Friday, June 17, 2016

Jeepers, Creeper

Sixty years ago tonight, Alfred Hitchcock Presents aired what may well have been the best episode of its debut season. Titled "The Creeper," it didn't feature anyone today's audiences would be likely to recognize — which probably makes it easier for modern viewers seeing it for the first time to concentrate on the story.

Well, devotees of TV soap operas might recognize Constance Ford, who had a long–running role on Another World from 1967 to 1992. She also had guest spots on some of the most popular TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s.

In the episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that aired 60 years ago tonight, Ford played a jittery housewife who was anxious about a string of unsolved stranglings in the area. In that sense, she seemed to be like everyone else.

But she was jittery about other things, too. For example, an old beau of hers was hanging around when her husband was out of town. He claimed that her husband had asked him to keep her company while he was away — the husband didn't know about their history — but she knew nothing about such a request and was suspicious of her old boyfriend's motives.

As it turned out, she had left this guy a couple of years earlier because he had a penchant for cruel behavior. "There's something wrong about you," she told him, and she was right. Being confronted with his shortcomings led him to assault her, switching up the radio to cover her screams.

Indeed, when the maintenance man came knocking on the door, it was to tell her to turn down her radio because the other tenants were complaining — not because anyone had mentioned her screams for help.

At that point, every viewer must have been sure that the ex–beau was the infamous "Creeper" who had been killing women. His behavior was simply too suspicious.

But Ford had put in a request with a neighborhood locksmith for a new lock for her door. He was swamped, though, and couldn't get away to install it for her, but he promised to send someone over to install it as soon as he could. Once she got the old beau out of her apartment and the locksmith called to tell her that an assistant was on his way over to install the lock, she began to breathe a little easier.

It was at that point that her husband called. He confirmed that, yes, he had asked the man who had been in the apartment to come over and keep her company while he was gone.

While they talked the assistant arrived and began installing the lock. The woman returned to the phone. Her husband had some important news for her. The police had a lead in the "Creeper" case.

They were looking for a locksmith.

She knew already.

I know, the ending will be apparent to most modern viewers long before the end actually comes. You have to remember, though, the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents was 60 years ago, and the plot must have come as a surprise to many viewers.

That's the way Hitchcock was. When he made "Psycho" a few years later, the story traumatized many viewers. More than half a century later, "Psycho" seems tame — if not lame — to modern viewers.

Hitchcock was cutting edge for his time. I can only wonder what he would do with all the advances that have taken place in film making and TV production since his death.