Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Hitchcock Project-William Fay Part One: The Crooked Road [4.4]

 by Jack Seabrook

William Jerome Fay (1909-1968) wrote 14 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He was an editor and writer at Popular Publications in the 1930s and he wrote over 160 short stories that were published from 1938 to 1962. His stories appeared mostly in mainstream popular fiction magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, and Liberty. Fay wrote for television from 1954 to 1967 and he wrote the screenplay for Kid Galahad, a 1962 film starring Elvis Presley.

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The first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to air with a script by William Fay was "The Crooked Road," which premiered on CBS on Sunday, October 26, 1958. It was based on a story of the same name by Alex Gaby that was first published in the January 1958 issue of Argosy. In the story, a young married couple, Henry Adams and his wife, who is not given a name, are driving along a country road on a spring day when they pass a slow-moving police car and are soon forced off the road by the same car. Officer Carney is threatening to Henry and insists that the couple follow him into Robertsville, but the car was damaged when it left the road to avoid hitting the police car. A tow truck pulls up and Charley, a mechanic, insists on towing the car into town at a cost of $60.

"The Crooked Road" was
first published here

The Adamses ride into town in the back of the police car and are taken to see the justice of the peace. Officer Carney tells his version of events and Henry complains; the policeman hits Henry across the face with the back of his hand and then across the ear with his pistol. Henry pleads not guilty and the judge sets a hearing for two days later, but Henry, not wanting to wait in town, changes his plea to guilty and pays $95.50 in order to be allowed to leave. He and his wife walk to Charley's gas station to pick up their car. Though it is clear that the work they are being charged for was never done, Henry pays $70 to Charley and drives off. As the Adamses drive out of town, Mrs. Adams reveals that the large, black bag that she carried with her contained a tape recorder; they are from the Special Investigations Committee of the State Highway Commission and they recorded the entire series of events!

"The Crooked Road" is a satisfying short story that leads the reader to think one thing is happening before revealing that something quite different was going on. The Adamses are portrayed as well-off, with an expensive car. They wear good clothing and seem completely unprepared for what befalls them, as they are taken advantage of by corrupt policemen, a corrupt judge, and a corrupt mechanic. Even when they are alone in the car together, there is no indication that they are state investigators--Mrs. Adams is aghast when Carney runs them off the road. Henry is indignant throughout his interactions with the policeman, the judge, and the mechanic, and the fact that he allows himself to be slapped and hit with a gun suggests, in retrospect, that he may be willing to go too far to make a case against the people he is investigating. Still, it all succeeds as an entertaining story, where the twist ending promises that justice will be served and casts everything that happened before it in a new light.

Richard Kiley as Henry Adams
The title has two meanings: the Adamses drive along a crooked country road and the people they meet as a result are themselves crooked.

Alex Gaby (1914-1989), the author of the story, earned a degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin and moved to New York City to be a freelance writer. He served in the Army in World War Two and, in the late 1940s, moved to Rochester, NY, where he went on to spend 31 years as editor of The Labor News. He also worked for the NY Department of Labor. He was interviewed in 1976 and his papers are held at Cornell. As for his fiction, the FictionMags Index lists 11 short stories by Gaby that were published between 1941 and 1959; like William Fay, his stories mostly appeared in mainstream popular fiction magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and Argosy. He wrote one novel, a 1952 paperback original titled To End the Night. In addition to "The Crooked Road," one of his stories was adapted as the 1967 film, Hot Rods to Hell.

Walter Matthau as Officer Pete Chandler
The TV version of the story follows the written version closely. William Fay rewrote much of the dialogue and changed the violent acts of the policeman, who has been renamed Pete Chandler. In the story, when they are still on the side of the road, the policeman grips Henry's elbow roughly in a threatening manner; in the TV show, Chandler punches Henry in the face, knocking him to the ground. The sequence where the Adamses are driven into town in the police car is removed. Instead, Chandler and Charley agree that Henry was resisting arrest and earned the punch in the face, then there is a commercial break, and then the trio walk into the home of the justice of the peace.

It is unusual for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be given a precise date, but the judge says that the date is June 10, 1958. In the short story, the date is given as March 20, 1957. When Henry argues in front of the judge, Chandler hauls off and punches him in the gut but does not pistol whip him as he does in the short story. Near the end of the episode, more attention begins to be paid to the bag that Mrs. Adams carries: after Henry gets Pete to agree that he keeps half of the fines, Mrs. Adams opens her bag and checks something inside, though the viewer doesn't get to see what it is. In retrospect, she must have been checking the tape recorder. At the very end, as the Adamses drive away, there is a bit more dialogue to clarify that they are state investigators than there is in the story.

Patricia Adams as Mrs. Adams

Like Alex Gaby's story, William Fay's teleplay for "The Crooked Road" is solid entertainment, where the bad guys get their just desserts. This is not an episode with a downbeat ending where the criminals seem to get away with their crimes and Hitchcock has to give a tongue in cheek assurance that justice was done offscreen!

The actors being the script to life. Richard Kiley (1922-1999) plays Henry Adams and is quite convincing as a man who feels he is being wronged at every turn but who chooses to take a practical approach in part to protect his wife. Kiley won two Tony awards and three Emmy awards; he was an accomplished actor on stage, screen and television. He also appeared in "Blood Bargain" on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; his other notable roles included the live television play "Patterns" by Rod Serling (1955) and two episodes of Night Gallery.

Richard Erdman as Charley

Walter Matthau (1920-2000) is wonderful as Officer Pete Chandler, his laconic speech and manner demonstrating his confidence in his own power and authority. Born Walter Matthow in Manhattan, he was a child actor in Yiddish theater who served under Jimmy Stewart in the Air Force in WWII, earning six battle stars. He went on to star on Broadway, then on television, and finally in many films. He won two Tony awards and an Oscar. His TV career began in 1950 and his movie career followed in 1955. He appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Dry Run," but he will always be remembered for his comedic film roles, especially The Odd Couple (1968) and The Bad News Bears (1976).

Charles Watts as the judge
Patricia Breslin (1931-2011) is perfect as Mrs. Adams. She acted mostly on TV from 1950 to 1969 and was seen in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "O Youth and Beauty!" She was a regular on a series called The People's Choice (1955-1958) and on Peyton Place (1964-1965); she also made appearances on The Twilight Zone and Thriller. She was in a handful of films, including Homicidal (1961) and I Saw What You Did (1965), and she left acting in 1969 and married Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns football team. She spent the rest of her life engaged in philanthropy.

Charley the mechanic is portrayed by Richard Erdman (1925-2019), who was born John Richard Erdmann and who was on screen from 1944 to 2017. This was his only role on the Hitchcock show, but he was a regular on The Tab Hunter Show (1960-61), Saints and Sinners (1962-63), and Community (2009-15). He appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone and was busy both as a character actor and as a voice actor in TV cartoons.

Charles Watts (1912-1966) plays the judge. He was on screen from 1950 to 1965 and was seen in five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The West Warlock Time Capsule."

Peter Dane

Barely visible as the policeman driving the police car is Peter Dane (1918-1985). Born Edward Voight, he was on screen from 1944 to 1982 and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

"The Crooked Road" is directed by Paul Henreid (1908-1992), who began his career as a film actor. His career as a director began in the early 1950s, and he directed 29 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "A Little Sleep."

"The Crooked Road" is available on DVD here or may be viewed online for free here. Oh, and the car the Adamses drive? It looks to me like a 1958 Lincoln Continental convertible, and a beauty!


"The Crooked Road." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 4, CBS, 26 Oct. 1958. 

The FictionMags Index, 

Gaby, Alex. "The Crooked Road." Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery, Random House, 1969, pp. 97–111. 

Galactic Central, 

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 


Isseman, Mort. Interview with Alex Gaby. 29 July 1976, 

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Nov. 2020, 

"William Cullen Fay, Writer.", 

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In two weeks: "The $2,000,000 Defense," starring Barry Sullivan and Leslie Nielsen!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Portrait of Jocelyn" here!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Hammer Meets Hitchcock!

 by Jack Seabrook

I recently watched Kiss Me Deadly on TCM's noir alley and I was struck with the kinetic opening sequence, where Cloris Leachman, playing Christina Bailey, runs down a dark highway at night. She is barefoot and wearing only a trench coat, having escaped from a psychiatric hospital. She stands right in front of Mike Hammer's speeding car, risking her own death in order to force him to screech to a halt.

Cloris Leachman in Kiss Me Deadly

The shots of Christina in the road reminded me of similar shots in the first-season Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Hidden Thing," where Laura, played by Judith Ames, is run down by a car on a similar dark road.

Judith Ames in "The Hidden Thing"

The similarity of the shots got me thinking: did Kiss Me Deadly influence Alfred Hitchcock Presents?

Kiss Me Deadly was released on May 18, 1955, so it was a relatively new film in the public consciousness as of the summer of that year, when the first episodes of Alfred Hitchcock presents were being filmed. The premiere episode of the series was "Revenge," broadcast on October 2, 1955, and filmed from September 15th to September 17th of that year. The screenwriter of Kiss Me Deadly was A.I. Bezzerides, and he was also brought in, uncredited, to polish the teleplay for "Revenge."

Ralph Meeker in "Revenge"

The first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be broadcast shares something else with Kiss Me Deadly: they both star Ralph Meeker, who plays Mike Hammer in the film and Carl Spann in the TV show. Both characters are brutish men who kill first and ask questions later.

The second episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be broadcast was "Premonition," on October 9, 1955. Co-starring with John Forsythe is none other than Cloris Leachman, who made such an impression in the opening scene of Kiss Me Deadly.

Cloris Leachman in "Premonition"

Also in "Premonition" is everyone's favorite squeaky-voiced creep, Percy Helton, playing funeral director Gerald Eaton, a role not too dissimilar to the role he played in Kiss Me Deadly as greedy, corrupt Doc Kennedy, who runs the morgue. In both roles, Helton is assaulted by the story's main character, who demands that Helton's character give him a key!

Percy Helton in "Premonition"

So, in the first two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be broadcast in the fall of 1955, we see contributions from the screenwriter, star, and two other cast members of Kiss Me Deadly, a highly influential noir film released earlier that year. Coincidence?

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas! This is Our 1000th Post!

Peter: Close to 12 years ago now, John Scoleri talked me back into resurrecting bare•bones as a semi-regular blog. That initial dip in the pool lasted exactly five posts and then I was embroiled in a bit of personal business. Two years later, I was more than ready to try again and this time it stuck good. At first, most of our material was made up of reprints from other sources I'd written for and other little bits and drabs but, very soon, we were producing all-new material at a frightening clip. Our "Week of Sleaze," featuring sleaze expert Lynn Munroe, was a huge hit and first planted the seed in my brain that the print version of b•b had to come back sooner or later. Yes, I know it took another ten years to see that dream realized but...

Scoleri in his Star Wars tie-in room

John: If not for A Thriller a Day, bare•bones as a blog would never have had a second life. Doing that blog, and our subsequent TV-A-Day blogs, led to Marvel University, and with each new stake in internet turf, our readership grew. Those blogs, and the readers who were taking the time to read and respond to us, were in large part responsible for us giving bare•bones another go. And lord knows that Peter and I didn't run out of odds and ends we felt were worth writing about.

Peter: With all the work we were doing over at Marvel University and A Thriller a Day, we knew we would need some outside help very soon and, thank goodness, that help arrived in the form of Jack Seabrook. Jack had been leaving messages in the comments section of the Thriller blog and his name had rung a bell. I googled and discovered Jack was the best-selling author of Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life Work of Fredric Brown and Stealing Through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney. A real live expert on stuff was reading our blog! Jack and I began corresponding and I suckered him into becoming part of the gang. On December 10th, 2010, Jack's first bare•bones entry, "Fredric Brown: The Deadly Weekend," went public. The rest is history.

Seabrook on the estate he bought with his royalties

Since then, Jack and I have collaborated on discussions about Batman in the 1970s (67 posts, Jan 2012-April 2013), DC War Comics (179 posts, April 2013-April 2020), DC Horror Comics (72 posts, May 2013-Feb 2016), EC Comics (75 posts, March 2016-Jan 2019), Warren Comics (Feb 2019-current), and Batman in the 1980s (May 2020-current).  More important, on March 10, 2011, Jack began his exhaustive overview of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, a series of posts that will someday make up the definitive book on AHP/AHH.

Enfantino in his blessed mess

Jack: I can't believe that this is the 1000th post already! I have really enjoyed working on this blog for all these years and hope Blogger holds on and keeps giving us a free platform to explore our pop-culture obsessions. It remains a mystery why certain posts take off. Here's hoping 2021 is a better year for all of us than 2020!

John: The good news is that I think it has to be. And allow me also to second Peter's recognition of how Jack has been the backbone of the bare•bones blog. Anyone who follows the blog knows that my posts have been erratic at best (I'm referring to the frequency of my posts, though I will pause for Peter to point out that the content of them is erratic as well). With the re-launch of our print zine, that has taken up most of my time, so I've made even fewer contributions in the last year, but rest assured I will continue to drop the completely random post from time to time, as warranted. And while I know why certain posts attract a larger audience (gee thanks, Google Image Search), I do hope that whatever brought you to bare•bones provided a welcome introduction to the variety of treats to be found within.

Peter: It's tough to sum up 999 posts in only a few hundred words. I've doubtless missed a few highlights and omitted a few very important people (Jose Cruz, take a bow) but I'm proud to be able to look back on a strong body of work, a library that has attracted nearly two million "visits!" Speaking of which, here's a listing of our twenty most popular posts of all time:

  1 The Hitchcock Project-Stirling Silliphant Part Three: A Bottle of Wine 

  2 The Annotated Index to Gunsmoke Magazine 

  3 In Search of... In Search Of: An Index to the Alan Landsburg Book Series

  4 20 Great Vintage Sleaze Reads

  5 The Caroline Munro Archive: Hot Hits 11

  6 Ray Bradbury on TV Part Six: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour "The Jar"

  7 Richard Matheson - The Original Stories: The Playboy Years

  8 2019 in Review - Some of our Favorites

  9 Ray Bradbury on TV Part Seven-The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Life Work of Juan Diaz"

10 A Tangled Web: The Annotated Index to Web Detective Stories Part 1 

11 John Collier on TV Part Six-Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Maria"

12 The Hitchcock Project-Roald Dahl Part One: "Lamb to the Slaughter" [3.28]

13 Kitten on the Cover: The Ann-Margret Paperback Tie-ins

14 Shatner Meets Hitchcock Part One: Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Glass Eye"

15 The Caroline Munro Archive: Oui, April 1973

18 Robert Bloch on TV Part Seven-Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Gloating Place"

19 John Collier on TV Part Eight-The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Magic Shop"

20 The Ballantine/Del Rey Paperback Covers of Ralph McQuarrie: A Checklist (1976-1987)

Stay tuned to this channel in 2021 for some incredible surprises along with 26 new episodes each of Warren Horror, 1980s Batman, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents! And perhaps even a "Best of the Blog" print collection! Have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 49: February 1974

The Critical Guide to 
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Eerie #54

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jaime Brocal

"To Cure This Curse!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Martin Salvador

Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Paul Neary

"The Christmas Spirit"
(originally published 12/21/47)

"Bright Eyes!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"The Evil That Men Do"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Isidro Mones

A train conductor discovers the mummy playing hobo and they both tumble off the speeding train. The man dies in the fall but the mummy survives and wanders around the hills of Massachusetts until he happens upon devil worshippers setting a pile of leaves on fire. The mummy thinks back to the good old days in Ancient Egypt and wanders into a large, stone building in the Massachusetts town. He discovers that the townsfolk have summoned up a demon, and the mummy and the demon fight like crazy until the whole building falls down, killing everyone but the mummy, who shambles off, observed by a woman in town who wants to know more about the guy who beat the demon.

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!"

"Stranger in a Village of the Insane!" is an odd title for this story. Yes, the mummy is a stranger, and yes, he does visit a village, but we learn nothing about the people there beyond the fact that they somehow conjure up a demon. That's the problem with this series: it moves from story to story without any real depth, and the purpose of each entry seems to be to give the mummy a reason to get in a big fight and kill someone or something. At least Jaime Brocal's art is nice to look at. He really carries the series almost by himself.

The werewolf happens upon a coven of witches in the woods and kills all but one of them, turning back into Arthur Lemming midway through strangling the old man. What can I do "To Cure This Curse," asks Arthur, and the old guy marches him to the village, where more witches have a nutty plan: they'll transfer Arthur's curse into the body of an Egyptian mummy they happen to have handy. Arthur agrees and, before you know it, the naughty old witches have not just transferred the curse but Arthur's mind as well! He's now trapped in the mummy's body and, when the full moon rises, the mummy turns into a bandaged werewolf and kills everybody but the treacherous old man. The old coot says there's an amulet in America that can return Arthur's mind to his body, which will not decompose. Arthur/ werewolf/mummy finally kills the guy and faces the prospect of...what?

Readers react to "To Cure This Curse!"

This is just dreadful stuff! Martin Salvador's art can't save a bad script the way Jaime Brocal's art can, and the idea of having the werewolf become a mummy/werewolf is as ridiculous as it sounds. The sight of the mummy with little wolf ears popping out from the bandages is more silly than scary and, as in the mummy series, the story is an excuse for the main character to kill everyone in sight. I've never read these before, so I wonder if this is all leading toward a showdown between the mummy (of the mummy series) and the mummy (of the werewolf series). Don't spoil it for me!

Hunter knocks on the door of a home demanding shelter and forces his way in when the man inside refuses. The man grabs a gun but Hunter is knocked out from behind by the man's daughter. Hunter awakens and is soon strung up, but when a pack of demons attack he is the only thing between the man's family and death. Hunter fights valiantly but is on the verge of being killed when the homeowner reappears and wipes out the demons with his Gatling gun; unfortunately, his daughter is also among the dead.

Easily the best of the first three stories in this issue, "Demon-Killer" benefits greatly from Paul Neary's increasingly smooth art, which is really reminding me of John Byrne's 1970s' work. There's little new in this story, but at least it's a trusty old plot, of the settlers first rejecting and later accepting the outsider who fights on their behalf against the forces of chaos. Substitute Native Americans for demons and this could be a western saga! Neary's demons are inventive but he sure does love Zip-A-Tone!

With "The Christmas Spirit," Warren begins its practice of reprinting some of the best comics of all time. This one follows an orphan in war-torn Europe who meets a famished Santa Claus and ends up on a plane to America, where he is taken in by the Spirit and his friends. In addition to the heart-tugging story and brilliant art, we are treated to Richard Corben's stunning color. I am really looking forward to re-reading all of Warren's Spirit mags and this is a great introduction to the series. Now, if only we could figure out how to deal with Ebony in 2020...

"The Christmas Spirit"

"Bright Eyes!"
Alone, naked, and missing his right hand, Schreck fights off the rampaging zombies and hides in the attic until they break down the door. He manages to escape and makes a run for it until he is saved by a mysterious person with a gun who starts shooting zombies. Schreck passes out and wakes up in an insane asylum, where he has been unconscious for two days while a prosthetic hand was surgically grafted onto his stump. A beautiful woman named "Bright Eyes!" enters his room but is shocked to see that Schreck's eyes are white, signaling that he has become a zombie.

There is no Neal Adams this time to elevate Schreck above a one-star rating. This is truly awful. The art stinks and so does the story. What more can I say? Doug Moench is scraping the bottom of the barrel, and it's all the worse for following Eisner's story.

"The Evil That Men Do"
London, 1886: Alistair Archaeus is convicted and sentenced to hang for murder! When the trap door drops and his body is stretched at the end of a noose, no one notices that the rope breaks and he is left alive, albeit with a broken neck. On Boxing Day, later that year, Sir Arthur Holmes entertains guests at his London estate and the men gather to hunt Chukars. Archaeus waits until Sir Arthur is alone and captures him, tying him up and sticking him inside a bush, to whose branches he ties stuffed Chukars. When the others in the hunting party shoot the birds, Sir Arthur's body is riddled with bullets. A detective suspects that Archaeus is alive and has just killed the foreman of the jury that convicted him.

Anything would look good following "Bright Eyes," but "The Evil Men Do" is not a bad start to a new series, though the conceit of having someone murder the members of a jury is not a new one. Still, the 1886 London setting is welcome and the art by Mones is effective, recalling (for me) the work of Jose Bea.-Jack

Peter- The most magical aspect (and truly, the only reason I keep reading this crap) of Steve Skeates's two quasi-Marvel series is that Steve doesn't bother to explain anything that's going on. You want to know what's with this weird town full of demon worshippers? Forget it. Just keep reading; don't ask questions. Is the mummy we come across in the werewolf series the same bandaged boogieman from the other series? What did I just say? Stop asking stupid questions! Are we even sure these two characters are living in the same era? (Blank stare) Jack naively requests us not to spoil what's about to happen, but the irony is that we can't possibly tell him. Even those of us in the Monday Morning Quarterback club aren't entirely sure what Steve Skeates does next. That's refreshing.

Of the three other series making up Eerie #54, only Dr. Archaeus is worth the time. Gerry Boudreau's riff on Dr. Phibes is, at least, readable, and the art is very good. I'm not clear why Dr. Archaeus's missing "corpse" didn't raise some red flags, but little details like proof of death probably eluded common folk of the 19th century. The problem I'm having with the majority of the Eerie series is that 90% of them are so unremarkable I forget what happened in the last installment. Praise the lord we only have two more chapters of Schreck, which is a mishmash of bad ideas, bad Moench writing, and bad art. "Hunter" has some outstanding visuals, but the narrative is confusing as all hell. Why are so many of these writers bound and determined to master the Marvel style? The only difference between Hunter/Schreck and something like Deathlok is that, with Warren, we get boobs.

The highlight of the issue is, of course, the debut of Will Eisner's Spirit. Jack and I have had lots of discussion on how we're going to handle discussing the character but, suffice it to say, were both tickled pink by the arrival. Rich Corben's color is vibrant and only enhances Eisner's vision. 

Creepy #60

"Slaughter House" 
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Adolfo Abellan

"A Most Precious Secret" 
Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Jose Gual

"The Hero Within" ★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Rich Corben

"Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" ★1/2
Story by John Jacobson
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Other Side of Hell!" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

Some housewarmings are
a bit less elaborate
Tom and Toni O'Neil (along with their young son, Rickie) fall immediately in love with the derelict and unkempt "Slaughter House," despite the realtor's warnings of the old building being haunted. The man tells them of an entire family (including a newborn) killed within the walls and now a mysterious force walks the hallways. The realtor even shows the O'Neils a creepy painting of a dwarf that hangs on a musty wall. Tom tells the man it's perfect for the couple's psychic phenomena investigations and they'll take it.

First night in doesn't go well. There's a violent storm that keeps Rickie up until Toni puts him down in the murdered baby's crib. The boy goes right to sleep. Toni and Tom then acquaint themselves with their surroundings, casting a spell in their new living room to attract good spirits to protect them from evil. As the rites come to an end, they hear a slamming sound and watch in horror as the painting's dwarf looks in at them from outside. Fearing for the safety of little Rickie, the couple race upstairs just in time to see the dwarf's spirit departing into the afterlife. Not a dwarf but the spirit of the dead baby (yes, ghosts do age, stop laughing!), now able to exit our world peacefully.

A mediocre gothic at best, sixteen wasted pages at worst, "Slaughter House" just doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. The O'Neils are would-be forerunners of Ed and Lorraine Warren (the Conjuring couple), but they don't seem to know if that's really what they want as a vocation. Why would you bring a little kid into a house that might be haunted by evil spirits? And was the realtor's insistence that the couple should find a safer place to live some kind of red herring? Why does he bother showing a house if he's going to do everything in his power to prevent the sale? And what's with the closet full of diapers? 

Sandra comes home early one night to discover her husband, Erich, chowing down on the neck of an unfortunate lass. Erich is a vampire! Now, as Erich is quick to point out, he'll have to dispose of Sandra to keep his secret... um, a secret. Seconds after he sups on his wife, the phone rings. It's Sandra's lawyer, informing Erich that Sandra has leukemia (cancer of the blood!!!!!) and that she has to come over to his office right now to finalize her will. Erich stares off in the distance, dumbfounded, knowing he now has cancer of the blood!!!!!

The very definition of amateur hour, there's so much wrong with "A Most Precious Secret"! Let's start with why a vampire would possibly want to marry when obvious skeletons in the closet can only be revealed given time. I mean, Margopoulos doesn't even try to explain how awkward it might be for a woman to discover her husband can't go outdoors during the day. Was the wedding ceremony performed at night? Does Erich have some kind of phony job he goes to? When they have sex, doesn't Sandra notice how cold Erich is? Some red flags have to be flying here, no? And then the finale arrives (which holds the only moment I appreciated: a vampire on a phone) where Erich gets the good/bad news. Ostensibly, he's the primary recipient of Sandra's money, but then the lawyer (in a very un-lawyerly fashion) spills the beans about the woman's diagnosis. Hang on. Isn't a vampire dead? So why would a blood disease spell disaster? Maybe I need to go back to Stoker's book and re-read all the rules. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Gual's art is not bad, but I question what a babe like Sandra saw in a porky old fuddy-duddy like Erich.

"The Hero Within"
Orphaned Lucien is trucked from one foster home to another and the only thing that keeps him going is the ability to lose himself in his own mind. When Lucien is brought to Mrs. Gillfodder's house, he immediately senses the hostility generated by the woman, her daughter and, most importantly, their vicious dog, Bucky. When Lucien is locked in the basement for showing fear of the mongrel, he immediately escapes into his fantasy world when he finds a "magic rock" on the basement floor.

In that world, Lucien becomes a muscular, ape-like creature who saves a gorgeous big-breasted (more of those magic rocks!) blonde from a T-Rex by shoving a spear into its eye but loses his magic rock during the battle. He is quickly transported back to his basement prison. The door opens and Mrs. Gillfodder and her daughter descend the stairs. The girl accuses Lucien of stealing her dolly (sure enough, he's holding onto the blonde toy) and the brutish woman tells Lucien he'll be staying locked up until the next day. Alone again, Lucien stares in terror as Bucky approaches from the shadows.

"Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!"
"The Hero Within" had a huge impact on me when I first read it in 1973. My 12-year-old brain was frazzled by the horrors this little boy had to endure, events that were in no way of his making. And then... no happy ending! This was a different kind of Warren story to me and, today, though the impact has dulled a bit and I can see a few flaws, the story is still pretty potent. Steve Skeates manages to shy away from the maudlin and get down to the business of telling a horrifying story, one that leaves us with a depressed feeling. This poor, innocent kid deserved so much more than a grisly death, but the impact of that climax stays within your brain for quite a while after you turn the final page and go back to vampires that walk around in business suits. Would I question the random involvement of Blonde Sonja now that I'm old enough to know better? Oh yeah, but I assume "big boobs" was something Rich Corben (who we sadly lost just a couple of weeks ago) had written into his contract with Warren. 

An alien race plans to invade Earth during the 18th century, and one of their emissaries believes the best way to sneak up on the human race is to publish a novel detailing how the invasion will take place. So, the creature disguises itself as Monsieur Fortran and simultaneously becomes the talk of the town and a pariah. The plan goes awry when one of Fortran's friends believes the novel is actually a work of non-fiction and the aliens will come to silence Fortran. "Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" is a talky and dumb mess; the whole plot makes no sense to me. The 18th century would seem to be the perfect place for an alien invasion; who needs the elaborate plan? It's not like 2020, where we almost expect a similar fate to put a cap on such a wonderful year. Martin Salvador's art is bland, showing no signs of life.

There's definitely something
going on in there...I think
Wino Charlie Struthers dies after chugging a jug of whiskey and visits "The Other Side of Hell!" Charlie decides Satan's playground ain't such a bad place to visit for a while, what with its sexy babes and kingdoms to conquer, but the pace soon wears the man down and he wishes for a little peace. The obvious draw here is not the cliched script but Gonzalo Mayo's artwork, very very very very reminiscent of Esteban Maroto with its half-nekkid women and swords and long-haired barbarians and stuff. Unfortunately, like Maroto at times, Mayo's penciling can be a bit confusing. Some of the panels look like there might have been a nice soufflé there in the oven before Gonzo decided to add a huge layer of cheese and the whole thing ran together into an inedible mess. Why do the women in these fantasy strips always lounge in the same position, breasts thrust forward, with fifty pounds of jewelry weighing them down? Have their leg muscles atrophied and they can't rise from their altar/beds?

The two-page spread informing us that Steve Skeates has won "Best All-Around Writer" and Bill DuBay has won Best Story Award for "Freedom's Just Another Word" only deepens my conviction that the "election board" never actually read these things.-Peter

Jack-I'm getting to like the stories by Rich Margopoulos. "Slaughter House" is unexpectedly long, at 16 pages, but it held my interest and I thought Abellan's usually scratchy art style was pretty good. I was glad for a happy ending and less violence, even though I'm not entirely sure what happened. "A Most Precious Secret" has really nice, clean art by Gual and an ending that amused and surprised me. "The Hero Within" certainly has stunning Corben art and gorgeous color, but the story by Skeates is weak, despite Corben doing the best he can with it. The last two stories in the issue are duds: "Monsieur Fortran's Hoax!" is overly talky space-filler with mediocre art, while "The Other Side of Hell!" suggests that Gonzalo Mayo is the heir to Maroto and DuBay took something he found in a foreign publication and wrote new prose for it. Pretty pictures, lousy story.

In two weeks...
Can writer Roy Thomas
bring new life to Batman?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Hitchcock Project-Alfred Hayes Part Five: The Photographer and the Undertaker [10.21] and Wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

The last episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to air with a script by Alfred Hayes was "The Photographer and the Undertaker," which was broadcast on NBC on Monday, March 15, 1965. Based on the short story of the same title by James Holding that was published in the November 1962 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, the TV version follows the story closely but also expands it, adding an important new character and deepening its themes.

Holding's story takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Mario Andradas is a killer for hire who gets his assignments from a group known as the Management. When he sees a man named Gomez watching his photography studio from the shadows across the street, Andradas realizes that Gomez intends to kill him.

"The Photographer and the
Undertaker" was first
published here

Manuel thinks back to having met with his contact Rodolfo, who gave him a third of a million cruzeiros (about $6000 today) in advance to kill a man who lives only eight blocks away. The assassin located the residence of his target, a mortician named Gomez, and observed the man returning home. That evening, Manuel noticed Gomez observing him in much the same way and realized that they had been hired to kill each other. Manuel understands that Gomez is the Undertaker, an assassin for hire whom the management calls when Manuel is not available. Gomez telephones, asking to make an appointment to have his portrait taken, and they agree to meet at ten o'clock that night.

When Gomez arrives at ten, Manuel is in his darkroom. Gomez enters and Manuel has the upper hand, being used to the darkness. He avoids a knife thrust and breaks Gomez's wrist before tying the other assassin to a chair in his studio. Manuel explains that he has been hired to kill Gomez for a million cruzeiros. Gomez admits that he was promised the same amount. Manuel explains that it must be a competition; the Management only needs one killer and chose this method to select the best one. Gomez tells Manuel that his contact is a man named Ernesto; he reveals where they meet and how proof of death is provided by a newspaper obituary. Gomez prefers to use a knife and fire to accomplish his ends.

Jack Cassidy as Arthur Mannix

Suddenly, Gomez pulls a small knife from behind his neck and throws it at Manuel's heart. Manuel turns quickly and the knife lodges in his upper arm. He kills Gomez with a quick blow to the throat. Manuel takes a series of photographs to prove that his target is dead before placing the corpse in his own bed and setting fire to his studio. The next afternoon, Manuel, pretending to be Gomez's imbecilic nephew, gives a newspaper obituary to Ernest and receives the balance of payment due to Gomez for the murder of the Photographer. The next day, Manuel calls his contact, Rodolpho, and when they meet he shows the photographs that prove the death of Gomez. Rodolpho agrees to pay Manuel and gives him the name of his next target: Ernesto.

James Holding (1907-1997), the story's author, was born James Clark Carlisle Jr. and wrote over 175 short stories that were published between 1960 and 1992. He also wrote juvenile mystery novels, including three featuring Ellery Queen Jr. Holding was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1983 for Best Short Story. Among his series characters was the Photographer, who was featured in 17 stories that were published between 1960 and 1984. "The Photographer and the Undertaker" was the second story in the series and it was Holding's only story to be adapted for television.

Harry Townes as Hiram Price

The show that was produced from Alfred Hayes's teleplay is a delight. The location of the story is moved from Brazil to Los Angeles, and all of the characters are Americans: Manuel Andradas has been renamed Arthur Mannix. In the first scene, we see Mannix at work, as he suddenly appears and kills a man who is sitting alone, watching a baseball game on TV. He takes a Polaroid photo of the victim and is clearly a professional, having a sip from the victim's glass of wine and sitting in his chair, in no hurry to vacate the scene.

The short story's Rodolpho has become attorney Jonathan Rudolph, a businessman with a secretary. Alone in his office, Rudolph listens to a cassette tape from the home office instructing management in regard to cost-cutting measures. The events take place in 1964 and there is a reference to a meeting at Hotel Thanatopsis in Lake Saranac, NY; the word "thanatopsis" is defined as "a consideration of death" and death is Rudolph's real stock in trade. Rudolph telephones Ernest (Ernesto in the story) and, though we don't know it yet, this must be the call that sets up the competition between assassins.

Alfred Ryder as Jonathan Rudolph
Mannix returns home to his photography studio, where he finds Rudolph waiting for him. Both men have respectable jobs to cover their illicit business of murder, and each reveals to the other that he has investigated the other's personal life. Mannix shows Rudolph proof of the death of the baseball fan and is paid; Rudolph then gives Mannix his next assignment: Hiram Price, as Gomez from the short story has been renamed. The men discuss the workings of organized crime as if it were a corporation, even referring to the former location of the home office as Chicago, where organized crime was so prevalent in the earlier decades of the twentieth century. Rudolph instructs Mannix to watch out for the knife of envy and ambition, foreshadowing the later scene where Price will fling a knife at Rudolph.

Mannix surveils Price's funeral home from an outside phone booth. The following scene introduces Sylvia Sylvester, Mannix's beautiful girlfriend, a character not in the short story. They relax at Malibu Beach and she tells Mannix that he will need to talk to "Daddy" that night about their plan to wed. After dinner with Sylvia and Daddy, Mannix talks with Sylvester about marriage; director Alex March stages the scene to suggest that the older man holds the power in the relationship, with him standing and looking down at the seated Mannix. Sylvester (whose first name is not revealed until a surprise occurs later in the episode) interrogates Mannix and makes it clear that the prospective suitor will need money to take care of Sylvia.

Jocelyn Lane as Sylvia Sylvester

There is some humor in this scene that unintentionally looks forward to the "Spanish Inquisition" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus; Sylvester keeps adding to his list of things that are important--brains, competition, thrift, saving, spending--as he verbally fences with Mannix, who gently pokes holes in the older man's argument as Sylvester pivots from one position to another, blithely unconcerned with self-contradiction. Sylvia's father tells Mannix that they can discuss marriage when the prospective groom has $50,000 in cash. The addition of Sylvia and her father gives Arthur motivation and sets up a new twist, along with a concrete financial goal.

Mannix returns to his studio, makes the appointment to see Price, and Price arrives. This long scene plays out essentially the same way it does in Holding's short story. Director March stages it nicely, with both men having a surface conversation while planning to kill each other. As he did with Sylvester, Mannix allows the other man to think he is in control of the exchange while Arthur really has the upper hand. In a reminder of the show's first scene, where Arthur killed a man with a karate chop, he disarms Price with a karate chop to the wrist. March uses a variation on his approach from the scene where Mannix and Sylvester had their conversation; this time, Mannix is shown to have the power in the conversation because the camera looks down from his higher point of view. Price, in a subordinate position, looks up at Mannix and, in a perhaps overly showy camera move, the camera swings back and forth to display Mannix's viewpoint as he paces back and forth. When Price suddenly throws the knife at Mannix, it misses entirely and lodges in the wall. Mannix kills Price and the scene ends with the studio on fire.

Philip Bourneuf as Ernest Sylvester

We next see Mannix in a hotel room, reading a newspaper account of his own death. He dons a disguise, consisting of a fake nose, mustache, wig, sunglasses, and beret, and the scene shifts to a public park, where we see Arthur, dressed as a hipster and bopping to the music from a portable radio that he carries, meet Ernest, the man from the crime organization who is Price's handler. In a twist that is at once shocking and brilliant, Ernest turns out to be none other than Sylvia's father! The straight-laced businessman who lectured Arthur in the earlier scene is a crook! Arthur's disguise is clever and hilarious, and the fact that he refers to Ernest throughout this scene as "Daddy" has a double meaning: it is both a word that a hipster would use (this is surely how Ernest takes it) and it is also a sly wink to Sylvia's insistence at referring to her father that way, but Ernest does not know that the man in disguise is really his potential son-in-law.

As in earlier scenes, Arthur pretends not to be in control of the situation while actually knowing more than the other person. He pretends to be a man named Hugo, affecting a high, groovy voice and making Sylvester think that he is of low intelligence. The following scenes are all rather short but tie up the loose threads from the episode, ending the tale of Arthur Mannix in a way similar to that of the short story but also taking it a step further. Rudolph is in his office when he is surprised to receive a call from Mannix, whose obituary he has just been reading, and a meeting is set. Sylvia, at home and gloomy, is also surprised to receive a call from Arthur, whom she had thought dead.

Jack Bernardi as Leibowitz

Mannix meets Rudolph at his office and shows him a photograph of the dead Price. "'You know, I think I'll try color the next time,'" says Mannix, referring to the black and white photograph. This may also be a sly remark by the writer of the teleplay to the fact that, while The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was filmed in glorious black and white, and Alex March and the director of photography use the black, white, and gray palette to superb ends in this episode, the world of network television was moving inexorably toward color and the prime-time network schedule would be fully in color by the beginning of the season that started just over a year later, in September 1966. Mannix also mentions to Rudolph that he is getting married: "'pretty soon, now--one more assignment should do it,'" he says, and we recall that he has collected $40,000 and needs one more payment to reach Sylvester's goal of having $50,000 cash on hand in order to marry Sylvia.

Joan Swift as Miss Whiting
While the short story ends with Manuel being given the assignment to kill Ernesto, the TV adaptation takes it further with two more scenes. In the first, Sylvester walks into the park for another meeting with Hugo, angry at having paid for the supposed death of Mannix. Arthur/Hugo lures him into the bushes and kills him with a karate chop. The final scene occurs just after Arthur and Sylvia have been married and are being pelted with rice. Mannix's last remark to his new bride is filled with irony: "'Hadn't been for old Daddy, we wouldn't be here,'" he quips, and it's true: murdering Sylvia's father provided Arthur with the last $10,000 he needed to meet his financial goal to secure his wife.

The clever script by Arthur Hayes expands and deepens the short story on which it is based, adding a love interest and a twist with her father being the man who hires the Undertaker to kill the Photographer.

"The Photographer and the Undertaker" is directed by Alex March (1921-1989), in his only effort for the Hitchcock TV series. He directed mostly episodic TV from 1954 to 1984 and does an excellent job on this episode.

Richard Jury as Willis

Starring as Arthur Mannix is Jack Cassidy (1927-1976), who was a star on Broadway, in film, and on TV from 1944 until his untimely death in 1976. He won a Tony Award in 1964 for his role in She Loves Me and appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in addition to his role in this hour-long show. He was also on Night Gallery and a regular on the series, He & She (1967-68). He was the father of music and TV star David Cassidy and he was married to Shirley Jones from 1956-75. He died in a fire at home that started when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette.

Harry Townes (1914-2001) plays Hiram Price, the Undertaker. He served in the Army Air Corps in WWII and his screen career lasted from 1949 to 1988, mostly on TV, where he played countless parts. Townes was in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Creeper," and he also appeared on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Night Gallery. He co-starred in the 1958 film adaptation of Fredric Brown's The Screaming Mimi. Townes is superb in "The Photographer and the Undertaker"!

In the role of Jonathan Rudolph, the attorney/middle manager in the mob who assigns hits to Mannix, is Alfred Ryder (1916-1995), who also served in the Army Air Force in WWII. Born Alfred Corn, he was a member of the Actors Studio and had a successful career in Old Time Radio. His screen career stretched from 1944 to 1980, but this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series. He was on Night Gallery and Star Trek and he was featured in the famous episode of Bus Stop called "I Kiss Your Shadow." He was married to Kim Hunter, who also appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and his sister, Olive Deering, appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Clegg Hoyt as the doomed baseball fan
Jocelyn Lane (1937- ) steams up the small screen as Sylvia Sylvester, Arthur's eventual wife. Born Jocelyn Bolton in Vienna, Austria, she was a busy model by age 18 and acted in films and on TV from 1954 to 1970. This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show. She appeared in Playboy in 1966 and married a German prince in 1973.

Her father, Ernest Sylvester (1908-1979), is played by Philip Bourneuf, another member of the Actors Studio. He had a long career on Broadway, from 1934 to 1964, and was on screen from 1944 to 1976, including a role in Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). He was on three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Dip in the Pool," and he was also on Thriller.

In smaller roles:

  • Jack Bernardi (1909-1994) as Leibowitz, the man Arthur speaks to outside the deli next to his apartment building; the brother of Herschel Bernardi, he was on screen from 1951-89 and appeared on The Night Stalker.
  • Joan Swift (1933- ) as Miss Whiting, Rudolph's secretary; born Joan Hill, she was also on Star Trek and her screen career lasted from 1957-75.
  • Richard Jury (1926-2009) as Willis, Price's assistant who meets him outside the funeral home; he was on TV and in film from 1958 to 2007, mostly on TV.
  • Clegg Hoyt (1910-1967) as the man who is killed by Mannix in the first scene; he was on screen from 1955-67 and he was in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Day of the Bullet." He was also on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Star Trek.
"The Photographer and the Undertaker" can be purchased to read from Amazon here for 99 cents. The TV show may be viewed for free online here.


The FictionMags Index,

Galactic Central,

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 

Holding, James. "The Photographer and the Undertaker." Kindle ed., Wildside Press, 1980. 


"The Photographer and the Undertaker." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 10, episode 21, NBC, 15 March 1965. 

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

*  *  *  *  *

Alfred Hayes on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: An Overview and Episode Guide

Alfred Hayes wrote seven teleplays for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, ranging from the premiere episode in 1962 ("A Piece of the Action") to an episode near the end of the final season ("The Photographer and the Undertaker"). Three of the teleplays were credited to Hayes and another writer, suggesting that Hayes was brought in to doctor problematic scripts.

In season eight, "A Piece of the Action" is an excellent adaptation of the 1930 film, Street of Chance; the earlier version has been updated to the 1960s and relocated to sunny California, but the tragic events remain the same. "Bonfire," credited to Hayes and William D. Gordon, adapts a short story by V.S. Pritchett and turns a short story that does not involve crime into a brutal look at a murderer. "The Paragon" is a not wholly successful adaptation of a story by Rebecca West where the lead performances are the high point.

In season nine, "Beyond the Sea of Death" is credited to Hayes and Gordon but fails to capture the short story's effectiveness and shocking final twist. "The Second Verdict," credited to Hayes and Henry Slesar, improves on its source by adding new scenes and ends up an exciting and suspenseful hour of television.

In season ten, "Water's Edge" is one of the great hours of television horror, and "The Photographer and the Undertaker" uses humor and violence to tell an entertaining story of a hired killer, adding to its source and dramatizing the tale in a most effective way.

Alfred Hayes's contributions to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour vary in quality, but the best of them stand with some of the show's finest episodes.


Episode title-"A Piece of the Action" [8.1]

Broadcast date-20 September 1962
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on the screenplay for Street of Chance, by Oliver H.P. Garrett
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Bonfire" [8.13]
Broadcast date-13 December 1962
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes and William D. Gordon
Based on "The Wheelbarrow" by V.S. Pritchett
First print appearance-The New Yorker, 16 July 1960
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Paragon" [8.20]
Broadcast date-8 February 1963
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "The Salt of the Earth" by Rebecca West
First print appearance-Woman's Home Companion, March and April 1934
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Beyond the Sea of Death" [9.14]
Broadcast date-24 January 1964
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes and William D. Gordon
Based on "Beyond the Sea of Death" by Miriam Allen deFord
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1949
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Second Verdict" [9.30]
Broadcast date-29 May 1964
Teleplay by-Henry Slesar and Alfred Hayes
Based on "Second Verdict" by Henry Slesar
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, February 1964
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"Water's Edge" [10.3]
Broadcast date-19 October 1964
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "Water's Edge" by Robert Bloch
First print appearance-Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine, September 1956
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

Episode title-"The Photographer and the Undertaker" [10.21]
Broadcast date-15 March 1965
Teleplay by-Alfred Hayes
Based on "The Photographer and the Undertaker" by James Holding
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1962
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-no

*  *  *  *  *

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma's podcast about "Help Wanted" here.

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Bad Actor" here.

In two weeks: our series on William Fay begins with "The Crooked Road" starring Richard Kiley and Walter Matthau!