Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962): Season 5, Episode 33 - Party Line - full transcript

Helen Parch shares a party line telephone with several others. She likes to talk on the phone quite a bit but also listens in on others. She's warned by the police one day that a Mr. Miller, with whom she once shared the party line, has broken out of prison and that her life may be in danger. Years before, Miller needed to contact a doctor when his wife was ill and Helen refused to get off the line. Miller's wife died and he turned to a life of crime. Now he may be after Helen.

Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

This is a time machine.

By standing on this platform

and moving this lever,

one can be transported
into the future.

It's positively amazing.

Positively amazing.

I'm going to stay. Things are
much better, much better.

"For failure to file
income tax returns"

"for the years, 1960 through
1975, you are hereby..."

I think I shall take the
future one moment at a time.

So, in just one moment,
tonight's story.

I thought you were going to
the market this afternoon.

I got back half an hour ago.

You know, I couldn't find a single
can of nectarines in the place?

You don't say.

Are you going to the
bingo game tomorrow?

I suppose so.

I just hope you-know-who doesn't
sit at our table again.

Talk about wet blankets.

Did you see that hat she wore?

She must have stole it
off a scarecrow.

And she had the nerve to complain
about Jacob not wearing a tie.

Honestly, the crust
that woman has.

And the older she gets,
the worse she gets.

Well, I could've screamed when she
started telling that story again.

About the time that she won
two bingo games in a row.

Listen, if you wanna hear
about stories,

I could tell you
plenty about her.

But you never know who's listening
in on a party line, do you?


Nero! Get away from
there, you bad dog!

One minute.

One minute.


You Mrs. Helen Parch?

That's right. Who are you?

My name is Atkins.

I'm with the County Sheriff's Office.
Could I come in a minute?

What's the Sheriff's Office
want with me, Mr. Atkins?

I just wanna talk, Mrs. Parch,

about something
that might be important.

Could we step into the parlor?

Important? You sure you
have the right place?

I'm sure.

Come in then.

Thank you.

Well, it's a lot cooler in here.
Must be 90 on the road.

Maybe you'd like a cold drink.

No, thanks, ma'am.

I'm kind of busy today, Mr. Atkins,
I'm putting up my preserves.

This won't take long.

Have a seat.

Thank you.

Mrs. Parch,

you remember a man called

Heywood Miller?


No, the name
doesn't sound familiar.

Of course, there's Mrs. Miller
at the post office.

Any connection?

No, no connection.

Heywood Miller and his wife

moved into the old Yunker place
about eight, nine years ago.

At that time, his wife
was expecting a baby,

but she took sick and died
a couple of months later.

And after her death,

he sold the place to the Crawfords
and went back to the city.

Does that help you
remember, Mrs. Parch?

Oh, yes. Miller.
That awful man.

How could I ever
forget about him?

I thought
you'd remember, Mrs. Parch.

I mean, after all
that's happened between you.

He was a mighty disturbed man,
the way I heard the story.

Of course, I wasn't living
in the county at the time,

so I don't know
the whole truth,

and it's not my place
to pass along any opinions.

The man was a fool.

A fool and a gambler
and heaven knows what else.

You ask anybody
about him, Sheriff.

He just didn't belong out here.

Could we talk about
what happened, Mrs. Parch?

I haven't thought
about it for years,

but I remember the whole thing
as if it were yesterday.

And do you know something?

I knew that man was no good
even before I laid eyes on him.

It was about a month after he
moved to the neighborhood.

I was on the phone,
talking to poor Mrs. Anderson.

Hello, Gertrude? Did I
call you at a bad time?

Oh, hello, Helen. No, it's all right.
I was just setting my hair.

Did you try the recipe yet?

It's in the oven right now,

but it looks kind of funny.
It's all soggy in the middle.

Did you do like I said? With
the six eggs and everything?

Yes, I think
I beat in six eggs.

Or was it five?

Just a matter of practice.

When Fred was alive, he used to
tell me that I was the best...

For Pete's sake, are
you two still on that phone?

Who's that?

My name is Miller.

I share this line,
in case you don't know it,

and I got as much right
to it as you do.

How dare you
talk to us this way?

I've got a good mind to
complain to the phone company.

Go on, complain. I got a few
things I could tell them myself.

Look, lady,

I don't mean to
give you a hard time,

but I got an important call
to make. A business call.

You can certainly
wait your turn.

I picked up the phone an
hour ago and you were on it.

I tried again a half an hour ago,
and somebody else was yakking.

Now I try again and you
got cakes in the oven.

Just when does
my turn come, huh?

Patience is a virtue,
Mr. Miller.

Or didn't they teach you that?

Look, this can't wait.

If I don't make this call now,

the whole deal
could fall through.

I'll only be
a couple of minutes,

and then you can talk
your little heads off.

Oh, dear.

Well, all right.

Gertrude? Yes, Helen?

I'll call you back later, dear.


All right, Mr. Miller.

You can go ahead now.

Yeah, Stanley, put
me down for 10 bucks

on Buffalo Gal
in the fifth race, hmm?

About that sixth race,

I got a hunch. Starmont.

$3.60 out of $10.

There you are. How's the wife?

She's still in bed.

Oh, that's too bad.

Happens that way sometimes
with the first one.

Wait till the fifth or sixth.
Won't be so bad then.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Guess it won't be too long before
you're buying diapers, huh, Mr. Miller?

Did you say "Miller"?

That's right.

Are you the one who made
that business call yesterday

on the party line?

Yeah, I made a call.

Well, I certainly hope that Buffalo
Gal won the race, Mr. Miller.

What was that?

I'm Mrs. Parch.

You're on our party line,
Mr. Miller.

And the next time you have an
important business call to make,

I hope you'll have the
decency to be more patient.

And the next time, Mrs. Parch,

I hope you'll have the decency

to keep your big,
long, snoopy nose

out of my business.


I have some scraps
for your cat, Mrs. Parch.

I've been saving them for you.

That'll be fine, Mr. Maynard.

Just imagine,
two games in a row.

Now, you know me, Gertrude.

I hardly ever win anything.

When Mr. Willard called that
G-25, I could have plain died.

I wish I had your luck, Helen.

Mmm. I wouldn't say
it's much luck.

It's just a matter of patience.

After all, you know, I've been going
to these bingo games ever since...

Get off the line. What?

You got to get off the line.
I've got to call a doctor.

Who is this? Mr. Miller?

Get off, do you hear? My wife's
sick, she's terribly sick.


I'll just bet she is,
Mr. Miller.

Get off the line.

Pay no attention
to him, Gertrude.

We're on to his tricks,
aren't we?

Get off! She could die
if I don't get a doctor.

Can't you understand?

Helen, do you really think...

Pay him no mind, Gertrude.

No mind at all.

After all, you just
have to treat people

the way they deserve
to be treated.

That's the golden rule.

Look, Mrs. Parch, I apologize.

This isn't a bet,
I promise you.

You can listen in
if you don't believe me.

I have to have a doctor.

Would you like to know what
happened to Heywood Miller?

It really makes
no difference to me.

It might, Mrs. Parch.

After Miller left town,
he returned to the city

and to his old way of life.

It wasn't a very good way.

A couple of years later he was
arrested on a charge of burglary.

There. Didn't I tell you
I was a good judge of people?

You told me.

Anyway, he's been in prison
for the past six years.

Yesterday, we got
word that he escaped.

Escaped? That's right.

He got out
in the laundry truck.

We got the news
late last night,

but it's been over a
week since it happened.

It was the prison psychiatrist

who thought of notifying our
office here in Milford.

Notifying you? But why?

Well, they don't know
anything for sure,

but there is a chance he
might be headed this way.

To kill you, Mrs. Parch.

Kill me?

You think Miller
wants to kill me?

Let's get this straight,
Mrs. Parch.

We don't know
anything for sure.

We don't know his whereabouts,

and we're not certain he's
actually headed in this direction.

Well, then why do you say...

It was the prison psychiatrist who
decided we should be notified.

In his talks with Miller,

he discovered that Miller still
blames you for the death of his wife.

You and that Mrs. Anderson
you were talking to.

She's gone.

Poor Gertrude passed on
five years ago.

You're the only one left,
eh, Mrs. Parch?

The only one he can blame.

You know, it's a strange
thing about men in prison.

If they've got a grudge
against somebody,

they nurse it and cherish it.

It gives them something
to hold on to.

You see what I mean?


More often than not,

a man gets out of jail,

and the grudge isn't
important anymore.

He doesn't need it.

But in Miller's case...

Well, Miller's different.

For one thing, he's escaped.

He's dangerous.

But it was all so long ago.

I just can't believe that...

The prison's almost
200 miles from here.

Of course,
there's a possibility

that he could have hitched
a ride as far as here.

We just wanted to warn you,
Mrs. Parch, that's all.

But I'm all alone here!

He could murder me in my sleep!
You've got to protect me.

You've got to!

We're doing everything
we can, Mrs. Parch.

We got a three-state
alarm out for Miller.

We'll catch him soon.

You've got to
give me protection!

Can't you send someone out here
to stay with me? A policeman?

It's not possible.
Not possible?

What do you mean, "Not possible"?
I demand it!

I absolutely demand it!

Believe me, Mrs. Parch.

We want to help, but there
are some things we can't do.

We only have a couple of men.

We can't possibly assign
one full-time to you.

What will I do?

What will I do?

If you could get a
neighbor to come on over

and stay with you
for a few days,

or else go visit a relative.

It might be a good idea for
your own peace of mind.

I have a sister.

In Cedar Falls.

Well, that sounds good.

I'm sure your sister would
be glad to see you.

You don't know Daisy.

I haven't seen her
for 10 years.

We just never got along.

There's always a good time for a
reconciliation, isn't there, Mrs. Parch?

Listen, I didn't come out
here just to frighten you.

There's nothing
definite about this.

Nothing at all.

If we hear anything further,
we'll get in touch right away.

That's a nice-looking
pooch you've got there.

Is he a good watchdog?

I suppose so.

I don't want you to worry too
much about this, Mrs. Parch.

He's probably 100 miles away.

And we'll be keeping an eye on your place.
Remember that.

I will.


Helen? It's Betty Nubbins.

How are you, dear?

I'm just fine.

That's good.

Um, are you going to
the bingo game tomorrow?

I really don't know.

Oh, you just must, Helen. It
wouldn't be any fun without you.

Say, didn't I see a car
in your driveway just now?

Maybe you did
and maybe you didn't.

Oh, I could have sworn
I saw a car.

It wasn't Mr. Willard, was it?

No, it wasn't Mr. Willard.

Oh, well, then
who was it, dear?

For heaven's sakes, Betty,

when are you going to learn
to mind your own business?


Hello, Emma? Well!

What do you think
of our friend now?

Isn't that terrible!

Imagine her
talking to you that way!

As if she has the right to talk
about minding your own business!

Why, I bet she's listened to every
call for the last 12 years!

Oh, Betty!

What if she's listening
in right now?

I hope she is,
that's all I can say.

It's about time she learned
the truth about herself.

Who do you suppose
that man was?

The one that came to see her?

Probably the man from
the finance company.

The way she spends money,

it's a wonder they haven't
repossessed the whole house by now.

Did you see that dress
she bought over in Milford?

I wouldn't
wear it to a hayride,

but I'll swear
it must've cost $25!

You nasty old busybodies!

Why, Helen!

Don't you have anything
better to do?

Don't you ever get off of
the phone and do any work?

Well, look who's
calling who a busybody!

Why, you're nothing but an
eavesdropper, Helen Parch!

Who's there?

Is anybody down there?

I'm warning you. I've got a
mighty vicious dog here.

If there's anybody down
there, you better watch out.

Nero! Come back here!

Oh, that awful Nubbins' cat.
Leave it alone, Nero.




You come home, you bad dog!

You hear me? Come back!

I've got to get
a hold of myself.

Nasty old busybodies...


Come back, Nero!

Don't leave Mother all alone.


Is that you?

So naturally, I told Harry
to take it right back to the store.

Please. Get off the phone!

Who's that? Helen!

It's Helen. For heaven's sakes,
Betty, get off the line.

I have to call the police!

The police?

Whatever for?

I don't have time
to explain now.

I have to call
the sheriff's office.

Well, if it isn't our old
friend, Mrs. Eavesdropper.

What's the matter, Helen? Don't
you have anything better to do?

Get off! Get off the phone
or I'll be killed!

Now who'd
want to kill you, Helen?

Oh, you must be
having nightmares.

I thought you were going to be
putting up preserves today, Helen.

Are you sure it wasn't
a little hard cider?

Please, get off of the phone.

Well, some people just don't
know that patience is a virtue.

Isn't that right, Emma?

It certainly is.

Please, please, I beg of you...

Pay her no mind,
no mind at all.

What were you saying?

Well, as the Germans say...

There is no
accounting for taste.

Oddly enough, Mr. Miller was punished
very severely for his crime.

Apparently, the Sheriff
shared the same party line

and overheard the whole thing.

Next time, I plan a return
visit to your living room.

If you aren't going to be home,

please leave the television
set on, so I can come on in.

Until then, good night.