Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 5, Episode 8
Halsted Welles (teleplay); Stanley Ellin (story)
Henry Jones, Duke York
15 November 1959
25:49 (total) • 21:38 (film) • 1:54 (Hitchcock)
|The Blessington Method|
An elderly fisherman arrives at a small dock one afternoon to find a J.J. Bunce, a young man (DICK YORK) sitting in his place and tells him to move. The kindly old man strikes up a conversation about pills but Bunce pushes the man into the sea. Fast forward to July 13th 1980 and Mr. Bunce walks into an office for a meeting. He asks the secretary for Mr. Treadwell but she presses a button on a machine which plays a recording which announces that due to recent scientific discoveries proving that the common cold is caused by speech and therefore all dialogue is being kept to a minimum. Bunce is asked to state his business clearly into a camera which is lowered from the ceiling. After two failed attempts to convey his business, the agitated man is finally allowed to proceed.
Bunce walks into Mr. Treadwell's office but is told he cannot shake hands because it is another rule with the firm, citing that human contact creates contamination. Weird. Bunce introduces himself as being from the Society of Experimental Gerology and shows Treadwell some paperwork and explains that gerology deals with social problems that arise from age. Bunce goes on to say that he wishes to demonstrate how his work can benefit Treadwell before he collects any payment from him. He tells Treadwell that he has been watching his case for several months and that Treadwell is a perfect candidate for the treatment. Treadwell doesn't seem interested until Bunce mentions his 82 year-old mother-in-law, who has moved in with him and is driving him mad. Bunce tells Treadwell that his annoying mother-in-law should live, barring accidents, another 32 years. He emphasises the "barring accidents" point rather deliberately. Treadwell is offended that Bunce would be so suggestive and kicks him out of the office.
That evening during the family dinner Treadwell is upset with his mother-in-law who keeps banging upstairs (banging, as in on the ceiling - not in the bed, if you know what I mean!) She summons him upstairs to fix her television. Later, Treadwell becomes annoyed with his wife and children for making too much noise and starts berating them with making pointless observations about the quietness of space before going upstairs to lay in to his mother-in-law for playing her records too loudly. 'Grandma' gives Treadwell some derogatory compliments before telling him to get used to her being around for the foreseeable future... oh, and to stop turning off her intercom.
The next day at the office Treadwell meets with Bunce again at the office (after a hilarious snap at his secretary on his way through!) to discuss how to move forward with the plan to eliminate the mother-in-law. They choose Sunday morning in the park and shake hands (despite the fact that the shaking of hands is not permitted in the office, as stated earlier in the episode). Treadwell is then asked to cough up a fee of $2,000.
Sunday comes and Treadwell boldly announces to his family that he is skipping church to go fishing. But apparently a new law has just been introduced where it is compulsory to attend church. (Yeah, I can't see that one sticking). Bunce keeps his end of the bargain and after taking Grandma out for a walk (or rather a push in her pushchair) he casually dumps her over the pier and into the sea. Bunce then finds Treadwell in his little fishing boat and confirms that the job has been done but it's what he says next that begins the paranoia...
•In the opening scene the dialogue is heard with a distinct acoustic echo, which would indicate it was shot on a sound stage.
•In the story, Elizabeth Patterson's character is 82 years old and it is predicted that she would live until she was 114 years old. Her character also states that she would live until she was over 100 - something that was practically unheard of back in 1959 when the episode was made. She even claims that the life expectancy nowadays is 125 years old (not sure which planet she was on when she came up with THAT figure!) She was born in 1875, so therefore at the time of filming (1959) she was actually 83 and lived until she was 90 years old. Close.
•Is it just me or does Dick York remind anyone of Jim Carrey in this episode?
•Bunce explains to Grandma that is is called The Blessington Method, named after their founder Ralph Blessington.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minue 11 secs):|
[Hitch is sitting in a wheelchair with his right leg raised and in plaster whilst a nurse attends to him] "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. [the nurse walks off] I should explain. I came down with a cold. The broken leg was a later development. These nurses can become quite forceful at times. The National Safety Council has asked that I remind you most accidents occur in the home. Therefore, this might be a very good place to avoid. If you must be there now would be an excellent time to check those items that may be lying around, waiting to produce accidents. Roller-skates at the bottom of the stairs, poorly insulated wires near the bathtub, ground glass in the sugar bowl, arsenic in the coffee. Little things which, if you don't find, you may regret for the rest of your life. So much for accidents. Now we come to the intentional part of our program."
HITCH'S EPILOGUE (43 secs) :
"The doctor told me I could take the cast off any time. But I find I receive much better treatment with it on. As for Mr. Bunce and Mr. Treadwell, even their advanced society frowned on their activities. By then mothers-in-law were most numerous and even more powerful than they are today. It's something to look forward to. Provided you're a mother-in-law. [Hitch gets up out of the wheelchair to reveal the plastered leg which we have all been looking at is actually false!] Now, until next time, good night."
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION...
A strange episode, which begins with a really odd scene of a nice old man being pushed to his death into the sea. As the story progresses it is sort-of explained why this sets up what follows. It's all a bit confusing, and even the ending asks more questions than it answers. Duke York is definitely an earlier incarnation of Jim Carrey in his role as the odd J.J. Bunce. Henry Jones is his usual wonderful self, but the rest of the cast are mere fillers with their expendable characters. I felt the ending would be better than it turned out to be because the intrigue and confusion which preceded it warranted a decent explanation, but in the end all we are left with is paranoia and uncertainty. A strange episode.
This little tale is interesting but corrupt. Usually if a murder takes place and the killer gets away with it within the framework of the episode, Hitch explains in his afterpiece that justice was eventually done. That doesn't happen here. We are expected to accept the conceit that "twenty years in the future" an organisation will exist, and flourish, for the purpose of doing away with troublesome elderly relatives. Presumably the police aren't suspicious about the number of ancient citizens who have mysteriously fallen off the dockside. It's all unlikely, just as unlikely as a 1980 in which an entire family will listen to jazz on the radio. Going to church is still practised in this version of middle-class America, although Mr. Treadwell defiantly ducks out of it on the morning that his hired hit-man bumps off the mother-in-law. Did he resume his worship the following week, reasoning that her death was justified on account of her being a gruesome old ratbag ? On the plus side we have Dick York blossoming as a comedy actor, all charm and restrained menace ; and dear old dependable everyman Henry Jones as a family man browbeaten into paying for a murder. His finest moment is when the camera lingers on his impressive range of facial expressions as he considers all the possibilities. It's all well done, of course, but the "future" setting is unnecessary. Conspiracy theorists could argue that Mr. Bunce's organisation could just as easily be successfully active in 1959, or indeed now. But it didn't ring true, apart from the secretary avoiding speech to prevent the spread of germs. Sadly, that could be the future.
(click any image to enlarge)
John Treadwell... HENRY JONES
J.J. Bruce... DICK YORK
Grandma... ELIZABETH PATTERSON
Mrs. Treadwell... IRENE WINDUST
Man on the pier... PAUL E. BURNS
Treadwell's son... VAUGHN MEADOWS
Treadwell's daughter... NANCY KILGAS
Secretary... PENNY EDWARDS
(click any image to enlarge)
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book)
This page was last updated on: 23 February 2021