THIS PIECE HAS BEEN UPDATED AND REVISED TO BE MORE EXTENSIVE: DOES NOT INCLUDE ALL OF THE EPISODES BELOW-PLEASE VISIT THESE LINKS INSTEAD AS PART OF MY ONGOING SERIES FOR THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR.
WITH PART 5 TO FOLLOW...
I’ve chosen these particular episodes for various reasons. I’m very fond of the actors portraying these very nuanced roles. The stories directed by some of the best, themselves are quite compelling, and the musical compositions by Lyn Murray just left a poignant hole in my heart afterward. I hope you get to see at least a few of them. Very special, very fraught with edge-of-your-seat thrills, and some outstanding performances by some of your favorites who deserve to be showcased here! Without any further adieu —Good Evening…!
Final Vow (25 Oct. 1962)
William Downey-“Have all your prayers been answered, sister?”
Sister Pamela- “Prayers aren’t business deals Mr. Downey, they can’t be judged by successes or failures.”
Norman Lloyd directs this Henry Slesar story starring the lovely Carol Lynley who plays Sister Pamela Wiley, a gentle soul who has come to the crossroads of her faith. It is a simplistically beautiful tale about faith and finding one’s place on Earth.
The Reverend Mother portrayed by the wonderful Isobel Elsom believes that Sister Pamela’s crisis will disappear in time. Sister Pamela is sent on a very special mission to meet the once young hooligan named William Downey from the parochial school she’d tried to change for the better. He has invited sister Lydia to his mansion after thirty years of silence to give her a very special statue of St Francis. It’s a gesture of thank you and a very sacred piece of art. On the way back to the convent the statue is stolen at the train station.
The bronze statue falls into the wrong hands by a petty thief (Clu Gulager as schemer Jimmy Bresson) and so Sister Pamela puts herself in harm’s way in order to set things right!
With Sara Taft as Sister Lydia and Charity Grace as Sister Gem (Jennifer Morrison from Andy Griffith’s Alcohol & Old Lace), Clu Gulager is perfect as the ruthless Jimmy K Bresson and R.G. Armstrong as the imposing William Downey.
Bonfire (13 Dec. 1962)
Laura- “Would you mind opening a window, this house smells of…” Robbie breaks in “Death!” Laura-“No, the past, which is even worse!”
Cinematographer William Margulies (The Girl in Black Stockings 1957) photographs Falk’s murderous fevers by somehow closing in around his face with a dark aureole that speaks of madness.
The wonderful Patricia Collinge ( The Little Foxes 1941, Shadow of a Doubt 1943) plays an old-fashioned lady Naomi Freshwater, who has been befriended by a fire & brimstone preacher spouting scripture who charms Naomi with doting affection. The enigmatic Peter Falk is the cab-driving preacher Robbie Evans who comes from the coal mines of Pennsylvania, had a revelatory vision during a cave-in that changed his womanizing ways. Did he possibly kill his wife who wanted to force him back into the mines?…
Now as a seemingly kind companion to sweet old Naomi, he spends time with her reading bible verses and hoping to gain her trust so he can build his grand temple on the money she’ll leave him in her will. The dear and sheltered Naomi has a bad heart and suffers a fatal heart attack one night when Robbie forces her to dance too rigorously. She collapses on the settee begging for her little pills as Robbie coldly watches her die. The scene is absolutely brutal in its heartlessness. Quite a powerful scene for just a one-hour anthology show. I myself was left speechless and stunned by its ruthlessness. Adding to the grisly atmosphere was the nonstop record spinning a bedazzling swing melody while the tortured old woman clutches at her chest. I don’t know if it was the lighting or just Falk’s cold-blooded unwavering expression that left me chilled to the bone.
Falk plays the perfect sociopath, with only one nearly over-the-top performance during a bible-thumping sermon under the tent. When the classy worldly niece Laura (Dina Merrill) shows up, Robbie tries to woo her into marriage hoping to hang onto the old Victorian mansion that he feels is owed to him. Laura hires Robbie to clean out the attic and create a big old bonfire to burn the remnants of her life there.
At first, Laura believes his ‘Man of God’ acts as Naomi did, but Laura is a wild roaming sort who doesn’t wish to be tied down. This brings out the psychopath in Robbie, as he relates in detail how his first wife tried to hold him back, she was a sinner and he had the calling.
Does Merrill wind up in that trunk? it’s a real tent stomper of a mystery, with a twisted psycho-sexual undercurrent, delusional religious fanaticism, unspoken old-style misogyny, and plenty of menacing mayhem afoot lead by an all-star cast of actors. Bonfire is directed by Joseph Pevney and based on a story by V.S. Pritchett as published in The New Yorker.
The evocative score by the great Pete Rugulo helps the entire episode come together to create one hell of a grand mystery hour.