Now this should be a fun episode to watch. I remember watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents every now and then on Nick At Night years ago but I did not watch it every single night or see every episode. So in preparing for today’s movie/episode, I decided to do a little research on it. Apparently, this particular episode never aired on NBC during the show’s initial run because the finale was deemed too gruesome by Revlon, who sponsored the show. However, since the show’s initial run, it has become the most widely distributed episode of the series. After reading all this, I guess I should see if all the hype is deserving as I watch today’s movie/episode, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The plot: At a carnival, Sadini, a stage magician working there, steps out of his trailer to smoke a cigarette when he notices a young man passed out on the ground next to the hot dog vendor. Sadini tries to rouse the kid but when he is unable to do so, he gets Milt, the hot dog vendor, to help him carry the kid to his trailer. As Milt leaves, Sadini’s wife Irene enters and, seeing the man on the couch, begins to argue with Sadini about what to do with him. When the man wakes up, he thinks Irene is an Angel and Sadini, due to his appearance, is the devil. As Sadini and Irene talks to him, the man says his name is Hugo and he ran away from a home and Sadini decides to keep Hugo around. Some time later, Hugo is wandering around the carnival and catches Irene in a lover’s embrace with George Morris, the high-wire artist, and when Irene leaves to go take part in her act, George and Hugo go to watch it. For the act’s finale, Hugo gets upset when he sees Sadini using a giant power saw to cut Irene in half but George tries to calm him down by telling him it is an act, pointing out that she is still smiling. As Sadini uses his wand to “put Irene back together”, Hugo smiles when Irene steps out of the box unharmed. Later, Irene is complaining to George about Sadini and George suggests they run off together but Irene says they don’t have a penny to their name. Catching Hugo outside their trailer, Irene decides to use Hugo to get rid of Sadini, taking advantage of his fixation on her and his simple mind to make him believe Sadini was using real magic to keep her against her will but if Hugo were to kill Sadini, he would inherit the wand and the magic. That night, Hugo is sitting in the trailer when Sadini enters and after talking with Sadini for a few minutes, Hugo grabs a knife off the table and kills him. Suddenly, he hears a knock on the door and when he opens it, he finds a drunken George there. George tells Hugo he knows Irene’s plan and that she plans to betray Hugo and have him take the blame for the murder. George warns Hugo to stay out of it but then passes out and Hugo leaves him there, then heads to George’s trailer. Irene is woken up by Hugo, who tells her he has the wand and the magic now and will be even greater than Sadini. When she hears that he killed Hugo and left George in the trailer, Irene gets worried and tries to leave but trips and hits her head on the corner of a trunk, knocking her unconscious. Hugo picks up Irene and takes her to the tent and places her inside the box. As she starts to come too, Hugo starts up the saw and begins using it on the box and while Irene starts screaming, Hugo yells out “Smile, Irene! Smile! Smile!” as the screen fades out. In his closing monologue, Hitchcock explains, “I don’t quite know how to put this, however, I must tell you the truth. The saw worked excellently, but the wand didn’t. Hugo was terribly upset, and Irene was beside herself. As for the police, they misunderstood the whole thing and arrested Hugo for murder.”
Now this is exactly what I expected to get out of an Alfred Hitchcock episode and it was a fantastic episode to watch. The acting was really good, with Brandon De Wilde doing a great job as the simple minded and gullible Hugo and Diana Dors doing equally good as the scheming Irene. The story was exactly what you would want for a 30 minute TV show, keeping things basic and simple but using a lot of suspense to keep things from being boring. I have seen full length movies with the plot of a woman trying to kill her husband so she can run off with her lover do a much worse job than what Hitchcock accomplished in just a little over 20 minutes. The suspense and drama were top notch and truly fitting with Hitchcock’s standard motif and the way the screen faded to black as Hugo was yelling out for Irene to smile is a little disturbing even by today’s standards. The closing monologue was a great example of Hitchcock’s dark sense of humor, especially the joke about Irene being beside herself because the wand didn’t work. A great episode to watch that really showcases some of Hitchcock’s genius.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5