Woolrich's original story begins as the former Mrs. Josie Mead receives a visit from three reporters who tell her that she is one of three Americans to win the Irish Sweepstakes, to the tune of $150,000. She tells them that she is now Mrs. Archer, having remarried after the death of her first husband, Harry Mead. Knowing nothing about a sweepstakes ticket and unable to collect the winnings without it, she and her new husband Stephen search their house without success. Once Mrs. Archer is alone, she receives a return visit from Westcott, one of the reporters, whose probing questions lead to the conclusion that the winning ticket must have been in the pocket of the suit in which Harry Mead was buried.
Although Westcott and Mrs. Archer discuss exhuming the body, when she proposes the idea to Stephen he has a negative reaction, saying that "It gives me the creeps!" Without Stephen's knowledge, his wife and Westcott go to the cemetery, where workmen dig up the grave of Harry Mead. Westcott and Mrs. Archer open the coffin and Westcott locates the winning ticket in the corpse's suit pocket. He also notices something else and asks that the body be removed and sent for an autopsy.
|Joanna Moore as Mrs. Archer|
Mrs. Archer explains to Westcott that her second husband bought a new sun lamp for her to use while in the bathtub but that he keeps accidentally knocking it over. She also mentions that Archer brought Mead a bottle of whisky right before he died, but Westcott's suspicion that the bottle was poisoned does not make sense because the bottle dropped and smashed on the floor. The delivery man who brought a replacement bottle helped her pick up the pieces and said that there was enough for a stiff drink in some of the larger fragments.
Westcott leaves Mrs. Archer home alone and Stephen returns. When she is in the bathtub, her new husband knocks the sun lamp over and it falls in the water, but she is not killed because the power goes out right before the accident. Westcott sneaked into the basement and turned off the power just in time! He accuses Archer of the inadvertent murder of the delivery man, who died of poisonous liquor that he drank from a broken fragment of the bottle with which Archer had planned to murder Mead.
|Steve Forrest as Archer|
It's clear from the convoluted plot of "Post-Mortem" that Woolrich got tied up in knots while writing this story and had to come up with some wild coincidences to wrap up all of its dangling threads. Robert C. Dennis had a challenge ahead of him when he was given the task of adapting the story for the small screen, a challenge that he solved quite neatly by streamlining the plot and utilizing a comic tone.
The TV show begins with a scene where Judy (Josie in the story) relaxes in a bubble bath. Steve brings in an electric heater and places it on the side of the tub before plugging it in. They argue about money; she has savings from her first husband's life insurance policy and he thinks they should invest the money in something risky but potentially rewarding. He accidentally knocks into the heater and burns his hand. This scene sets up the attempted murder at the end of the episode nicely and provides a welcome opportunity to see the lovely Joanna Moore in a bubble bath!
|It's not in the attic!|
In the next scene, Steve and Judy search the attic for the ticket and realize where it must be. Steve turns down Judy's suggestion of digging up the body, so we get another scene of her in the bubble bath, this time telephoning the cemetery to arrange the exhumation all on her own. The scene then shifts to the Shady Rest Cemetery, where Judy, all in black, arranges the grisly task. Finally, Westcott makes his appearance, entering the cemetery office and volunteering to search the body, claiming to be a reporter doing a human interest story on the sweepstakes winner.
|James Gregory as Westcott|
|Phoning the cemetery|
Best of all is the conclusion to the episode, completely new in Dennis's script. The cops take Steve out of the house and Westcott tells Judy that he will be electrocuted, the very fate she avoided. Suddenly, she runs outside and approaches Steve before he is put into the police car. She hugs him and observers think this strange, but we see that she has removed the winning ticket from his pocket. "Thank goodness I remembered!" she says. "I don't want to go through that again!"
"Post Mortem" was directed by Arthur Hiller (1923- ), who directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in all. Among them were two comic tales that were less successful than "Post Mortem": "The Right Price" and "Not the Running Type." Robert C. Dennis (1915-1983), who wrote the teleplay for "Post Mortem," wrote thirty episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Right Kind of House" and "Dip in the Pool."
Starring as Judy Archer is Joanna Moore (1934-1997), who was in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and another two of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Her outstanding comic timing and beauty add immeasurably to the success of "Post Mortem," as they do to "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Who Needs an Enemy?"
|Archer tosses the heater into the tub|
James Gregory (1911-2002) plays Westcott; his career stretched from the forties to the eighties and he played numerous cops on countless TV shows. He was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, including Fredric Brown's "The Cream of the Jest" with Claude Rains, he turned up in a single episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and he appeared on episodes of Thriller, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. One of his most memorable roles was a recurring part as Deputy Inspector Lugar on the series Barney Miller from 1975 to 1982.
|Roscoe Ates with Joanna Moore|
|David Fresco is behind Joanna Moore|
The Suspense TV version is a primitive half hour of live television that aired on May 10, 1949, and stared Sidney Blackmer and Peggy Conklin. A tedious show to sit through, it makes significant changes to the story. This time, Archer is the doctor who signed Mead's death certificate, and he is suspicious from the start. The winning sweepstakes ticket isn't even mentioned until halfway through the show, and it turns out to be a fake story planted by the insurance investigator. The only plus to this show is that it is the only version in which we get to see Archer visit the grave, although when he inspects the body he finds no ticket! Frank Gabrielson wrote the script and Robert Stevens directed; this version may be viewed for free online here.
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents version of "Post Mortem" is available on DVD here; it is not currently available for online viewing.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville,