Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part Four: Day of Reckoning [8.10]

by Jack Seabrook

First U.S edition

Duke Farne, a wealthy Englishman approaching middle age, murders his wife Felicity by pushing her off the edge of a boat when none of the other passengers are looking. Once they realize she's gone, it's too late, and she drowns. The police are called to investigate Felicity's sudden disappearance but no one suspects foul play, not even Inspector Brayton, who knows the family. No one knows that Felicity had told Dyke that she was in love with another man and planned to leave her husband, who killed her rather than let her betray him.

Inspector Brayton investigates and Dyke slowly begins to confide in family members, telling his sister Caroline that Felicity was going to leave him. Family friend Frank Calvert lies to the inspector and says that Dyke was in sight all of the time while they were on the boat; when Felicity's doctor reveals that she had a weak heart and could have died at any moment, the inspector is satisfied that her death was an accident.

Dyke's conscience begins to nag him and he confesses the truth to Caroline, who refuses to believe it and is convinced that the shock of his wife's death has affected him. The rest of Dyke's family agrees with her and, the more Dyke tries to confess his crime, the more they insist that either he is mad or, if he is telling the truth, that the story must be suppressed to protect his family. Dyke visits Inspector Brayton and confesses, yet even the policeman refuses to believe him.

First U.K. edition

Privately, Frank tells Dyke that he was Felicity's secret lover and that he will maintain the lie about what happened on the boat because he knows Dyke's conscience will haunt him. Dyke continues to insist that he is a murderer, so his family has him examined by a doctor, who suggests an examination by a renowned specialist. By the time the second doctor arrives, Dyke has fled to the boat and ends up floating down the river alone in the dark. He lowers himself into the water, unseen, to join his dead wife.

The cover of Day of Reckoning, the 1951 novel by John Garden that was adapted by William Link and Richard Levinson into an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour with the same title, calls it "the story of a man who killed his wife because he loved her." The book is an examination of the effects of a sudden, passionate act of violence. Dyke does not plan to kill his wife; he simply pushes her off the boat at an opportune moment and then tells no one--at least, not at first. The novel examines his mental state as it deteriorates from guilt; at first, he feels relief when he confesses to murder, but later he is driven slowly mad when no one believes him. In the end, he is boxed into a corner--he cannot bring himself to lie and thus faces being ruled insane and being placed into a mental institution for telling the truth. The book is an indictment of British society, where the wealthy members of Dyke's family value their own status above the life of the poor, beautiful girl Dyke married and killed. Even the police inspector refuses to believe a confession, preferring to keep the case neatly closed.

Barry Sullivan as Paul Sampson

Day of Reckoning was first published in England in 1950 under the title, Murder Isn't Private, a phrase that the doctor says to Dyke near the end, adding that "'Even when it isn't found out, it isn't private. Everybody gets involved.'" Dyke agrees, remarking that "'Those who destroy others, destroy themselves.'" The idea that "murder will out" and be discovered is an old one in English literature, going back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and such Shakespeare plays as Richard III and Macbeth. The author of Day of Reckoning followed a long tradition of examining how the conscience of a killer will not let him alone. Reviews in the British press quoted on the back of the book's dust jacket include one that notes its "warning of the absolute domination of guilt."

Claude Akins as Sheriff Jordan

John Garden, who is credited as the book's author, is a pseudonym for H.L.V. Fletcher (1902-1970?), an English writer, schoolteacher, and headmaster. He wrote 12 novels under his own name between 1942 and 1958, five mystery novels as John Garden between 1947 and 1967, eight novels under the name John Hereford from 1947 to 1957, and numerous books on travel and gardening between 1943 and 1975. He also wrote a film script, radio plays, short stories, and articles. He was the gardening editor for Home and Gardens magazine; perhaps the pen name of John Garden was a nod to his hobby involving horticulture. One film was based on a novel of his and "Day of Reckoning," which aired on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on CBS on Thursday, November 22, 1962, was the only television show to be adapted from any of his works.

Katharine Bard as Caroline

Link and Levinson take a more straightforward approach to adapting this book for TV than they did with their prior effort, "Captive Audience." In the novel, the murder has already occurred when the book opens; in the TV version, the story plays out in sequence, without flashbacks. The main character, Dyke Farne, has been rechristened Paul Sampson, perhaps because of the crude connotations of the given name and the fact that it would be seen as unusual in the U.S., where the events now take place. His wife's name remains Felicity, as in the book, but the actress who plays her, Dee Hartford, was 34 years old (in the book, the character is nearly 40), making the age difference between her and Paul more significant. Paul is played by Barry Sullivan, who was 50 years old, comparable to Dyke in the novel.

Hugh Marlowe as Harold

Felicity's fall from the boat is well handled and looks like an accident, even though Paul subsequently takes no steps to prevent her drowning and thus is at least guilty of that. Instead of British Inspector Brayton the show features burly Claude Akins as Sheriff Jordan, in the usual sort of country sheriff outfit that Akins sported in countless roles. Paul's family and friends are similar to those in the book, with two big exceptions: Dyke's young adult son Michael is removed for the TV version and family friend Frank, whose youth and virility cause Felicity to turn to him as a lover in the novel, has been replaced by Judge David Wilcox, played by 53 year old Louis Hayward, who looks even older on screen.

Jeremy Slate as Trent

The plot of the TV show follows that of the novel faithfully; when the sheriff recreates the accident on the boat, director Jerry Hopper uses a tight closeup of Paul's face to demonstrate the beginning of his feelings of guilt. Trent, whom Paul first suspects of having been Felicity's lover, is played by handsome, 36 year old Jeremy Slate, making him just two years older than Dee Hartford as Felicity and thus a reasonable suspect. Framed photos of Paul's beautiful, dead wife abound in his house; there is one in his bedroom that he gazes at when he sees the police bring her corpse in from the lake.

The coroner's inquest is expanded for the TV show and consists mostly of medium closeups of characters talking; unfortunately, Lyn Murray's score is uninspired and sounds like stock music cues that don't always fit the action. More evidence of Felicity is seen in Paul's living room; after the inquest, he stares at another framed photo of his late wife. Her memory is everywhere Paul goes and probably helps influence him to confess murder to his sister Caroline.

K.T. Stevens as Alice

The uncertainty of the scene where Felicity falls overboard makes Paul's guilt even more interesting than it is in the novel; in the TV show, it's possible that he did not do what he insists he did and is instead driven mad by guilt. Link and Levinson successfully condense events from the novel without removing much at all. Paul's brother Harold drives Paul into town and suggests he see a doctor, leading Paul to evade him by entering a drugstore an slipping out through the back door; he then visits the sheriff, as he does in the book.

Paul and Sheriff Jordan visit the home of Judge Wilcox, who maintains his earlier lie and, after the sheriff leaves, reveals that he was Felicity's lover. He takes the place of Frank from the novel, making the other man in Felicity's life older rather than younger than Paul. The irony is increased: in the book, Felicity explained that her attraction to Frank was physical, while in the TV version, Wilcox explains: "'You think I'd be too old for her? Felicity didn't think so.'" Strong acting by Louis Hayward and Barry Sullivan make this the most effective scene in the show. There is a particularly good shot by director Jerry Hopper toward the end of this scene, with Paul in the foreground, his guilt-ridden face dominating the screen, and Wilcox in the distance, smaller, positioned like a devil on Paul's shoulder.

The story's conclusion diverges from the end of the novel: Dyke's flight to the boat and eventual nighttime suicide are replaced by a scene in his home, where his family has brought a psychiatrist to take him to a mental hospital. Two men in white coats arrive and take Paul away as the episode comes to an end. The writers thus avoid the taboo subject of suicide by choosing an alternate ending, showing what probably would have happened to Dyke in the novel had he not chosen to take his own life.

Louis Hayward as Judge Wilcox

"Day of Reckoning" is directed by Jerry Hopper (1907-1988) in his only effort for the Hitchcock TV series. Born Harold Hankins Hopper, he was a film editor who served in WWII as a combat photographer; he returned to Hollywood after the war and directed shorts from 1946 to 1951 before embarking on a career as a director of features, mainly from 1952 to 1961, and TV shows, mainly from 1957 to 1972.

Starring as Paul Sampson is Barry Sullivan (1912-1994), who was born Patrick Barry Sullivan and who appeared on radio starting in the 1930s and on Broadway from 1936 to 1956. He was in films from 1936 to 1987 and on TV from 1953 to 1981. Sullivan was a regular on several TV series: The Man Called X (1956-57), Harbormaster (1957-58), The Tall Man (1960-62), and The Road West (1966-67). He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for movies and the other for TV). Sullivan appeared on Night Gallery twice and was also in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The $2,000,000 Defense."

Les Tremayne as Dr. Ryder
Claude Akins (1926-1994) plays Sheriff Jordan. Akins served in the Army in WWII and acted on screen from 1953 to 1994, appearing in such films as Rio Bravo (1959) and on TV in shows including The Twilight Zone and The Night Stalker. He was also on two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Place of Shadows," but he was best-known as Sheriff Lobo in the TV series B.J. and the Bear (1978-79) and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979-81).

Paul's sister Caroline is played by Katharine Bard (1916-1983), who was on screen from 1951 to 1978 and who also appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Hugh Marlowe (1911-1982) plays Paul's brother, Harold. Born Hugh Herbert Hipple, he started onstage in the 1930s and also appeared on radio. He played Ellery Queen on radio and television and appeared in movies beginning in 1936. He had a role in All About Eve (1950) and began appearing in TV shows that year. He was seen in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "John Brown's Body." Later in life, he was a regular on the soap opera, Another World, from 1969 to 1982.

Robert Cornthwaite as the District Attorney
Trent Parker, whom Paul thinks was his wife's lover, is played by Jeremy Slate (1926-2006). Born Robert Perham, he landed at Normandy on D-Day and later went on to a career in movies and on TV from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. He appeared in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "One Grave Too Many." In an interview, he admitted that he acted from 1960 to 1970 and then tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, spending the next ten years traveling around the USA in a motor home.

K.T. Stevens (1919-1994), who was married to Hugh Marlowe at the time, plays Alice, Harold's wife. Born Gloria Wood, she was the daughter of silent film director Sam Wood. She appeared in films as a child in 1921 and then returned to the screen as an adult, appearing in films and on TV from 1940 to 1994. She was on Thriller twice and she also appeared in "None Are So Blind" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Making the most of his time on screen in this episode is Louis Hayward (1909-1985) as Judge Wilcox. Born in South Africa, he appeared on stage and screen in England starting in 1932 and came to the U.S. in 1935, where he was in films and on TV until 1974. Among his films were And Then There Were None (1945) and Fritz Lang's House By the River (1950); he also starred in a TV series called The Lone Wolf (1954-55) and was seen on Night Gallery. Hayward served with the Marines in WWII and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In smaller roles:
  • Les Tremayne as Dr. Ryder; born in England, Tremayne started out in vaudeville and became a busy and popular radio actor in the 1930s and 1940s. He was on screen from 1949 to 1993 and he was in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat." He also has a small part in Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959). Tremayne was a regular on The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen (1958-1959) and Shazam! (1974-1976), appeared on Thriller, and did a great deal of voice acting in his later years.
  • Robert Cornthwaite (1917-2006) as the district attorney; he served in the Air Force in WWII and later had a long career on screen, from 1950 to 2005, appearing in films such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and The War of the Worlds (1953) and on TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Batman, and The Night Stalker. He was in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "Three Wives too Many."
  • James Flavin (1906-1976) as the coroner; he had character parts in nearly 400 movies and 100 TV episodes from 1932 to 1976 and he was in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Touche." He also played a sailor in King Kong (1933).
  • Buck Taylor (1938- ) as Frazier, the policeman who has to jump off the boat in the reenactment of the drowning; he has been on TV since 1961 and is still acting. He had a role on Gunsmoke from 1967 to 1975 and was in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Death Scene," as Dancer, who dances acrobatically for John Carradine and nearly falls to his death.
Buck Taylor

  • Dee Hartford (1928-2018) as Felicity; born Donna Higgins, she was a model in the late 1940s and she was in a few films between 1952 and 1976. She was married to director Howard Hawks from 1953 to 1959 and then appeared on TV from 1962 to 1969, popping up in shows including The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Batman.
Dee Hartford

"Day of Reckoning" may be viewed online here.


"Day of Reckoning." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 1, episode 10, CBS, 22 November 1962.

The FictionMags Index,

Garden, John. Day of Reckoning. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1951.

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

"H(arry) L(utf) V(erne) Fletcher." Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, Gale, 2002. Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, Accessed 16 July 2021.


Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: Our coverage of Richard Levinson and William Link concludes with "Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale," starring Gary Merrill and Phyllis Thaxter!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Legacy" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Little Man Who Was There" here!

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 64: June 1975



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

Eerie #66

"The Seven Trials" (parts one and two) 
Plot by Bill DuBay
Dialogue by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"El Cid and the Vision"
Plot by Gerry Boudreau
Dialogue by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The Lady and the Lie"
Plot by Gerry Boudreau
Dialogue by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The Emir of Aragon"★1/2
Plot by Jeff Rovin
Dialogue by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

Legendary Spanish warrior El Cid kills a sorcerer/king in war and must face "The Seven Trials" as a result after the king curses him with his dying breath. On their warship, El Cid and his men face the first trial: an attack by a group of beautiful, topless sirens. The attack is repulsed and El Cid spares one of the sirens, whose fighting skills come in handy when a giant dragon/worm attacks in trial number two. When the slimy creature is defeated, El Cid and the siren feel a strange attraction drawing them together.

Part one of the El Cid saga, plotted by DuBay and with dialogue by Lewis, was better than I expected. Mayo's art is impressive, though it's not always easy to tell what's going on in any particular panel. I kept wondering if color would help distinguish some of the characters from the others. These stories where a certain number of trials are spelled out at the start inevitably become a countdown; the first two battles were okay, and all of the gorgeous women reminded me of Maroto's work.

The third trial appears just as El Cid realizes his ship is wrecked and only he, his loyal aide Blazquez, and the siren (who somewhere located a bikini) are left to fight a group of knights on flying horses. El Cid and co. manage to survive this challenge and the rest of the surviving crew recovers as the wrecked ship reaches an island. Dwarf monsters attack and El Cid once again kills everyone who opposes him, but the lovely siren/warrior is nearly killed in battle. El Cid carries her to the village that was abandoned by the dwarves and is beset by a flying ship captained by a magician who can send bolts of fire from the sky. Trial six involves a funeral coach driven by a banshee who resembles yet another beautiful and scantily-clad woman; the banshee steals the final breath from El Cid's beloved siren. Suddenly El Cid awakens and realizes it was all a dream, except for the beautiful nurse who brought him through his fever and her astonishing resemblance to the siren.

Part two was even better than part one! Mayo strives for a Hal Foster effect and, for the most part, succeeds. The various trials are impressive and build in intensity until the (to me) unexpected "It was all a dream" ending. Usually, I would find this disappointing, but for some reason it worked in this context, perhaps because the battles were so engaging.

El Cid discovers that the Moors have ransacked a castle and are on their way to capture Calahorra. As the hero rides, he is challenged by a Moorish knight and, though the battle on horseback is fierce, El Cid is thrown from his horse. He looks up and sees that the knight has vanished; "El Cid and the Vision" were only in his imagination. Making his way to Castille, El Cid is challenged by Don Urraca, who blames El Cid for allowing the castle to be ransacked. They fight and El Cid kills the Don, but the king is angry at the bloodshed in front of him. El Cid begs forgiveness and asks that the fate of Calahorra be decided by a one on one battle between El Cid and a Moorish champion. Lo and behold, it's the knight from the vision! This time, El Cid is ready for him and uses what he learned in the vision to win the battle.

Eight more sharp pages from Mayo make this an exciting and rewarding story. No topless babes this time out, just some solid knight on knight battles. My only minor complaint about the artwork is that El Cid seems to look different from page to page.

Riding home from Andalusia, El Cid encounters "The Lady and the Lie" when two demons, Lie and Lust, try to convince him to murder a young man and rape his lover. El Cid resists, but soon Lie manages to tempt a beautiful young woman into killing her lover and a woman she finds him with, unaware that the woman is a demon in disguise. To win back the girl's soul, El Cid agrees to follow the demons to Hell and fight; his innate goodness convinces them to let the girl go free, but they promise he will see their work wherever he goes.

Like the tales before it, this is a solid three stars for me, with good art and a story that is not overly complicated and reasonably satisfying. I like the use of Lie and Lust as demons who try to tempt the young and innocent, though Mayo's depiction of them as lions or tigers with fangs doesn't succeed in capturing their hellish nature as much as it might.

After armies led by El Cid drive "The Emir of Aragon" out of Aragon, leaving the city to King Alphonso, the emir gives a super-sexy Moorish servant girl as tribute. El Cid falls hard for her, spending every night in her bed. He has a vision of her that bodes ill and she fulfills the vision by trying to trick the king into coming to El Cid's chambers to be killed. King Alphonso suspects a trap and sends a substitute, whom the girl kills, but she cleverly pins the blame on El Cid. King Alphonso smells a rat and sends a fake note to the emir to make him think it's time to attack. When the emir's army advances, Alphonso knows El Cid is innocent and El Cid leads an army to defeat the Moors once again. The beautiful servant girl falls on her dagger and kills herself.

This last effort by Mayo has a decent plot by Jeff Rovin but, at this point in the issue, I think I've had enough of El Cid. The "All El Cid/All-Gonzalo Mayo" issue is above-average, though his art really recalls Maroto's and all of his beautiful wenches essentially look alike. For 54 solid pages of sword and sorcery, which is not my favorite genre, it's not bad.-Jack

Peter-I lost my patience with this bloated, meandering Harryhausen-esque "epic" about halfway through. There's absolutely no continuity whatsoever, with Cid declaring true and endless love for his "sea nymph" at the closing of "The Seven Trials" and then bedding everything in sight in the ensuing chapters. In fact, the equally fetching half-nekkid babe in "Emir" looks exactly like his beloved "sea nymph!" I was never certain what the goal was here and it's extremely odd to give an entire issue over to an unproven character. 

But my biggest problem is the art by Mayo, which goes from astonishing to indecipherable, literally from panel to panel. Just look at that splash on page 17 (right), the beginning of the second part of "The Seven Trials." The "sea nymph" is clearly ripped off from the iconic still of Raquel Welch from One Million Years, BC, and Cid looks photoshopped. A lot of Mayo's stuff looks like a cheese enchilada that got left in the microwave too long. It's all melted together. And if I never see a fleet of flying horses again, it'll be too soon. My advice to Dube for future themed-issues: Hold the Mayo!

The Spirit #8

"Sand Saref" (1/8/50)
"Bring In Sand Saref..." (1/15/50)
"Thorne Strand" (1/23/49)
"A Slow Ship to Shanghai" (1/30/49)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

"Assignment: Paris" (5/23/48)
Story by Will Eisner
Art by Will Eisner & Andre LeBlanc

"A Pot of Gold" (4/3/49)
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner & Jerry Grandenetti

"Satin" (6/12/49)
Story by Will Eisner & Jules Feiffer
Art by Will Eisner

"Visitor" (2/13/49)
Story and Art by Will Eisner

Peter-A particularly strong batch of stories this issue. The art has never been better, especially that of "Satin" and "Visitor," which has a very creepy vibe to it. As far as scripts go, the double-feature of "Sand Saref" and "Bring in Sand Saref" were TKOs. I liked the flashback into The Spirit's past and Sand herself was a classic femme fatale. As portrayed by Eva Mendes, Sand Saref was just about the only salvageable aspect of the lousy Frank Miller film version of The Spirit (2008). Until this issue, I was thinking I'd had too much of a good thing and the novelty was wearing off. Hopefully, the second half of the Warren era of The Spirit keeps the energy and quality this high.

Jack-It's especially gratifying to read such a strong collection of stories after last issue's misfire with the Ebony special. Some might complain that Eisner objectified women, and perhaps he did, but these beauties are usually complex characters. The flashback to the Spirit's childhood in "Sand Saref" is a great version of the typical 1930s' crime film (e.g., Dead End) where kids grow up on the wrong side of town and follow different paths. I had to wonder about the Spirit's comment that he was working for American intelligence in 1942--I doubt a look back at the weekly Spirit sections of that year would support that. The sequel, "Bring in Sand Saref," is great as well, but I was concerned that the Spirit ran right into Sand's arms without a thought for Ellen. "Thorne Strand" is another hardboiled dame who rates a two-parter, and the beautiful splash page reminds me of when I saw Eisner, right around the time of this issue, give a slideshow at the NYC Comic Con, where he showed one splash page after another and a packed ballroom ate it up.

"Assignment: Paris" makes me wonder all over again just how are we supposed to pronounce P'Gell's name? The color on this story is particularly strong. A beautiful blonde called Wisp O' Smoke is featured in "A Pot of Gold," which has a welcome supernatural element, and "Satin" is another excellent drama with another character's welcome return. Finally, "Visitor" features a gorgeous Martian agent named Cosmek and a classic final page where a nondescript man steps out of a window nonchalantly and floats off into outer space. Add a superb cover and we have a memorable issue of The Spirit.

Vampirella #43

Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Wolves at War's End!" 
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Garcia Mozos

"The Easter Bunny Murders" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Cult of the Dead!" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Isidro Mones

"The Last Testament of Angus Crow!" 
Story and Art by Fernando Fernandez

Fresh off the plane from their whirlwind world tour, Pendragon and Vampirella are muscled by a pair of cops and told they're being arrested for multiple counts of murder. Before either can protest, shots ring out and our two heroes go down in a heap of blood and, in the case of Pendragon, alcohol. A couple days later, the Van Helsings get the news from their local paper and head to New York to be with their friends. While brainstorming, the VHs concur that the guilty party must be Pen's daughter, the loony Sara Granville, just out of prison and thirsty for revenge.

Sure enough, as we see very quickly, Sara has hired a hitman named Raven to do her dirty work and is extremely pleased that her employee did not fatally shoot her enemies. Now she sends Raven to the hospital to kill! Adam Van Helsing deducts this last bit of info and holds a gun on the cop watching his favorite vampiress recover in a hospital bed. Adam wakes Vampirella and takes her away so that she's not a sitting duck. Unfortunately, Raven has arrived at Pen's room just as the elder Van Helsing is visiting. The assassin ventilates the old man while Vampi and Adam escape, unaware that violence has occurred just upstairs.

Essentially, just dozens and dozens of "talking heads" panels, this untitled Vampirella adventure might not be to everyone's taste. There's a heck of a lot of flashbacking going on--some necessary, some superfluous--but I actually liked the story. The return of Sara Granville was unexpected and a welcome change from voodoo chiefs and snake princesses, but I do question her plan. She orders Raven not to kill Vampi and Pen at the airport but then asks him to do the deed in the much more complicated location of a public hospital. Not sure of the motive there other than to stretch out the adventure. I suspect that, even though Dube emphasizes the shot will be to Van Helsing's heart, we'll see a miraculous recovery for everyone involved next issue. Gonzalez is up to his best Mort Drucker impersonation, but that splash is just dopey. In a preview of the action just a few pages later, Pen appears to be in mid-karate pose, Vampi is dancing a la Michael Jackson, and the cop is pulling his gun just as he's been kicked in the balls. What's it all about, Gonzo? 

A soldier returns from fighting in the Crusades to find his village wracked with the plague. His house has been locked up and the only survivor is his younger sister. The locals call her a witch and demand her killing, but the soldier rides away with her to hunt for his love, Elenore, with a pack of assassins following. When he finally finds Elenore, she is healthy and waiting for him but, outside, the hit men catch up to his sister and slaughter her. The beautiful vision of Elenore fades as the girl dies and our narrator discovers that his sister was indeed a sorceress.

There's some nice, spare work by Luis Garcia Mozos on "The Wolves at War's End," but too much of the script is given over to pretentious pap (no surprise there, given Lewis's output at the time), reminding us over and over that man is his own worst enemy and God is only an image presented as a reason to kill for. I couldn't get "The Raven" out of my mind whenever the soldier would long for his lost Elenore.  GCD tells us that the story's original script was written by Victor Mora and presented in the French comic zine, Pilote, in 1973. 

A doctor's experiments with animal blood turn a psychotic drug addict into a seven-foot tall killer rabbit. The police use a heroin pusher's apartment as bait for the monster and, when the thing shows up, they fill it full of lead. The doctor sighs and explains that now he'll have to find another way to unlock the secrets of mankind. There are two ways to go when dissecting a story like "The Easter Bunny Murders!": you can assume the writer is pulling your cottontail from page one or take it as straight-up stupid. So much in Gerry Boudreau's script, in addition to the ludicrous plot hook, signals parody and that we should realize we're in on the joke. There's a semi-serious tone to the dialogue and the usual Boudreauian pretension to the caption prose but then we get silly sprinkles such as: "Word just in over the radio! The Easter bunny's struck again! This time near Broadway and 49th!" As dumb as this thing is, I enjoyed it as a break from boring barbarians and romantic vampires. Of course, I might be the fool and Gerry was serious the whole time but I think, rather, that the writer was breaking the fourth wall and admitting that this stuff is a load of crap and we shouldn't be so serious about it all. That's gotta be his aim, right? Just take a gander at that fearsome creature to the left! The only drawback is that we never see the monster's cute white tail sticking out of his Levi's.

H.G. Lewis would be so proud!
Three men, members of the "Cult of the Dead," murder intelligent, artsy folk and pull their brains from their heads for supper. The grey matter is supposed to help them achieve their lofty goals in life. A man who eats the brain of a Shakespearean actor will become the best in the business, he who munches on a scholar's noggin will become the greatest academic in history, and the guy who dines on a Warren scripter's cerebrum will... anyway... A beat cop remembers his college history professor and interviews him. The egghead turns him on to a colleague at the university, a Dr. Clancy, who turns out to be (surprise surprise surprise) the ringleader of the gang. The police bust into Clancy's office just as he's chowing down on the brains of his three henchmen and they fill the Prof full of holes. "Cult of the Dead!" is an ugly and nauseating cliche, obviously borne of Boudreau's desire to push the Warren line on gore. Congrats, Gerry, you did it. Isidro Mones does a perfect job of capturing the atmosphere of a Myron Fass publication. Yeccch!

Sentenced to an asylum for the criminally insane, Angus Crow lives out his final days trying to convince his doctors that there are aliens amongst us. A very simple tale, "The Last Testament of Angus Crow!" is one of those rare Warren stories that could have been presented as a pure prose piece. Most of the dialogue and captions describe what is going on in the panel and the art is not outstanding Fernandez (one entire page is given over to the artist's swipes of film stills). The reveal, that Angus himself might be an alien, is certainly no shocker since so many clues are laid out before us. This is not a bad story but it's nothing to get excited about.-Peter

Jack-I had high hopes for this issue based on the Vampi story, but by the end I was ready to toss it on the trash heap. DuBay reboots the Vampirella saga nicely in an enjoyable story with the usual strong art by Gonzalez. "The Wolves at War's End!" is much too long, at 14 pages, and pompous, with a poor attempt to make words and pictures work together. It's a shame that we read The Spirit and then have to slog through junk like this, created by a writer-artist team who just don't know how to tell a story graphically. I was intrigued by the start of "The Easter Bunny Murders," and the art by Torrents was a relief after the muddy work by Mozos in the prior story, but this one quickly devolves into what seems like a Warren version of a Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode (the show was running at the time). Even worse is "Cult of the Dead," which features a disgusting final page. If Warren goes in this gory direction, I'll have a hard time keeping up. Finally, the Fernandez story is okay at best, only getting a slightly better rating in comparison to the story that precedes it.

Next Week...
Dick gets randy with Vicki!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 32: August 1982

The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

Colan & McLaughlin
Batman #350

"Nightmare in Crimson"
Story by Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga

Waking up from a nightmare and finding himself in the hospital, Robin gets dressed and races to the Batcave. Batman has just arrived back from his trip to California and notices that Robin is acting a bit odd, though the Dark Knight fails to notice Robin's red eyes. Meanwhile, Vicki Vale's publisher, Morton Monroe, pilfers her Batman file from her office desk just before she makes a date with Bruce Wayne for that evening.

Night falls and Bruce, Vicki, and Dick all attend a party at Dala's house. Bruce again notices Dick's weird behavior, so he snoops around, sees Dala leading a somnolent Dick outside, and changes into his Batman outfit. He ventures outside and is attacked by the vampire monk who manages to put the bite on him before Dick conks him on the head.

Peter: With that intriguing final panel (of Bats, with blood trickling from two wounds on his neck), it'll be hard for Gerry to write this off as a Scooby-Doo fake vampire saga. And hopefully he won't try. I like the DeZuniga inking as much as I liked Alcala's last issue; so nice to see my favorite DC hero given a solid sheen. There are a few pages devoted to the Vicki Vale subplot but, thankfully, the main story keeps Gerry from touching on the Gordon nonsense. Hopefully, we won't have to deal with that (and the Vale) too much into the future. 

Jack: I liked the art much better this issue than last issue. DeZuniga seems a better choice to ink Colan's pencils than Alcala (sorry, Peter!). The story is also more interesting and seems to flow more smoothly than last time. The subplots and distractions are kept to a minimum and Batman is more of the focus of his own book than Robin. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in Detective!

"Those Lips, Those Eyes"
Story by Brice Jones
Art by Tony DeZuniga

Selina Kyle wakes up in a room she doesn't recognize and has blood on her clothes! In an adjoining room she finds a dead blonde in fishnets; a matchbook provides a clue. Realizing she resembles the dead woman, Selina switches to her Catwoman outfit and investigates, fighting dizziness and recalling fleeting images of herself being knocked out. She dresses up to resemble the dead girl and takes her place as a stripper in a go-go bar; she chases a cat burglar she saw outside the apartment but ends up at his mercy, clinging to a rooftop by her fingers!

Peter suddenly realizes why we love DC comics.

Peter: Tony DeZuniga's debut on the Catwoman back-up is not bad, though he lacks the style and pizazz of Von Eeden (the splash makes Selina look like Margot Kidder and the final page looks rushed). The story is confusing but hopefully will unfurl in the next chapter. Some nice PG-rated cheesecake but blame the cat burglar's entrance for avoiding the PG-13!

Jack: I thought DeZuniga's art on this strip was fantastic! Of course, that has nothing to do with all of the compromising positions he puts Selina in. Whew! Having Selina Kyle in a blonde wig and fishnets working at a strip club is a dream come true for any fan of pulps and old paperbacks. Not that I would like those things, you understand. I'm just trying to put myself in their shoes.

Colan & Giacoia
Detective Comics #517

"The Monster in the Mirror"
Story by Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga

Bitten by a vampire, Batman somehow becomes a blood-sucker himself without the effort of dying. He makes his way back to Wayne Manor and Alfred, startled by his employer's condition, hides the Dark Knight away while he can figure things out.

Just then, there's a knock on the door and Alfred finds a priest, Father Green from St. Jude's Hospital, waiting on the doorstep. The holy man explains that he knows there's a "troubled soul" inside the mansion now that Batman has been infected with vampirism. Alfred feigns ignorance but the priest relates the tale of plantation owner Louis Dubois and his sister. Shortly after the Civil War, DuBois was cursed by a witch after he mistreated his workers and he became a vampire. He bit his sister, infecting her as well. Meanwhile, ex-cop Jim Gordon and PI Jason Bard continue to investigate the crooked politics of Hamilton Hill and Batman claims his first victim as a full-fledged vampire. Dick Grayson picks up Vicki Vale at a party while Dala and her fanged brother watch from the shadows.

A very disappointing second chapter in this Dark Knight: Vampire saga. The DuBois origin is nothing new, borrowed piecemeal from so many other vampire/zombie/werewolf tales. The Bats-as-bloodsucker sequence at the end of the story left me giggling rather than what Gerry (ostensibly) had hoped my reaction might be. That is, unless Conway has his tongue planted firmly in cheek and this whole thing is a goof. If Father Green knew DuBois and sis were vampires, why wait so long to do anything about it? The Gordon/Vale stuff continues to be a waste of paper and I can't wait to be done with it. Ironically, the only subplot that I had cottoned to was the Dick/Dala affair, and that has already played itself out. Or has it?

The Gene/Tony work is still strong although Chance, Dick, and Bruce all seem to be the same person at times. Thank goodness Vicki calls Dick by name at the climax or I'd have thought Bruce was in two places at once. That finale is going to reveal something interesting at the onset of Batman #351 next month.

Jack: Are we reading the same comic? This was a blast! The multi-page flashback to the Civil War features the best Colan art we've seen in some time, though I was confused when Dubois was bitten by a snake and became a vampire. Huh? I liked seeing Batman put the bite on a crook but I don't see how Jason Bard is helping Commissioner Gordon, unless he's just there for moral support. And what's up with Christopher Chance? He's the Human Target, right? Is he going to sub in for Bruce or Bats to trick Vicki? Imagine so. The whole Bat Vampire story isn't totally cogent but it's a lot of fun.

"A Tale of Two Serpents!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

Transformed into a giant snake woman, Batgirl must use all her cognitive abilities at once to control her serpentine alter-ego. When she sees a local toxicologist, the man informs her that if he can lay his hands on a sample of Lady Viper's venom, then he can work up an antidote. Batgirl tracks the Queen of Serpents to her boxcar lair, where she surprises her new foe with her changing abilities. Lady Viper is knocked unconscious and Babs attains the venom she requires. Cured, Batgirl heads back to the boxcar to see to the snake woman but arrives just in time to see the giant revert to pure snake form. Lady Viper is no more!

Peter: This is the final chapter in what, with minor changes, could very easily have been filmed as a Bela Lugosi vehicle, directed by Ed Wood. A lot of these back-ups are dumb as dirt but the "Lady Viper" four-parter was also an enjoyable trip to Loonytown. I love how, once she's made the transformation from Snakegirl back to Batgirl, her leotards are ripped just enough not to show whether Babs is a natural redhead. The bare legs look is a good one. The art is just as awful as always, but it's appropriate, given the low-budget horror shenanigans going on. Jose Delbo seems incapable of anything resembling an interesting angle in his panels. Most everything is "shot" from straight ahead. His most intriguing take appears below, when Jose decides, craftily, that the reader doesn't need to see the characters' mouths when they talk. Sly that one!

Jack: This story arc ended too soon. Is it a coincidence that we have both Batman and Batgirl sporting fangs in the same issue and both were bitten by snakes? It was a cheat when all Batgirl had to do was concentrate in order to lose her serpent tail. The antidote worked awfully fast and the end was a letdown. I hope Lady Viper returns!

The Brave and the Bold #189

"A Grave as Wide as the World!
Part Two: Dead Men Tell No Tales!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jim Aparo

Searching for a clue as to who poisoned Loon Lake, Batman finds that David Phillips appears to have been killed in a car crash that landed him at the bottom of a bay. Batman dives under the water and finds a photo, sealed in plastic, of a young boy and his father saluting Der Fuhrer. Scuba divers attack the Dark Knight and Thorn swims to the rescue. In spite of that, the Bat-misogynist leaves Thorn behind and visits "famed Nazi hunter Leon Weiner," who identifies the Nazi in the photo as Martin Bormann, who is hiding out in South America.

It's off to Brazil for Bruce Wayne, on a plane also carrying Rose Forrest. Batman arrives in Rio de Janeiro and thwarts a plot to kill the president, carried out by crooks dressed as Batman and riding a float in the big Carnival. As a reward, Batman is loaned a plane to search the jungles for Bormann's hideout, which turns out not to be terribly hard to find, seeing that he erected an airfield with a replica of the Brandenburg Gate. Batman's plane is shot down and he has to make an emergency landing. David Phillips arrives on another plane (along with Rose) to deliver the canister of Inferno A to Bormann, his father. Thorn again pops out of nowhere to save Batman and the Nazi compound blows up. Batman drops the canister at the bottom of a river filled with piranhas.

Safe in the jungle, Batman hypnotizes Thorn to try to discover her secret identity, but she isn't giving it up.

Some detective! Try yanking off her wig.
Peter: First things first--I had to read the very first caption on the splash three times before I could make heads or tails of it: A moon as mad as the vandals who smashed tombstones and uprooted the dead at Gotham Cemetery glows at two who never should have met--but did! I'm not sure I was ever the same after that opening. Luckily, Big Bob serves up an entertaining reboot of The Boys from Brazil, stocked with evil Ratzis and their equally rotten offspring. I love that dopey climax. Hilariously, Batman thinks to himself at the beginning of the story that Thorn is entitled to her secrecy, then tries to take advantage of the girl by hypnotizing her and asking her who she really is! Blonde girl goes into the jungle, Thorn comes out. World's greatest detective, my Aunt Frannie. Worst Cover of the Year, hands down.

Jack: I love Jim Aparo, but I kept thinking that this story would've looked great if it had been drawn by Joe Kubert, Big Bob Kanigher throws in all of our favorite tropes from DC War Comics, including Nazis, scuba divers, and airplane battles. Kubert would've knocked this story out of the park. As it is, Bob has trouble finding logical reasons to fit in Rose and Thorn, and even I couldn't really understand what she was doing in the Brazilian jungle or how she got there. Still, the story moves fast and is fun if you park your brain at the door. I suspect we won't see any more of Thorn next issue.

Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

Sheffield decides to hold off on shooting Kingston and Nemesis escapes an explosion. Nemesis locates the room with all of the TV monitors and knocks out the people in it before destroying all of the equipment. Sheffield gets Kingston alone and kills him. Nemesis rescues Marjorie and takes her outside, where Valerie is still circling in a chopper. Brewster threatens Nemesis with a machine gun but is attacked by a lion, allowing the trio to escape by helicopter.

Jack: Less boring than usual but just as silly, this installment (seems like #1000) of the Nemesis saga gets the dubious distinction of being better than usual. Dan Spiegle's art is still not something I ever want to experience again, but at least there's plenty of action.

Peter: By emphasizing the action and ignoring the boring stuff like characterization and plot, Cary Burkett finally (after 24 long and deadly dull months) crafts an installment of Nemesis that I thoroughly enjoyed. Yep, I will echo Jack's sentiments that the art is just as hideous as ever but the Executioner/ Destroyer/men's adventure hero aspects of "Betrayal" are on the money.

Next Week...
Jack and Peter will discuss whether
a whole issue of Gonzalo Mayo
melty-things is a great idea or not!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part Three: Captive Audience [8.5]

by Jack Seabrook

William Link and Richard Levinson adapted two of their own short stories during the final season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the TV shows that resulted were not very different from the stories on which they were based. For their first teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, however, they were assigned the task of adapting a novel by another author, and their teleplay is so different from its source that the onscreen credit might better have read "inspired by the novel" rather than "based on the novel." "Captive Audience" was the fifth hour-long episode to air, on October 18, 1962, and the novel that inspired it was called Murder off the Record in the U.S., where it was published in 1957, though its original U.K. title had been Marion; it was published in England in either 1957 or 1958.

The novel's author was John Bingham (1908-1988), who led a fascinating life. He became a baron by succession in 1960, but prior to that he fought in the Second World War and was a spy in MI5 for decades. He was admired by his younger colleague John LeCarre, who admitted that Bingham was one of two men on whom he based his character, George Smiley. Bingham encouraged LeCarre to begin writing and Bingham himself wrote 17 novels and one non-fiction book between 1952 and 1982. Murder off the Record was his fifth novel and the version done for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was one of seven times his books were adapted for the screen: five times on television (including two for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) and twice on film. His biography is titled, The Man Who Was George Smiley (2013).

First U.S. edition

Murder off the Record is narrated by David Shepton, a reporter, who begins by explaining that his own life intersected with that of a man named Ronald Parker, a/k/a Leslie Braithwaite, who strangled a woman named Edith Grant. The story is set in London, England, and begins on a September evening, when Braithwaite kills Grant around the same time that Shepton visits a colleague named Ann Picton. The narrator relates that he met his wife, Marion, at Ann's after the end of the Second World War. Ann had remained single after receiving a letter telling her that Braithwaite, her lover, had died after the war. She shows David a snapshot of Leslie.

Just as David returns home to Marion, he is called out to cover the story of Edith Grant, who was strangled at her home in Ann's building. She is the second strangulation victim in the district in two weeks. David meets Detective Inspector Fosser of Scotland Yard. At Ann's apartment, he pockets the photo of Braithwaite that she had torn in half. Back home with Marion, David recalls his boyhood friends, including Basil Roper, a grocer's son, and suspects that Braithwaite had a connection with Barkston Bay, where David spent school holidays. He also recalls the night Marion had accepted his marriage proposal after they visited a ruined garden that he had loved as a child. Later that evening, David and Marion encountered Basil Roper and his date, Sheila Todd; the foursome had drinks and went for a moonlight drive that ended with a terrible accident and the death of a policeman. David claimed to have been driving and Marion said she did not recall the accident.

David was put on trial and recalls that the courtroom was where he had seen Braithwaite before, watching the testimony. Braithwaite had entered the bar earlier that evening with Roper and thus was not dead, despite what Ann had been told. David wonders why Braithwaite had seen to it that Ann was told he was dead. David spent six months in prison and wed Marion after his release; he eventually learned that she was serially unfaithful. Like Braithwaite, Marion was a liar, and the two had a connection: David recognizes Marion's handwriting in the letter to Ann reporting Braithwaite's alleged death.

1960 Dell paperback edition;
cover by Robert Maguire

He confronts Marion with the truth of her infidelity and visits Roper, accusing him of being Marion's lover. David finds the engagement ring he gave Marion sitting on Roper's table; the resentful grocer's son mocks David's ignorance of his wife's infidelity and reveals that she only pretended to have lost her memory after the car accident. Basil reveals that he once gave a job to Ronald Parker, another of Marion's ex-lovers; David does not yet realize that Parker and Braithwaite are the same man. When David goes home, he finds that Marion has gone and left only a note. That night, David is attacked in his home by an intruder. They fight and the man escapes; David later realized that the intruder was Braithwaite.

The next morning, two policemen question David, who lies about the time he got home in order to avoid embarrassment over Marion's departure. A day later, D.I. Fosser and Sgt. Briggs arrive and pick apart David's story, revealing that Roper was found strangled at his flat. Suddenly, David is a suspect in the murders of Basil Roper and Edith Grant. Eventually, he finds a letter from Ann, who has been summoned to Cowton by Braithwaite's parents, who claim they want to clear the air about their son. David realizes that the letter was written by Braithwaite, who is luring Ann to her death. After some more questioning at Scotland Yard, David pieces together the relationships between Ann, Marion, Basil, and Braithwaite and suspects that Braithwaite is a serial strangler whose mania is getting worse.

David steals a car and drives to Cowton, where he finds Ann and convinces her to stay in her hotel room with the door locked. Later that night, David discovers Braithwaite lurking outside the hotel. Another fight ensues and, though Braithwaite escapes, the police catch him the next day. David's name is cleared and Braithwaite is tried and hanged for murder. David divorces Marion and marries Ann, finally letting go of his anger toward his unfaithful wife when he takes Ann to the walled garden, which has been restored to its former beauty.

Murder off the Record is an outstanding short novel, filled with suspense and a complicated plot told in one long flashback that includes a series of additional flashbacks. One wonders if the narrator is reliable, since he reveals the guilty party in chapter one, but eventually the truth emerges and the narrator survives, the killer is punished, and the faithless wife is left to continue living on her own terms. There are several murders but none is witnessed or described in detail. The police are misguided at first, but the narrator, a newspaper reporter, succeeds in putting them on the right track. The serial strangler, a key character, barely speaks, though he is central to the action. The setting is mostly in mid-century London, with a frantic drive to the country near the end of the novel, and the locations help set the mood of the story. Marion's mania for men is compared with Braithwaite's mania for killing; neither is explained and both are accepted as fact.

James Mason as Warren Barrow

Link and Levinson were faced with challenges in adapting this novel to fill a one-hour television time slot. Should they update it from the late 1940s and mid-1950s to the early 1960s? Should they move the setting from England to the U.S.? How should they handle the narrative structure and the use of flashbacks, not to mention the first person narration? Should they present events in chronological order? Most important, what characters and events can be cut while still preserving the central themes?

The teleplay for "Captive Audience" is a surprise to anyone who has read Murder off the Record. The writers invent a new framing device and change virtually everything about the novel, while preserving certain events and making significant changes to the main characters. The show begins with an establishing shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, which shows that the story's setting has been moved from London to San Francisco. The camera then moves inside a high rise building to the offices of Medallion Press, a publishing company. In the office, publisher Victor Hartman listens to a reel to reel tape that contains a story narrated by mystery writer Warren Barrow.

Angie Dickinson as Janet West

Link and Levinson choose to use the reel to reel tape to mirror the novel's first person narration, allowing Barrow to relate the story to his publisher and, by extension, to the viewer. Victor has been publishing Barrow's mystery novels for three years and works closely with him; perhaps Link and Levinson were giving a sly nod to the book's author, John Bingham, whose British publisher was Victor Gollancz. On the tape, Barrow says that he is planning to kill someone, and it becomes evident that Link and Levinson have merged aspects of the novel's characters of David Shepton and Leslie Braithwaite into a single person. A writer named Tom Keller arrives, having been summoned by Hartman, and he listens to the tape with the publisher. Barrow calls Victor a "'captive audience'" (hence the show's title) and admits that Warren Barrow is not his real name. He says that Victor will never know if the story he tells is true or not and begins to narrate a compressed version of the flashback from the book where David proposed to Marion.

Arnold Moss as Victor Hartman

There is a dissolve and the events being narrated are shown on screen, no longer told as a story but instead depicted as they occurred. Barrow married a woman named Helen and honeymooned in the south of France, where they met a couple named Ivar and Janet West. Barrow and Janet go to a casino to gamble while Ivar and Helen have drinks; Janet makes a risky bet and loses all her money; this is a quick way to telegraph the careless side of her personality. Barrow takes her for a drive and is attracted to her but resists temptation. He returns to his hotel room and, when his wife returns, he is jealous and insists they leave right away. While driving at night, they reconcile and kiss, which causes a horrible accident in which Helen is killed. The first act of the TV show ends here, with the car accident in the book transformed into one where the narrator's wife is killed.

Back in the publisher's office, Victor and Tom listen to the tape as Barrow explains that he woke up in a hospital and refused recommended brain surgery. This will later serve to explain his bizarre behavior. Victor then plays a second tape from Barrow, who explains that, after the accident, he took a new name and began leading a new life as a writer of mystery novels. At a club, he met Janet once again. She accompanied him back to his house and an affair began. Eventually, she started to complain about her husband and asked Warren how he would kill Ivar if he were planning a mystery novel. Barrow played along and they planned Ivar's murder and how to dispose of his body. Soon it becomes clear that Barrow's harmless fantasy was Janet's dangerous reality; she took the first steps to carry out the plan and played on Warren's guilt over Helen's death to overcome his resistance to killing Ivar.

Ed Nelson as Tom Keller

At this point in the TV show, the teleplay has diverged completely from Bingham's novel. Barrow has echoes of both David and Leslie, mixed with the author, John Bingham, while Janet has aspects of Marion and Leslie as well. The third act begins back in Victor's office, where he and Tom discuss the story they've heard on the tapes and Tom suggests that Barrow is unbalanced because the auto accident damaged his brain. Victor comments that Tom (like Bingham) writes psychological thrillers and that is why the publisher asked him to listen to the tapes. They argue about whether the story Barrow tells is fact or fiction and realize that Barrow has told them that the names he is using are not real.

Just then, a third tape arrives by messenger and the two men anxiously listen to it. Barrow explains that Janet left his home in order to establish an alibi for herself. Ivar arrived and confronted Barrow, just as in the novel David went to visit Basil and confronted him about Marion. In the TV version, Barrow pulls a gun and tries to shoot Ivar, but the safety catch jams and he cuts his hand. Ivar (like Basil) tells Barrow that he is not Janet's first lover and Barrow loses his temper, yet he finds himself unable to go through with killing Ivar. Barrow goes for a long drive and returns home to find two detectives waiting for him; the scene is similar to the one in the novel where the detectives question David after he returns from seeing Basil. Barrow realizes that Janet wanted the police to find him there with Ivar's body and arrest him.

Roland Winters as Ivar West

Back at Victor's office, he and Tom hear Barrow on the tape say that he will kill Janet. Tom says that they must find Janet and warn her; this parallels David's efforts in the book to find Ann and warn her about Braithwaite's intention to kill her. Unexpectedly, Barrow arrives at the office, finally bringing the two strands of the story together. In the final act, Barrow insists that the story on the tapes is a work of fiction, but Tom goads him and Warren slips and refers to Janet by her real surname of Waverly. Tom notices a cut on Barrow's finger and is sure that the story about trying to shoot Ivar was true. By extension, Barrow's claim on the tapes that he plans to kill Janet must also be true. After Barrow leaves, Victor and Tom find Janet's telephone number in the phone book and try to call her but get no answer. Tom heads for her house while Victor takes the tapes to the police.

Janet arrives home and is surprised to find Barrow inside, waiting for her. The phone rings and she speaks to Victor, who is calling from the police station. This scene recalls the one in the novel when David first tries to call Ann and then rushes to her side. Victor has a policeman speak to Janet and tell her to lock her door, but Barrow hangs up the phone. From this point on, the TV show takes its most unexpected turn away from the novel. Barrow starts a game of chess with Janet and comes up behind her with a gun. Tom pulls up outside and rushes in, but Barrow shoots and kills Janet before Tom arrives. Tom finds Janet dead and speaks to Barrow, who seems to have lost touch with reality. Tom flatters his fellow author and praises his book, taking the gun from his hand. In the show's final scene, Barrow sits at the police station, narrating the last part of his story into a tape recorder and concluding by repeating the sentence: "'That's always the problem, finding the right ending,'" three times.

Sarah Shane as Helen Barrow

In adapting Murder off the Record into "Captive Audience," Link and Levinson took characters from the novel and mixed up their actions and motivations. They identified key scenes from the book and used variations on them to build their own story. They used the device of the author narrating his story into a tape recorder to present the story in a series of flashbacks and changed the happy ending to a more downbeat one. Most surprisingly, they took the serial killer from the novel and eliminated him entirely! The result is not so much an adaptation as a reimagining.

The show is directed by Alf Kjellin (1920-1988), who uses various dissolves to move from scene to scene and to flash backward and forward in time. I counted at least eight dissolves, along with two left to right wipes, a bottom to top dissolve, a wipe where the picture flips from top to bottom, and what I can only describe as a spiral dissolve. The overall feeling of all of the dissolves and wipes recalls a film from the classic Hollywood period. Kjellin was born in Sweden and started out in the movies in 1937 as an actor. He began acting on TV in 1952 and continued until 1979. He started directing films in 1955 and worked as a director on American television from 1961 to 1985, concurrent with his work as an actor. As an actor, he appeared in the 1966 film adaptation of Jack Finney's Assault on a Queen and in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. As a director, he was at the helm for one episode of the half-hour Hitchcock series ("Coming Home") and eleven episodes of the hour series.

Bart Burns as Lt. Summersby
Starring in "Captive Audience" as Warren Barrow is James Mason (1909-1984), one of the greatest twentieth-century film actors. Born in England, he made his stage debut in 1931 and was on screen from 1935 to 1984. He became a star in the 1940s and moved to Hollywood in 1949; he was featured in films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), A Star is Born (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Lolita (1962), and Heaven Can Wait (1978). He wrote an autobiography called Before I Forget (1981). This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show.

Co-starring as Janet West is Angie Dickinson (1931- ). Born Angeline Brown, she acted in film and on TV from 1954 to 2009 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is one of two Alfred Hitchcock Hours in which she appeared. She was featured in Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo (1959) and starred in the TV series Police Woman from 1974 to 1978.

Geraldine Wall
as Mrs. Hurley

Playing Victor Hartman is Arnold Moss (1910-1989). Moss was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was mostly a stage actor, specializing in Shakespeare. His well-trained voice made him a good fit for radio shows; he appeared in movies and on TV as well, including twice on the Hitchcock series and once on Star Trek.

Ed Nelson (1928-2014) plays Tom Keller; on screen from 1952 to 2003, he started out as a stuntman in various Roger Corman films in the late 1950s and is best known for his role on Peyton Place from 1964 to 1969. He was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour twice and also appeared in episodes of Thriller, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery.

Born Roland Winternitz, Roland Winters (1904-1989) plays Ivar West. He starred as Charlie Chan in six films (1947-1949) and was on screen from 1941 to 1982. This was his only role on the Hitchcock TV series.

In smaller roles:
  • Sarah Shane (1928- ) as Helen Barrow, who is killed in the car accident; born Elaine Hollingsworth, she was on screen from 1948 to 1964 and appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Bart Burns (1918-2007) as Lt. Summersby, whom Victor puts on the phone to warn Janet near the end; born George Joseph Burns, his father was a New York City police inspector. Burns served in WWII as a Marine and fought at Iwo Jima; he was on screen from 1953 to 1988 and also appeared in "The Night the World Ended" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He played Pat Chambers on TV's Mike Hammer (1958-1959).
  • Geraldine Wall (1907-1970) plays Mrs. Hurley, who is sitting at the table at the club with Janet. She was on Broadway from age 15 and on screen from 1943 to 1970.
  • Renee Godfrey (1919-1964) as Miss Sherman, Victor's secretary; born Renee Vera Haal, she was on screen from 1940 to 1964.
Renee Godfrey
  • Don Matheson as Pierson, the police detective who questions Barrow after he spares Ivar West. Matheson fought in Korea and served in the Detroit Police Department before becoming an actor; this episode is his first credit in a career that lasted until 1999. His biggest role was as co-star of the series, Land of the Giants (1968-1970).
Don Matheson
  • Cosmo Sardo (1909-1989) as the croupier at the casino in the south of France; he had bit parts in countless films and TV shows from 1939 to 1982, usually uncredited. He also owned a barber shop in Los Angeles. He was seen briefly in "Dip in the Pool" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Cosmo Sardo
  • Barbara Dane (1927- ) as the folk singer who performs in the club when Barrow reunites with Janet; born Barbara Jean Spillman, she appeared in two TV shows in 1962 but is mainly known as a folk, blues, and jazz singer.
Barbara Dane

For fans of obscure props, the book Night of Horror that appears every so often on the Hitchcock TV show, either under that title or another one (but with the same cover picture), may be glimpsed briefly among the books in Barrow's office.

Night of Horror

"Captive Audience" is not available on U.S. DVD but may be viewed here on Peacock.


Bingham, John. Murder off the Record. Roslyn, NY: The Detective Book Club, 1958 [?].

"Captive Audience." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 8, episode 5, CBS, 18 October 1962.

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


Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

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