The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Series 3, Episode 27

   Joseph M. Newman
   Robert Bloch (teleplay); Richard Deming (story)
   June Lockhart, John Anderson
   26 April
   48:33 (total) • 45:14 (film) • 1:43 (Hitchcock)

The Second Wife
In the small town of Risley a coach arrives with Martha Hunter (JUNE LOCKHART) on board. She gets off and is met by Luke Smith (JOHN ANDERSON), a man whom she has been communicating with via a lonely hearts club. He loads her suitcases into his pickup truck and they set off to get married. Luke seems edgy, distant and has something on his mind whilst Martha appears confused with him making straight for the minister to get married immediately. They arrive and are married by the reverend and his wife in a very basic ceremony. It is revealed that Martha is a librarian and Luke builds coffins for pauper's funerals.
Luke takes Martha back to his house, which is cozy but cold. He scolds her when she spots a picture frame on the mantle and tries to look at it. The photo, which he later burns hides a secret he has failed to tell her about. Martha seems surprised that the house has open fireplaces but no furnace and Luke tells her he doesn't have one because they are too expensive. After Luke gives her a tour of the house, including the basement where he keeps the washing machine, they retire to bed.
The next morning Martha returns home from going to church and finds Luke has bought a new carving knife. Hmmmm.... interesting....
So, some gossiping women at a sewing circle give Martha the lowdown on Luke and tell her about her husband's first wife, whom he met from a lonely hearts advert and who died from food poisoning shortly after she bought Luke his pickup truck. That evening Martha returns home and catches Luke coming out of the basement before she asks him about his first wife. Luke is vague in his reply and looks nervous. The next evening Martha is down in the basement herserlf doing some laundry when Luke retuns home in his truck carrying what appears to be a wooden casket in the back which just adds to Martha's paranoia. When Martha confronts Luke about it he denies there is anything in the truck so she goes out to check for herself and finds the casket on the ground in the garage.
With Christmas just one week away Luke desperately tries to talk Martha into going away with him to Texas. Next day he catches Martha trying to break into the garage and gives her some attitude about it. She tries to change her plans to avoid falling into a potential death trap from Luke but he manipulates her into doing as he has planned. One of Martha's friends senses something is wrong with her and invites Martha to tell her what is wrong, which Martha agrees to do the next time they meet. Martha comes home and finds Luke asleep and so steals his keys and heads off down into the basement where she finds a grave-like hole in the floor. Fearing the worst, Martha heads into town and buys herself a gun from a pawnbroker. She returns home and Luke wants to take their trip to Texas prematurely but Martha thinks it's a trap. When Luke grabs her roughly by the arm and starts turning off all the lights in the house before they supposedly leave. Still holding onto her, Luke unlocks the basement door and starts to lead her down there....

•Hitchcock references the TV show "Bewitched" in his opening remarks.
•Luke always keeps a yard stick in his coat pocket, it seems. You only have to ask to borrow one and he has one at the ready!
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (1 minute 26 secs + 17 secs):
"Good evening. The characters in television programs are becoming more and more unreal. We have robots, monsters, witches, Martians. In some cases, whole families are unreal. In one, for example, the leading lady is a witch and her husband is an advertising man. [Hitch walks over to three robots] In a series which we are planning we have taken the next logical step. We have eliminated the actors and are using actual robots for all the parts. Other workers have been liberated by the machine age, why not the actor? Let him enjoy the benefits of automation, the relief from heavy labour, the added leisure time, the unemployment. Actually, only a few actors have objected and they, only on the grounds of this is type-casting. There are many advantages. For one thing, they never forget their lines. Providing, they are properly programmed. For example, here are a few lines from one of Hamlet's soliloquies. [robot beeping] Being method actors they are inclined to mumble a bit. Our play this evening will be acted by flesh and blood actors and follows in just one, long, minute."

"The second half of our story will be visible in a moment. I don't like the way they're looking at me. Fortunately some actors are indispensible. Who else could say 'now a word from your local station'?"

[Hitch does not appear; instead it's just the robots] "Tho' hubby's time was cut off short, Martha was the lucky sort. She was given ninety years, by a jury of her peers."

Martha's suspicion of her husband wanting to lure her into the basement is unfounded when, after shooting him dead she discovers that the grave-shaped hole he had been digging down there was for a newly-installed heater he had put in for her to keep her warm. It is his Christmas present to her.

Albeit sad, it was a very predictable ending which becomes obvious about halfway through the story. That aside, the story is stretched out to accomodate the three-quarters-of-an-hour time slot which feels slower due to John Anderson's twitchy performance as the suspicious-acting husband. His character has all the warmth of a snow plow. The scenes in the house feel moody and methodical at times, June Lockhart rarely smiles and takes far too long to realize that her husband's behaviour is contolling and slightly disturbing. Or is it? I don't know, it's a decent episode which you appreciate more the second time you watch it but one can't help not warming to the Luke character.

(click any image to enlarge)

Martha Hunter... JUNE LOCKHART
Helen Fiske... ALICE BACKES
Sylvia Boggs... EVE McVEAGH
Reverend Gilfoyle... JIM BOLES
Peggy Gilfoyle... GERTRUDE FLYNN
Pawnbroker... VINCENT CHASE

(click any image to enlarge)

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

This page was last updated on: 12 June 2022