Morrison refuses to see his lawyer and will not listen to talk of a possible stay of execution. His attitude alienates the other prisoners, especially when it comes time for a convict named De Baca to be executed. While the other men encourage De Baca, suggesting that he might receive a stay, Morrison refuses to play along, telling De Baca that a stay is unlikely. De Baca is dragged away to his death and Morrison is proved right, yet the others on Death Row criticize his refusal to support a message of hope.
|"An Eye for an Eye" |
was first published here
When Morrison meets with Berg, the prisoner is unmoved to hear that the lawyer has hired a private investigator to help find evidence to support a request for a stay of execution. With ten hours left before his death, Morrison's attitude remains unchanged. Pops prepares him for his final moments and McCann visits again; Morrison batters him with more verses from the Old Testament. McCann argues that Morrison quotes old law and explains that "an eye for an eye" was a way to set limits on punishment, not a mandatory prescription.
|Brian Keith as Herbert Morrison|
Morrison is put on trial for murder a second time and Berg advances the defense that Morrison was justified in killing Pops as self-defense against the threat of state-sanctioned murder. The jury finds him not guilty and he returns to work at the university. Months later, he receives a call from someone who identifies himself as a friend of Pops and who tells Morrison that, one day, he will kill him. Morrison hangs up the phone and again thinks of Old Testament law, concluding that "fear will always be with those who destroy life."
|James Best as Hennessey|
"An Eye for an Eye" was published in the December 1959 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and represents an unusually thoughtful examination of a difficult topic. When it was adapted for television under the title "Cell 227," much of the subtlety and philosophical examination was removed, the focus of the story was altered, and the conclusion was completely changed. The episode aired on CBS on Sunday, June 5, 1960, near the end of the fifth season, and the script was written by Bill Ballinger (1912-80). He wrote seven scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and is said to have written about 150 teleplays in a career that stretched from the earliest days of television, in 1949, to the mid-1970s. He was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1961 for his teleplay for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Day of the Bullet." Ballinger had begun in the 1940s working in advertising and radio, writing scripts and producing shows. He also wrote about thirty novels, many in the crime or suspense genre. A good website provides more details.
|Sal Ponti as De Baca|
Morison next meets with his lawyer, who refers to him as Socrates (a line that is also found in the story); the viewer will recall that Socrates, like Morrison, faced his death sentence stoically and refused to have an emotional reaction, much to the consternation of his followers (related by Plato in the Phaedo). Pops prepares Morrison for death, there is another visit by McCann, and here Morrison quotes Cain, as he does in the story. Morrison also calls Pops the Judas Goat that leads the sheep to slaughter. After Pops prepares Morrison for death, they walk down the final corridor as the other inmates look on. As he gets close to the gas chamber, Morrison suddenly turns, leaps on Pops, pushes him to the floor, and quickly chokes the life out of him.
|James Westerfield as Pops|
Readers of the story will be surprised by the sudden ending, since the entire last section of Walton's tale has been deleted. There is no trial, no not guilty verdict, no return to life, no threat and no calm acceptance. The story has been altered to focus on Morrison's hatred for Pops, an emotion that leads to murder and a twist ending. The lack of the philosophical details makes the TV show more of a thriller than a meditation; it succeeds in this way but is less thought-provoking than the story that inspired it.
"Cell 227" is directed by Paul Henreid (1908-92), the actor turned director who directed 29 episodes of the Hitchcock series. The last episode that he directed that was discussed here was "Guest for Breakfast." Henreid has a limited amount of room in which to work on "Cell 227" and does a reasonable job of keeping the story moving, though there are no creative camera setups and the attack on Pops is too short to be credible.
|Liam Sullivan as Father McCann|
Receiving second billing is James Best (1926-2015) as Hennessey, the inmate in the cell next to Morrison's. Born Jewel Jules Franklin Guy, Best was onscreen from 1950 to 2013 and is best remembered for his role on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85). He was on the Hitchcock show four times, including a role in "The Jar," wrote an autobiography called Best in Hollywood, and there is a website about him here.
|Frank Maxwell as Maury Berg|
Frank Maxwell (1916-2004), with his distinctive streak of white hair, plays Berg, the lawyer. He was onscreen from 1951 to 2000 and appeared in many TV episodes, including roles on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. His six appearances on the Hitchcock show include "Special Delivery" and "The Hatbox." He was president of AFTRA from 1984 to 1989.
Father McCann is played by Liam Sullivan (1923-98), who was onscreen from 1950 to 1997. He appeared on The Twilight Zone as well and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
|Robert Carson as the warden|
Finally, the warden is played by Robert Carson (1909-79), who played the judge in "Touché," the first episode to be adapted from a story by Bryce Walton.
"Cell 227" is available on DVD here but is not available for free viewing online. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for tracking down the story for me; The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion mistakenly lists the source as another story by Bryce Walton titled "Good-bye, Sweet World," which has nothing to do with "Cell 227."
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. Web. 27 July 2016.
In two weeks: "The Woman Who Wanted To Live," with Charles Bronson and Lola Albright!