Encore Suspense Channel has been running THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR. Last night I watched "I'll Be The Judge, I'll Be The Jury," starring Peter Graves and Albert Salmi.
The plot was simple and compelling. Graves and his wife are vacationing in Mexico and picnic at a lake near a small fishing village. Graves lies down and takes a nap. When he wakes up, his wife has wandered off. Graves finds her a distance away -- strangled to death. The leading suspect is local oddball Albert Salmi. At the suggestion of the Mexican police chief, Graves cultivates a friendship with Salmi hoping to spook him.
Around the story's mid-point, Graves takes Salmi out on his boat with the intention of killing him. Salmi knocks the lights out and they scuffle. After the commercial break, Salmi returns to port without Graves. Presumably he's killed him. As the story proceeds, Graves is nowhere to be seen and that's when I really began to really get excited. How were they going to bring back Graves? What was the twist going to be? And we must be wrong about Salmi, too, right? Was the Mexican police chief behind it? What about Salmi's strange mother and sister? Had Graves himself killed his wife in a fugue state?
Answer: None of the above.
It turns out Salmi really is the strangler, Graves really is dead and the climax is taken over by Ed Nelson as Graves' brother-in-law who ends up getting Salmi to confess. So, after a great build-up... no great twist. The biggest surprise was that they used Graves like Janet Leigh in PSYCHO. Despite the let-down, I enjoyed the episode. It really had me guessing (even though there was nothing to guess). I kind of admire its trangressive spirit because it totally broke its covenant with the audience. The hero was supposed to come back and he didn't!