Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962): Season 5, Episode 30 - Insomnia - full transcript

Charles Cavender suffers from terrible insomnia. He hasn't had a good night's sleep in months and has lost a number of jobs as a result. He visits a psychiatrist and recounts a recurring dream he has about the death of his wife, who died in a house fire. Cavender's brother-in-law, Jack Fletcher, blames him for his sister's death and it's determined there is link between that and the insomnia. Cavender feels threatened but decides to pay him a visit to clear the air. However, things don't quite go as planned.

Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

I have only myself to blame
for this embarrassment.

I insisted that every phase
of our organization

should be run on
a business-like basis.

Of course, one bright employee thought
it would be appropriate to put

the entire program in the dead file.
We put him there, instead.

But I see that we have something for you
which is marked "immediate attention."

So, I think we should
show it to you now.


Please, please...

All right, Mrs. Phillips, Dr. Tebaldi
can make it on Thursday next.

You're very welcome.


Good morning. May I help you?

I'd like to see Dr. Tebaldi.

Did you have an
appointment, Mr...

The name's Cavender.
Yes, I've got an appointment.

Dr. Steers called
about me yesterday.

Oh, yes, Mr. Cavender.
One moment, please.

Mr. Charles Cavender
is here, Doctor.

Yes, sir.

You can go right in,
Mr. Cavender.

Leave your coat here, if you like.
Thank you.

My, we're certainly getting some
cold weather, lately, aren't we?


Come in, Mr. Cavender.

Please sit down.

Dr. Steers and I went to school
together, did he tell you that?

Only he elected to become a GP
and I went on to psychiatry.

Is he your regular physician?

I've only seen him
a couple of times.

He didn't tell me what
your problem was.

Only that he thought I could
help you more than he could.

Well, he meant by that, of course, that
he doesn't feel your problem is organic.

What is your problem, Mr. Cavender?

How's that?

Insomnia. I can't sleep.
I haven't slept in months.

Well, lots of people claim that.
Say they never sleep.

Not for a minute.

Well, it's not really true, of course, you know.
It only seems that way.

Well I... I know that I doze off
from time to time. But it's...

Maybe an hour or two hours.
It's certainly not enough.

I can't think straight.
I'm tired all the time.

I've lost three jobs in
the past eight months.

I see.

Well, let's get some of the details
out of the way first, shall we?

And then we'll talk about it.

Your full name?

Charles Morton Cavender.

Age? Thirty-five.


Well, I used to work in a steamship
company, in the statistical department.

I'm working for a mail
order outfit now.

Are you married? Single.


I should say widowed.

Your wife died young,
Mr. Cavender?

An accident.

What sort of accident?

Does it matter?

Well, it might.

It was a fire.

I don't know how often
I've had the dream.

Four, five times maybe...

And it's always the same?


Everything's like it
was a year ago.

We're living in the old house on
Grassy Heights, Linda and me.

I'm in the living room,
sitting on the couch.

Not doing anything in particular,
I'm just sitting there.

I can see every stick
of furniture in the room.

The cherry mahogany breakfront,

the white, fuzzy rug that always
messed up my trouser cuffs.

Linda is upstairs
in the bedroom.

So, I get up and I go to the foot
of the stairs, and I call her.

She comes out in that

kind of gypsy skirt of hers,

stands there at the head
of the stairs, smiling,

with her hand on the banister.

Then from behind her, I see the flames.

She doesn't seem to be
aware of them, she just...

They come at her from bedroom,
she just stands there smiling.

I yell at her, I scream until my
throat's dry and I can't yell anymore.

Then the flames grab her,
and pull her back.

I can hear them
roaring, crackling...

Is that the end of the dream?

That's the way the dream is. Of course,
that isn't the way it had really happened.

Well, how did it really happen?

Well, it was...

It was in
the middle of the night.

And Linda and I
were both asleep.

I don't know how the
fire actually started.

I had some paints and things
in a workshop in the basement.

And the fire inspector said something
about combustion, but I don't know.

All I know is that

neither of us woke up until
the whole room was blazing.

It was so full of smoke that
I couldn't see anything.

I called Linda's name,

and she didn't answer.

I went to the bedroom door,
and I couldn't get it open.

The knob was so hot.

I couldn't get it open so I went to
the bathroom door, it was half open.

I went inside.

I was hysterical,
I guess, that's...

That's the word for it. I...

I started working on the
window. It came open and I...

I jumped out.

It wasn't a very big drop. There were
some bushes there that broke my fall.

When I hit the ground, I got up, I started running.
I didn't stop till I was

about halfway to the road.

I looked back, the whole house
was just covered with flames.

It was an old house,

I've never seen
anything burn so fast.

Your wife was killed?

Do you think you
could have saved her?

I mean, does it trouble
you that you didn't try?

Do you feel guilty, Mr. Cavender?

Well, it wouldn't be
unnatural if you did.

Even if you had done
the only sensible thing.

Even if there wasn't a chance that
you couldn't have saved your wife.

It's inevitable that you
should feel some guilt.

After all, you're still alive.

No, it's not that. I don't blame myself.
I don't blame myself.

Well, perhaps not consciously.

Well, consciously
or unconsciously.

No matter what. No matter what?

What do you mean by
that, Mr. Cavender?

Well, this...

This brother of hers.
This Jack Fletcher...

Your wife's brother? Yeah, now
there's a guy you ought to see, Doc.

He needs a head-shrinker
a lot more than I do.

Why do you say that? Because
he's crazy, that's why.

He's got this nutty idea in his
head and he can't get rid of it.

What idea is that?

Does he hold you responsible
for his sister's death?


Do you know why?

Now, why should I know? I don't even
know the guy, never even met him.

He was 500 miles away
when it happened.

The way he talks, you'd
think he was right next door.

Well, where was he?

He was in a veteran's hospital,
over in Maryland someplace.

He heard about Linda's death, naturally,
and he got some newspaper clippings

about the fire. And I suppose that's
how he got this idea about me.

What idea is that,
Mr. Cavender?

Well, I saved my own skin.
I let Linda burn.

That's what he thinks. That's
what he wrote in the letter.

It's a real psychotic letter,
Doc, you'd be interested in it.

Where is this man Fletcher
now, do you know?

I don't know.

Said in his letter he was
leaving the hospital.

Said he was getting out
at the right time.

The right time? What did he mean by that?
How should I know?

I supposed he wants to make trouble.
Look, the guy's half out of his head.

He was very fond of his sister, they
grew up together without parents.

You know what I mean.

Well, I don't blame him
for being upset, except

he's wrong, he's absolutely wrong. I couldn't
have saved Linda, not in a million years.

He wasn't in that room, Doc, he
doesn't know what it was like!

It was a furnace in there,
it was an absolute furnace!

For all I know, Linda was
already dead when I woke up.

There wasn't a chance
in the world!

You don't have to
persuade me, Mr. Cavender.

Well, I...

I know that it's...

It's all connected up,
somehow. I know that.

The insomnia and the fire.

Except I slept all right after the fire,
that's the thing that bothers me.

I slept all right
after the fire!

Well, just when did your
insomnia begin, Mr. Cavender?

When Jack Fletcher
left the hospital?


Come to think of it, yeah.


Charlie Cavender?

Who is this?

It's Jack Fletcher, Charlie.

I hope I didn't wake you up,
buddy, but I just got into town.


Couldn't wait to call you,
Charlie. You understand?

I had to tell you I was here.

You know why, don't you, buddy?

Now, listen, Fletcher...

You know why, Charlie.

Can you hold it
a minute, Charlie?

Just a minute, Mr. Turney,
I'm trying to get these...

Oh, don't bother.
That can wait.

Well, you wouldn't want
me to lose track...

You've already lost track. This is what I
got back from Accounting this morning.

You know how much it's worth?

I'm sorry, Mr. Turney. I could
have sworn they were all right.

Must be this sickness of mine.

What kind of sickness is this, Charlie?
You don't hit the bottle, do you?

No, no! It's nothing like that. It's insomnia.
It's a bad case of insomnia.

I'm being treated by a doctor.

Look, Charlie, it's not like
we didn't give you a chance.

I mean, one or two mistakes,
that we can afford.

But you know what kind
of a business this is.

We've got a small profit margin here.
Mistakes cost too much.

Well, it won't happen again.
No, you're right, Charlie.

I'm sorry, but the front office
told me to give you notice.

You have a check waiting
at the cashier's.

Look, sir, you can't do that.

You can't fire a person
for being sick...

Look, Charlie, this is no way to talk
in a business office. No way at all.

Now you pick up your check
from the cashier before noon.

And leave your desk the way it is.
We'll clear it all up later.

Hello, I'd like to call Dover
Veteran's Hospital, Dover, Maryland.

Uh... No, I don't
know the number.

My number?

Schuyler 4-9970.

Yes, yes, I'll speak to anyone.

Hello, uh...

Yes, I'm trying to find the forwarding
address of a recently discharged patient.

His name is Jack... No, it would
be John, I guess. John Fletcher.

Well, I don't know for sure.

I know that it's been within
the past two months.

Yes. Yes, I'll...

It's very important that
I find him. I'll hang on.


3-3-1, Stanton.


Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Who is it?

Well? What do you want?

Are you Jack Fletcher?

That's right, buddy.
Who are you?

I'm Charlie Cavender.
Linda's husband.

Come on, let me in!
I wanna talk to you.

How did you find me?

How did you know where I was?

I thought we ought to talk this over.
I called the veteran's hospital

and got your address. Clever boy,
only you're wasting your time.

Now, look, Jack...
I got nothing to say to you!

There's no sense in acting
like a couple of kids.

Best thing for us to do is just
to lay our cards on the table.

Flake off. I don't want any
friendly chats with you.

That's no way to talk.

You sure sounded big on the
telephone the other night.

Of course, I'm...

I'm willing to forget all about that. I
see you had it pretty bad in the war.

Linda never told me how bad.
Don't worry about me, buddy.

You worry about yourself.

You must have
been pretty rough.

I was in the Air Force,
World War II, myself.

Bully for you.

Any decorations for bravery?
Cut it out.

I know what you feel about the fire. You
never gave me a chance to tell you my side.

I know your side. You were
looking out for number one.

I would have saved Linda if I could!
Don't you think I loved her?

Your type doesn't love anybody.

I did the only sensible thing!

So, that's why you had
to come here, huh?

Because you're so sensible!

You thought you could
explain yourself to me,

never have another bad dream.
That's not true.

You thought I would forgive and forget, huh?
Makes everything okay again?

Well, you were wrong, buddy.
You were dead wrong.

Because I'm gonna be your
bad dream. From now on.

You're crazy. I'm appointing
myself to the job.

You understand?
Your official nightmare!

You'll never be rid of me,
Cavender, never!

You'd like to kill me, wouldn't you?
Yeah! I'd like to kill you!

You'd like to see me dead.

I'd like to get my hands around your throat.
Only you can't.

Isn't that right, Fletcher?
A man like you.

You think I need legs? You think I
need legs to get you, you crumb?

And to think how I sweated about you.
How many sleepless nights you gave me.

You're right, Fletcher. You're
nothing but a bad dream.

That's all you can ever be,
is a bad dream.


Here's my legs. I'll show
you the kind of man I am.

Looks like everything is pretty
well under control, Frank.

I don't think we'll need
that extra crew.

Good. You call
O'Brien and tell him.

How about the casualties?
You get a report yet?

Only one fatality so far.

Everybody else got
warned out in time.

They're bringing him out now.

Name's Cavender, apartment 2-B.

The fire started in his place.

We think it was
a faulty heater.

When are people gonna learn
about these old heaters?

You just can't leave 'em
burning when you go to bed.

You'd think all the noise
would have woke him up.

Sure must have been
a heavy sleeper, that one.

You must have heard months ago,

that certain things in our land
were considered in and others out.

It has taken me all this time to
comprehend just what all this meant.

Now, to my dismay,

I'm told that the whole
subject is no longer in.

In other words,

if you understand in and out,
you are now out.

As for those of you who haven't the
slightest idea what I'm talking about,

you can find consolation
in the fact

that this makes you in.

I think there's very little
I can say at this juncture.

But I must say
that I am disturbed

by the unabashed glee

with which my assistants
bruted me into this.

Next time we shall return with
business very much as usual.

Until then, good night.