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Henry Slesar was a great plotter, and an expert at mystery short stories. This is an example of Slesar at the top of his craft. The story starts simply enough, with a young ex-con seeking out the family of a prison buddy. But in the course of 25 minutes, the plot takes several turns that have the viewer wondering what direction it will go. Is the ex-con trying to rob the family? Will he rob his employer? Who is sending thugs to beat him up? Is he covering up an old robbery? (One of the thugs is Jerry Seinfeld's "Uncle Leo".) More possibilities are added at every turn, and the wrap-up comes as a surprise, but a very plausible one. This is the kind of script that made AHP such a fun show to watch. Not predictable, but also not implausible.
This story reminded me of some of those Outer Limits episodes where the character was doomed from the beginning, based on a circumstance over which he had little control. The young man in this story was along for the ride when a huge amount of money was stolen. Since that day it was thought that he knew the location of the fortune. You see, the money was never found and now he is out of prison. He makes the mistake of accepting a room from the mother of one of his cellmates instead of going to a halfway house for parolees. Nehemiah Persoff plays the blue collar brother of the other prisoner who tortures the young man, making his life miserable. He even sends a couple of toughs to nearly beat the young man to death. We would like to see him succeed, but the deck is really stacked and there's still all that money. This is a pretty good episode and worth the time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Darryl Hickman seemed to be one child star who never stopped working.
Apparently discovered by Bing Crosby, he was very cute in films like
"Men of Boys Town" in which he played a tiny toughie!! In the lean
1950s he developed a tougher side to his acting and is just excellent
in this tension filled episode as Jackie a young parolee who visits the
home of his cell mate and is overwhelmed by the friendliness and love
shown to him by the mother (played superbly by Mildred Dunnock). She
takes him under her win and simply won't hear of him going to a
boarding house. The downside is the animosity of the older brother
(brilliantly played by Nehemiah Persoff) who seems to resent the
attention lavished on Jackie by the mother.
From the start there is ambiguity - Jackie is seen scrounging around in the dark, he gets a peculiar look in his eye whenever the mother mentions her nest egg and he is agitated when his parole officer pops into his work unannounced. The end shows he is really a lamb among wolves and Mrs. Collins the most predatory of mothers!!!
I'm amazed at what Hitchcock was able to do in a 30 minute network format; what most Directors are unable to do today in two hours with a huge budget and overpaid actors. The tight script; intelligent script that today is but a memory of the past burns very deeply watching an episode like this. I could not have spent 30 minutes of my life better than watching this episode and only wish I was born and alive when this episode aired for the first time. What is most telling is the way the plot evolves without any obvious formula. I wish I could understand what happened in America; and why today people will watch CSI and other trivial crime dramas that are devoid of any content of substance. Watching this episode reminded me of the decline of America and the decline of culture.
This is one of the best episodes of the first Hitchcock series I've
seen. Adapted from a story by Henry Slesar it tells the story of a
newly sprung and very young parolee and his visiting with the mother
and brother of a friend of his from prison. At first apprehensive, when
they hear his name they treat him like a member of the family; and they
offer him lodging even after he stated that he was planning to live in
a rented room.
The young man gets a job as a mechanic, is visited by his parole officer, gets angry when it appears that the P.O. is keeping tabs on him (that's his job), and he comes across as an angry young man with a chip on a shoulder who got involved in a major robbery by driving the getaway car. He claimed that he knew nothing of the crime itself and the still yet to be discovered stolen money, well over 100K.
Yet this fellow sends out mixed signals, and this is where director Robert Stevens, excels: the young man is at twenty barely a man, appears to be hiding something; and he comes across as far more knowing and sophisticated than the put upon youth he presents himself as, especially when the topic of money comes up, or when he simply has his hands on some money. He doesn't actually steal anything, not on camera anyway, and yet he seems easily tempted.
Things to begin to heat up after he confronted by some thugs, who demand that he tells them where the stolen money is. When he insists that he knows nothing about this they beat him up. He returns home, and his by now seemingly surrogate mother takes care of him. Her son is not so kind, and what transpires afterwards is quite a surprise for even an experienced viewer.
This is a dark, compact and subtly filmed tale, and it doesn't feel much like an entry in a Hitchcock series The acting is superb, from Darryl Hickman's air of sullen indignity to Mildred Dunnock's at times seeming channeling of Beulah Bondi in her empathetic playing of the woman who becomes his landlady. As her much older and hard drinking son, Nehemiah Persoff feels like a force of nature, mixing bonhomie with threats of violence every times he appears on screen.
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