A Scary Hour of Television

by Guy Belleranti
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Even as a child I had a love for stories of mystery and suspense. Thus, in the 1960's I became a fan of the television program The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. One 1965 episode especially sent chills up my 11-year spine.

I was spending the night at a friend's house, and we were sprawled on the folded out couch in the living room when the program came on. It was 9:00, or possibly 10:00, at night, and the room was dark except for the flickering light from the TV set. After Hitchcock's opening monologue the program began.

Bits and pieces of this episode have remained etched in my memory since I first saw it, and, recently, I was able to purchase a DVD copy, and see it again. I wasn't disappointed. It was as chillingly good as I remembered.

The episode's title was "An Unlocked Window", and from the opening scene it grabbed me by the throat and never let go. It begins with a woman walking on a dark night, and other footsteps sounding close behind. The woman begins to walk faster, and the other footsteps also pick up. Then, suddenly, she screams as she is grabbed by a shadowy figure who says, "You're such a pretty nurse".

The story then cuts to an old dark house. Two nurses are in the house caring for an ill man. Also in the house are the live-in housekeeper and her handyman husband. They are watching the local news and the top item concerns a series of nurse killings in the area. Needless to say the two nurses and the housekeeper are a little uneasy when they hear the report, but this is only the beginning of the nightmare which is to follow.

The patient's oxygen is running low, so the handyman husband leaves to get a refill. Meanwhile, the women begin to check to make sure the house is locked up tight. One of the nurses is named Stella, and while checking all the windows in the cellar Stella inadvertently leaves one the windows unlatched. To make matters worse a storm moves in and the power goes out.

Then the real suspense begins, with the camera returning every so often to this cellar window, now flapping in the storm. Meanwhile, fear of the killer lurking nearby grows and grows. The housekeeper, a drinker to be sure, hears a diabolical chuckle and voice from somewhere in the house, or does she imagine it? We, the viewers hear it, as well, but are we hearing what is in the housekeeper's thoughts or are we hearing something real, perhaps someone who has gained entrance through the unlocked window?

I won't go into further detail about the story's content as I'd rather not ruin it for anyone wanting to find a copy from an online supplier. However I will say that the suspense and tension build with repeated crescendos, and that the ending is a chiller if there ever was one.

This episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was class all the way. Dana Wynter, Louise Lathan and the other performers were excellent in their roles. The brooding musical score was by Hitchcock's favorite music man - Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, etc.). Distinctive camerawork filled the program with creepy shadows, and was done by none other than Stanley Cortez, the man whose cinematography helped make the Robert Mitchum film Night of the Hunter so creepy. Finally, there were the periodic outside scenes of the house itself always shown in spooky flashes of lightning. From what I understand this was the same house that was used in Psycho. Indeed, television like this just isn't made anymore.

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