Today, we see why the prices of houses can be deadly high in this Alfred Hitchcock Presents classic episode.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
A general concern with watching classic episodes of shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which often turn on plot twists, is that we’ve all become so genre-savvy over the years that it is harder to fool a typical viewer with twists and turns, so it is difficult to fully grasp how clever a plot might have appeared in the late 1950s. Again, as I’ve noted a few times by now, I am by no means trying to claim that a typical 1950s audience member was not as sharp as a 2020s audience member, it is just that the 1950s audience member had, like, a decade of TV to go by, while we have nearly a century of TV. It’s just not a fair comparison.
Even with that in mind, however, I don’t think that many people were necessarily fooled by the central plot twist of the Season 3 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 1958’s “The Right Kind of House,” but with performances like the ones we got in this episode, it really doesn’t matter, the episode is brilliant anyways.
The story is based on a Henry Slesar short story (Hitchcock loves Slesar’s work, and licensed a number of his works), with a teleplay by prolific writer, Robert C. Dennis, and direction from the great Don Taylor.
The concept of the episode is that an old woman, Sadie Grimes (Jeannette Nolan) who hasn’t seemed quite right since the loss of her youngest son five years earlier has had her house listed for five years, but she is asking for five-six times what the house is worth! An older man Mr. Waterbury (Robert Emhardt) is visiting the town, and he has decided that he really wants the house, and decides to meet Grimes’ price. He goes to see her to try to talk her price down a bit, before agreeing to buy it for her asking price. She gets some lemonade from the freezer to celebrate with Waterbury, then tells him the story of WHY she priced the house so high.
As it turns out, her youngest son was a bank robber, and came to hide out at her place five years ago, and hid five times the asking price for the house in the house somewhere. She doesn’t know where it is, and she hasn’t looked. One of her son’s associates found her son, and killed him when he couldn’t get the son to tell him where the money is. On that day, she came up with a plan – list the house at such a high price that only someone who knows there’s five times as much money hidden in the house somewhere would be willing to buy it at that price, and, of course, Waterbury is that man. So she knows he murdered her son.
He, of course, explains that she really should have called the police before telling him this, but she notes that she only told him after he drank enough poisoned lemonade to kill nine men.
Now, could a 1958 audience truly be shocked that THAT was her motive for selling so high? Possibly, but the key thing is that it really doesn’t matter, all that matters is that a wonderful actor like Jeannette Nolan was able to tell us a great story (by the way, she’s freakin’ 47 in this episode, and yet they treat her like she’s ancient), and it really IS a fine story.
The beginning of the episode has some great business with the local real estate broker in the sleepy town being shocked that he has a customer, so he and his secretary have to act busy.
It always amazes me that Norman Lloyd was a producer on this series. He only died recently!
Okay, if I’m going to have 337 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!