Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 31

   Justus Addiss
   Bernard C. Schoenfeld (teleplay); Fredric Brown (story)
   Russell Collins, Harold J. Stone
   28 April 1957
   24:07 (total) • 21:29 (film) • 0:57 (Hitchcock)

The Night The World Ended
It's 8:45pm and Johnny Gin (Russell Collins) is drinking alone in a bar where a bunch of newspaper reporters are gathered. One of them, Halloran (Harold J. Stone) has a reputation for being a practical joker. Halloran offers to buy Johnny a drink but when the barman pours it, it turns out to be furniture polish. Everybody has a good laugh at Johnny's expense before a reporter rushes in brandishing the latest edition of the newspaper. The headline declares that the world is going to end that night at 11:45pm due to the Earth colliding with Mars. After Halloran reads the story out loud Johnny, realising there are only three hours left to live quickly dashes out of the bar to spend what precious time he has left enjoying himself. Of course, after he leaves Halloran bursts out laughing with his pals and tells us what we already suspected: it was all a joke.
Johnny's first port of call is a liquor store, where he steals two expensive bottles from the owner, Mr. Stern. The police are called and as Johnny tries to flee he trips and falls, breaking the bottles. An elderly (and slightly unhinged) woman out walking her dogs takes pity on him and invites Johnny back to her house where she offers to clean his coat for him. Indoors they sit at a table and discuss their lives over a cup of tea until it's time for Johnny to leave. At which point he tells her how grateful he is to be able to spend his last few hours on earth with her. She naturally freaks out and calls for help but Johnny runs out of the house.
A short time later Johnny meets three young lads in an alleyway and offers them anything they want. Fearing no consequences for his actions, Johnny breaks into a store and lets the boys help themselves to whatever they need. The night security guard enters the store and grabs one of the boys but Johnny takes a gun and shoots the guard dead. The boys flee the store and Johnny leaves quietly before finding a newspaper stand selling the latest news - and no mention of any world coming to an end. At this point he realises that he has been fooled and heads back to the bar to confront Halloran....

•According to The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion book by Martin Grams Jr and Patrik Wikstrom, there was extra dialogue in both Hitch's opening and closing remarks:
-The opening remarks are extended after what we hear on the DVD and continue with... "But first an item that is the essence of practicality. But to our sponsor it is no joke. My, my, I'm afraid we caught more than our limit that time."
-In addition, Hitchcock's final remarks at the end of the episode are also extended with: "Well it couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow. Unfortunately justice had to be meted out to Johnny Gin and six months later he was responsible for a momentary dimming of the lights of Sing Sing. Which reminds me, I shall be back in a moment after this word from you-know-who, but as a concession to those of you who forgot to slip into rubber sole shoes. [commercial break] That is all for this evening. I hope you will join us next time when we shall return with another story. Uh. we also hope to have the bugs out of this little device. Good night."
•The opening scene in the bar takes place at 8:45pm. After about three minutes into the scene the time on the clock on the wall does not change. In fact when we last see it the clock appears to have gone backwards very slightly.
•Johnny leaves the bar at a little after 8:45pm. He robs the liquor store just after 9pm. He arrives at the lady's house at 10:10pm and leaves just after 10:30pm. He meets the boys in the alleyway at 11pm.
•Johnny promises the three lads anything they want. Here, let me just break into the store and smash the glass on the door first. Nothing suspicious about that! Did the kids not understand or did they just not care?! The boys do however flee after seeing Johnny shoot dead the security guard.
•Mrs. Gregory calls one of her dogs, a German Shepherd, 'Gregory'. But it's okay, because not all of her dogs are barking anyway, if you know what I mean!
[Hitch is standing by a lever which is mounted on the wall] "Good evening. I'm just completing a rather interesting device, I think it will amuse you. [Hitch pulls the lever and sparks fly out] Tonight we are presenting a story. [A loud sound comes from the result of Hitch pulling the lever] I should have explained. You see this is arranged so that anyone touching the channel selector to change programmes gets a nasty shock. We rather hope it will improve the loyalty of our viewers. [another sound is heard off-camera] There goes another one. It's no trifling matter. Twenty-five thousand volts leaves them crisp as bacon. Unfortunately it has one shortcoming. It also burns out the television tube, making it impossible for the bereaved to watch the rest of the show. But nothing is perfect and there is nothing like a good practical joke. At least that's what the character in tonight's play thought."

"Well it couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow. Unfortunately justice had to be meeted out to Johnny Gin. However, that is all for this evening. I hope you will join us next time when we shall return with another story. We also hope to have the bugs out of this little device. Good night".

In what was a fairly obvious outcome, when Johnny realises he has been made a fool of, he returns to the bar and shoots Halloran dead for his practical joke.

An enjoyable episode with Russell Collins as the charming drunk who falls for a practical joke which ultimately has fatal consequences. Fairly strong supporting turns from Harold J. Stone as Halloran, the reporter with the tendency to pull pranks, and Edith Barrett as the lonely old lady (whose screams for help are so embarrassing!) who takes Johnny into her home for a cup of tea in the middle section of the story. The most obvious of endings was apparent right from the beginning, but the journey towards it was entertaining. Look out for a young Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) as one of the three lads whom Johnny encounters late on. I enjoyed this one despite its predictability.
"What's the matter ? Can't you take a joke ?" We've all encountered practical jokers, and generally they tend to be bullies, guffawing at their own brilliance as they inflict pain or humiliation on their latest victim, often with an audience of their "friends" who may be just too scared to raise any objection. The newspaperman Halloran is a typical example, an unsavoury, obnoxious loudmouth. This episode, like an earlier, equally fine one featuring Russell Collins, has a lesson for us all : be aware of the consequences of your actions. Here the consequences are tragic : this isn't an easy ride for anybody. Gentle but gullible drunk Mr. Collins is suddenly thrust into a series of events he didn't anticipate. He meets a sweet lady who could be just right for him, could have sobered him up and ended his loneliness - but that also unravels. Her distress is heartbreaking to see. An innocent security guard is also killed along the way. So it's a bleak episode, with the inevitable sad ending for Mr. Collins but a quite timely one for Halloran as his own world ends at just the right time. Mr. Collins gives a fine performance in this : no other actor could have given this role the same poignancy. Practical jokes are only funny to the practitioners, who invariably lack a sense of humour anyway. Practical jokers are sad, nasty people. Avoid them at all costs.

(click any image to enlarge)

Harold Halloran... HAROLD J. STONE
Felicia Green... EDITH BARRETT
Nick the bartender... BART BURNS
Security guard... JOE MARR
Joe, bar patron... NED WEVER
Jim, bar patron... CLARK HOWAT
Newspaper boy... ROBERT ELLIS
Street kid who wants rifle... HARRY SHEARER
Street kid who wants basketball... BILLY MILLER
Street kid, aged 8... CHARLES HERBERT
Timothy, reporter... MICHAEL ROSS
Mr. Stern, liquor store... PAUL BRINEGAR

(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 26 September 2020