A middle-aged couple with money worries decides their best bet is to fake one’s death and play a long con to collect insurance money in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode “Don’t Come Back Alive,” reviewed here.
Season 1 Episode 4—aired 10/23/55
“Don’t Come Back Alive” **
Teleplay by Robert Dennis
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Sidney Blackmer as Frank Partridge
Virginia Gregg as Mildred Partridge
Robert Emhardt as Mr. Kettle
Irene Tedrow as Lucy
Edna Holland as Librarian
In his mid-fifties, Frank Partridge hopes for some financial security for himself and his wife, Mildred. It’s been difficult holding down a job long-term and the good news he brings home of a new job offer as a salesman is tempered by the fact that the pay is commission-based and it doesn’t begin for a month. Meanwhile, rent is due in a week.
Over dinner, Frank and Mildred at first jokingly hit upon the idea of collecting life insurance as a solution to their financial woes and after an all-too-brief conversion, commit themselves to the following plan: Mildred will “go missing” for seven years until she can be declared legally dead and Frank can collect on a $25,000 life insurance policy. She will move into an apartment under an assumed name, alter her appearance a bit, get a job, they will meet secretly for “dates” from time to time and then presumably after the seven years are up, she will come out of the shadows. The whole thing seems an unlikely, preposterous scenario yet within minutes they both fully embrace it.
Their cover story for her disappearance is that Mildred will be taking a bus to visit her sister Lucy when what will really happen at that time is Frank driving her to her new apartment but the plan is nearly foiled when they find out that Lucy is coming to their house to pick Mildred up instead. Frank has to rush home to meet Lucy and he is late arriving and Lucy is already at the door. Frank parks his car down the street and in his haste to rush around the back, trips and falls onto the lawn.
When he finally opens the door, he is perspiring and a bit dirty which is at odds with the explanation he gives Lucy for why it took him five minutes to answer the door (that he was napping).
A man with the life insurance company, Mr. Kettle, comes to ask Frank some questions following Mildred’s “disappearance” or presumed death. He suspects that Frank has murdered her and actually starts to dig up his back yard in search of a body. He says he will continue to dog Frank for the next seven years if necessary to prevent him from collecting the insurance money.
When they have been separated for some time and Mildred has moved further away until the heat dies down, Frank is planning to fly off to see her for Christmas. As he leaves his house with a perfume bottle as a Christmas gift, Kettle is there in his driveway suggesting that Frank is really off to visit a girlfriend as he has killed his wife. Frank says it is actually for Lucy and Kettle insists on accompanying him to Lucy’s, so Mildred gets stood up in a restaurant at Christmas because Frank is prevented from visiting her by Kettle.
Time passes and at the six-year point, Kettle pays Frank another visit and says “you really fooled me.” But he says he thinks Frank will crack before the next year is up and will therefore never see the $25,000. He goads him some and Frank displays a bit of temper…
Frank gets a letter from Mildred apologizing for not replying sooner to his last letter and mentioning that she recently took a week’s vacation in Lake Tahoe…
Then one day Mildred shows up at Frank’s house and tells him she wants a divorce. He is stunned by this then she explains that she has found someone else (no doubt the person she was in Tahoe with). She says she has saved $1,500 and he can have that, she will surface, claim amnesia and get a divorce.
Frank becomes enraged and says “you’ve been dead too long to come back now” and hits her with a heavy statue, killing her. He then buries her in the back yard.
As he is leaving home to go to court to collect his insurance money, who should be there again waiting for him at his house, but Kettle, natch. Ostensibly, he is there to congratulate Frank. Says to show there are no hard feelings, he’ll “spade up” the part of the back yard that Frank says he was just tending to while Frank is in court. As they go to the back yard and Kettle begins to dig in the very spot where Frank buried his late wife, we zoom in on Frank’s face as it gradually falls as he realizes what will happen to him…
Too much ground is covered too quickly in this episode to make it very engaging, from how quickly Frank and Mildred decide to carry out their plan to Mildred’s arrival toward the end to tell Frank she’s moved on. A couple interesting notes on the lead actors for their future roles in horror. Frank is played by Sidney Blackmer, best known for his role thirteen years later as super creepy neighbor of Mia Farrow, Roman Castevet, in Rosemary’s Baby. Virginia Gregg, who played Mildred, would supply the voice of Norman Bates’ late mother in Psycho (and Psycho 2 and 3).