Hitchcock Directs His Explosive TV Debut…
A man suspects his wife is unfaithful. He sets a bomb to go off in the house, however, things take an unexpected turn.
Suspicion (Intro) S1 (1957), RetroAlexander and photos © MCA TV
I’ve recently found a passion for those older TV mystery series with a wee twist in the plot and discovered yet another series in this genre. This list headed by The Twilight Zone (1959-64) and including Thriller (1960-62) and One Step Beyond (1959-61).
The series is Suspicion (1957-58), and in a then rare TV moment, the first of these directed by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The series episodes telling individual stories in which a character’s suspicions are aroused in an everyday scenario. With some amazing big names of TV and film in the cast including Bette Davis, Donna Reed and Charles Bronson.
In this 1957 episode, the cast includes E.G. Robinson, Nancy Kelly and… So if you keep your eyes peeled a young actor in only his fifth role of his career, which sadly ended just last year. This sadly with his passing at the age of 91. But will keep you in suspense just a wee while longer…
The story tells of a watch repairman, Paul Steppe who suspects his wife Fran is seeing another man while he’s at work. And from the start, we can tell Paul’s been planning their murder with him setting up a mock explosion at the back of his shop.
At home, his wife appears nervous and furtive, and with him suspecting the worst. He notes a man’s cigar in the ashtray, beers missing from the fridge and a dry mark outside indicating that someone visited her in a car during a brief rainstorm.
The next day, he sets the explosion in the cellar, timed for four o’clock, when he suspects her lover will visit. On the day, two thugs break into his house. This literally after he sets up the timer for the explosion. These men discovering him, tie and gag him, rob the house and leave Paul in the cellar with time ticking away and the time of his death approaching…
Robinson was spectacularly cold and calculating in this role. With his chilling voice-over in those bomb-making scenes as he assembled the handmade bomb to kill. As the thugs come and go you left hearing his increasing panicky thoughts and all these factors keep you in suspense too. And there are a few more twists in store.
Adding to this Hitchcock’s black and white filmed TV tale are constant references to time. Be it him preparing for the murder, the clock ticking or seeing the clock and hearing the tied up man’s thoughts during the final countdown. Paul’s journey through the stages of dying – denial, anger bargaining, depression and acceptance – adds to the tension. And I’ll just say when the time comes to expect an explosive turn of events…
As for that guest star, you could say this character actor played parts in some colourful films including Red Dawn (1984), Pretty in Pink (1986) and The Green Mile (1999). The credits only partly give the game away with him here billed as Dean Stanton. As in Harry Dean Stanton, so ten brownie points if your suspicions were right.
Second Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, 2018, No 33
This review features in Maddy Loves Her Classic Films Second Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Harry Dean Stanton starred in Pretty in Pink with reviews here and here. He also starred in Escape from New York and features in his In Memoriam tribute. E.G. Marshall in Murder She Wrote.