For part one of this Top 10 List, click here.
LONELY PLACE S3 E6 (aired 16 Nov. 1964)
Exec Prod. Norman Lloyd and Prod. Herbert Coleman, teleplay by Francis Irby Gwaltney and story by C.B. Gilford, dir. Harvey Hart
In contrast to many of Hitchcock’s iconic films, which are set in lavish, panoramic places and deal with the lives of urbane people, many of the best hour-long programs take place in the desolate rural South. Lonely Place tells the very bleak story of Stella (Teresa Wright), a sweet, but highly unappreciated wife, her somber and miserly farmer husband (Pat Buttram), and a sadistic, but cheap drifter (Bruce Dern) hired as a farmhand. Wright whose slightly heavyset physique and dowdy appearance, is totally convincing as a farm wife who has only just now come to the realization that her marriage is a sham and she is regarded as nothing more than a servant. Buttram is compelling as a dark version of Mr. Haney (on the sitcom Green Acres), who becomes increasingly more despicable as the episode progresses. Dern, who has played hundreds of psychopaths, attacks his assignment with relish and a maniacal chipmunk laugh.
RETURN OF VERGE LIKENS S3 E1 (5 Oct. 1964)
Prod. Norman Lloyd, teleplay by James Bridges and story by Davis Grubb, dir. Arnold Laven
In most mainstream Yankee entertainment, Southerners are portrayed as backwards and stupid bumpkins. The titular character, played by a young Peter Fonda, is anything but. Verge and his brother (Sam Reese), who live on a farm in the middle of nowhere are bereft at the loss of their father, murdered in cold blood by a powerful senator (Robert Emhardt). Verge is determined to take revenge in an unconventional but highly ingenious way. In addition to Fonda’s cool and calculated portrayal, Reese’s Wilford is the story’s moral center as the sweet and well-meaning brother, imbuing his role with a lot more vulnerability than typical of male performances at the time. With his sweaty head and soft Pillsbury Dough Boy face, Emhardt looks like a Southern Good Old Boy, who is jovial in public but highly sharky in private or when provoked. The final showdown between Verge and the Senator is tense, exciting, and genuinely surprising but satisfying.
THE MAGIC SHOP S2 E13 (aired 10 Jan. 1964)
Prod. Joan Harrison, teleplay by John Collier and James Parrish and story by H.G. Wells, dir. Robert Stevens
Joan Harrison proves that she’s more than her women’s soap opera reputation in this surreal horror about two parents (Leslie Nielsen and Peggy McCay) who have a hard time disciplining their strong-willed son Tony (John Megna). They lose even further control when Tony and the sinister owner of a mysterious magic shop (David Opatoshu) join forces, giving the mean-spirited boy the resources to manifest his evil. It is a testament to the episode’s looniness that a pedantic voice-over commentary at the end adds to its surrealness. Leslie “Naked Gun” Nielsen, who is usually stiff and unconvincing in dramatic roles, has a blandness and lack of authority that lends itself well to a father who is dominated by his child and can’t do anything about it.
AN UNLOCKED WINDOW S3 E17 (aired 15 Feb. 1965)
Exec Prod. Norman Lloyd and Prod. Herbert Coleman, teleplay by James Bridges and story by Ethel Lina White, dir. Joseph M. Newman
Dana Wynter, with her genteel English-rose presence and voice reminiscent to Audrey Hepburn’s, is perfect casting as the young and talented but insecure nurse whose life is in danger from a serial killer who targets nurses. For the hour we shake in our seats as the nurse, who’s taking care of a handsome, bedridden man in a spooky mansion has neglected to lock one tiny window in the basement. Anybody who wants to write a mystery/suspense must watch this episode to see a masterful use of a red herring.
FORECAST: LOW CLOUDS AND COASTAL FOG S1 E17 (aired 18 Jan. 1963)
Prod. Leon Benson, teleplay by Lee Erwin, dir. Charles Haas
Although it’s been over five years since I’ve seen this one, it made quite the impact as the scariest ep of AHH (and quite possibly one of the most frightening episodes in TV history). Malibu, now swarming with people, looks like a nightmarish ghost town in this episode. Inger Stevens is perfectly convincing as a basically decent housewife whose isolation makes her suspicious of outsiders, leading her to not allow a Mexican man (Christopher Dark) use her phone for an ambulance for his wife who was brutally attacked. Her death soon after leaves the protagonist guilt-ridden, but also more paranoid; justifiably so, as she is surrounded with unsavory men. It’s too bad that a copy of this one hasn’t been available for the past few years.
The Jar, S2 EP17
Body in the Barn, S2 EP32
Water’s Edge, S3 EP3
Power of Attorney, S3 EP25
The Second Wife, S3 EP27