The Movie Waffler Hitchcock in Reverse - <i>Bang! You're Dead</i> (1961) | The Movie Waffler

Hitchcock in Reverse - Bang! You're Dead (1961)

The last episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' Hitch directed himself.

Starring: Bill Mumy, Stephen Dunne, Biff Elliott, Lucy Prentis

When his Uncle Rick (Dunne) arrives home from Africa, six-year-old Jackie (Mumy) finds a gun and a box of bullets in his luggage. Jackie presumes it a toy gun, as his uncle had promised to bring him a present. Loading a couple of bullets into the weapon, Jackie leaves his house and heads to the local supermarket with the gun. When Rick discovers his gun is missing, as are its bullets, he informs Jackie's parents and the trio race off to find the boy before the unthinkable occurs.
First broadcast on October 17th, 1961, as part of the seventh season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bang! You're Dead was the last episode Hitchcock would direct himself for the series. Half a century later, its theme and message, (access to guns), are just as relevant. Thanks to the serious nature of the episode, Hitch refrains from his usual puns in the intro and outro, displaying a far more somber countenance than viewers of the series had grown accustomed to. The episode is something of a curiosity piece as, unlike most of the series' 268 episodes, (361 if you count The Alfred Hitchcock Hour), it features neither a crime or a criminal. There isn't even the threat of a crime, rather the suspense comes from the anticipation of an accident.
It's easy to see why Hitch picked this episode to helm as it conforms perfectly to his template for suspense. To create suspense, the audience should have a crucial piece of information the film's protagonist lacks. Here, the audience knows the gun is real but the protagonist, Jackie, is unaware of this. When Jackie aims the weapon at the various people he encounters, it's suspense in its most basic form. We mentally urge him not to pull the trigger in the same way we implore Martin Balsam not to ascend the stairs in the Bates house. Hitch reuses a trick he first employed in North By NorthWest when a supermarket announcement, pleading for Jackie to return home, is drowned out by a customer using a blender. The use of extreme close-ups is distinctive for T.V of the era, Hitch allowing himself a luxury denied to the average T.V director.
Some of the dialogue is unthinkable now, with references to shooting "Injuns" and the savagery of Africa. There's also a very quaint Andy Hardy feel to proceedings but the energetic direction makes this a must see for fans of Hitchcock.

The Intro
"Good evening and welcome to 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. The feature is about to commence. Please don't be alarmed, we are not charging admission. This is not pay TV. As usual, all we ask is that, on those occasions when you can't view our show, that you let us know so that we can send it to someone else. Please don't be a no-show. 
This is not a hold-up. I wish to dramatize the title of tonight's play. Tonight's story is called 'Bang! You're dead'. Despite the fact it's been introduced with my usual flippancy, it concerns a very serious subject and I would be doing it a disservice if I led you to regard it lightly. Now I must hurry into the theater, for I don't want to miss the beginning. Fortunately I have a minute to find my seat before the feature starts, for it is preceded by an unselected short subject. It's the management's way of discouraging those who might stay for more than one show."

Eric Hillis