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"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" Lamb to the Slaughter (1958)

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Bel Geddes Has The Last Laugh!

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
1 March 2008

This is one of the most famous episodes in the history of this long-running series. I am glad it is because one of my favorite actresses, Barbara Bel Geddes, was the star of this particular story.

She plays a sweet wife, something she was good at doing with her soft voice and pleasant face. (See "Caught," with Robert Ryan.) Her husband comes home from work and is strangely silent. Mary (Bel Geddes) couldn't be nicer to the crabby hubby and finally he speaks up, saying coldly that we wants a divorce because he loves another woman. Although devastated, Mary exacts revenge pretty quickly by slugging the brute in the back of the head with a big club of frozen lamb as he is about to leave the house. It kills him.

The rest of the show, which comprises the bulk of it, is the police investigation headed by Lt. Jack Noonen (Harold J. Stone).

The fun part is near the end when we see what happens to the murder weapon.

I defy anyone to watch this episode and not laugh at Barbara's smile and chuckle at the end! She was such a good actress. It's one of Hollywood crimes that she never was given the opportunity to be the movie star she should have been.

Note: Roald Dahl, who became famous for writing "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" and other bizarre kids' stories, wrote the screenplay!

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

"It may be right under our noses!"

Author: theowinthrop from United States
10 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is supposed to be the best known stunt that Hitchcock ever pulled in any of his films. It may be so, but then it was a thirty minute television episode he directed on ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, and he had to stick closely to the screenplay, written by the author of the original story Roald Dahl.

LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER has little real mystery to it for the viewer. Allan Lane is a police officer, and he returns home looking very serious and very tense. His wife is Barbara Bel Geddes, who has been keeping the house tidy (despite being pregnant). She is a supportive wife, and she tries to relax Lane regarding his depressed mood. Finally he explains to her that he wants a divorce. He has met another woman whom he wants to marry. He is willing to give Bel Geddes some money, and guardianship of the child. Bel Geddes looks like she is in a state of shock, and just says she will prepare his dinner. We see her go out to the freezer and get a leg of lamb. She starts removing the paper the butcher put around it, when she sees that Lane is looking in the phone book. She asks why, and he says he is leaving that night (i.e., he's looking for the number of a hotel). When she protests that he shouldn't leave, he says, "Try to stop me!" She returns to the kitchen, picks up the leg of lamb, returns to the living room, and hits Lane at the base of the skull with the leg. Then she returns to the kitchen and starts broiling the lamb.

It's only subsequently that Bel Geddes realizes Lane is dead. Instead of panicking, she remains cool. They had been invited out for dinner that night (earlier Lane rejected the invitation), so she cancels the dinner invitation over the phone. She then goes out to get some more groceries, and returns to plant evidence (dropping her groceries and bag on the living room floor as though she just found the corpse of her husband; upsetting furnishings to make it look like a struggle). Then she calls the police.

Harold J. Stone is the detective in charge, and the cops do everything properly and in order. We watch the medical examiner looking over Lane's corpse, and another forensic expert dusting for fingerprints. But they are confused. It is obvious that the room has been tampered with for them to accept a so-called fight. But that does not preclude a third party attack on Lane. The head blow was perfect, but it left no marks of breaking the skin. It could have been done with a heavy club. Stone later asks Bel Geddes about such an item - there is nothing like a baseball bat in the house. She even looks for it with him in the house.

The cops are aware that Lane had a history of affairs, but they keep thinking one of the woman might have done this. But how did they get out into the street with the club and not get noticed? Hours have passed, and Stone notices the lamb has cooked. Bel Geddes invites the cops to eat it, which they do, leading to Stone's pronunciation of the famous last line of the episode (see the "Summary Line") while a silent Bel Geddes quietly laughs.

I have often suggested that when Hitchcock used his sense of humor it was best applied in small amounts (in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) in the business of Jimmy Stewart making the mistake of going to the taxidermist shop, for instance). When he tried a full attack of his humor (THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY) the results were not really that hot. This episode shows Hitch at his best humor (blended with Dahl's wit). Also it touched on the other aspect of Hitch's personality people knew of - his love of food. Hitch liked to throw dinner parties with the food cut in peculiar shapes or served in odd colors. So this story would have been just up his alley. And he did it well given it's limited time (30 minutes) and relatively simple story.

The three performances are good, Bel Geddes adding this performance under Hitch's direction to the one she did a year before in VERTIGO. Her anti-heroine is quite a sweet type, and is justified in being hurt by being deserted by her husband (she is even having his child). Stone is good as an intelligent detective just befuddled by the issue of where is the murder weapon. Lane, better recalled for being a Western movie star or being the voice of Mr. Ed, is basically having to show his acting early on when his character is alive (he does well, particularly trying to find the right moment to spring his surprise announcement). For the rest he had to just lie "dead" on the floor - a really difficult type of job (he can't move too much).

As for the story, Dahl did well here, as in several other tales he wrote for the series that Hitchcock directed. One wonders at the end how Hitch might have directed CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY if he had been approached. It probably would have been emphasizing dark chocolate - very dark chocolate indeed.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Quintessential Hitchcock

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
6 July 2013

I recall having this episode described to me when I was quite young. It is probably the most famous of all the Alfred Hitchcock Presents stories. It involves another cad of a husband, a police officer, who comes home late and announces to his loving wife that he has had enough of her and is going to demand a divorce. He is a complete ass in doing this, showing no sympathy toward her, despite the fact that she adores him. She takes a leg of lamb out of the freezer in the garage, and when his back is turned, smashes in his skull. The remainder of the episode involves her covering up her crime as the police comb the house looking for the murder weapon. Before leaving the house to provide an alibi, she puts the lamb in the oven, frozen, and allows it to slow bake. Barbara Bel Geddes is excellent as the somewhat vacuous woman who holds in her emotions. At times it looks as if she will explode. She stays at the scene as the coroner and the crime scene guys work everything over. The last five minutes are really choice. Bel Geddes dominates every moment.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Maybe Hitchcock Remembered This Ending When He Came to Make "Psycho"....

Author: kidboots from Australia
2 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

.... not that there is anything very frightening about Mary Malone and her "secret". It was just the end panning shot of Mary just sitting on her chair against the wall and looking directly into the camera - awfully similar to the "Psycho" ending. Barbara Bel Geddes, an actress who Hitchcock was using more frequently for his series, played Mary Malone, the bubbly, chatty wife of morose Patrick who clearly has something on his mind!! He has decided to leave her but she is not having it and uses the frozen leg of lamb to try to persuade him to change his mind!!

Vague and dreamy but knowing exactly what she is doing, she first puts the roast on to cook, goes out for some groceries, then comes home to make it look like a break and enter. The police come, weirdly she is not even a suspect, and when they mention how hungry they are she is only too pleased to serve them up "the most tender roast" most of them have ever had, she even gives the chief inspector the bone to take home to his dog!!

There is not much in the way of thrills, more a wry, black humour. Impeccable credentials - directed by Alfred Hitchcock, story by Roald Dahl, it also put me in mind of another short story by Patricia Highsmith from her book "Little Tales of Misogeny", involving a meat freezer, an erring husband and the "perfect little wife" out for revenge!!

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Dinner Time & Don't Forget The Mint Jelly

Author: DKosty123 from United States
3 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Production standards in 1958 required Hitchcock to state at the end of this episode that she gets caught.

This episode of the TV series was done the same year as Vertigo. In that, Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Elly on Dallas later)is the woman who loves the main man(Jimmy Stewart) but he gets obsessed over 2 other women. In the ending of the foreign version, they wind up back at her place together again.

In this show, Barbara schemes to do in her husband & finally arrives at just the right way to do him in - hit him on the head with a frozen leg of lamb. Then she calmly prepares the lamb in the oven before calling the police. This is a classic episode of the series.

When the cops come, she offers them dinner of a blunt instrument, roasted well in the oven. It's a lot of fun for all of us, and a great scheme by Hitchcock at the top of his game.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Hitch did a fine job in directing the "Lamb to the Slaughter" ep of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"

Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, LA
27 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the beginning of this ep of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", Hitch is at the grocery store getting a ticket from a police officer. He exclaims, "He gave me this for blocking the isle during rush hour." The actual story has Mary Moloney (Barbara Bel Geddes, several weeks after previously appearing in the series' "The Foghorn") greeting her cop hubby Patrick (Allan Lane) when he comes to the door. He says nothing until she asks him what's wrong. He tells her he's leaving her for another woman and this is after she tells him about her pregnancy. I'll stop there and just say this was quite a funny episode when one thinks of it after the events of the rest of it happens and the rest of the cops-led by a detective played by Harold J. Stone-have some inkling of what happened but don't suspect how right Stone is when he says the line about it "being right under our noses" while they're having dinner! Roald Dahl adapted his own short story here and Hitch did a fine job as usual in helming this one himself. As for Ms. Bel Geddes, just watch her in her last moments and try to resist being just as amused as she becomes here! So, yeah, I highly recommend "Lamb to the Slaughter".

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Kind of Amusing

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
29 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Barbara Belgeddes is a pregnant, happily married hausfrau and when her policeman husband comes home she greets him with a smile, a kiss, and some happy chatter. The sophisticated viewer, however, knows immediately that something is up because the big cop says not a word, pours himself a drink, and keeps his hulking back to his wife.

Finally he spills the beans. Belgeddes hears the words that no happily married and pregnant housewife wants to hear. Hubby is going to divorce her. He's in love with another woman. He'll see to it that she has a little money -- "Not a lot, but you'll get along." He turns back to the bar. This is a big mistake on his part. Belgeddes has just taken a frozen leg of lamb from the freezer for supper and without adumbration she whops him good over the head with it. The sudden switch from loving wife to vengeful murderer might seem a little rushed but then hell hath no fury.... She stages the scene to make it look like she was out shopping when the murder took place.

The police, all of whom knew the victim, manage to convince themselves that he was beaten by a club wielded by someone he knew and that the murder weapon must still be on the premises. While they're searching the house, Belgeddes (who has shed not a tear) fixes their dinner -- roast leg of lamb -- and the cops applaud the meal while they finish off the murder weapon. This is known as irony.

It's one of a handful of episodes actually directed by Hitchcock and I kept looking for some sign, some kind of directorial signature. I found none except Belgeddes vaguely sad expression while being interrogated, as if she'd just broken a nail, and a couple of pictures of birds on the wall.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"Lamb to the Slaughter" was directed by the master himself

Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
16 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Barbara Bel Geddes plays a spurned housewife who is informed by her cold and lifeless husband that he's dumping her for another woman. What the other woman sees in this fellow is not explained in the story, but poor Barbara responds the only way she can: she hits her estranged husband over the head with a frozen leg of lamb. It's a fatal blow and since her late husband was himself a cop, the police are sure to investigate the murder thoroughly. Of course, they'll need to find the murder weapon first, and being the good homemaker she is, Ms. Bel Geddes prepares just the right dinner entrée for the arriving policemen: a tasty leg of lamb.

"Lamb to the Slaughter" is one of the few entries in this series that Alfred Hitchcock directed himself. Roald Dahl provided the story and script and it's also one of his best. Veteran actor Harold J. Stone is around as the investigating officer and, as always, does his usual competent work. Allan Lane plays Ms. Bel Geddes' wayward husband with cold effectiveness and a dour temperament. Viewers will feel no sympathy for him when she slugs him over the head. Of course, Hitchcock was obliged by censors to inform his audience (after the fact) that our heroine didn't get away with murder after all. Listening to his bogus explanation regarding the long arm of the law was part of the fun, even if it was a bit contrived and wholly unnecessary.

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I Love ALL of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents Episodes!!!!

Author: kittycatpause from america
6 August 2017

I love the Lamb to the Slaughter one too, but honestly every episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents was just great!

I love b/w TV and movies as well. I love all the Twilight zone episodes too, ahhhh back then they made great TV. Too bad TV is not like that now, now you see guts everywhere, blood splattering, rape you name it; back then the censors forced TV and movies to use a lot of imagination and cool techniques to create feelings of horror or eeriness and sexuality. there was so much more creativity back then!

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A classic mini-masterpiece!

Author: JoshSharpe from United States
21 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a great episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that is based on the short story by Roald Dahl. Dahl also wrote the screenplay. That is why it is almost identical to the original story and just as good. It is about a woman who learns that her husband is leaving her. She goes into the icebox and finds a frozen leg of lamb. Instead of having it for dinner, she hits him on the head with it.Therefore killing him. I really enjoyed this because it is entertaining and unlike anything else I have ever seen. It also is quite funny in the end. Another great episode in this classic long-running TV series is The Case of Mr. Pelham. It is almost as good as this one although there is nothing similar between the two.

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