The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

 

 

Hitchcock's silhouette became one of his trademarks; the outline caricature was drawn by Hitchcock himself.

The Series

In 1963, the successful half-hour anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents was expanded to fill a one-hour timeslot. Now called The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, its pace inevitably changed, allowing stories to be told with a little more depth of character.

Bradbury Episodes

Bradbury wrote one script for the series, and a second script was based on one of his stories.

Episode 50: "The Jar" (14 Feb 1964)
Directed by Norman Lloyd

This episode was scripted by James Bridges, based on Bradbury's November 1944 Weird Tales short story (collected in Dark Carnival and The October Country.)

Synopsis

Charlie Hill buys a strange jar at a carnival. He is so intrigued by its mysterious contents that he thinks everyone in town will want to come and see it, so raising their opinion of him.

The townsfolk gather at Charlie's house for repeated viewings of the jar and its contents. Each person sees something different in the jar. Juke is reminded of a kitten he once drowned. Charlie suggests it could be the body of someone who drowned in the swamp. Mrs Tridden sees the body of her dead son. Jahdoo sees the origin of all creation.

Charlie's wife Thedy is disgusted by the jar, and wants nothing to do with it. She and her lover, Tom Carmody, bribe Jahdoo to steal the jar. When Charlie finds out, he heads off to the swamp to confront Jahdoo - and nearly drowns, as if fulfilling his own speculation on the jar's contents.

Thedy visits the carnival where Charlie bought the jar. She returns home and tells Charlie what it really contains - bit of paper, eyes of a doll, bits of wire. Charlie is horrified: if this news gets out, no one will visit him anymore. His esteem in the town will go back to what it was before - zero.

The next time the townsfolk gather, some of them spot new features in the jar that they had never seen before. Blue eyes, brown hair. And a ribbon. Embroidered with the name...Thedy.

Review

James Bridges was nominated for an Emmy for this episode, and deservedly so. The episode is deliberately slowly paced, reinforcing the nothing-ever-happens-here feel of the town. The direction is excellent, and the episode is undoubtedly one of the most memorable of the entire series.

Director Norman Lloyd handles the viewing scenes admirably. The townsfolk sit down to watch the jar, and stare directly at us, the viewers; a perfect mirror.

The adaptation follows the original story very closely, and even uses elements of dialogue directly. The story is opened up, and elements that were implied in the story are now made explicit. For example, Charlie is cuckolded in both the original story and this adaptation, but the adaptation makes it explicit that Thedy is younger than Charlie.

The one deviation from the source is the sub-plot involving the theft of the jar by Jahdoo, and the ensuing encounter in the swamp. This might be thought an unnecessary expansion of the story (to fill the one-hour timeslot). However, it allows the earlier passing reference to the swamp to be amplified; allows Jahdoo's view of the jar to be dramatically put across; and by putting Charlie in physical peril it allows him to learn the power of the jar. It is only after this encounter that he becomes absolutely committed to the jar, and determined to defend it - to the death (of Thedy!)

Collin Wilcox, who plays Thedy, discusses the episode and the rest of her career in this interview from Stephen Bowie's Classic TV History Blog.

When Alfred Hitchcock Presents was revived in the 1980s, this episode was re-made with an entirely different script.

Other adaptations have appeared in Ray Bradbury Theater (scripted by Bradbury) and the radio series Tales of the Bizarre.

Cast:
Charlie Hill
-
Pat Buttram
Thedy Sue Hill
-
Collin Wilcox
Jahdoo
-
William Marshall
Granny Carnation
-
Jane Darwell
Gramps Medknowe
-
Carl Benton Reid
Tom Carmody
- James Best
Juke Marmer
- George Lindsey

Emma Jane

-
Jocelyn Brando

Clem Carter

-
Slim Pickens

Mrs Tridden

-
Alice Backes

Sam Reese

-
Milt Marshall

Eva Ann

-
Marlene DeLamater

The Barker

-
Billy Barty

"The Jar "

The short story first appeared in Weird Tales in November 1944.

Its first book appearance was in Dark Carnival (1947).

Origins of
"The Jar"

In his essay "Run Fast, Stand Still, or The Thing At The Top Of The Stairs, or New Ghosts From Old Minds" (1986) Bradbury wrote that "The Jar" was

....the result of my being stunned at an encounter with a series of embryos on display in a carnival when I was twelve and again when I was fourteen. In those long-gone days of 1932 and 1934, we children knew nothing, of course, absolutely nothing about sex and procreation. So you can imagine how astounded I was when I prowled through a free carnival exhibit and saw all those fetuses of humans and cats and dogs, displayed in labeled jars. I was shocked by the look of the unborn dead, and the new mysteries of life they caused to rise up in my head later that night and all through the years. I never mentioned the jars and the formaldehyde fetuses to my parents. I knew I had stumbled on some truths which were better not discussed.

All of this surfaced, of course, when I wrote "The Jar," and the carnival and the fetal displays and all the old terrors poured out of my fingertips into my typewriter. The old mystery had finally found a resting place, in a story.

On the interview CD for the 2001 re-issue of Dark Carnival Bradbury specifically refers to an exhibit he saw in 1934 at Ocean Park (presumably Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica.

 

Trivial Differences: "The Jar"

  • in the short story,Charlie drives a horse and wagon; in the episode, he drives a truck
  • in the short story, it is only implied that Thedy is dead and in the jar; in the episode, there is no doubt whatsoever
Episode 68: "The Life Work of Juan Diaz" (26 Oct 1964)
Directed by Norman Lloyd

Synopsis

Mexico. The "day of the dead" is approaching, and Juan Diaz and his son bring sugar skulls to their village. Juan falls ill and dies. The local custom is for people to rent a grave, but Juan has only been able to afford to pay two years' rental.

After one year, the gravedigger visits Juan's widow, claiming that the rental is already up. She is penniless and unable to pay. The gravedigger digs up Juan's corpse and stores it in the catacombs, alongside the mummified remains of all the other non-payers. The gravedigger charges one peso from the tourists who come to see the mummies.

Juan's widow Maria visits her brother Ricardo, the chief of police. He is also penniless and says he can do nothing to help.

Juan's son Jorge goes down in the catacombs to see his father's remains. He puts a rose in Juan's mummified hand.

Marian and Jorge decide to rescue Juan's corpse. One night, they sneak into the catacombs. The gravedigger, drunk, wanders in. They hide among the mummies. The gravedigger talks to the mummies, revelling in the fact that they don't talk back to him.

Sensing something, the gravedigger lights a match to get a better look at Juan. As he lowers the match, Jorge blows it out. The gravedigger is shocked. Stunned, he slowly walks out of the catacombs...followed by Juan Diaz. In his drunken state, the gravedigger thinks Juan has risen form the dead to attack him. In fact, Jorge and Maria are simply carrying the corpse out of the graveyard and home.

The gravedigger summons the police chief and hastens to Maria's house. Finding Juan's mummy there, the gravedigger argues that the police must arrest Maria for stealing his property. Maria claims that it is not a mummy - it's a papier-mache doll she has made for the "day of the dead".

Maria gets to keep the mummy. She puts up a sign inviting tourists to view the mummy for ten centavos. Soon, queues are forrming. Maria talks to Juan's corpse, telling him that he is still successfully providing for his family, even after death. The mummy's eyes, all papered over until now, come alive for a brief moment.

Review

"Juan Diaz" is one of a number of Bradbury stories built around the Mexican mummies and "day of the dead" celebrations , and drawing on his own experiences touring Mexico in the 1940s. His early short story "The Candy Skull" was one of his first attempts to use the setting, and others have included "El Dia de Muerte", "The Next in Line" and The Halloween Tree.

Bradbury has opened this story up in adapting it for screen. All of the scenes in his original short story are present, with only minor changes - but he has added a number of key scenes and moments.

From the outset he creates a mood of death and despair. As Juan and Jorge first appear, carrying the candy skulls (symbols of death for the carnival of el dia de los muertos) they are spoken to by a coffin maker. At the heart of the village is the graveyard, which also supports the tourist industry. In a short while, Juan Diaz passes away.

The gravedigger Alejandro has a much expanded role in the adaptation. We see him alone with his mummies, talking to them. Down in the catacombs is the only place he gets any peace and quiet, the only place where no one tells him what to do. Bradbury has added to the simple financial motivation of Alejandro, and made him a downtrodden character with a life of his own.

When Maria and Jorge are down in the catacombs, there is a scene which mixes suspense (will they get caught?) with pathos (we learn about Alejandro's feeling that this is the only place where he is appreciated) with humour (Jorge blows out the candle, scaring the wits out of Alejandro).

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion names this episode as one of the series' finest. It's not the scariest mummy movie ever made, but it is a good tall tale, well directed by series producer-director Norman Lloyd.

Cast:
Juan Diaz
-
Alejandro Rey
Alejandro
-
Frank Silvera
Maria Diaz
-
Pina Pellicer
Ricardo
-
Valentin De Vargas
Jorge
-
Larry Donasin
Coffin Maker
-
Alex Montoya
Man
-
Hinton Pope
with
-
Audrey Swanson, Gale Lindsey, Mark Miranda, Suzanne Barnes, Concepcion Sandoval, Yolanda Alonzo, Vincent Arias, Carmelita Acosta

"The Life Work of Juan Diaz"

The short story first appeared in Playboy in September 1963.

Its first book appearance was in The Machineries of Joy (1964).

Trivial Differences: "Juan Diaz"

  • in the short story, Juan's son is Filepe; in the adaptation he is Jorge
  • in the short story, Juan's wife is Filomena; in the adaptation she is Maria
  • visiting Juan's mummy is a bargain in the adaptation: a mere 10 centavos (compared with 30 centavos in the short story)

Director and producer Norman Lloyd talked about the making of these two episodes in an interview for the Archive of American Television. The video can be viewed on YouTube, here. (The discussion of these episodes begins at 8 minutes 39 seconds.)

Information sources:
Grams, M. Jr. & Wikstrom, P. (2001) The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, Maryland: OTR Publishing
Bradbury, R. (1994) Zen in the Art of Writing. Santa Barbara, CA: Joshua Odell

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Page updated 19 August, 2009