Friday, March 1, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep11: Guilty Witness (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode #111: Guilty Witness
Original air date: December 11, 1955

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Robert Stevens
Based on a story by Morris Hersham

Stanley Crane...Joe Mantel
Dorothy Crane...Kathleen Maguire
Amelia Verber...Judith Evelyn
Sgt. Halloran...Robert F. Simon

Sociable grocer Stanley Crane and his loving wife Dorothy seem to have a strong and healthy marriage, but their upstairs neighbors the Verbers aren't so lucky. They're always fighting, and not just verbal arguments, either. We're talking full-on fists-a-flying knockabouts.

But when the fighting comes to a sudden, screeching halt, the common theory is that Amelia Verber bumped off her husband to escape the abuse. And who can blame her?

Well, Sgt. Halloran of Homicide, for one, who recruits Stanley to help search the building for any evidence of foul play.

It's a good outing, though perhaps a bit formulaic. You never once doubt the truth of the crime, and basically the episode is dedicated to the proof of the crime. The twist at the end was solid, though, and one I honestly didn't see coming. It cast new light on certain earlier aspects of the episode, and made me appreciate it as a whole much more than I would have otherwise.

Joe Mantel played Stanley the Sociable Grocer, a friendly fellow who was perhaps a bit too cowardly in the end. Despite the chronic abuse and obvious crimes afoot upstairs, he wanted to stay out of it and preached the virtues of minding his own business...until he was under the protection of a policeman, and then he was all too happy to play Junior Detective.

Mantel was no stranger to the genre anthology format. He had parts of various sizes in Suspense, Lights Out, Inner Sanctum, One Step Beyond, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and the Twilight Zone. He also played Lawrence Walsh in Roman Polanski's Chinatown and its Jack Nicholson-directed sequel The Two Jakes, and had a bit part in Hitch's The Birds. This was his first of two appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Kathleen Maguire portrayed the lovely, somewhat nosy, wife Dorothy Crane. She was most well known for her roles in a few short-lived soap operas, but on the stage she had won an Obie award for her part in the off-Broadway play Time of the Cuckoo. This was her first of three appearances on the series.

Judith Evelyn played the pushed-to-the-limits Amelia Verber. In 1939, she and her fiancé Andrew Allan survived the sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia, a casualty of a German submarine attack during WWII. A decade later, she began her screen career with the film Angel Street, and would appear in numerous films and television series throughout her career, including five episodes of Suspense. Much of her success was found on Broadway, where three of the plays she appeared in (The Shrike, Harriet Craig, and Angel Street) were turned into films...though none of those films featured Evelyn. This was the first of two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that she would appear in.

Robert F. Simon played the (frankly ineffective) homicide detective Halloran, who couldn't solve a crime without the help of a man he seemingly chose at random. He was a character actor whose face was much more well-known than his name, and had roles on Inner Sanctum, Science Fiction Theatre, Twilight Zone, and the Outer Limits. He also appeared twice on Route 66, and played J. Jonah Jameson on the short-lived Amazing Spider-Man live action series that ran from 1978-1979, earning him the mythical trifecta of freakey, geekery, and beatnikery cred. This was his only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

This was the third of 44 episodes of the series that Robert Stevens would direct. He began with the episode "Premonition", so please see that entry for more information.

This was the third episode of the series to be scripted by Robert C. Dennis, who began with "Don't Come Back Alive". Please see that entry for more info on him.

Morris Hersham was given story credits for this episode, but I could find virtually no information about him or the source material which I assume this episode was based on. If anybody has anything to offer, please let me know.


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