Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Lukas Heller, Part Two-I'll Be Judge--I'll Be Jury [8.21]

 by Jack Seabrook

Lukas Heller's second and last teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was "I'll be Judge--I'll be Jury." Unlike "The Tender Poisoner," this episode is an excellent example of how to adapt a novel for TV and even improve on it.

The show is based on I'll Be Judge I'll Be Jury, by Elizabeth Hely, a novel that was originally published in England in 1959 under the title, Dominant Third. It begins tragically, as newlyweds Mark and Laura Needham enjoy a picnic on a hill above the French village of Volnay. They nap until Laura wakes up and goes for a walk on her own. Mark wakes up later and searches for his wife, only to find her dead in a clump of brambles. She was raped and strangled, and Mark is interrogated by Antoine Cirret of the Sûreté Nationale.

First edition
After a few weeks at home in London, Mark decides to return to Paris to ask Cirret for an update on the search for Laura's killer. Cirret asks Mark to go to the Eighth arrondissement and look for a grocer, who will recognize Mark. Among the grocers Mark visits is Theo Bondet, who has murdered a series of women over the years, including Laura. Mark later encounters his friend Alec Trevor, a musician who prefers France to England because the people in France are more tolerant of his homosexuality. Mark reports back to Cirret, who explains that he is certain that Theo killed Laura and has killed other women. He does not have enough evidence to arrest the suspect, so he asks Mark to befriend Theo in order to elicit information.

First U.S. edition
Mark visits Alec and a woman named Andrée, to whom Mark feels attracted. He soon begins to befriend Theo over drinks; later, Mark and Andrée confess their mutual attraction and go to bed together, but when Mark pictures Laura's dead face, he is impotent and rushes off in a rage, channeling his anger into a determination to kill Theo. Mark sets the scene for the murder on Alec's boat but, that night, when he corners Theo on the vessel, Theo strikes Alec with his heavy cigarette case. Theo passes out and awakens to find Mark dead; he pushes the body overboard into the water and goes home.

In the days that follow, Alec discovers that Theo has killed Mark and comes up with a plan of his own. He calls Theo and summons him to a hotel to meet; they discuss Mark's murder before Alec lets Theo leave and telephones Andrée. As the police examine the boat and Mark's body is pulled from the river, Alec puts his plan in motion. Theo leaves his shop at the end of the day and allows himself to be picked up by a prostitute on the street. He goes home with her but gets angry at the price she demands. She insults him, he attacks her, and suddenly Alec grabs Theo from behind--the prostitute is Andrée.

1962 paperback
Alec tells Theo that he tried to strangle the girl and shows him bruises on her neck. Theo confesses to Laura's murder and, anxious to avoid a scandal for his family, writes a suicide note that Alec dictates and agrees to kill himself by jumping in front of a Métro train. Alec and Andrée walk him down to the Métro tunnel and, just as Theo is about to step off the platform, Cirret grabs him. Later, Alec explains the plan to the policeman and comments that Andrée used makeup to create bruises on her neck and trick Theo into confessing. Cirret agrees that justice has been served and that he will help them stay out of trouble.

I'll Be Judge I'll Be Jury features a straightforward narrative but little suspense. Mark's death at Theo's hands comes as a surprise, since he is the protagonist of the first half of the book, much as the death of Marion Crane in Psycho forces the viewer to shift perspective. The novel's themes and events look forward to Frenzy, which also deals with a serial killer who strangles women, and the novel seems an unlikely choice to adapt for TV in 1963, since the villain is a rapist/murderer, one of the main characters is a homosexual, another main character masquerades as a prostitute and, in the finale, the killer is nearly driven to commit suicide. Perhaps the aspect of the novel least likely to make it to TV is Mark's motivation for deciding to kill Theo: he is angry at his own impotence when he tries to sleep with Andrée. Yet, when Lukas Heller was given the book to transform into a 50-minute telefilm, he succeeded in keeping most of the key events of the book intact and even increased the suspense.

Peter Graves as Mark
As the show begins, the first change is evident: the action has been moved from France to Mexico, probably because sets were easily available. When Mark finds Laura dead, there is a belt around her neck, but the TV version never suggests that she (or any of Theo's other victims) was raped. Instead of Alec being Mark's gay friend, he is married to Laura's sister, Louise, and the couple travel from New York to Mexico for Laura's funeral. Theo is not a grocer in Paris but rather runs a chandler's shop at the harbor. His mother, whose disability in the novel may be part of the reason for Theo's disturbed behavior, is healthy.

The events of the TV show follow those of the novel fairly closely, with extraneous scenes removed. Mark rents a boat at the harbor, so the boat where he is killed is not Alec's; Mark's motive for deciding to kill Theo is not rage at his own impotence but rather a grim determination that follows the departure of Inspector Ortiz (Cirret in the book) for a few days. The scene on the boat is particularly well handled and improves on the corresponding scene in the novel. As Mark tells Theo his story, Theo removes his cigarette case from his pocket. Realizing that Mark means him harm, Theo switches off the light, and the men struggle. There is then a cut to Alec's motel room as he returns from a fishing trip and Laura tells him that they need to find Mark. There is a cut to the marina, where a figure is seen hopping off the boat and tying it up. Only the bottom of his legs is shown, so it's unclear whether it's Mark or Theo. Alec and Louise arrive and Alec searches the boat, finding blood and Theo's cigarette case, which has his name inscribed on the inside. Alec tells Louise that Mark must have killed Theo and put his body in the water. In the following scene, Alec and Louise search for Mark and, in a bar, Louise sees Theo; she and the viewer realize at the same time that Mark is dead. These scenes create suspense that is not present in the novel, where Mark's death at Theo's hands is clearly described.

Albert Salmi as Theo
The latter part of the show continues to improve on its source. Instead of having Theo meet him at his hotel room, Alec summons the man to meet him in a cemetery as the sun goes down. Alec's eyes are hidden behind sunglasses, and he tells Theo to meet him at eight o'clock that evening and bring $5000, introducing an element of blackmail that is not in the book. That evening, Theo waits at a bar for Alec but is handed a note saying that he can't make it. Instead, Louise sits at the bar, dressed seductively, and flirts with Theo. She makes it clear that she is part of a tour group, not a prostitute, though her actions correspond to those of Andrée in the novel. She brings Theo back to her motel room, but when he tries to seduce her, she laughs at him, calling him "'fat and funny.'" He flies into a rage and attacks her in a violent scene. He slaps a glass from her hand and it smashes on the floor, then he pushes her down, tears off her belt, and wraps it around her neck, beginning to strangle her before Alec pulls him off of his wife. In the novel, the duo trick Theo into thinking he tried to strangle Andrée, but in the TV show, he actually does it.

Alec then points a gun at Theo, who immediately switches from aggressive to passive and frightened. Alec slaps and kicks Theo and forces him to write the suicide note at gunpoint; in the book, Alec takes a more civilized approach. In a particularly creepy series of shots, Theo begins to smile as he writes the note and soon agrees with the plan to commit suicide.

Ed Nelson as Alec
The final scene takes place at the town hall, rather than at a Métro station in Paris. Alec follows Theo up the steep staircase of the hall's bell tower, still pointing the gun at Theo and carrying the coil of rope that Mark had bought earlier at the chandler shop. At the summit, Alec shoves Theo against a wall and ties the rope to a cross beam before placing the noose over Theo's head, fitting it around his neck, and telling him to jump. Louise and Inspector Ortiz rush up the stairs and stop Theo from killing himself, at which point the killer confesses to murder. The show ends as Ortiz tells Alec that it's not up to him to decide how or when Theo dies, and Alec admits that he would not have gone through with it--he just wanted a confession.

"I'll Be Judge--I'll Be Jury" features a good script, exciting direction, and strong acting by the lead characters. In the initial scene, director James Sheldon uses wipe effects to show the passage of time, and when Mark is later canvassing shopkeepers at the harbor, he is superimposed walking while harbor scenes play behind him. Mark's conversation with Ortiz, when the inspector asks him to befriend Theo, plays out as Ortiz uses a pistol to take target practice on a few cans; this introduces the first gun into the narrative, as well as the possibility of violence. Albert Salmi, as Theo, is particularly good, seeming nervous and afraid when he is not erupting into sudden, brutal violence. In all, the show is made up of a series of short scenes that keep the story moving quickly.

Sarah Marshall as Louise
The final scenes are especially good, with the gun adding excitement to the proceedings and Alec's violent treatment of Theo showing a level of danger absent from the novel. The scene at the bell tower is shadowy and effective and recalls the climax of Vertigo. Even the score by Pete Rugolo is effective, eschewing his usual jazzy phrases for more suspenseful, classical phrases.

Elizabeth Hely (1913-1981), who wrote the novel, was the pen name of Nancy Elizabeth Brassey Younger, a British writer who published four novels between 1959 and 1965, three of which featured Inspector Cirret, who debuted in Dominant Third (I'll be Judge I'll be Jury). Other than this single episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, the only other filmed adaptation of her work was a 1968 film called The Smugglers.

Director James Sheldon (1920-2016) was born Leonard James Schleifer. He directed countless TV shows between 1952 and 1986, including six episodes of The Twilight Zone and two episodes of Batman, but this is the only time he worked on the Hitchcock show.

Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. as Ortiz
Starring as the unlucky Mark Needham is Peter Graves (1926-2010), who was born Peter Aurness. After serving in the Air Force in WWII, he had a long career on screen from 1952 to his death, starring in three TV series: Fury (1955-1960), Whiplash (1960-1961), and Mission: Impossible (1967-1973). He also had a memorable role in Airplane! (1980). This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show.

Albert Salmi (1928-1990) is suitably creepy as Theo; born in Brooklyn, Salmi trained at the Actors Studio and appeared on Broadway. He was a busy TV actor from 1954 to 1989 and also appeared in films, starting in 1958. Genre roles included appearances on The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and he was on the Hitchcock show three times, including "The Dangerous People." A biography of Salmi called Spotlights and Shadows was published in 2009.

Eileen O'Neill as Laura
Ed Nelson (1928-2014) plays Alec Trevor; 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 (see "Captive Audience") and also appeared in episodes of Thriller, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery.

Louise Trevor is played by Sarah Marshall. Born in London, Marshall was the daughter of Herbert Marshall and Edna Best. Best appeared in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much the year after her daughter was born, and Herbert Marshall appeared in two of Hitchcock's films and two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Sarah Marshall acted on Broadway from 1951 to 1962 and on screen from 1954 to 2012, appearing on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Star Trek. She was on the Hitchcock show three times, including "The Twelve Hour Caper."

Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., plays Inspector Ortiz; he was on screen from 1945 to 1981 and he appeared on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Night Gallery. He starred in a short lived 1976 TV series called Viva Valdez, but this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

Gorgeous Laura Needham is played by Eileen O'Neill (1939- ), who had a brief career on screen from 1961 to 1970. She also appeared on Batman.

Watch "I'll Be Judge--I'll Be Jury" online here.


"Albert Salmi, Actor, 62, Is Found Shot to Death in Home With Wife." New York Times, 25 Apr. 1990,

"Elizabeth Hely Bibliography - A Full List of First Edition Books." Classic Crime Fiction - Detective Fiction - Mystery Books Website, Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

"FURROWED MIDDLEBROW: British & Irish Women Writers of Fiction 1910-1960 (Has - Hol)." FURROWED MIDDLEBROW, 1 Jan. 2013,

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

Hely, Elizabeth. I’ll Be Judge I’ll Be Jury. Dell, 1962.


"I'll Be Judge--I'll Be Jury." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 1, episode 21, CBS, 15 February 1963.


Norris, J. F. "Pretty Sinister Books: FFB: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury - Elizabeth Hely." Pretty Sinister Books, 22 Apr. 2016,

"A TV Review by Mike Tooney: THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR 'I’ll Be Judge — I’ll Be Jury.'" MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE, 21 May 2010,


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "A Bottle of Wine" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Andrew Solt begins with a look at "Safe Conduct," starring Claire Trevor!


Grant said...

H knew how to play every kind, but no one could play a disturbing character better than Albert Salmi. Maybe it's considered only an "okay" one, but he's really great doing that in the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "Execution."

He's also good as the flipside of that in the ONE STEP BEYOND episode "The Peter Hurkos Story."
In that one he plays a sensitive person who's persuaded to help SOLVE a crime.

Jack Seabrook said...

I remember "Execution" but not the One Step Beyond episode. I always associate him with Lost in Space!