse me while I try to blot that image out of my mind.) Hitch's daughter Pat is fine too, but the sheriff uses a double negative, and she doesn't correct him. What kind of schoolteacher is she ? Of course, it all ends as we knew it would, justice is done, and as Hitch says, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer person".

(click any image to enlarge)

Clint Ringle... JACK MULLANEY
Sheriff... DABBS GREER
Local citizen... ROSS EVANS
Preacher... JIM HAYWARD
Local citizen... RALPH MOODY
Walt Norton... JOHN COMPTON
Albert Grinstead... DAVID SABER
Luke... RUDY LEE

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 12 August 2020