The story itself is unexceptional Hitchcock fare-- a faithless young wife, an older husband, and a hole in the cellar. Not exactly cutting edge material for a series that trafficked in domestic mayhem. What is noteworthy, however, is the cast of three villainous characters who for once get to play ordinary, sympathetic folks. A few words are due them.
Perhaps no one of the time was more expert at playing moral degenerates of one type or another than the obese Robert Emhardt. His rotund shape, high-domed forehead, and softly sinister manner, made up one of the most unusual screen presences allowed on 50's TV. In short, he was instantly repulsive. I don't say this to be cruel. Rather it's to pay tribute to a fine actor who lent color and authority to every thankless character he played. Moreover, long after the many pretty-boy leads of the day have faded away, Emhardt remains distinctively memorable to anyone familiar with that era. In this episode, his acting skill shows that despite the off-putting appearance, he could draw a sympathetic response when given the opportunity.
Henry Jones too is immediately recognizable. Short and scrawny, with an overlarge mouth and no chin, he seemed forever bemused by some private joke. More eccentric than repulsive, he nevertheless specialized in characterizations that caused the audience to wonder just what he might be hiding in his own cellar. Despite the many malicious roles, he was expert at droll comedy where his Cheshire-cat grin could inspire uneasy laughter and instant mistrust. There's been nobody quite like him before or since.
The third cast member, eagle-beaked Philip Coolidge, also specialized in off-beat roles, often as a sneaky busy-body of some sort, but he never rose to the heights of a Jones or Emhardt. Seeing all three acting normally in this episode makes you realize how much skill went into their usual off-putting characters. Anyway, this 30 minutes is a rare opportunity to watch a very unusual and distinguished cast in a fairly interesting story.
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