Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 1


   Alfred Hitchcock
   Marian Cockrell (teleplay); John Collier (story)
   Sir Cedric Hardwicke, John Williams
   30 September 1956
   25:05 (total) 21:40 (film) 2:14 (Hitchcock)
   8/10


Wet Saturday
CAUTION: Before reading the plot here, I would advise anybody who hasn't seen this episode to watch it BEFORE reading. There are some significant plot spoilers herein which may dampen your viewing pleasure later... you have been warned.

It's raining outside as Mr. Princey (Cedric Hardwicke) interrogates his daughter Millicent (Tita Purdom) over a murder of which she is accused. Upon hearing the details of how Millicent killed Mr. Withers, a schoolmaster she was in love with, her father intends to cover it up in order to protect the reputation of the family, who are held in high regard within the community.
Millicent recalls the story of how she murdered the guy out of jealousy when he told her he was about to marry another woman. The conversation is suddenly interrupted by family friend Captain Smollet (John Williams) who enters the room just as Princey is considering a plot to cover up the murder. He catches the tail end of what is being said when Smollet confesses he too he has a motive for wanting to kill the schoolmaster because the schoolmaster was the subject of desire of the woman Smollet was in love with.
Princey and his son George make an excuse and leave the room to attend to the corpse of the deceased schoolmaster who is lying outside in the barn. George moves the body as the two of them clear the crime scene. Princey lures Smollet outside before threatening him with a shotgun and telling him the whole story. Not wanting to have his daughter labelled a murderer or as insane, Princey realises that Smollet has a credible motive for taking the blame of the murder. Princey demands that Smollet incriminates himself in the murder or else Princey will shoot him. Blackmail.
He orders that Smollet dumps Withers' corpse into the sewer - after he has put his fingerprints all over the murder weapon - a croquet mallet and been forced to have some of his hair attached to the deceased's coat. Smollet leaves, promising never to reveal the details of what has taken place, whilst Princy goes over the cover-up with his family.
HITCH'S PROLOGUE (43 secs):
[the camera pans to reveal a sign which reads "Moved To New Location" and then proceeds to pan right to Hitch, who is lying down in a cabinet] "Oh good evening. I'm so glad you've found me. As you can see our new quarters are rather modest but we like the location and thought the new change might do us good also. And now, if you don't mind, I would like to indulge in an old American custom. Now matter how busy they are or what the surroundings may be, Americans never omit this quaint ritual. If you don't care to join me I think you'll find our play is about to begin on one of the lower shelves."

HITCH'S EPILOGUE (1 min 31 secs):
"I presume that story was intended to illustrate that blood is thicker than water. I always find it heartwarming to find a family standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. Unfortunately the authorities were not thrilled by the sight and were seen tossing about such phrases as 'obstructing justice', 'accessory after the fact', 'murder in the first degree'... very nasty. The Princey's received substantial sentences. You see, unfortunately Captain Smollet didn't play the game. When the police arrived he insisted on his innocence. Thus confusing poor Millicent to such an extent that she re-enacted the crime with her father as the victim. Broke the croquet mallet too! I believe I'll have another [pours himself a cup of tea] There's no more vermouth. Oh well. Fortunately I still have plenty of olives. That was exceedingly dry. Next week we shall be back at the same old stand. Please drop in again. Good night."



SPOILERS
Despite Princey's assurances to protect Captain Smollet, he telephones the police to report the body he has just discovered in his sewer. But unfortunately this act of betrayal backfires...



IN MY HUMBLE OPINION...
The first episode from the second series is, as was the first episode of the first series, directed by Hitch himself and is a solid entry. Excitement filled me when after the opening introduction from Hitchcock the screen flashed up with the two lead stars of the episode: Cedric Hardwicke (who starred in my favourite Hitch movie, Rope) and the ever-reliable and always-great-to-watch John Williams. What could go wrong? Well..... let's start with the characters: The father turns out to be a right bastard! But the fact Hardwicke pulls it off so magnificently just goes to underline how good an actor he was. The not-quite-altogether stable daughter is a bit scatty but her character is well played by Tita Purdom (Tita? That's a real name?) John Williams is just great, as always.
- Two observations; the corpse is rather co-operative when he is being dragged into the sewer, don't you think? And Hitchcock's opening and closing monologues are unusually very long here.
GEOFF THINKS...
As we've noted before, these episodes - knocked out in three days - were intended to be seen only once, maybe twice if the attention span of the '50s telly viewer could tolerate a repeat. But even the lesser episodes are always competently made. As Hitch directed this one himself, we should naturally expect a high standard. He's Hitch : he knows what he's doing. So how are we to interpret the frenzied, cringeing, blubbering, hand-wringing atrocity of a performance from Tita Purdom ? Is this the effect Hitch wanted, or was she such a terrible actress that he did the best he could for three days and walked away ? Maybe she's supposed to be this irritating. She's so drop-dead annoying that I'm surprised the others didn't clonk HER with the croquet mallet and drop her down the sewer. This obscure actress may be the Anita Purdom who was briefly married to Edmund Purdom (more research needed !) and I think we can see why the marriage was brief. It's a very British episode, obviously set in prosperous middle England, and it benefits greatly from Sir Cedric Hardwicke as the stern father - he'd been the original nasty-dad-of-all-times in the stage version of The Barretts of Wimpole Street - and the always-wonderful John Williams, who would have made a brilliant Captain Hastings in the Poirot stories. Sir Cedric is certainly un-blessed with a vacuous family. Apart from the daughter, who deserves a one-way ticket to a distant planet, the son is a slack-jawed dimwit quite rightly regarded with barely-concealed contempt. Jered "Jerry" Barclay is one of the few American actors here, but he has a game go at the hopeless upper-crust English mummy's boy. They're a horrendous crew altogether, so it's a pity that John Williams has to stumble into their midst. Hitch - who would know such things - seems to be making some wry comments on the habits of the stiff-upper-lip English and the corruption bubbling away underneath. Or maybe he's not. It's only 20 minutes of 1950s telly. But it's memorable.

THE CAST
(click any image to enlarge)



Mr. Princey... Sir CEDRIC HARDWICKE
Captain Smollet... JOHN WILLIAMS
Millie Princey... TITA PURDOM
Mrs. Princey... KATHRYN GIVNEY
George Princey... JERRY BARCLAY
Jane... IRENE LANG


GALLERY
(click any image to enlarge)

Acknowledgements:
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0508363/ [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 04 April 2020