Visiting Benjy in jail, Vernon finds a sullen young man who is in a gang but who says he did not commit murder. Vernon tells Benjy that he should plead guilty because the evidence against him is so compelling, but the young man refuses to follow his advice. Wedge talks to the boy's father again and finally agrees to take the case and enter a not guilty plea. The first day of trial goes badly for the defense, as witnesses identify Benjy as the killer. Benjy still insists on his innocence as the trial continues to favor the prosecution's case.
Over the weekend before the last day of trial, Vernon has an idea and goes to see Doc Hagerty. Hagerty tells Vernon about a test that can show if blood was ever on a knife, even if it has been wiped clean. He demonstrates the test, turning a solution pink to indicate a history of blood. Vernon talks to Benjy, who insists that no blood has ever touched his knife.
|Make your test!|
After the verdict, Vernon meets with Benjy and his father in an adjoining chamber and explains that he had counted on the prosecutor's objection as part of his trial strategy. Vernon wants to do the test privately to satisfy his own curiosity. Blesker takes the knife, cuts his own hand, and tells Vernon, "Make your test." He and his son walk out together, having prevented Vernon from learning if the jury's verdict was a just one.
|Rod Lauren, Brian Keith|
"The Test" once again finds Slesar setting a tale in New York City, with the murder occurring on the corner of Avenue C in New York's Lower East Side, long a neighborhood populated by recent immigrants and darkened by violence. The trial scenes are staged by Sagal in a manner that was already familiar by 1962, since the TV series Perry Mason had standardized the format since its premiere in 1957. Doc Hagerty's test is an early TV example of the sort of thing that would be made popular decades later on shows like CSI, and Wedge's courtroom trickery recalls similar successful work by James Stewart's "country lawyer" in Anatomy of a Murder (1959). In "The Test," Brian Keith is very intense in the courtroom scenes, especially when discussing the test in front of the jury. Television is a perfect setting for courtroom drama, as has been shown repeatedly over the years.
|Steve Gravers as the prosecutor|
|Rusty Lane, Steve Gravers|
Twelve years after "The Test" aired, Slesar adapted his story a second time, this time using the original title ("Thicker Than Water") for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Expanded to an hour, the story was broadcast on the radio network on September 17, 1974. The crime that sets the story in motion is dramatized, though this time it is a mugging and murder rather than a gang-related fight. Wedge is shown to have been a victim of a recent mugging himself, which makes his agreement to defend the boy ironic. Slesar again follows his story closely in most ways, though in this trial the boy takes the stand in his own defense. Strangely enough, the boy and his father's surname is now Bleeker, as it was in the TV show's end credits in 1962 and nowhere else. Slesar's ability to tell this story successfully in three formats is impressive.
Brian Keith (1921-1997), who played Vernon Wedge, was a very popular actor in TV and on film. Born in New Jersey, he made his film debut in 1924 at age three. He was a Marine air gunner in World War II and then went into acting as an adult after the war. He started on TV in 1952 and eventually would star in no less than 11 TV series and miniseries, the most famous being Family Affair (1966-71). He also appeared in the prison-break film 5 Against the House (1955), based on a novel by Jack Finney. He appeared on the Hitchcock series five times. He committed suicide in 1997. A website is devoted to his memory.
Rod Lauren (1940-2007), who played Benjy, was a teen idol who had a hit song with "If I Had a Girl" in 1960. Born Rod Lawrence Strunk, "The Test" was his first acting role and his only appearance on the Hitchcock series. He had scattered TV and movie roles in the 1960s, was suspected of having killed his wife in the Philippines years later, and is believed to have committed suicide by falling to his death in 2007.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.