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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out There – Darkness ; 1959  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Original air date: January 25, 1959
Season 4, Episode 16
Director: Paul Henreid
Actors: Bette Davis, James Congdon, Frank Albertson, Arthur Marshall
Country: U.S.A.

While procrastinating on papers, I often watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents while supping on instant noodles. Now that I’m no longer in school, I haven’t watched an episode of AHP in some time, but while working on my film list and checking off Bette Davis films, I found out that she was in an episode of AHP. Naturally I had to hunt it down and watch it and to be honest, there isn’t much to write home about.

The story is about Miss Fox (Davis), a wealthy widow who lives in a condo by herself. She has a pet dog named Vanessa and Eddie (Congdon) is Vanessa’s dog sitter. One day, Eddie asks Miss Fox for money to help his sick fiancée. Miss Fox, who has a little crush on Eddie, is disappointed to hear that he has a fiancée and it is probably due to this reason that she refuses to give him the money. When Eddie leaves, Miss Fox calls out to him, probably from guilt and wanting to give him the money, but it is too late. Later, Miss Fox takes Vanessa out on a walk and gets strangled. Miss Fox identifies her perpetrator as Eddie but Eddie denies that he attacked her and says he is innocent. A year later, it is proven that Eddie is innocent and Miss Fox feels guilty about it. Nevertheless, she never outright apologizes to Eddie but does attempt to make things right by giving him a large sum of money. Eddie doesn’t forgive her and strangles her to death when she returns from a walk with Vanessa.

I didn’t care much for the story, but maybe it is because I watched this episode just to see Davis. My eyes were on her and that was all that I cared about. Despite being a fan of Davis, I am going to say something that is going to sound awful: I believe that her raspy voice (which somehow kind of worked in All About Eve) is the indicator of her downfall as a star. Of course, her age had to do with her losing star power in the Hollywood system, but I believe that it is her raspy voice that makes her appear like a bad imitation of herself. In her earlier films, she has a voice that is versatile but once that raspy-ness kicks in, she sounds almost monotone and (sometimes) laughable.

Mixing Davis’ voice with a bland story and hokey music led to some fun but that was it. I found James Congdon to be rather boring and flat as an actor and he only came alive when he was playing with Vanessa. I guess he acted that way to show that he didn’t have any interest in Miss Fox as a woman but nevertheless, I found him banal and saw him as proof of how much Davis has fallen since she is working with such an actor rather than a talented star. Despite Davis’ voice, her acting is still top notch and it can be seen when comparing her to Congdon. In the elevator scene when Miss Fox tells Eddie that he’s changed, Eddie looks only a tad more unhappy but looks as stiff as he did in the beginning of the episode. The only thing that changed was that Eddie has more of a frown on his face than a neutral expression. Davis, on the other hand, gives a nuanced performance when she finds out that Eddie has a fiancée. Just from looking at her face, you can see the disappointment, the hurt, and the jealousy, and can imagine Miss Fox thinking about aging and how her youth has passed. After all, Davis wasn’t a great actress for nothing!

The directing and usage of sound was similar to any AHP episode. When I see imitations of old TV shows with the exaggerated, sudden music, and corny acting or usage of props, I thought that it was just for fun but now I can see that old TV shows really did look like their reproductions. Paul Henreid, who I adored in Now, Voyager (1942, also starring Davis!!!), directed this episode and he also directed Davis in a movie, Dead Ringer (1964). I haven’t watched Dead Ringer yet but I hope that his directing style has improved by then because the directing here was trite.

AHP are like guilty pleasures for me — I don’t feel guilty for watching them but I’m never too sure why I watch them yet I keep on watching them. I admit that I look forward to how Hitchcock will present the story, but other than that, there isn’t any reason for me to watch them except to pass time. The stories are usually flat and sometimes even boring, and they don’t hold a candle to Hitchcock’s works. I should read more about Hitchcock so that I can learn why he did these television shows. I admire him for cashing in on his fame (it’s a smart thing to do), but at the same time, I feel pooped whenever the episodes aren’t that great. Isn’t it peculiar that I’ve watched many of Hitchcock’s feature films yet I know almost nothing about the director? Hm…

IMDb Link: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out There – Darkness

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