Monday, February 25, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep10: The Case of Mr. Pelham (1955)


Alfred Hitchcock Presents
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS - Episode #110 - THE CASE OF MR. PELHAM
Episode 110: The Case of Mr. Pelham
Original air date 12.04.55

Written by Francis M. Cockrell
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on a story by Anthony Armstrong

Albert Pelham...Tom Ewell
Dr. Harley...Raymond Bailey
Henry Peterson...Justice Watson

When businessman Albert Pelham's acquaintances begin to report seeing him at his favorite social club, in his apartment building, and even at work on days that he is positive he was not there, it first seems as if a giant trick is being played on him. But as the evidence mounts, it becomes apparent that Pelham has a double...and he's slowly edging him out of his life.

It's not the most exciting episode, to be honest, but it might make you think more than others. It's a lot of chatter, and very little action. The lead character is something of a milquetoast, but I think that's the point. He's man of routine, and that routine is severely shattered when someone claims it--and him--as their own. He's an outdated model, soon to be replaced by Pelham 2.0.

The open-ended finale might understandably be a bit frustrating for some viewers, as it never wraps things up in a neat little bow. We're left wondering about the true nature of Pelham and his double, just as Pelham himself is. Though I'm far from the first to make this comparison, this episode would almost seem more at home on the Twilight Zone than it does here, which makes it novel if nothing else.

Tom Ewell appeared onscreen with two of the era's most famous blonde bombshells--Marilyn Monroe in 1955's The Seven Year Itch (reprising a role that he had portrayed nearly a thousand times on Broadway), and Jayne Mansfield in 1956's The Girl Can't Help It. He was a regular on TV's Baretta as Billy Truman, appearing in 35 episodes. This was his only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, although maybe we should count it as two.

Raymond Bailey was most well known for his performance as Mr. Drysdale in The Beverly Hillbillies, but he also appeared in the 1955 big bug film Tarantula, the 1957 little man film The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hitch's own Vertigo in 1958, and 3 episodes of the Twilight Zone. He also played Dean Magruder in a handful of episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, giving him some hipster cred thanks to his proximity to seminal TV beatnik Maynard G. Krebs. This was the first of ten appearances that he would make on the series, and he would appear once more on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962.

Justice Watson didn't exactly have a storied career, making mostly one-time appearances on various television shows. He did, though, appear in two episodes of One Step Beyond, and in the 1962 genre film The Tower of London. This was the first of two appearances he would make on the series.

Screenwriter Francis M. Cockrell contributed multiple scripts to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including the pilot episode. Please see that entry for further information about him.

The episode is based on a novel by author and playwright Anthony Armstrong, however the chronology here leads to some confusion. Though this episode aired in 1955, the source material of the same name apparently wasn't published until 1956 or 1957 (depending on which source you believe)--meaning either Hitchcock and Cockrell were adapting a novel that was completed but not yet published; or Armstrong had sold them the rights to an idea that he had not yet developed into a novel; or the novel was, actually, based on the episode; or the date of the novel's publication is listed wrong pretty much everywhere; or there's something that I'm just not getting. If anybody can clarify things, I'd be much appreciative.

The same story was adapted into the full-length feature The Man Who Haunted Himself in 1970 starring Roger Moore, and, apparently a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as this episode, though there's not much information available about it.

Anthony Armstrong had previously worked on the script for Hitch's 1937 film The Girl Was Young.

--J/Metro

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