The Movie Waffler Hitchcock in Reverse - <i>Arthur</i> (1959) | The Movie Waffler

Hitchcock in Reverse - Arthur (1959)

A chicken farmer murders his former fiancée.

Starring: Laurence Harvey, Hazel Court, Robert Douglas, Patrick Macnee

Poultry farmer Arthur (Harvey) is engaged to the beautiful Helen (Court) when she leaves him for a wealthier man. At first distraught, Arthur quickly embraces his new found bachelorhood. When Helen arrives back at the farm, having been cast aside by her lover, Arthur sees her for the gold-digger she is, and unwilling to give up his single life, he strangles her like one of his chickens. His friend John (Macnee), the local police sargeant, is assigned to investigate her disappearance. Arthur is confident, however, that the corpse will not be found.
The first episode of Season Five of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Arthur premiered on September 27th 1959. The teleplay by James P Cavanagh was adapted from Arthur Williams' 1948 short story Being a Murderer Myself, one of 15 episodes penned by Cavanagh. Save for the 1951 crime drama The Family Secret, Cavanagh was a writer who worked solely for the small screen.
Following Hitchcock's customary intro, in which he details failed attempts to entice chickens to lay square eggs, we receive a second direct to camera address from the title character, who strangles a chicken out of shot before relating his grisly tale. Harvey's voiceover narration pervades the episode, making it stand out from Hitchcock's body of visual storytelling. There's little contribution from Hitch here to make this episode stand out from the average TV show of the era, allowing Harvey instead to take centre stage with his narration.
The grisly twist is all too easy to see coming and there's little in the way of suspense, thanks primarily to the confidence shown by Harvey's killer. If the protagonist isn't worried about being caught, how can the audience be expected to worry for him?
The opening shots of the crowded poultry farm prefigure The Birds, and Arthur is one of several effeminate male protagonists found in Hitch's oeuvre, but parallels to the director's body of work are hard to find in a run of the mill 26 minute drama.