Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 6, Episode 17

   Paul Henreid
   Henry Slesar (teleplay); Henry Slesar (story)
   Keenan Wynn, Jan Sterling
   31 January 1961
   25:24 (total) • 22:08 (film) • 1:52 (Hitchcock)

The Last Escape
Joe Ferlini (Keenan Wynn) is a magician performing tricks on stage in a nightclub to a big round of applause from the audience. His beautiful wife and stage assistant Wanda (Jan Sterling) is also getting a considerable amount of attention backstage when singer Tommy (John Craven) pesters her to get her alone. When Joe and Wanda get into their dressing room things turn ugly as Joe assaults her for making fun of his age.
That evening Joe and Wanda have drinks with Harry Miller (Dennis Patrick) and Joe boasts about being in good shape and his ability to get out of any trap, comparing himself to Houdini. Joe talks Harry into letting him perform an old but dangerous trick where he has to escape from a water container. But Wanda isn't confident in his success and voices her disapproval by saying "it sounds like a ticket to the graveyard". As the other two men continue discussing the plan the camera remains on her. Uh-oh. She's thinking of a plan!
The horny-for-Wanda Tommy pays her a visit when Joe is out and wastes little time getting his mouth stuck inside hers. Wanda confides in Tommy of her frustrations within her marriage to a man obsessed with success from escaping traps. She asks Tommy to put on a pair of handcuffs (I thought this was going to get kinky, but no) but he cannot escape them until she offers him the key. He still cannot escape because Wanda deliberately withheld the correct key from him. She then confesses what we were all suspecting up until this point... that she was hoping her husband would attempt this dangerous water trick because she would be in charge of the props. Hmm sinister!
The day of the big trick arrives and Joe is about to perform at a fair when he is introduced to Chief Wallace and some other dignitaries. The order is given for Ferlini to be tied in rope and put into a large sack as his wife and her secret lover look on nervously from the sidelines. Joe is then placed inside a locked trunk and driven out onto a lake by boat. The trunk is then thrown overboard and into the water. And that's the last anybody ever sees him.
The funeral is held and then halted when an investigator from the coroner's office interrupts proceedings saying the body needs to be examined. The coffin is opened and found to be empty. Harry explains to a psychiatrist that he had Joe buried privately as a 'stunt' as per the instructions of his client should anything ever happen to him. Only problem is Wanda takes the news rather badly....
[Hitch is sitting on a deck holding a fishing rod whilst a mermaid site behind him] "Good evening. You should've seen the one that got away. The only one I've ever seen with gold larmy scales. I'm sure all of you are interested in the details of this catch. It's really a matter of finding the proper bait. I soon learned that these little creatures can tell cheap costume jewelry on sight and won't come near it. You must bait your hook with the real article. And sometimes they make off with the bait before you can reel them in. However, that's a situation with which most of you now will be familiar. Tonight's fable is entitled 'The Last Escape'. But first something from which there is NO escape. {Hitch is referring to the usual advertisement that is placed within the show}"

"You must remember that things are always much better than they seem. That this is the best of all possible worlds. That every cloud has a silver lining. And it is darkest just before dawn. I tell you this not because of what you have just experienced but for what you are about to see. [fade to black; fade in to find the mermaid in the background has now gone] I suppose you are wondering what became of my catch. The game warden insisted I throw her back in because her measurements didn't meet specifications. In order to keep them they must be larger than 36-22-15 and of course it's quite difficult knowing precisely where to take that last measurement. Next week I shall be back so let us hope I have some more luck in the mean time. Until then good night."

No real shocks here except that in the end it is Wanda who ends up in a straight jacket - for real, following her husband's death (of which she was responsible). She goes mad, especially after discovering he had 'escaped' from his coffin!

It's an "okay" episode to be fair, nothing in the way of the usual suspense except for the not knowing if the obvious scenario of the abused, adulterous wife will sabotage her husband's dangerous escape attempt in order to be free of him so that she can pursue her affair in peace. In the end it was pretty standard stuff.

(click any image to enlarge)

Joe Ferlini... KEENAN WYNN
Wanda Ferlini... JAN STERLING
Harry Miller... DENNIS PATRICK
Psychiatrist... JACK LIVESEY
Police Chief Wallace... ROBERT CARSON
Investigator... CLAUDE STROUD

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 02 July 2020