Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Season 1 Episode 7

Breakdown

4
Aired Sunday 9:30 PM Nov 13, 1955 on CBS
8.5
out of 10
User Rating
63 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Breakdown
AIRED:
William, a cold man in life, is ready to be buried alive after an accident leaves him paralyzed.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • A compelling and wonderfully told story which uses role reversal to raise thoughtful points.

    9.0
    When the story opens, William Callew is a powerful businessman on the phone with a worker who was just laid off. When the worker pleads to not get fired, Callew ignores him and hangs up before revealing his disgust at the man's crying.



    While in the car later on, Callew crashes his car and is left paralyzed. While left alone and motionless in his wrecked car, a voiceover begins to relay his thoughts. What starts as fairly logical reasoning quickly escalates to panic as he recognizes the seriousness of his situation.



    When people first come by, his spirits temporarily improve, but he soon learns that these people are just thieves that have come to steal parts from his car. He desperately wonders why they are ignoring him, why they wouldn't care enough to check on him. The next group to happen across him go a step further by stealing his clothes. One man wonders aloud whether he is still alive, but never bothers to check. Suddenly the man that refused to listen to a desperate person finds himself needing the help of others, only to have these needs met with cold indifference.



    It is at this point that he realizes he can wiggle his finger and tap it on part of the car, but the next group to come by can't hear his tapping over the sound of their engines and take him to the morgue. He resolves to tap his finger the next morning when his body is being looked at, but when the morning time comes, he realizes with horror that his hand is trapped under his body.



    At this crucial part in the story, he first accepts his helplessness. Rather than reassuring himself that he can find a way to save himself, he realizes that his fate is out of his own hands. As this feeling of weakness begins to consume him, the men standing over him notice something. Tears are filling his eyes. They Realize he is alive and reassure him that everything will be okay.



    In the end, it is these tears and the weakness that caused them that saved him. I see this whole episode as a refutation of the protagonist's original attitude, that one should not show weakness. As the events of the story illustrate, all of us human beings are feeble and weak. From the original perspective of the thriving businessman, his self-interest got him to where he was, and the loyalty of a kind employee did not prevent him from being fired. Helping others was out of the question; the only thing that mattered was whether one was strong or weak. After the protagonist is paralyzed, the audience can see the same situation from the side of the weaker person. Is it really right for someone to act completely in their own self interests and disregard the needs of others? What about when taking a minute of your time could save a life?



    The original view of weakness and strength is broken, as it is shown that we are all subject to weaknesses. When the protagonist finally accepts this at the end of the story, his humanity is restored, and the good nature of other humans allows him to be saved.moreless
  • A compelling study of the limits of human resolve; This episode was profound and memorable.

    10
    After a paralyzing car accident, the main character must battle his own standard of emotional control. His will takes him to a far darker place than he imagined as he tries desperately to find some way to communicate with the people around him, while defying the emotions of human nature he so despises.



    Driven mainly by internal dialogue, the episode departs from narrative norms and plunges the viewer into a world where they are subject to the terrifying constraints of paralysis. With each failed attempt to communicate, the main character becomes more sympathetic and his plight more horrific.



    And unlike many episodes of the series, there is no attempt at spinning the difficult conclusion into a rosier scenario in Hitchcock's afterward.moreless
  • William Callew (Joseph Cotton) is a cold businessman who has just laid one of his loyal workers. In a road accident, it turns out that Callew will need to depend on decent will of others to live.moreless

    8.0
    Straightforward but effective storytelling. Although Alfred doesn't come up and say, I think the moral of this story was everybody gets what they deserve in the end.



    Joseph Cotton (William Callew) does a superb job as a cold blooded businessman paralyzed in a road accident. This is a situation though where one sees that people don't always do the right thing in a catastrophe.



    When Callew becomes paralyzed in a road accident, it doesn't matter if he's an evil or great person, you'd expect someone to report the crime and get the body where it's going. Instead, the few passerbys that do notice all are thieves and criminals. Callew has his car stripped for parts. In another scene, a black and white duo of on the run criminals literally strip him clean. Later, though a couple of road workers do take notice.



    To our surprise though, Callew is still alive but not physically able to show it. Alfred and the writer who did the story projects Callew's thoughts out loud to the tv audience. It's a great and intimate connection with the audience and the victim as one sees the panic and danger of the situation.



    This is a lot like the "Crossing Jordan" episode aired yesterday with almost the exact ending with a couple of changes. Very memorable. Unlike the Alfred Hitchcock hour episodes, there is less humor and more seriousness brought to the episodes.moreless
Aaron Spelling

Aaron Spelling

Road Worker

Guest Star

Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

William Callew

Guest Star

Murray Alper

Murray Alper

Lloyd

Guest Star

Raymond Bailey

Raymond Bailey

Ed Johnson

Recurring Role

Holly Bane

Holly Bane

Escaped Convict (as Mike Ragan)

Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • (Opening Narration)
      Alfred Hitchcock: (Sitting at a desk reading a book.) Oh, good evening. I've been reading a mystery story. I find them very relaxing. They take my mind off my work. These little books are quite nice. Of course, they can never replace hardcover books. They're just as good for reading but they make very poor doorstops. Tonight's story by Louie Pollock is one that appeared in this collection. I think you will find it properly terrifying but like the other plays of our series, it is more than mere entertainment. In each of our stories, we strive to teach a lesson or point a little moral. Advice like mother used to give, you know. Walk softly, but carry a big stick. Strike first and ask questions later. That sort of thing. Tonight's story tells about a business tycoon and will give you something to ponder if you have ever given an employee the sack. Or if you intend to . You'll see it after the sponsor's story, which like ours, also strives to teach a little lesson or point a little moral.

    • (Closing Narration)
      Alfred Hitchcock: Well, that was a bit of a near thing. He reminded me of my own situation. Imagine if you can, the terror of being inside a television set, knowing that any moment, the viewer may shut you off and being powerless to prevent it. And I go through this every week. My only consolation is that some portions of our program are so fascinating that they hold the viewer spellbound. Such and episode follows immediately. And then I\\\'ll be back again.(Fades to commercial.)
      Alfred Hitchcock: There now, that really held you in suspense, didn\\\'t it? For more of the same, I recommend you tune in next week at this time. I shall see you then. Bonsoir.

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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