|Index||4 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Diana Hyland stars as a lonely young and very wealthy woman searching
desperately for love in 1964's "Beyond the Sea of Death." She finds
just what's she looking for in handsome adventurous Jeremy Slate. He's
working his way up through the ranks as a coal mining engineer, and the
two fall madly in love. He even recites poems to her about how their
love will last forever and "beyond the sea of death." Mildred Dunnock,
Ms. Hyland's suspicious aunt, senses that slick Jeremy may be a con-man
after her niece's money and is wary of the relationship. She becomes
even more distressed when she finds out that the two have married in
secret. When the poor fellow is killed in a Bolivian mining accident,
however, she sympathizes with the totally bereaved Ms. Hyland. But
that's only half of the story.
Inconsolable from her loss, the distraught Ms. Hyland turns to a swami called Doctor Shankara (Abraham Sofaer) who convinces her that he can communicate with her dead husband. Soon he's reading her poems from the beyond, and wouldn't you know it, they're the same exact ones that Jeremy was reciting when he was alive and well. In no time at all, Doctor Shankara has another message for her from Jeremy; he wants her to give huge chunks of money to the good doctor's "foundation." After finding out her niece is signing some gigantic checks over to this charlatan, Ms. Dunnock decides to do some investigating. She discovers that there are a slew of widows who are similarly signing over cash and property to Dr. Shankara at the behest of their late husbands. Likewise, these "beyond the sea of death" husbands were all killed in Bolivian mining accidents. Yes, it's all been a big con job and Ms. Dunnock now has to tell her niece to save what's left of her rapidly dwindling fortune. Mr. Slate isn't even dead, but instead he's in seclusion counting his money and courting new potential "widows." He and the phony doctor have been partners-in-crime from the beginning. When finally confronted with the truth about the whole conniving scenario from her aunt, Ms. Hyland just can't accept it---and displays her displeasure with reality.
"Beyond the Sea of Death" is well-acted by the entire cast and the story serves as a warning to all viewers regarding scam artists and their ilk. Of particular note is the performance of Diana Hyland. As always, she's excellent in this episode and watching her here makes one acutely aware of how tragic her early death was.
You don't have to be psychic to foresee events in this episode. The minute it steps off into the metaphysical, you're pretty sure where it's going. Beautiful rich heiress Grace Renford has been corresponding with Keith, whom she met through a spiritual magazine, and they are about to meet. She has been hurt before by men who were only after her money, so this time she'll pretend to be a mere secretary who lives on $80 a week in a "dime store apartment" that she has rented. Her dime store apartment is pretty large and luxurious for San Francisco, but we digress. For reasons never explained, actress Diana Hyland as Grace has been coiffed and made up to look like Grace Kelly herself, right down to the oversized glasses she occasionally wears to prove she's not vain. For their very first meeting, our Grace has invited Keith to a home-cooked dinner in her dime store apartment, even though she confesses she can't cook. He arrives at her door, strikingly handsome and well dressed. They share a love of poetry; he reads her a maudlin poem about "beyond the sea of death." She is awkward, burns the steak and mismanages the coffee. Her character is poorly written here, as she proves to be a charmless, graceless hostess, not at all the poised, adroit heiress who presumably glides through society. In fact, poor Grace becomes an immediate drip, overcome with guilt and self-doubt at pretending not to be her rich-heiress self. Once Grace and Keith have blurted out their unlikely passions for one another, however, she spills the beans, and fortunately he is not the least bit upset to discover that she is wealthy. He will stand on his own, he asserts, eschewing her riches. Alas, however, they must now part for a while before they are reunited in marriage. He must fly to Bolivia, and will send for her. Meanwhile, skeptical Aunt Minnie, well-played by Mildred Dunnock, has been watching from the sidelines and is not convinced that all is well. Events turn tragic as the paint-by-number plot continues to unfold. Aunt Minnie does a little sleuthing. Everything is predictable except for a sudden, ugly ending. The biggest surprise of all is for busybody Aunt Minnie, who meant well, but probably should not have meddled so. No good deed goes unpunished, Aunt Minnie.
It's a clever screenplay that results in superior Hitchcock. Except for
the opening hook, the first half proceeds rather tamely, but don't be
fooled. The story evolves into a big payoff. Grace (Hyland) is a
vulnerable young heiress to a family fortune. Having been fleeced by
one fortune-hunter, she's now wary of romance; that is, until she
answers an ad in a spiritualist magazine and meets Keith (Slate).
Shrewdly, she hides her status until she's sure of his honorable
intentions. Then she falls hard. Trouble is he works in Bolivia, and
one day she gets a telegram. After that it's a consolation that she's
come to believe in a spirit world. But this being Hitchcock, we know
things aren't always as they seem.
Interest builds as the story progresses. There's not much suspense since we can't be sure where the tale is headed, but there's more than enough curiosity to keep eyes glued. Most noticeably, the climax is a shattering one, and I'm really glad the producers didn't compromise on the final shot, which also has a moral concerning dreams and reality. The star-crossed Hyland is excellent in a difficult role, while veteran actress Dunnock scores as the well-grounded Minnie. Good seeing Jeremy Slate again, and isn't there a resemblance to Steve McQueen. All in all, it's a sneakily well- done episode in a superior series.
The story is heavy on what could really be soap opera, but the reused Bernhard Herrmann music--not from Vertigo but close enough--and some nice profile shots by the director help. The acting is also good the camera direction features a fair amount of nice moving camera shots, framing and re-framing single shots into two shots of the two lovers, along with a nice use of these kind of romantic guy faces girl in matching profile shots to make it seem like drama rather than soap opera. But even if this were a 30 minute rather than 60 minute show it'd be pretty easy to know what's going on way ahead of the ending. It's poor material done well enough to make it acceptable at best. Another of producer Joan Harrison's not so great episodes.
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