Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ray Bradbury… and Carl Barks!

And now, a very special introduction:

Good Eve-ven-ing!
Tonight, we consider the most unusual things that can be found… if your eyes remain open, and your mouth remains shut. Though I doubt the mouth of ANY enthusiast and connoisseur of classic comic literature could remain closed at the sight described in this evening’s post. More likely, it would hang open in utter disbelief.

We shall put our thesis to the test after this brief message… which, no doubt, you will find most interesting and enlightening.

Welcome back. I will now step aside, and let our usual Blog writer take over. I expect you will offer him the same enraptured attentions you have afforded me. Thank you, and good night!

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS is another of those underappreciated television gems that continues to demonstrate its brilliance through the courtesy of DVD and other modern, non-broadcast technologies.

Mr. Hitchcock himself introduces and closes his tales of suspense, and usually murder, that often seem a bit beyond the norm of 1950s TV. “Hitch” sometimes directs, and always employs top-notch writers for his television plays.

One such “play” (as he refers to them) was “Shopping for Death” (Airdate: January 26, 1956), and was written by no less an author than the great Ray Bradbury.

It starred Jo Van Fleet and frequent television guest star Robert H. Harris (Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, The Invaders, Land of the Giants, Ironside… You name it, he did it!)

   During a contentious exchange between annoyed housewife Van Fleet and intrusive retired insurance salesman Harris, Ms. Van Fleet is clearly seen holding – and roughly treating – a copy of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 177!

The issue was cover-dated June, 1955 – which may give you some indication of the time of filming, considering it was likely the “currently-on-sale” issue.

Pages from Carl Barks’ untitled Donald Duck story, commonly referred to as “the bathysphere adventure”, are seen to the degree of being conclusively identified!

      The cover of the issue is never seen, nor are pages from ANY OTHER STORY, than that of Carl Barks. Ms. Van Fleet somehow manages to keep the issue open to Barks’ pages only, and even reveals different pages of the story to Hitchcock’s camera.

This was not an episode that Hitchcock directed, but he did see and approve the results of every shooting. (So we know that, at the very least, he laid eyes on the comic.) I seriously doubt that Ray Bradbury specified that it be a Donald Duck comic book in his script – or if it even called for a comic book period. …Maybe it just belonged to the “prop guy”!

But, nevertheless, there it was. A Carl Barks comic, in a Ray Bradbury story, produced by Alfred Hitchcock! Imagine that!
I wonder if Carl Barks ever saw this on TV. I can’t recall it mentioned in any of the extensive interviews with him over the decades. Nor, have I ever read such a tidbit in pro or fan writings on Barks.

But you can see it for yourself on DVD, as part of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS Season One.

And, say… I wonder whatever happened to that copy of WDC&S # 177!

Was it discarded after the episode wrapped?

…Or did it survive, to end up in someone’s collection?

…Dare I hope it was MY COPY that that brushed with the great Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Bradbury – and was harshly handled by Jo Van Fleet?

…Or yours?

Such are the things we fans enjoy speculating… for now and for all time!

Good Eve-ven-ing!


Chris Barat said...


The question you left unanswered is: How did the comic book figure in the story? If you could see individual pages of the story THAT close up, then surely some reference to it had meaning in the story? Or was it merely used for effect?


Joe Torcivia said...


Sometimes a “prop” is just a “prop”. Even in a Hitchcock production.

And that seemed to be the case here. It could just as easily have been a movie magazine, which would have been more likely an object for Jo Van Fleet’s character to be holding, than a Carl Barks Duck comic.

However, since Robert H. Harris’ well-meaning, intrusive pest was set on pointing out all of the different things that could cause accidents and disaster around the home, perhaps a Donald Duck comic was in some way symbolic after all!

There were no true close-ups of the Barks pages. The book, or its specific contents, did not figure into the plot. But the imagery was clear enough on my HD TV to be identified.

Though, once I realized what I was seeing, I used freeze frame to determine the actual story.


Mark Lungo said...


It's great that you noticed this "Easter egg" and were able to bring it to the attention of Disney fans.

I'd like to mention two notable Robert H. Harris appearances that weren't listed in your column. He starred as a murderous makeup man in the American International horror epic How to Make a Monster, and he almost stole the 1965 Gregory Peck thriller Mirage as an abrasive, ill-tempered psychiatrist.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, this episode's premise involved the theory that the homicide rate peaks at 92 degrees. In the sci-fi movie "It Came from Outer Space," the sheriff quotes that same statistic. That movie was also based on a Ray Bradbury story.

Joe Torcivia said...

That’s a GREAT and welcome tidbit, Anon!

Why? Because, over the past month, I’ve seen “It Came From Outer Space” again – after not seeing it for decades – and I remember hearing the “92 Degrees” comment SOMEWHERE ELSE! Though, for the life of me, I could not remember where!

Having never seen that particular episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS before catching it on DVD (and writing that Blog post), the episode was not burned into my consciousness – as, alas, are so many (too many?) other artifacts of pop culture and entertainment.

So, all the while, I’ve had the answer to my own question – with a welcome assist from you! …Thanks!