Sunday, January 5, 2014

TC Television Review: The Top Five Episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, by Amber Doll Diaz. Ep. 3 - 'Consider Her Ways'

A Review of “Consider Her Ways”, Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
by Amber Doll Diaz

Episode title - “Consider Her Ways
Director - Robert Stevens
Series - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Broadcast date - Dec 28, 1964
Teleplay by - Oscar Millard
Based on - “Consider Her Ways” novella by John Wyndham
First print appearance – Consider Her Ways and Others (1961)

Good Evening. Perhaps you have heard the expression, historically and often applied to either gender: ‘Men. You can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live without ‘em’. If you find this turn of phrase to be personally relevant, please refer to this emotionally charged installment of Alfred Hitchcock Hour, knowledgeably titled “Consider Her Ways” by John Wyndham, and directed by Robert Stevens. You’ll be in for a timely change of heart.

“Consider Her Ways” begins with a short, celestial opening monologue which both captivated and mesmerized me upon first viewing.  Later plot events prove the reaction highly called for, as it usefully deepens the viewer’s experience whilst we connect with our protagonist, a young woman named Jane Waterleigh who undergoes a hazy, otherworldly ordeal. We first meet her as she awakens from an apparently medically induced slumber in a hospital bed, being tended to by two peculiar women, albeit a doctor and nurse. Curious enough is the unfortunate bodily state she then finds herself in as she reaches for a glass of water. Jane faints upon noticing her arm is hugely corpulent, along with the rest of her body, and thus we are to assume this is far from her typical understanding of herself. Curiouser still, is when Jane must be hand-carried by exclusively small people servants (as she cannot move properly under her own newly massive size) and brought to a palace or hall of Bizarro-world proportions.

Entrance ways around her are slanted as if leaning slightly; and one with a cinematically experienced eye might be thrilled to connect such interior architecture with the twisted expressionist dreamscape from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). This atmosphere I found most welcome, as more and more was revealed about who Jane is, and why she was in such a nightmarish place. Reluctantly and helplessly she settles in to what must be her home, accompanied by two similarly morbidly obese women. They, along with others, inform Jane that she is what is known as a “Mother”, illiterate bed-bound women whose sole purpose is to bear children, and that they live peacefully in a post-apocalyptic world where men have been globally extinct for as long as anyone present can remember.

With a brilliantly dynamic plot design, I was thoroughly engrossed and pleasantly surprised to find the mystery of it all as unpredictable as can be. Typically as I watch television shows first aired nearly a half century ago, I find myself automatically and involuntarily solving the reveals as soon as the fifteen minute mark has passed. This was not the case here, and it is this masterful timelessness that I appreciated above all. However, not all was fair as I was let down by a separate but equal issue. Ultimately, this episode just about misses the mark for me, but on a thematic level. When I expected Jane to experience internal growth and closure after her personal loss is described along the way, there was no transition from innocence to experience. The focal character ends up flat and static, even derelict, unlike the persona we expected of her, after her initial admissions of nobility in her education and profession. Jane’s strong sense of self is entirely diminished and a mentally unhinged, clingy side of her is revealed in scope as large as a Mother.

Barbara Barrie, who played protagonist Jane, was an exceedingly adept actress, following closely the melodrama written for the scenes but not overpowering them. Fans of Hitchcock will enjoy this tentatively feminist piece for its trepidation riddled twists and turns, but others might only find it thematically confusing even if interesting. I was left hanging as to the overall emblematic message, but for many this is irrelevant to their enjoyment of the episode, as the literal plot is quite comprehendible and tense.

‘Consider Her Ways’ is based upon a 1961 John Wyndham novella, published within a collection entitled Consider Her Ways and Others, alongside short stories. Having read the online text, I am pleased to report the television version very similar to its ink and paper cousin, even down to exact dialogue ripped straight from the pages of origin. Enjoy the episode, and just before bed, remember to lend an embrace or handshake to the man nearest you, because how awful it would be to awaken and forcibly realize their transience.

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