William Callew is involved in a bad traffic accident on a rural road, that leaves him so paralyzed he appears lifeless, and when help arrives they think he's really dead.



(teleplay) (as Francis Cockrell), (teleplay) | 1 more credit »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Himself - Host
William Callew
Ed Johnson
Forrest Stanley ...
Harry Shannon ...
Dr. Harner
James Edwards ...
Marvin Press ...
Murray Alper ...
Mike Ragan ...
Escaped Convict
Jimmy Weldon ...
Guard (as Jim Weldon)
Richard Newton ...
Ambulance Driver
Road Worker
Harry Landers ...
Elzie Emanuel ...
Black Escaped Convict


Mr. Callew, a demanding businessman, is resting by the beach when he receives a telephone call from a recently discharged employee. The man is in tears, but the unyielding Callew shows no sympathy, and hangs up on him. Later, when Callew starts to drive home, his car runs off the road at a construction site. When he comes to, Callew is paralyzed. Several persons come by, but he is unable to communicate with them, so they think he is dead. Fully aware of his predicament, he becomes increasingly terrified. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

13 November 1955 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Edward W. Williams won the 1956 Primetime Emmy for Best Editing of a Television Film for this episode. See more »


When watching current film-transferred versions on a modern definition television, one can see William Callew's (Joseph Cotton) blinking his eyes even though it was established earlier that he could not move anything, including his eyelids. This is especially noticeable when the two escaped convicts are moving his body and disrobing him in the car. This would not of been noticeable at the time of first broadcast due to the poor resolution of television at that time. See more »


[introduction - Hitchcock is reading a book when he notices the viewer]
Alfred Hitchcock: Oh. Good evening. I've been reading a mystery story. I find them very relaxing. They take my mind off my work. These little books are quite nice. Of course, they can never replace hardcover books. They're just as good for reading, but they make very poor doorstops. Tonight's story by Louis Pollock is one that appeared in this collection. I think you will find it properly terrifying, but like the other plays of our series, it...
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Referenced in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Breakdown is Brilliant
30 June 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is probably one of the best episodes I've seen. Maybe "the" best. The whole concept of the episode was brilliant. Sometimes you get a groundbreaking idea that is poorly executed and a good idea is wasted. This is not one of those times.

Breakdown features Joseph Cotten in the lead as William Callew. Callew is a stern businessman and a real mean SOB. Callew is away at the beach relaxing when he gets a call from an employee that was canned. The man is frantic and crying on the phone. The suddenness of being let go is too much for him and the poor man doesn't know what he's going to do. Callew, who is anything but compassionate, is disgusted by the man. He doesn't want to hear it and just hangs up the phone. Raymond Bailey plays Ed Johnson, a friend of Callew's. He heard the whole thing and like the audience, cannot believe how unfeeling Callew is. Callew tells Ed how disgusted he was by the man showing that kind of emotion on the phone. Callew says, "I hate that kind of weakness."

Joseph Cotten, as always, gives a great performance. He spends the beginning of the episode getting us to hate Callew and he succeeds. But this is only one way Cotten plays the part. After Cotten's character gets into a horrific car accident, Cotten pretty much has to play a corpse for the rest of the episode. Cotten actually pulls it off. Callew is pinned behind the steering wheel and looks dead. He isn't dead, but he is paralyzed. He literally cannot move a muscle. Callew is just sitting there with his eyes open and looks like he really is dead. Of course, Cotten does a voice over, to let us know what the character is thinking and feeling. Cotten's job for the whole rest of the episode is to make his character sympathetic. He pulls this off too.

The whole episode is pretty much Joseph Cotten. There are instances when different people approach the crash thinking Callew is dead. Callew realizes the bad spot that he is in. He has to find a way to let people know he is still alive. Time is running out and unless Callew can show he's still alive, he is going to be declared dead.

I found this episode very effective. The whole episode you are on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen. There is a particularly chilling scene of Callew ending up in the morgue with a sheet over his face. At the end of the episode there is a surprise ending that no one could've ever saw coming. I won't give anything away.

Check out this brilliant episode with masterful directing by the Master of Suspense himself. The writing and acting to the show are also great. Check out one of the best episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This is by far, some of the best work I've seen from Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Cotten. I also commend Francis Cockrell and Louis Pollock for writing something so original and so riveting. You are in for a treat with this brilliant episode. See it and I promise you won't be disappointed.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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