Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Hitchcock Project-Bryce Walton Part Four: The Big Score [7.22], Bryce Walton Overview and Bryce Walton Episode Guide

by Jack Seabrook

Bryce Walton's second teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "The Big Score," which was broadcast over the NBC network on Tuesday, March 6, 1962. The source for this episode was a story, also called "The Big Score," by Sam Merwin, Jr., that had been published in the July 1955 issue of Manhunt.

"Prominent businessman and philanthropist" F. Hubert Fellowes has been murdered in his home. His safe was rifled and the police have set up a five-state dragnet, suspicious that the crime was a "carefully planned, professional job." In truth, the criminals are four young people: Gino, Dora, Mike and Arne, who have spent the past three days cooped up in a tenement, afraid to venture outside. Dora was a babysitter working for Fellowes, and this was just the latest in a series of robberies she had set up for her friends. "They were just kids . . . without connections; ranging in age from 17 to 21, they were "treading water way over their heads." Living in a city that is known as a safe haven for important crime figures, Gino is a punk who arrived two years before, riding a freight car with barely a cent to his name. He wanted to make connections with successful criminals but failed and now wants to move on.

"The Big Score" was first published here
The robbery at the Fellowes home was planned for when the owner was supposed to be out of town, but when he came home unexpectedly Gino shot and killed him. Now, hearing that big-time crooks are gathering in the city, Gino thinks that the $32,000 he and his friends stole from the Fellowes home is his ticket to the big time. He goes to a bar to find Ozzie, a fence, and buys a portable radio and a lantern because Mike's failure to pay the electric bill the month before has left the foursome in the dark and without the latest news bulletins. Ozzie mentions that Mike had been there earlier that day to try to sell him a gold table lighter; Gino realizes that Mike stole the lighter from the Fellowes home and that his careless act has put them all in danger.

Back at the tenement, Gino confronts Mike. Later that night, Dora comes home from another babysitting job to announce that the cops are checking each home in the neighborhood. An argument ensues and Dora kills Arne with a knife; Gino kills Mike by bashing him over the head repeatedly with the portable radio. Dora and Gino take the money and leave, avoiding trouble with the police on the way out and walking toward the highway. They are stopped by Ozzie and three mobsters, who tell them that Fellowes was the payoff man for the syndicate and that their future looks bleak.

From Manhunt
Merwin's story takes a long time to get to the point, which is that Gino really is nothing more than a punk who is too stupid to realize that the man he robbed was an important member of the city's criminal organization. It is hard to pinpoint where the story takes place and it seems to be set in an imaginary city somewhere in the northeastern part of the U.S. At one point, Mike mentions having lost money at Aqueduct, a racetrack in New York City, but when Dora and Gino are stopped by a cop after they have murdered Mike and Arne, she says that they are on their way to New York to "start a new Jelke Ring."

The Jelke Ring reference is one that would have been familiar to readers in 1955 but is forgotten today. Minot Jelke, heir to an oleomargarine fortune, ran a New York prostitution ring that catered to the rich and famous and he was convicted in 1953 after a well-publicized trial.

A blurb in Manhunt says that Sam Merwin, Jr. (1910-1996), was a "former editor and an author whose work has covered virtually every field." He started out as a reporter, then edited magazines on and off from the 1930s to the 1970s, including important science fiction pulps and detective digests such as Startling Stories and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. His stories began to see publication as early as 1938 and he wrote mysteries, science fiction, romance, and even a few comic books. Other than this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, his only other TV credit is a story that was adapted for Lights Out.

Rafael Campos as Gino
Bryce Walton made some changes to Merwin's story when he adapted it for television. Perhaps the most important addition was the show's first scene, which dramatizes the robbery at the Fellowes home, an incident that has already happened when the short story begins. Fellowes sends his young son Larry off to bed and leaves him in Dora's care. As soon as he leaves, Dora pours herself a drink at the bar and her three friends arrive. Mike and Arne make a racket and Gino seems nervous and tells them to be quiet. Walton foreshadows the act that will cause their downfall when he has Mike admire the gold table lighter, which has large initials "FHF" printed on it. The three young men admire Fellowes's gun collection and Gino takes a revolver and loads it. When Fellowes comes home unexpectedly, he confronts the men, who menace him with switchblades. Gino attacks and kills him with his knife after threatening him with the stolen gun.

Evans Evans as Dora
Dora stays behind to call the police and Mike rushes back in to collect the jacket he forgot. He also grabs the lighter in an impulsive gesture that will have repercussions. The show then picks up where the short story begins, with the foursome sweating it out in the tenement. Instead of having the electricity go off, as in the story, Gino is concerned about how they will spend the money without arousing suspicion, since hundred dollar bills will be difficult to pass. He visits Ozzie and buys a radio in order to break one of the big bills; Ozzie lights a cigarette and we see that he uses the monogrammed lighter that Mike stole from the Fellowes home.

Gino goes back to the tenement and there is a confrontation in which he appears to attack Arne, though it's not clear if Arne is dead or just drunk. Gino and Dora gather up the loot and leave. Instead of making their way to the main road on foot, we next see them speeding through the night in a sports car, pursued by another car. Though they are exhilarated by the speed of the chase they soon find themselves forced to the side of the road. Gino and Dora try to escape but are stopped by Ozzie and another man, who hold them at gunpoint. Ozzie tells Gino that the cash is syndicate money and that Fellowes was their boss. Ozzie's final line to Gino reinforces that the young man remains a "punk," unable to break out of his class and join the successful criminals.

Philip Reed as Fellowes
Like many teleplays by Robert C. Dennis, Bryce Walton's script for "The Big Score" adds an opening scene to dramatize events that are only referred to in the story. He simplifies things for the viewer by adding a monogram to the stolen lighter and adds some excitement to the conclusion by inserting a car chase. The show is directed by Boris Sagal (1923-1981), who uses some creative camera angles and shot choices to add drama and suspense to the story. For instance, he shoots extreme closeups at emotional moments, such as when Dora tells a false story to the detective about what happened, and he uses low angle shots looking up at various characters to show their dominance or to generate suspense. Sagal was born in the Ukraine and worked mostly in TV from 1955 to 1981. He directed two episodes of The Twilight Zone and three of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the others were "Maria" and "The Test."

Rafael Campos (1936-1985) stars as Gino and, at 26, appears too old for the part. In the story, the character is said to be 20 years old and in the show he remarks that he is too young for a gun license. Campos was born in the Dominican Republic and made his debut in The Blackboard Jungle (1955). He appeared often on TV for the next three decades.

John Zaremba as Lt. Morgan
Dora is played by Evans Evans (1936- ), who later married director John Frankenheimer. Her career onscreen lasted from 1958 to 1994 and she was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Her only other appearance on the Hitchcock series was in "I Saw the Whole Thing"; she also received good reviews for her role in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). In "The Big Score," she uses the made-up word "right-a-rooney" three times in the opening minutes, setting an annoying tone from which the show never really recovers. She is too pretty and well-coiffed to play the Dora of the short story, who is described as a slob in the tenement scenes and who eats radishes to make her skin break out so that the men at her babysitting jobs do not find her too attractive.

The unfortunate Mr. Fellowes is played by Philip Reed (1908-1996), a suave actor who was onscreen from 1933 to 1965 and who was seen in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Derelicts."

The other cast members all had unremarkable careers except for John Zaremba (1908-1996), who has a brief role as Lt. Morgan, the detective who interrogates Dora after the murder. He was in eleven episodes of the Hitchcock series, the last of which discussed here was "Starring the Defense."

The seventh season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents has not been released on DVD in the U.S. and I was not able to find a legal place online to view this episode.

"The Big Score." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. NBC. 6 Mar. 1962. Television.
"The FictionMags Index." The FictionMags Index. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.
Walton, Bryce. "The Big Score." Manhunt July 1955: 120-38. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.


Bryce Walton's contributions to Alfred Hitchcock Presents are a mixed bag. Three of his short stories were adapted by other writers, one each in the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons, then he wrote three teleplays in the latter part of the seventh season, one of which was an adaptation of his own story and another of which was also credited to Henry Slesar.

"Touché" is a clever story from 1958 that has the sort of twist ending that appealed to the producers of the TV series. The teleplay is by William Fay and the episode benefits from strong performances by Paul Douglas and Robert Morse.

"Cell 227" is an adaptation of "An Eye for an Eye," a story from 1959, and Walton's story is a thoughtful look at a difficult topic--capital punishment. Bill Ballinger's adaptation removes the story's subtlety and lops off its ending, changing the focus and making it more of a thriller than a meditation.

"The Greatest Monster of Them All," a story also from 1959, is adapted by Robert Bloch, who added humor and action to make a show that serves as a good send-up of the monster movie industry.

"The Woman Who Wanted to Live" was Walton's first teleplay for the series. He adapted his own story from 1961, adding some humor and an entertaining scene with a trio of juvenile delinquents. The result is a standout episode.

"The Big Score" is less successful, as Walton adapts a 1955 story by Sam Merwin, Jr. In trying too hard to portray young people who get involved in crime, Walton's script and the overall episode fall flat.

"The Opportunity" is another standout episode, where Walton and Henry Slesar adapt a 1957 story by J.W. Aaron and venture into edgy areas of the human condition. Great direction and strong acting make this episode one worth revisiting. I suspect Slesar was asked to revise Walton's teleplay, and Walton did not write any more shows for the Hitchcock series, which was about to expand to an hour.


Episode title-“Touché” [4.35]
Broadcast date-14 June 1959
Teleplay by-William Fay
Based on-"Touché" by Walton
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 1958
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-“Cell 227” [5.34]
Broadcast date-5 June 1960
Teleplay by-Bill Ballinger
Based on-"An Eye for an Eye" by Walton
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, December 1959
Watch episode-unavailable
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-“The Greatest Monster of Them All” [6.18]
Broadcast date-14 February 1961
Teleplay by-Robert Bloch
Based on-"The Greatest Monster of Them All" by Walton
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1959
Watch episode-unavailable
Available on DVD?-here

Episode title-“The Woman Who Wanted to Live” [7.18]
Broadcast date-6 February 1962
Teleplay by-Walton
Based on-"The Woman Who Wanted to Live" by Walton
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1961
Watch episode-unavailable
Available on DVD?-unavailable

Episode title-“The Big Score” [7.22]
Broadcast date-6 March 1962
Teleplay by-Walton
Based on-"The Big Score" by Sam Merwin, Jr.
First print appearance-Manhunt, July 1955
Watch episode-unavailable
Available on DVD?-unavailable

Episode title-“The Opportunity” [7.33]
Broadcast date-22 May 1962
Teleplay by-Walton and Henry Slesar
Based on-"Golden Opportunity" by J.W. Aaron
First print appearance-Manhunt, March 1957
Watch episode-unavailable
Available on DVD?-unavailable

In two weeks: our series on British actor John Williams begins with "The Long Shot!"


Grant said...

Even though it's such a grim movie, I've always like Rafael Campos in LADY IN A CAGE, where he and James Caan and Jennifer Billingsley takes turns scaring Olivia De Haviland.

And even if I knew her from nothing else, I've always liked Evans Evans a whole lot in BONNIE AND CLYDE.

Brian Durant said...

Great work as always, Jack. Do you know if there is a specific reason why AHP/AHH has taken so long to be released on Region 1 DVD? According to Amazon the first season was released in 2005 and 11 years later only six of the ten seasons are available on DVD. And will it ever see a Blu Ray treatment?

Jack Seabrook said...

Grant, I've never seen "Lady in a Cage," and it's been many years since I've seen "Bonnie and Clyde." I didn't think much of Evans's work in the Hitchcock episodes but everything I've read says she was great in "Bonnie and Clyde."

Brian, thanks! All I can guess is that Universal did not make enough money on the DVDs and gave up. They released season six as an "on demand" DVD set and got a lot of flak for it. I check the internet every so often to see if season 7 is coming but so far I've seen nothing. And it kills me that they haven't released the hour long episodes. I have DVDs that were recorded off TV airings of seasons 7-10 but I'd love clean, uncut prints. I very much doubt it will ever come out on Blu Ray.

Peter Enfantino said...

If you've got an all-region DVD player, you can order all seasons of AHP and AHH from Very affordable and nice, sharp prints. I'm pretty sure Universal will get around to releasing the rest here in America some day but when? Who knows?

Brian Durant said...

I hear you, Jack. I try to catch the AHH episodes in syndication whenever I can but there are still quite a few that I have never seen. Blu Ray would be fantastic but I agree that it will probably never happen.

Thanks, Peter. I didn't know that they had been released in other markets. Unfortunately, I have a region 1 player but this may convince me to shop around.