"The Magic Shop" was the last episode of the Hitchcock series to be written by John Collier, and it was the only one that was an hour long. The story upon which it is based was written by H. G. Wells and was first published in the June 1903 issue of The Strand magazine, the popular British periodical where Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories appeared.
The story is narrated by an unnamed London man who states that he "had seen the Magic Shop from afar several times" but had never gone in until his son Gip pulled him toward it and they had to enter. Its location was never clear: "nearer the Circus, or round the corner in Oxford Street, or even in Holburn." The boy, Gip, is well-behaved, having inherited "his mother's breeding, and he did not propose to enter the shop or worry in any way." Enter it they do, however, and they meet the shopman, "a curious, sallow, dark man, with one ear larger than the other" and with "long, magic fingers." The establishment is called the "Genuine Magic Shop" and the shopman remarks that Gip is the "Right Sort of Boy," in contrast to another, badly-behaved boy to whom the shop's door is locked.
|David Opatoshu as Dulong|
Six months later, the father "is beginning to believe it is all right." He asks Gip about the toy soldiers he got from the magic shop and is surprised to hear Gip say that they come alive and "march about by themselves" with but a word from Gip. The father tries to witness this for himself but never succeeds; he tries to find the magic shop to pay for the items but can never find it. He concludes that "these people, whoever they may be," will "send in their bill in their own time."
|John Megna as Tony|
Sixty years after its publication, "The Magic Shop" was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and was first broadcast on CBS on Friday, January 10, 1964, midway through the second season of the hour-long series. According to the credits, John Collier wrote the teleplay from a script by James Parish that was based on the short story by H. G. Wells. The TV adaptation removes any subtlety from the story and expands it to fit the time slot, removing much of the magic and replacing it with an attempt at terror.
Like the short story, the TV show is narrated by the father, now named Steven Grainger. He begins on an ominous note, referring to the "day that changed our lives"--his son Tony's birthday, the day they visited the magic shop. Prior to the visit to the shop, a scene at the Grainger house is added, where Tony's parents shower him with gifts, one of which is a black leather jacket. The location has been moved to the U.S.A., and Tony, rather than being a well-mannered and perhaps shy boy as he is in the story, is very outspoken and somewhat obnoxious. The change in his personality most likely was a decision of the writers that was meant to hint at the evil that would develop later in the show.
|Peggy McKay and Leslie Nielsen as Tony's parents|
The magic shop set is nicely done, with spooky masks, mirrors, and an intriguing shopman played by David Opatoshu. The music score, by Lyn Murray, is notable, especially in the magic shop scene, because it sounds like early electronic music of the sort that would be utilized by John Carpenter in his films of the late 1970s. The chief problem with "The Magic Shop" is the unappealing child actor John Megna, who plays Tony. Undoubtedly, the character was written to be somewhat unlikeable from the start, but his performance does not help matters. It would have been interesting to see the role played by Billy Mumy or Ronny Howard, two child actors who had significant skill even at a young age and were just two years younger than Megna. Mumy played a similar role on The Twilight Zone in the classic episode, "It's a Good Life," which the conclusion of "The Magic Shop" recalls.
|Paul Hartman as Mr. Adams|
The show progresses quite differently from the story after the scene in the magic shop. When Steven finds himself suddenly outside again, Tony has disappeared. Steven and his wife go to the police station for an interview and Tony suddenly returns a day later, mysteriously reticent about telling them where he has been but insisting that he has been gone for days or weeks. Tony makes a magic pass with his hand over a vase of flowers and they instantly wither. He sees a child psychologist, who tells his parents that the magic shop is on the same street where an apothecary was indicted in 1692 by Cotton Mather and where a magic shop in 1901 was destroyed by "some unknown force." The name of the shopkeeper, the apothecary, and the prior shop are all Dulong; this is also the name that Tony gives to a dog that Steven buys for him in an effort to provide a normal life experience.
Tony's odd behavior continues. He tells his parents that he will do everything the dog tells him to do. He waves his hand and makes balloons pop as the neighborhood children play with them. After his dog attacks the shy neighbor, Mr. Adams, Adams kills the dog, which rots away to pieces instantly. Tony tells his parents that the dog "taught me everything" and says "it's too late." That night, Tony waves his hand by his widow and sets Adams's house on fire, killing the man. Steven realizes that Tony was to blame, and discovers a cut on the side of his own face as Tony carves a photograph of his father with a knife.
The final scene is set a few years later, as the family sits at the dinner table. Steven narrates in voiceover, explaining that he and his wife are their son's prisoners and that they see no way out. Tony sits at the table, looking malevolent in a black suit, much like a magician.
Unlike the story, the television adaptation is unabashedly supernatural, as the subtle uneasiness of the early scene in the magic shop develops into the terror that marks the show's conclusion. One suspects that there were problems with the adaptation, since it is unusual to see a credit where one writer wrote a script and another adapted it into a teleplay. The scriptwriter, James Parish (1904-1974), wrote for television for about ten years, from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. This was his only contribution to the Hitchcock series. He was better known as a British playwright, and it is possible that he was asked to adapt this story for TV but that the producers found his script unfilmable.
|Tony casts a fiery spell|
Appearing as Steven Grainger was Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010), who was featured in over 100 films and over 1500 TV shows in his long career. Nielsen starred in Forbidden Planet (1956), as well as episodes of Thriller, Night Gallery, and twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He became most famous for his late-career switch to comedies such as Airplane! (1980). His wife was played by Peggy McKay (1927- ), who also appeared twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and who as been a regular on Days of Our Lives for the past thirty years.
John Megna (1952-1995), the unappealing child actor who plays Tony, started his acting career on Broadway at age six and had an important role in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). He was 11 years old when he starred in "The Magic Shop," and he would later play a role on Star Trek ("Miri") before retiring and eventually dying of AIDS at the age of 42.
|The final scene|
"The Magic Shop" was also adapted for the stage by Richard France (the date appears to be 1972, according to copyright records), and a 23-minute film of the story was made in 1982 by Ian Eames. A clip from this film may be seen here; it looks interesting! The Alfred Hitchcock Hour version may be viewed here.