Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 29

   Paul Henreid
   Bernard C. Schoenfeld (teleplay); Evan Hunter (story)
   Dick York, Kathleen Maguire, George Macready
   14 April 1957
   24:24 (total) • 22:03 (film) • 1:12 (Hitchcock)

Vicious Circle
Manny Coe is torn between his girlfriend Betty (Kathleen Maguire) and pleasing his boss Mr. Williams (George Macready) whom Betty despises. After Manny, who is working as a hired killer for Williams slays an employee over a botched jewelry job, Betty gives Manny an ultimatum: it's Mr. Williams - or her. Betty tries to tell Manny that he is being used by Mr. Williams because he is useful with a trigger.
Mr. Williams tells Manny that he is pleased with his work and makes him his new personal assistant as a reward. However, Manny's first assignment is to kill Betty! Manny reluctantly agrees to do as he is told but he tries to warn Betty to leave town, but she refuses. Mr. Williams convinces Manny that Betty has been spreading the word around about Manny's involvement in the recent murder in order to give Manny a motive to get rid of Betty. So on New Year's Eve Manny confronts Betty in the street but she overpowers him when he tries to shoot her. In her panic she runs away but is mowed down and killed by a car.
Manny is congratulated on a job well done and it seems everything is going well for him. Later at a party hosted by Williams, Manny begins drinking and makes an excuse to leave early despite the pleas of Ann, a beautiful young lady at the bar. When Manny gets back to his apartment he has a change of heart and calls up Ann for her to come over to be with him. She agrees but shortly upon her arrival Manny starts to have second thoughts and asks her to leave. Ann does so but she forgets her gloves. Shortly afterwards there is a knock at the door...

•This was George Macready's third appearance in the series (after "Premonition" and "The Cheney Vase"). He would also later go on to appear in one episode from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Ordeal Of Mrs. Snow".
[Hitch is standing with four young women who are dressed in swimming costumes] "Good evening. This is a beauty contest. I should explain however that I am not one of the contestants. At the last moment someone stole my bathing suit so I was made a judge. You know the er... the er... problem of finding an unobtrusive spot for a vaccination is getting more and more difficult. Er, let's see now. [Hitch takes out a tape measure and eyes up a couple of the contestants] This is ridiculous. What difference does it make which one is the tallest? While I continue with the tiresome task of ogling these young ladies our poor players will present tonight's story. It is called 'Vicious Circle'.

"So much for life among the smart set. As you may have guessed the law did not catch up with Manny. However the bullet with his name on did. Actually it had someone else's name on it but it was mis-sent. However the error wasn't discovered until it was too late. This concludes tonight's divertissement. Next time we shall return with more of the same. Good night."

Manny is set up by Vincent in what was a fairly predictable conclusion. The title of the episode goes some way with expectation here. Ann deliberately leaves her gloves behind in Manny's apartment and leaves. This sets up the excuse for her to return and for Manny to open the door to her, but of course it's not Ann standing outside, but Georgie who has been sent to kill Manny. It's obvious that Georgie will be the next to die in Mr. Williams's schemes.

A fairly flat episode with a predictable ending. I found it difficult to get to grips with the story because I just didn't warm to Manny Coe's character. If it's hard to like the lead character then it's equally hard to enjoy the story, I thought. Hitch's opening remarks were witty, and his scene was done in an era where nobody batted an eyelid over such obvious lusting of a fat, aging man ogling over four lovely ladies. George Macready's character of Mr. Williams is the pick of the actors in the episode with his sinister charm, and Kathleen Maguire as the strong-willed Betty who puts in a very decent performance. The whole thing just didn't gel and we knew from the beginning that Manny was doomed. Just about average, and nothing more.
"So much for life among the smart set" says Hitch ironically after this episode has run its course - for this is a bleak twenty minutes indeed, a sort of pocket Little Caesar, a mini film noir. It's the first of many Hitch shows directed by that smooth 40s actor Paul Henreid, whom many will remember lighting two cigarettes in his mouth in Now Voyager before giving one to Bette Davis. I may need to rephrase that. There's some intense smoking going on here too, both the shooter and shootee nervously lighting one gasper from the remains of another at either end of the show. This action in itself, and the title, Vicious Circle, serve only to undermine the suspense as we know fairly early on how it will play out. Our hopes of an unexpected ending are raised by the arrival of Dick York's latest squeeze, but she's a red herring and it all turns out as expected as another murderous baddie in a leather jacket shows up, ready to be groomed and - presumably - ultimately discarded and despatched. In a fine performance Mr. York proves that you can't be a gangster with a conscience, and his boss knows this too, hence the "vicious circle" of events. Mr. Macready was deliciously slimy as the evil Vincent, forever cleaning his eyes from a little cup, and his performance hinted at more than just a business interest in his hired killers. Thankfully this time no poison was involved : I was expecting Mr. York to put something very nasty in Mr. Macready's eye wash. This episode was efficiently made - they all are - and looked great, the shadowy photography being just right for its depiction of the seedy side of life, but it was all a bit pointless, and the bad guys got away with it. Maybe the lesson is that organised crime will always be there, no matter what, and we should just stay well away from it.

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Manny Coe... DICK YORK
Vincent Williams... GEORGE MACREADY
Gallegher... PAUL LAMBERT

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Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 22 August 2020