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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:
Ed Johnson
Dr. Harner
James Edwards ...
Marvin Press ...
Escaped Convict
Jimmy Weldon ...
Guard (as Jim Weldon)
Richard Newton ...
Ambulance Driver
Road Worker
Harry Landers ...
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

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Release Date:

13 November 1955 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Stephen King said his short story, Autopsy Room Four was inspired by this episode. See more »


Callew's position changes several times when he is laying in the car, particularly after the convicts take his clothes. His mouth is sometimes closed, and he is in different positions on the seat, as seen by how far his head if extended from its edge. 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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Remade as Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Breakdown (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

"Imagine, if you can, the terror of being inside a television set"
13 March 2009 | by See all my reviews

Hitchcock, of course, understood exactly how to create suspense. His typical explanation involved a bomb under the table: if it explodes out of nowhere, then that's surprise. If the audience knows that the bomb is under the table but not when it will go off, that's suspense. Thus, the secret for mastering suspense was to allow the audience to know something that the film's characters didn't – for, whatever we may know, we are absolutely helpless to do anything. Hitchcock occasionally transferred the elements of this director/audience interaction to his own characters, as we see in 'Rear Window (1954),' in which Jimmy Stewart sits immobile and helpless in his apartment. "Breakdown" (Season 1, Episode 7) was the second episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" to be personally directed by the host, and, tellingly, it's also the best of the series so far. Hitchcock once again utilises the premise of a central character who, like the audience, is powerless to influence the events of the story.

Joseph Cotten plays William Callew, a callous businessman with little regard for human emotion. After a long-time employee weeps uncontrollably after losing his job, Callew unsympathetically condemns his lack of self-control. However, poetic justice is about to ensue. After becoming involved in a ghastly car collision with a truck of chain-gang prisoners, Callew wakes up paralysed from head to toe, but conscious enough to thinking logically. The fleeing prisoners offer hope of rescue, but instead – believing him to be dead – seize the opportunity to loot his clothing. Despite regaining slight movement in a single finger, nobody seems to recognise that Callew is still alive, and he seems destined to be buried that way. Hitchcock uses point-of-view shots to powerful effect, and Cotten – though not called upon to do much in the way of acting – delivers a creepy monotone voice-over that communicates his overwhelming paranoia. Though a lesson is proposed by the conclusion, its presence seems to be tongue-in-cheek, with Hitchcock spelling out the necessity of a "moral" in his introduction.

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