Not a long time ago I shared with you my thoughts on two great Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes starring Claire Trevor. I felt like discussing Hitchcock TV stuff again but, this time, with its anthology series The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The principle is pretty much the same as Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each week, a new suspenseful story is presented, introduced by the master himself. The major difference is the length of more or less 45 minutes instead of 25 minutes. It, therefore, gives place to stories with a more detail development, although we were often proved that a lot could be done to thrill us in 25 minutes only. The TV show was known as Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1955 to 1962 and changed its name from 1962 to 1965.
Today, I’m going to discuss See the Monkey Dance, the fifth episode of the third season. It was directed by Joseph Newman and stars Roddy McDowall, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Patricia Medina. This article is part of The 6th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by Terence on his great blog A Shroud of Thoughts. One of my favourite blogathons! I think I had to skip last year’s edition, so I’m glad to be back!
See the Monkey Dance, like every Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour is introduced by Alfred himself in some comic mise-en-scène. Or rather, this time, it is presented by his brother (which consist of Hitchcock with a moustache). The brother in question is controlling a little Alfred Hitchcock Hitchcock puppet string which is a clue of what the characters will be going through in the episode. Funny enough, one of the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, A Crime for Mother that I reviewed for the Claire Trevor Blogathon, was also introduced by Hitchcock’s “brother”!
See the Monkey Dance introduces cutie pie Roddy McDowall as George, the lover of fancy-looking Patricia Medina (credited as “the wife.) The illicit couple is about to meet, and George is on his way. During a stop in a train station, a stranger (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) embarks the train to share the compartment with George. The middle-aged man, with his grey hair, his can and his big black glasses behaves quite strangely, calling George a “typical man” due to his “predictable behaviour”. The young man is a tad annoyed, especially since the stranger disturbs his reading. After getting irritated, the newcomer apologies, explaining that a lot is going on in his life and so forth. The two begin discussing under more friendly terms, and George explains that he is going to his caravan in the countryside and join his girlfriend. Curiously enough, the stranger also happens to have a caravan. The two men conclude that it must be the same caravan and things are about to turn into a heated argument again. For George, it is impossible that someone else rented it since he has the key in his possession.
Arrived at the station, George heads to his modest place, trying to avoid the stranger who is visibly following him. When the two men arrive at the caravan, the stranger confesses that he was lying about it and only needed directions to be led to it. George gets understands that this man must be no other than his mistress’s husband. And this one is planning a most cunning revenge…
What I love about these Hitchcock TV show is that they starred big names or more underrated names of the movie industry. Roddy McDowall was the main reason why I decided to give See the Monkey Dance a go. I love this underrated actor! In my opinion, he was perfectly cast as George, the young and rather inoffensive lover. He carries on with his role using clever mannerism. With his big eyes, his fancy habits, his adorable voice, he drives us to play in his favour, and we rather prefer to take his part than the one of the weird stranger. This character, brilliantly portrayed by American actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who pulls out a rather convincing British accent, creates a significant contrast with the one of McDowall. The two men are indeed complete opposites. One is young and in the best years of his life (well, for a short while), and the other one is old, grey and bitter. It makes the whole lover story credible, letting us guess that Patricia Medina’s character would rather go for youth and freshness. Medina herself plays a secondary character, but her presence is noticeable and necessary to make this story a complete one. Interestingly, the British actress was then married to Joseph Cotten (until his death in 1994), and I believe he could have fitted the part of the stranger perfectly. And we know that Cotten worked with Hitchcock on more than one occasions, both on films and television.
See the Monkey Dance remains particularly interesting for its British setting, not only embodied by the characters and their styles, but also with the places. It is never said where the story takes place, but we guess it must be a little village in England. The train journey also is a relevant clue that it is a story taking place in the UK rather than in the USA. I’m not saying that trains don’t exist in the US, but I feel it never was the most popular mode of transportation there. It has always been a more European thing. Interestingly, IMDb reveals that, at the beginning of the film, there is a shot of the train arriving at the station. Apparently, the signs in the railway are backwards due to the image being “flopped”. (1) This could have been an intentional mistake or not. Maybe it was another way to give us a clue for what was coming next? I’m not sure how, however, so it gives place to reflection. I checked the clip in question again, and it’s indeed here, but if you don’t know and don’t think of observing such details, you probably won’t even notice it. Well, now you know. 😉
Despite not being directed by Hitchcock himself, this episode remains very Hitchcockian in its own way. There is the train setting in the first part, a certain form of dark humour, an ordinary man who get caught in an unexpected misadventure, a complex villain, a story taking place in a place without any story (a bit like in Shadow of a Doubt), a plot twist, themes of murder, revenge, a woman that drives men to their loss, etc. In other words, it inscribes itself perfectly in the league of the Hitchcock world. So, if you are a fan, you will certainly like it. Even the music by Lyn Murray has something Hitchcockian as it reminded me of Family Plot‘s score!
Being rated 7,7/10 on IMDb (2), I guess See the Monkey Dance can be considered among the great Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes. And with good reasons! But then, it’s hard to find individual criticism for each one of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes. As I just said, it has all the elements to please any Hitchcock fans. But then, most of Hitchcock’s TV episodes have something to show us and are rarely unworthy of our time. I have not seen them all of course, but I always love discovering new ones or re-watching some of them as I did for this blogathon. What would be the next one??
If you wish to watch this episode, it is available here on Daylimotion!
Many thanks to Terence for once again hosting this marvellous blogathon! As always, I had a lot of fun re-watching and discussing one of my favourite TV episodes!
Click here to read the other entries!
(1) “See the Monkey Dance: Goofs.” IMDb. Accessed March 4, 2020. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0394085/goofs/?tab=gf&ref_=tt_trv_gf.
(2) “See the Monkey Dance.” IMDb. Accessed March 4, 2020. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0394085/?ref_=ttgf_gf_tt.