Late on Christmas Day, a man coaxes an antiques shopkeeper to let him in under the pretense of needing a gift for his fiancée, but it is soon clear he wants something else. To his surprise, what he gets is a battle with his own conscience.
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A narrator (Ray Milland) says that years before writing "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a story about good and evil at war within a man. On Christmas Day, the solitary Markheim watches the maid leave a shopkeeper alone in his shuttered store. Markheim knocks, explaining that he must buy a present for his fiancée. The avaricious shopkeeper looks away and Markheim commits a violent crime. Now, he must find the man's money before the maid returns. At first he feels anguish and despair, then he searches. A stranger enters the room and offers a bargain. Does the stranger's identity matter, and will Markheim take the deal? The bell rings at the door; the maid has returned. Written by
This is an episode from "Screen Directors Playhouse"--an anthology series that featured an incredible lineup of actors and directors--often some of the best talent Hollywood had to offer.
"Marhkeim" was adapted from a story by Robert Louis Stevenson and stars Ray Milland. Interestingly, in addition to starring in the film, he narrates the beginning of the film--setting the context and explaining a bit about the story.
This is a very weird story. Markheim enters a shop to supposedly buy a gift for his fiancé, but, quite unexpectedly, he suddenly stabs to death the shopkeeper! Apparently he planned to steal some supposed hoard of money in the shop to help all of his financial problems vanish. However, after looking a bit, a stranger (Rod Steiger) enters and Markheim soon realizes it's the Devil or one of his agents. Steiger offers to help him find the money and escape, but Markheim hypocritically states he's not a bad person--even though the body of his victim is in the next room. Where this all goes next, you'll just have to see for yourself.
Overall, this is one of the better episodes I have seen--mostly due to the acting. Milland and Steiger are exceptional. The plot, too, is nice--very original. My only reservation, and it's a minor one, is that I might have ended it a bit differently. Still, it's well worth seeing.
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