Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 3, Episode 17

   Robert Stevens
   Rose Simon Kohn (teleplay)
   Skip Homeier, William Redfield
   26 January 1958
   24:38 (total) • 22:08 (film) • 1:01 (Hitchcock)

The Motive
Tommy (Skip Homeier) and Richard (William Redfield) are getting very drunk in their apartment with their friend Sandra. Tommy has constructed a chart which details murders committed during the whole of the previous year against those committed this current year. He also reasons that most unsolved murders are those which had no known motive in the case. Richard is convinced that the chart demonstrates that a motive-less killing is a 100/1 shot, which angers Tommy because he feels his theory is sound. Sandra leaves and the two men continue their drunken conversation. Richard tells Tommy that he has gone overboard with obsession with his idea, just as he did with Marion, his ex wife. Tommy has kept all of Marion's clothes and photos and refused to let go of her memory. It also transpires that Marion had the choice of having either man and she chose Tommy over Richard. As they continue to bicker Richard reminds Tommy that he could easily disprove Tommy's motive-less murder theory. Richard tells Tommy that the only way he can prove his own theory is to commit a motive-less murder himself.
The two men go downstairs for dinner and more drinks. Richard suggests they need to find Tommy a victim and so they look around at the other guests for a potential subject but none are suitable. They flick through some telephone books and Richard pulls out the one for Chicago where he selects Jerome Stanton of 1661 Ridgely Road to be the random victim.
The next morning both men are sober and Richard doesn't appear to remember most of the details from the previous night.
Tommy arrives in Chicago and purchases a map before scouting out the home of his intended victim. Later, Tommy telephone the house and speaks to the housekeeper to find out when Mr. Stanton will be home. The next evening Tommy goes to the house posing as a researcher and asks to conduct a scientific survey on Stanton who is more than happy to oblige him. The test begins and is going well until Tommy asks Stanton to sew a button onto a handkerchief. It's only a distraction as Tommy then kills Stanton with a blow to the back of the head with a hammer.
Tommy returns home and is proud of his actions in that he proved his theory. Or so he thought. When Richard enters the apartment it becomes apparent that the victim Tommy killed at random wasn't as random as he believed...

•This was Skip Homeier's second and last appearance in the series after "Momentum".
•This was William Redfield's second and last appearance in the series after "The Manacled".
•"The only person who knows if a killing is motive-less is the killer."
•Why on earth would Tommy write CHICAGO in big letters on the menu when his intention is to go there to kill somebody? Talk about leaving a big clue!
•"It is now 7:35, you'll be finished in 20 minutes."
•Carl Betz (who plays the victim Stanton) is asked his age and he says 36. This was actually true at the time of filming.
[Hitch is sitting in a chair and sewing a button on his jacket] "Good evening. I always sew on my own buttons. It's out of sentiment. You see, an ancestor of mine was the inventor of the button hole. It happened during a duel, although his opponent never knew it was a duel. Unfortunately this resulted in the false notion that the button hole should be in the back of the coat. Actually, the invention of the button hole brought a great sigh of relief from the whole world. You see the button had been invented long before and for over a hundred years, the world hadn't known what to do with it. By the way, I have deliberately refrained from telling you about tonight's story for I'm sure you would forget it during the enthralling entertainment which follows."

"Well, that only goes to prove that you can't be too careful about whom you murder. He might turn out to be someone you don't like. Next time we shall be back with another story. Until then, good night."

Tommy kills Jerome in his house exactly as he planned but what he doesn't know is that Richard has set him up and the victim was not chosen at random. Richard knows Jerome to be the new husband of Tommy's ex-wife Marion. So basically Tommy had a motive to kill the man because he stole his wife from him even though Tommy never knew this fact. A clever plot twist which I didn't see coming.

After a rather shaky and prolonged opening set-up we do get down to business and the story starts to get interesting. William Redfield, in his second episode in the series (The Manacled) gives a drunken performance which fools the viewer into a false sense of security whilst lead man Skip Homeier is a man on a mission in order to prove his murder-without-motive theory has credibility. Despite the decent performances there is also a hollow feeling to the story as well. The finale is a little bit of a let down (I was hoping Tommy would murder Richard) but it is what it is. The intrigue outweighs the emptiness in the execution of plot so I felt a 7/10 rating was fair in the end.

(click any image to enlarge)

Tommy Greer... SKIP HOMEIER
Jerome Stanton... CARL BETZ
Housekeeper... KAY STEWART
Police officer... KEN CLARK
Young girl... THARON CRIGLER
Police officer... JIM JOHNSON
Bellboy... GARY CLARKE

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 18 June 2021