Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 11

   Don Taylor
   Robert C. Dennis (teleplay); Lawrence Treat (story)
   Phyllis Thaxter, Lee Philips
   15 December 1957
   24:47 (total) • 21:32 (film) • 2:01 (Hitchcock)

The Deadly
Margo Brenner (PHYLLIS THAXTER) is at the train station waiting for her husband's train when she sees Ann Warren (JACQUELINE MAYO), a pretty, young, recently married woman who is nervous and asks how to manage her finances. Taking pity on her, Margo decides to invite Ann and her husband Joe over for dinner on Friday evening. On the drive home Margo mentions to her husband Lewis (CRAIG STEVENS) that there is a water leak in the basement which needs fixing. When they get home Lewis takes a look but says it is too dark to see anything and suggests Margo calls a plumber.
The next morning plumber Jack Staley (LEE PHILIPS) turns up at 9:30am and straight away you can tell something is not quite right about him. He is polite but cocky, flirty and obnoxious with Margo. After making her feel uncomfortable about guessing her husband's salary based on their home, he goes down in the basement to look at the leak. Margo lights a cigarette (in her own home - remember when you were "allowed" to do that?!) and takes a telephone call from her friend but is interrupted by Staley who is looking for the bathroom in order to isolate the water pressure.
When Margo goes upstairs to check on Staley she finds him in her bedroom (okay this guy is getting creepy). But he doesn't stop there. He picks up the duvet from her bed AND her nightdress! "Nice and silky!" Margo starts to get annoyed (well can you blame her?), and somewhat afraid, especially when Staley starts holding his wrench up to her face whilst apologising for being over curious.
A few moments later Staley finds Margo downstairs in the kitchen and tells her he has found the cause of the leak and the estimate to fix it will be $500. Naturally she isn't happy, but she hasn't heard the worst part - it's blackmail. He tells her that he has been in her house for two hours, in her bedroom and will tell everybody the two of them are up to no good and ruin her reputation. Staley boldly admits she isn't his first victim either and even goes so far as to threaten to sue her for damages caused to his back when he (allegedly) slipped in her bathroom. The smarmy bastard tells Margo she has 24 hours to get the money for when he returns the next morning to fix her leak.
Early next morning Margo calls the police and asks somebody to come over to the house on account of her being blackmailed. Staley arrives to fix the leak and completely plays down the whole thing, pretending as thought nothing has happened. Sgt. Thompson (FRANK GERSTLE) confronts Staley inside the house and asks if Margo wants to press charges. She decides not to and Staley is dismissed. Staley later telephones Margo from a phone box in town and tells her he knows what she's up to and will be round later that day to collect the ransom. But when Staley arrives at the house he finds an unexpected and unwanted surprise awaiting him....

•On the UK DVD (maybe others), a small part of Hitch's opening dialogue is censored out for some unknown reason. "Now, while I go back to the shop.... [missing audio] ...have the rest of this evening's entertainment" The full dialogue is listed below. You can also see the sentence he speaks does not match the synch on the screen. Odd.
•Based on the short story "Suburban Tigress" by Lawrence Treat, originally published in the July 1957 issue of "Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine".
•The train station seen at the beginning of the episode is North Park Station.
•When Mr. Brenner takes a look at the basement to see the problem he says it's too dark to see anything, yet when the plumber turns up he throws on a lightswitch for the area. Doesn't add up?
•Seriously, how dumb is it to start trying to do the washing up whilst you have a plumber in your house trying to sort out the water pressure?
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 21 secs):
[Hitch is holding a wrench in his right hand and adjusting a valve on some overhead pipes which hang over an electric chair] "Oh good evening. I guess if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. The plumber keeps fixing the leak. And I don't want it fixed. I'm sure many of you have one of these in your homes. But for the benefit of the backward I shall explain. The subject is strapped in this chair. I turn this valve and the water drips on his head. One drop each minute. After about a week of this I suddenly turned the water off. It produces the most astounding effects. It is especially valuable if you have a friend who wishes to lose his inhibitions. Naturally you may lose your friend too. However, there is one serious danger. Don't ever leave it running when there is no-one in the chair. Because in a few days the force of the dripping water can actually drill a hole through the wood.. Now, while I go back to the shop to get the proper tools, we shall have the rest of this evening's entertainment. First, I have a special announcement. The following commercial will be interrupted for approximately twenty-five minutes to enable us to present a play."

[Hitch is still tinkering around with his ratchet on the pipes] "A thief and blackmailer posing as a plumber. Nothing is sacred anymore. I shall be back in a moment after you view this rusty elbow in the plumbing of television. [commercial break] That is all for tonight. Next week we shall be back for another story. I'll fix this. There is nothing to it really. [Hitch causes a leak from the pipe as water splashes him in the face] Good night."

Staley thinks he has got the upper hand on Margo until she gathers a group of women from the area who are all ready to testify against him for conning them. As a result when Staley goes to collect his ransom the women all tell him they want him to do the jobs for them he initially promised or else they will collectively go to the police and report him. He has no option than to accept their terms.

After a sluggish start, this story explodes into life around the half-way mark when the creepy plumber makes his blackmail demands clear. This suddenly bumps up the "interesting" factor! A much better episode than the last, delivered with seriousness, unbearable suspense and interesting characters. As the end got closer I was on the edge of my seat just waiting to know how this was all going to play out. Really good. Until the end. Now depending on how you look at it, one might say the ending was clever, and you might say it was a massive let down. The suspense leading into the final scenes almost explodes onto the screen. But then the climax fizzles out like a fart in the wind. Shame. But definitely an entertaining story. Would have got a 9/10 rating had it not been for the rather lame ending.

(click any image to enlarge)

Margo Brenner... PHYLLIS THAXTER
Jack Staley... LEE PHILIPS
Lewis Brenner... CRAIG STEVENS
Sergeant Thompson... FRANK GERSTLE
Rhoda Forbes... ANABEL SHAW
Myra Herbert... PEGGY McCAY

(click any image to enlarge)

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion by Martin Grams Jr & Patrik Wikstrom (book) [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 08 May 2021