Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 18

   Robert Stevens
   Gary Merrill, William Redfield
   27 January 1957
   24m 08s

The Manacled
Two men are sitting next to one another in a train station terminal drinking coffee and chatting, but all is not what it seems. They are Sergeant Rockwell and his prisoner Stephen Fontaine and they are handcuffed together. Fontaine, who is also wearing a weighted leg iron as well, boards the train with his hands now cuffed behind his back, along with the sergeant who is taking con-man Fontaine to San Quentin to begin a ten year stretch. Fontaine draws stares from other passengers, including a young boy with a toy gun but whose mother gets worried when she sees that the man is handcuffed. After making their way through the train to their cabin, the conductor pays a visit and shows the sergeant the workings of the door and window to prevent the prisoner from escaping.
The sergeant checks Fontaine's steel ankle bracelet and is even dumb enough to show the prisoner the key, and to explain in great detail how it all works and what is required for the bracelet to be removed. The camera then shows a giveaway shot of him putting the key back into the breast pocket of his jacket. So at this point (7 minutes in) we can pretty much figure out what is going to happen. Fontaine and the sergeant sit in the cabin with Fontaine chatting endlessly about how to cash in on his predicament when he asks the sergeant to examine an envelope which has been placed inside his jacket pocket without his knowledge. The sergeant pulls out the envelope and wonders how it got there. He figures it must have been an elderly lady who had asked for help with her luggage just after they boarded the train. Fontaine confirms the sergeant's suspicions by telling him the lady is a well-known pickpocket. Inside the envelope is the key to the bag the sergeant helped the lady put into the overhead luggage rack.
Fontaine tells the sergeant that there is $50,000 inside the lady's bag, which he can have in exchange for letting Fontaine go. A key for a key. Fontaine gives the sheriff the key to the briefcase in exchange for the key to his iron boot. But the sergeant declines the offer. The train continues its journey through the night until stopping at Bakersfield the next morning. The lady pickpocket leaves the train and without the bag. Fontaine pushes the sergeant into thinking seriously about accepting the offer of the cash and tells him how he would get away with it. After a lot of convincing from the prisoner, who just doesn't stop talking!... the sergeant decides to call his bluff. He walks back through the train and finds the unattended briefcase and opens it, finding the money just as Fontaine had said. When the sergeant returns to the cabin Fontaine resumes his pressuring to sell him the need to accept the lucrative offer but still the sergeant resists.
In a last-ditched attempt to earn his freedom Fontaine lays out his plan to the sergeant: he wants to shoot him with his own gun (yeah a real incentive THAT is!) as they pull into the station. The sound of the gunshot will be drowned out by the sound of the train's whistle. For a moment the sergeant seems to consider the option but as the conductor calls out that the train is soon to be arriving at its destination the goes to handcuff his prisoner. The sergeant and the prisoner scuffle and Fontaine grabs the gun and shoots the sergeant dead. Fontaine is now free, and all he has to do is retrieve the key from the sergeant's jacket that will unlock the shackle on his leg....
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and television fans all over... the living room floor. Tonight's drama is called 'The Manacled' and features a pair of these attractive and useful charm bracelets. [Hitch produces a pair of handcuffs] These of course are stage handcuffs especially made so that one can easily get out. Of course as you may know, these little tringets are not only used to cuff hands, they work very well on legs. [Hitch attaches the cuffs to the leg of a table] While I'm getting out of this perhaps we had better begin our play. Ladies and gentlemen, 'The Manacled'."

[Hitch is stil trying to fiddle around with unlocking himself from being handcuffed to the table leg but he finally does the obvious thing and simply lifts the leg up from the floor and slides his hand out of it] "At least I can get home now. I hope to have my hand free next time you see me. If I do we should be able to present another story. Why not tune in and see? Good night."

Okay let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: The entire episode looks cheap and so blatantly obviously filmed on a stage. From the acoustics on the platform, to the interiors of the train - it just doesn't look authentic. And why does the sergeant tell his prisoner everything he needs to know about how to undo the steel boot he is forced to wear, even showing him the key and how to do it? Later, he even lays out the exact route they will take to the prison, the transports they will use, and describes the exact procedure to his prisoner. I mean, come on, why don't you just make it a bit easier for him, eh? After we learn about the moment where the old lady slips the envelope into the sergeant's pocket it is reasonable to expect the viewer to go back to the scene and see if they missed it? As for the good stuff, well... there isn't much of it I'm afraid. The tension is drained by the constant monotonous talking done by the prisoner; the sergeant is just pretty rubbish at his job and pays for it with his life. As for the ending, when we finally reach it, it is very clever.
The sergeant refuses to accept Fontaine's continuing pressure in taking the bribe in exchange for his freedom. In a last moment of desperation Fontaine grabs the sergeant's gun and shoots him dead. Unfortunately, the bullet not only kills the sergeant but also penetrates and deforms the key required to unlocking the shackled irons on Fontaine's leg.

(click any image to enlarge)

Sgt. Rockwell... GARY MERRILL
Stephen Fontaine... WILLIAM REDFIELD
Train conductor... RUSTY LANE
Lady with suitcase... EDITH EVANSON
Billy, boy on train... GARY HUNLEY
Billy's mother... KAY STEWART

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 29 April 2020