This seems to be another occasion where, as Slesar said, "There were times when I wouldn't wait for a magazine publication, but sent the story directly to Hitchcock if I thought they would like it. On several occasions, they did." While the TV show aired on NBC on Tuesday, April 17, 1962, the story on which it was based was not published until the November 1968 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, under the title "Death of the Kerry Blue."
|Illustrations from the original|
The next day, he visits a doctor and fills a prescription for sleeping pills. That night, after accusing Thelma of having buried Doc alive, Ned turns kind and fixes his wife a cup of hot chocolate before bedtime. She drinks it and grows very tired; after he helps her to bed, Ned tells his wife that he spiked her drink with an entire bottle of sleeping pills. He suggests that she may end up being buried alive, just like their dog. Ned goes downstairs and hears a dog's whimper. Convinced that Doc has returned, he rushes out to the doghouse, where his excitement at seeing the dog causes a sudden, fatal heart attack.
Thelma is saved by the next door neighbor, who calls the police, but she laments that it is too late for Ned, who never knew that Thelma had bought a new dog to surprise him.
"Death of the Kerry Blue" is a sad portrait of a marriage gone wrong, where a dog takes the place of a child and a husband's affection turns into murderous obsession. Slesar's trademark irony is evident in the climax, when Ned's devotion to his dog causes his death just as he has tried to kill his wife.
Slesar's teleplay follows the story closely but makes Ned's obsessive interest in his dog--rechristened Annie--a source of jealousy on Thelma's part. When Ned suggests to Thelma that he should take Annie to the park more often to improve her health, Thelma responds, "Why don't you take her to dinner and a show?" Gene Evans gives a good performance as Ned and Carmen Mathews is even better as Thelma. Paul Henreid directs the show and not only keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace but also uses several interesting camera setups to deepen the story. He follows the well-known practice made famous by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane of shooting on a slight upward angle in some shots, allowing the viewer to see the ceiling in one of the Malleys' rooms.
The most powerful scene in the show comes when Ned has helped Thelma into bed and calmly tells her that he has poisoned her. He stands by the bed, speaking in a seemingly rational tone of voice, as Thelma struggles to break through the drug-induced fog that is quickly enveloping her mind. There is a quiet sense of horror as he remarks that she could end up buried alive, "just like you buried Annie out there, alive!" There is no background music and the fact that this scene is somewhat hard to watch is a testament to the skill of the two actors and their director.
The final scenes include a small change from the story. Ned is washing out the cups at the kitchen sink as his wife lays dying upstairs when he hears a dog bark. Is it his imagination? We see that it is not, since he sees a very much alive Kerry Blue Terrier standing at the entrance of Annie's doghouse. Yet instead of suffering a fatal heart attack, Ned trips over the construction materials that he had left strewn about when he built the doghouse and falls, striking his head on the concrete walk, a blow that kills him on the spot. Slesar's irony is again at play, since the tools he used to build a home for his beloved dog are the same tools that lead to his sudden and unexpected death--his obsession is his undoing.
|The God's eye view angle|
Gene Evans (1922-1998), who seems like a bit of a tough guy in this episode, was also a tough guy in real life. He won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in WWII, which is when he also started his acting career, performing for the troops. He was in movies from 1947 to 1989 and on TV from 1954 to 1988, including a year as a regular on My Friend Flicka (1956-57). He appeared once on the half-hour Hitchcock show and once on the hour show. He was a favorite of director Sam Fuller and played Boden, the atomic scientist in Shock Corridor who was driven to insanity by the prospect of nuclear war.
|John Zaremba and Carmen Mathews|
Carmen Mathews (1911-1985) got her start in theater and later worked almost exclusively on episodic television in a career that spanned the years from 1950 to 1992. She was on The Twilight Zone's elegiac episode, "Static" and she appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents six times.
John Zaremba (1908-1986) played Dr. Chaff, the vet who Thelma brings to the house to try to reason with Ned. He started out as a journalist at the Chicago Tribune before becoming an actor. He was in movies from 1950 and on TV from 1954, including regular roles on I Led Three Lives (1953-1956) and The Time Tunnel (1966-1967). He appeared on The Twilight Zone, Batman, and he was on the Hitchcock show eleven times, including "The Kind Waitress."
|Looking up from below, the ceiling is visible|
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. Web. 19 July 2014.