Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962): Season 5, Episode 1 - Arthur - full transcript

When his fiancée Helen leaves chicken farmer Arthur for another man, he accepts her decision by conveniently enjoying the life of a bachelor. A year passes and Helen pays him a return visit, asking for forgiveness. It seems her love interest didn't work out and she wants to rekindle an old flame, against Arthur's wish to remain a bachelor. Accostomed to strangling chickens for a living, Arthur angrily applies the same method to Helen, then hides her body. The police suspect him of murder, but can do nothing for lack of evidence.

Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen,

and brooders.

I decided to go into
the egg business.

Like any other business
it needs fresh ideas.

Here is our latest design.

Its advantages are obvious.

No more eggs
rolling off the table.

Valuable storage space
saved in the refrigerator.

this particular innovation

has not filtered down
below the management level.

Our executives quickly
saw its possibilities.

But the hens seem rather
slow at grasping new ideas.

This is one of
our plastic models.

We have a large number
of them scattered about

to demonstrate to the
hens what can be done

if they put their minds to it.

As you can see,

we are using every psychological
weapon at man's disposal.

And now, perhaps, this slogan
will also give you strength

to bridge the gap
between this vignette

and tonight's story.


Lovely day, isn't it?

No doubt you're very
surprised to find yourself

visiting me here in my
poultry farm in New Zealand.

The only poultry farm
of any size

completely and perfectly
run by one man,


Oh, but you're right,

that still doesn't
make me famous, does it?

Oh, nowadays, when television
cameras pry everywhere

you're probably more accustomed
to visiting the homes

of well-known
statesmen, artists.

People who, shall we say,
have made their mark.

Well, I have made my mark.

I could be quite famous
if I chose to be.

The reason you've
never heard of me

is that I succeeded.

I succeeded

and only failure in the particular
accomplishment I'm speaking of

brings notoriety.

You're a lovely
plump one, aren't you?

Yes, nicely stuffed and basted

with just the right
amount of seasoning.

You'll make a superb dinner.

Yes, that's right.
I'm a murderer.

Perfect, I think.

Why is it that the only time
food turns out superbly

is when you cook it yourself?

There. Excellent.

Oh, did I shock you when I
told you I was a murderer?

I hope not. I certainly
didn't mean to.

Actually, there's a very
common misconception

held by most people
about murderers.

How often have you
heard us described as

"cold-blooded," "fiends,"
"inhuman monsters" and the like?

Deplorable exaggerations,

But, obviously, you can see
I'm not any of those things.

The truth is, in my own case

it was an act of kindness.

There. All finished.


You see,

Helen personified all
those qualities in people

which made me
withdraw from them

and choose chickens instead.

Oh, true, chickens have
all the same qualities,

but in them, it's forgivable.

Well, at least they can't take
advantage of someone like myself,

someone too sympathetic,
too understanding.

Oh, Helen was
only one of the many

who took advantage
of these qualities in me.

But she was
certainly the worst.

You see,

Helen believed in
her own golden rule.

"Every man for himself."


Of course, in her case
it was different.

It was "every woman."

Perhaps, you'll
understand it better

if I told you
exactly how it happened.

You see, Helen and
I were engaged

and everything was going
along fairly smoothly,

until one night she arrived
here at the farm unexpectedly.

Oh, it's too dreadful.

I just don't know how to tell you.
I really don't.

Tell me what, my dear?

Well, I... Oh, no, I can't.
I just can't!

But Arthur,
you must believe one thing.

I don't want to hurt you.

I couldn't bear to hurt you.

I told it to Stanley, I told
everyone the same thing.

And now you're telling me.

But I have to. It's the
only thing I can do.

I assumed that.

Now, just what is
this dreadful calamity?


I can't marry you, my darling.

You can't marry me. How ironic.

Well, that's a funny
thing to say.

Not really.

So, you can't marry me.

Well, that means you're
marrying someone else.

And I suppose this, uh,
Stanley is the lucky man?

How much is he settling on you?

It will be easier
for both of us

if you would be a little bit
more civilized about it.

Oh, but I am being civilized.

I'm releasing you.

I wish you well.

I even wish this poor
Stanley, whoever he is, well.

You know perfectly
well who he is!

You introduced me to him.

You can't mean Stanley Braithwaite.
That gambler?

Financier. Oh!

Well, whatever he's calling
himself these days

he still has the most appalling table
manners of anyone I've ever met.

It so happens that
there are more important

things in the world
than table manners.

Oh? Though you may not think so.

And what is your idea
of more important things?

Well, to live
some kind of life.

Travel, see the world,
wonderful places,

wear good clothes, jewellery.

One thing about you, Helen,

your aspirations have
always been of the highest.

But most of all, not to be buried
in this farm, as you call it.

Why not what
you used to call it?

A haven.

A place where one could spend the
rest of one's life in peace.

Really, Arthur, you have a
talent for being nasty.

Do I?

One sometimes takes on the
coloring of one's associates.

Think I'd better go.

Yes. No doubt
Stanley is waiting.

But you could tell me one
thing before you go.

Why did you agree to marry
me in the first place?

I was afraid at the time that there
might not be anything better.

Goodbye, Arthur.

Hello, John, nice to see you.
Hello, Arthur.

Not an official visit, I trust?

Oh, not likely.
I was on my way into town,

thought I'd stop by and see
the new pride and joy.

Well, how do you like it?

Very impressive.

Filled with labor-saving
devices, no doubt?

Oh, completely. Come
inside and I'll show you.

With all this new machinery,

I'll even be able to mix the
feed for the chickens myself.

And I've got everything I
need for a balanced diet

stored in these tanks.

That seems to be your
new ambition in life,

to be able to run the whole
place entirely by yourself.

Not so new. It's been my
ambition for over a year.

Yes, ever since Helen.
Ever since...

Ever since I came of
age, shall we say?

Well, that's one way
of putting it.

Are you really
happier like this?

But of course.

Why should that puzzle you?

I don't know.

It seems as if, by rights,
that you should be married.

Married is the last
thing I'll ever be.


you don't know the joy of having
everything exactly the way you want it.

No petty annoyances.

No catering to
other people's demands.

It's the perfect life, really.

But do you like living alone?

I like doing what most
people would like to do,

but simply haven't the courage.

They're so afraid
of being lonely,

they surround themselves with a lot
of friends they don't even like.

Or marry them.

And spend the rest of their lives
wondering why they're so miserable.

That's what I call
really cynical.

But you'll change your mind.

One day some pretty little thing
will come along and then...

Well, we'll see.

Are we playing chess tonight?

Most certainly. I'll see you at
the pub, around the same time.

Good, I look forward to it.

Darling, I'm back.

She'd come back to me, indeed.

With a vengeance.

She chattered endlessly
all through dinner

but I wasn't really listening.

I was realizing how perfectly
she'd timed her arrival.

Once she had
her foot in the door,

I knew I'd never
be able to close it!

She was all
charm and affection,

overflowing with solicitude.

Calmly taking
my sympathy for granted.

Unhappily, it made me remember

something I'd said in the
delirium of our early days.

That no matter what ultimately
happened between us,

if she was ever in trouble,

she was to count on my help.

I'm a man of my word

and I couldn't bear the
idea of going back on it.

Wasn't that a good dinner?


I can get the coffee, then we
can have it in the living room.

We can leave the dishes
till the morning.

You mean not wash them?

Well, we can wash them in the morning.
What's the difference?

Apparently none.

Did you think this
was an ashtray, Helen?

No, of course not. I just
couldn't find one, so I used it.

Ash won't hurt it, darling.

There. Have your coffee.

Thank you, no.

Arthur, what's the matter?

What are you looking
at me like that for?

You've been doing it
all through dinner.

What have I been doing
all through dinner?

Well, looking at me
as though...

Uh, as though
you're angry with me,

or as though you weren't
really glad to see me.

Oh, but I am glad to see you.
Why shouldn't I be?


You're thinking
about that awful scene

we had the last time
I was here, aren't you?

It has crossed my mind, yes.

Well, we were both upset.

We both did things
we didn't really mean.

It'll be different. You'll see.

I am seeing.

Does this mean that you've
left your husband for good?

Oh, you were so right
about him, Arthur.

He was a beast,
more than you could know.

A wealthy beast, as I remember.

Money isn't everything.

Isn't it?

But that's not what you
thought a year ago.

Well, I've learnt
a lot in a year.

So have I.

Principally, that I like
my life the way it is now.

And I won't have any changes.

But I'm not going to
change your life, darling.

Your just being here
changes it.


You're not going
to send me away?

Where would I go?
What would I do?

I'm sorry, darling.

Oh, don't fuss.
It's only an old coffee cup.

Would you like a liqueur?

Oh, I'd love one.

You really haven't anyplace
to go, have you, Helen?

Only here.

That means you haven't
any money, either.

He didn't give me a penny.

But the courts...

Oh, no! I couldn't
take him to court!

I mean, you can't fight
a man as rich as that.

All those lawyers and things.

Oh, yes, I see.

So, if I threw you out,
you'd be miserable.

I'd rather be dead.

A very wise decision,
I think, my dear.

And the least I can do,
for old times' sake,

is grant it.

John. May I come in?

Oh, please do.

Anything wrong?

I'm afraid it is.

You mean this is
an official visit?

Yes. Nothing serious, I hope.

It's very serious.


Well, you better come in.

If it's going to be serious

we may as well make ourselves
comfortable. Please.

I'm here to ask if you know a
woman called Helen Braithwaite.

Oh, but of course.

I was engaged to her once. Uh, before
she married Stanley Braithwaite.

When did you last see her?

Oh, about three weeks ago. She
arrived here one night unexpectedly.

Why, John, I believe you thought
I was going to lie about it.

Well, she's been traced
as far as your farm.

No one's seen
or heard of her since.

Oh, I'm so glad.

You're glad?

Yes, she managed to get
away from him after all.

Away from whom?
Well, her husband.

She'd left him and
he wanted her back.

Apparently he was
a dreadful man

and she'd rather
do anything than that.

I see.

Exactly when did she come here?
Oh, about um...

Three weeks ago, on a Thursday.

As a matter of fact
it was the night

I had to call off our chess
game if you remember.

I remember, the 24th.

What happened?

Well, I... I don't
mind telling you.

Uh, but... Well, I wouldn't
want it gossiped about,

I know I can rely
on your discretion.

You see, she came
expecting me to help her.

I saw no reason why I should.

When I refused, she became
angry and left in a rage.

As a matter of fact,
she left her suitcase behind.

It's still here.

I'm expecting
her to send for it.

May I see it?

But of course.

Wouldn't you say
it's a little strange

for a woman to leave
without her suitcase

and her purse?

I'm a bachelor, Sergeant.

And I don't know how a woman
is supposed to behave.

I think
the simplicity of my story,

the seeming stupidity of it,

made him wonder if his first
suspicions weren't a trifle unjust.

Had I been a murderer,

I would surely
have tried to dump

the incriminating
evidence in the river

and thus join
the large group of us

who have made that one mistake.

Things thrown into rivers
have a way of

floating up at the
most awkward moments.

And I knew that the suitcase, or
anything else being here, meant nothing,

unless they also
found Helen's body.

Oh, hello, John.

This is Inspector Ben
Liebenberg of the CID.

Mr. Arthur Williams.

Good afternoon.
I'm sorry to trouble you.

That's quite all right.
Won't you come in?

Thank you.

Well, what can I do for you?

Well, Mr. Williams,
we're still trying to find

this unfortunate young
woman, Mrs. Braithwaite.

Oh, you mean there's
still no trace of her?

Not since she left here.

What a nice little
house you have here.

Yes, isn't it? Would you
care to look around?

Thank you, I would.

Follow me.

I started with the living
room and dining room.

It was nice of the inspector to
take such an interest in my house

and I was only too glad
to show him around.

He seemed to be most thorough
in his appreciation.

And then we went
into the kitchen.

I explained for
the Inspector's benefit

that I disliked
having servants around

and had made my house and farm
as self-contained as possible.

After we'd gone all over

I took them
into the poultry house.

I explained to them
the layout of the chickens.

The less they moved about
the heavier they would become

and the more marketable.

When I showed them
the new barn,

again, they were fascinated
by the obvious hiding place

my storage tanks provided.

But they said nothing.

Well, thank you very
much, Mr. Williams.

It was a pleasure. I'm
very proud of my farm.

Yes, I can see that.

Well, we'll say goodbye now.


Arthur. Goodbye.

A week passed and
they still hadn't returned.

But I was becoming irritated
by the constant surveillance.

Particularly by
Constable Barry.

They'd altered his beat, so that
he was able to pass my gate

and keep an eye on
everything which went on.

That was when I decided
to bring things to a head.

And it seemed to me that the
simplest way to do that

was to appear to make Crippen's
mistake and run away.

I'd picked my hiding place
very carefully.

I knew the police had
searched the extensive caves

a few miles from
my farm very thoroughly.

Chances were,
I wouldn't be disturbed.

And I wasn't.

But at the end of three days I decided
my purpose had been accomplished.

Besides, I'd run out
of reading material

and I was beginning to
be bored by my cuisine,

which, while adequate, was
somewhat limited by my equipment.

Why John,
what a pleasant surprise.

Where have you been?

Oh, were you worried?
I'm so sorry.

It occurred to me Mrs. Braithwaite
might have got lost

somewhere in the caves,
so I went to look for her.

But you've been
away three days!

Yes, unfortunately,
I got lost myself

and it took me all this
time to find my way out.

My, but you, uh,
certainly have been busy.

Find anything?

You'd better go inside, the
inspector will want to see you.

Oh, I shall be delighted
to see him again.

You go ahead, I'll follow you.

It's not a very likely
story, is it, Mr. Williams?

Likely or not, it's true.

Do you really expect us to
believe such an obvious lie?

I expect you to be polite.

Considering the amount of damage
you've done to my property already,

it's the least you can do.

We were only doing our duty.


Well, the only justification
you could have for doing it

is finding what
you're looking for.

Mr. Williams, I want...

Sergeant, we found
the body, sir.


How extraordinary.
Where was it?

Well, it was in the barn, sir.

It's all right, Constable.
You can go now.

Oh, I see.

It was a little trick.

I'm disappointed
in you, Inspector.

I'd expected something
less childish from you.

Of course, they never
found Helen's body.

And as much as they might
suspect she had been murdered,

they had no proof.

In spite of their thorough
search, no body was found

and that,
along with the fact that

there was no obvious
motive on my part,

resulted in the cloud of
suspicion gradually dispersing.

By Christmas even Sergeant Theron
became convinced of my innocence.

And now, to show
there were no hard feelings

I sent him a brace of cockerels
as a Christmas present.

Well, that's all
there is to tell.

Sergeant Theron enjoyed the
cockerels very much indeed.

And I was pleased about that.

I'd raised those
particular chickens

on a special new diet
I'd taken great pains with.

The ingredients were varied

and I'd processed
them all myself,

using my new hammer-mill to
grind everything very fine.

Sergeant Theron asked me to
list the ingredients I used

so he could make a mixture
for his own chickens.

I was glad to.

I listed them all.

All but one, that is.

I left out that one special
ingredient that made it, really.

There was a very sad
end to our story.

Because of the excellent
bone, meat and blood meal.

Mr. Williams kept
supplying them,

his chickens grew
to enormous size.

Then it happened.

One day, as he shouldered his
way through the hungry flock...

But it's too awful to describe.

Please rejoin me in a minute

after I pull myself together.

I have abandoned
the egg business.

Our model was successful
in only one case.

One hen dutifully
reproduced it perfectly.

But unfortunately, the uses of a
plastic egg are rather limited.

It appears to be time
to say goodnight.

Next week, we shall be
back with another story.