The Crocodile Case
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Season 3, Episode 34
First aired: 25 May 1958
Hitchcock time: 2:36
Story time: 21:10
Total episode time: 25:00
My rating: 7/10
Director: Don Taylor
Teleplay: Robert C. Dennis
Story: Roy Vickers
Producer: Joan Harrison
Director of photography: Reggie Lanning
Associate producer: Norman Lloyd
Art director: John Lloyd
Editorial supervisor: Richard G. Wray
Film editor: Edward W. Williams
Set decorator: James S. Redd
Assistant director: George Lollier
Sound: Stephen J. Bass
Costume supervisor: Vincent Dee
Makeup: Jack Barron
Hair stylist: Florence Bush
Cast: Denholm Elliott, Hazel Court, John Alderson, Pat Hitchcock, A.E. Gould-Porter, Dan Sheridan, Frederic Worlock, Laurence Conroy.
Arthur Chaundry is driving home along a small country lane one night when a parked car blocks his path. When he stops to investigate an unknown assailant slugs him from behind, killing him instantly. The killer is Jack Lyons (DENHOLM ELLIOTT) and his motive becomes clear when he then visits a club to pick up the dead man's wife Phyllis, and escort her home. Mrs. Chaundry (HAZEL COURT) checks in on her husband but when she realises he is not yet home she embraces Jack with a passionate kiss.
The cheating wife jokes with Jack that her husband may have come to some harm before he casually confesses that he has in fact just killed him. Phyllis is shocked and tells Jack that even though she had previously joked about her husband being dead she didn't actually mean it. But it's too late now because Jack reminds her that it was her who suggested to her husband that he take the short cut home that night, which makes her an accessory to the murder. The two of them get their story straight for when the police show up.
Detective Karsiak (JOHN ALDERSON) and a uniformed police officer arrive at the house to deliver the bad news to Mrs. Chaundry. After her initial "shock", Phyllis asks the detective whether her crocodile case was retrieved from the car, as her husband was bringing it back to her from having it fixed but he tells her that only her scarf was found. The detective seems surprised that Mrs. Chaundry seems to be more concerned about what has happened to her case than she is about who killed her husband.
The next day the inquest into the death of Arthur Chaundry is held and the verdict delivered by the coroner fails to shed light on his killer. Phyllis telephones Jack to discuss the inquest and complains that he showed no interest in her during their time there. When Jack tells her it's not safe for them to be seen together she abruplty slams the phone down on him. Later, Phyllis and her sister stop by a restaurant where Phyllis asks him when they can be married but Jack tells her not for at least another year.
They do eventually get married but things begin to go downhill for the couple as Phyllis confesses she has been to Scotland Yard to press the police on whether they have recovered her dressing case. Jack tells her to let it go but Phyllis becomes obsessed with wanting to find it, as it holds sentimental value to her. So Jack goes and buys her a brand new case but Phyllis is disappointed when she learns it is not the crocodile-style she likes. They argue and Phyllis decides to leaves Jack for good to be with another man who treats her better.
Inspector Karsiak visits Jack at home and informs him that the police have found his estranged wife's dressing case and they have a suspect to go with it. Jack is invited to come down to the police station to identify the elderly gentleman, who is a former employee of his with a criminal reputation. After Jack confirms he knows the man the inspector seems satisfied and then shows Jack his wife's missing crocodile case. Jack takes a look at the case and tells the inspector it's not his wife's. However, in volunteering this information Jack inadventently seals his own doom...
Hitchcock's prologue: (1 minute 17 seconds)
[Hitch is standing in front of a projector screen] "Good evening. I can tell by the rude noises you are making that you are impatient to see our film. However, there will be a slight delay. Is there a barber in the house? If there is will he please report to the projection booth. The projection seems to have caught his moustache in a sprocket. Of course it could have been worse, the popcorn machine might have broken down. As you know our theatre spares no expense to make you television addicts feel at home. Our movies are the oldest money that can buy. And tonight as a special attraction we shall present some television commercials. I knew you'd like that. They will be injected as various points during our picture to keep you from getting too engrossed in the story I understand they're very good at relieving tensions, and furnishing comic relief. And now if you will quiet down, we shall begin our program."
Hitchcock's epilogue: (1 minute 19 seconds)
"And now for the information of you youngsters who were slashing the upholstery and tearing out the seats during the denouement, I would like to tidy up one of the story's loose ends. Phyllis Chaundry, she was arrested as an accessory, and she and her husband Jack both went to prison. An inspiring example of togetherness. And now, as a means of clearing the theatre without calling the police, here is another commercial from the land of television after which I shall roll back. [commercial break] I'm sure you'll be interesting in knowing that the soundtrack of the three commercials seen tonight are available in the album 'Music To Cook Three Minute Eggs By'. The album is available in all speeds, including reverse, as well as in Fi. Both Hi and Lo. Next week we shall have a completely new attraction. As well as new seats and fresh popcorn. Good night."
A very good episode. Denholm Elliott is the twitchy new husband who thinks he has got away with murdering a man but ultimately provides the police with the one clue they needed to convict him of the crime. I've see this kind of plot twist before in a Humphrey Bogart film, "Conflict" (1945) - which I highly recommend - where a seemingly perfect crime leaving no clues is eventually solved by one small detail which the killer unwittingly provides. The characters in this episode are all pretty unlikeable, and Hazel Court (playing Phyllis Chaundry) is less than convincing in that her husband has just been murdered by the man she has chosen to shack up with. But the performances aside, the story is solid and the twist ending is perfectly executed. Did I see that coming? Hmmmm sort of. There are clues in the story that point to the ending but for some it may be quite obvious. Still an entertaining 20 minutes of television. Decent.
! SPOILERS !
When Jack murders poor Arthur (who keeps blinking after he is supposedly dead, by the way) he does note Phyllis' crocodile case on the back seat of the car. She later tells him that her husband had taken the case to be repaired, so that was why it was in the car. What she didn't know is that the husband had secretly had her initials etched onto it. However, Jack does see this and mentions it to the police. But he wasn't supposed to have known this fact and in offering this information he inadvertently exposes himself as the killer.
•Arthur is listening to Ronnie Temple and his orchestra on the radio as he drives his car at the beginning of the episode.
•Arthur's car registration is HAC 4745. This plate number is not only clearly seen at the start of the story but is also quoted by the policeman when they arrive to inform Mrs. Chaundry of her husband's death.
•When Arthur slumps to the floor, supposedly dead, you can see he repeatedly blinks.
•Hitch's daughter Patricia has a small role as Aileen, the sister of Phyllis.
•Phyllis's reactions to learning of her husband's murder don't seem to be very realistic. Her acting, her voice, her lack of emotion (or actual tears!)
•The story is set in London. Jack reads of the coroner's verdict into the inquest in the London Tribune (Late Edition) newspaper and later shops in Regent Street to buy Phyllis a gift.