John Forsythe as a man who returns unexpectedly to his family home in an episode with a great twist ending, a hallmark of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. “Premonition” is reviewed here.
Season 1 Episode 2—aired 10/9/55
Teleplay by Harold Swanton
Directed by Robert Stevens
John Forsythe as Kim Stanger
Cloris Leachman as Susan Stanger
Warren Stevens as Perry Stanger
George MacReady as Douglas Irwin
Percy Helton as Gerald Eaton
Harry Tyler as Isaiah Dobbs
Paul Brinegar as Mason
An engrossing episode from start to finish with an ending that I didn’t see coming at all, this is the first of 44 series episodes directed by Robert Stevens, who handles his first outing with the economical, workmanlike touch he would display throughout the series.
Kim Stanger (John Forsythe) flies back to his familial hometown after a period of four years away studying advanced composition at the Sorbonne in Paris. Shortly after exiting a cab in the town center, he encounters a familiar face, Doug Irwin (George MacReady), who is surprised to see Kim but is obviously holding something back as he tries to deter Kim from going straight to his father’s house and redirect him to his law office where Kim can phone ahead to prepare the family for his arrival. A good scene that sets the episode’s tone, piquing our curiosity as to what’s going on.
Kim won’t have it and heads home where no one is there. In voiceover from Forsythe, we hear that Kim isn’t sure why he returned home, only that he had a premonition that something wasn’t right.
Kim’s father’s portrait hangs over the fireplace, an older man in nautical attire. The narration additionally fills us in that dad (who Kim refers to by his given name, Greg) was a physical sort, a tennis player, fisherman, polo player, hunter. This was a source of conflict between father and son whose interests leaned more toward artistic pursuits.
Susan Stanger (Cloris Leachman, here it is over 60 years later and she is still going strong) arrives. She’s Doug Irwin’s daughter, the wife of Kim’s brother Perry and Kim’s ex-girlfriend. Talk about family ties. She’s also surprised to see Kim and gives him a bit of runaround regarding his father. Perry then comes home and cuts to the chase, telling Kim that their father died four years ago of a heart attack on a tennis court. Stunned, Kim wonders why he wasn’t told sooner. Perry explains that because Kim and their father feuded, it was decided best not to tell Kim, lest he feel responsible. Seems less than convincing.
Later, Kim discovers a hunting license taken out by his father on the day after his brother said he died on the tennis court. Kim rushes over to Doug Irwin’s law office that night to grill the man. Doug comes up with some explanations that could be plausible but then again, maybe not. Finally, Kim blurts out to Doug, “who killed him?”
Kim takes his investigation to the Memorial Park where his father is buried and grills the Funeral Director there about the funeral circumstances. He finds out it was a closed casket affair, then becomes violent, choking the Funeral Director until he admits there is no body in Greg Stanger’s grave.
Evidence begins to suggest that Kim’s brother Perry may have been involved in foul play in their father’s death and wouldn’t you know—Perry arrives on the scene. While I thought a violent confrontation was in the offing at this point, none was and Perry lets Kim leave to go visit the coroner in the town where their father and Doug Irwin had hunting trip four years ago.
Becoming increasing obsessed and unstable, Kim threatens the coroner (who is not the same coroner from four years ago) to tell him what he knows. All he has heard is that “three went in and only two came out.”
Kim goes to search for the answer at the cabin in the woods that his father owned. He finds an inscription in the cement just outside the fireplace—Gregory Stanger 1884-1950. Susan arrives and tells Kim to stop his search.
Then she drops some bombshells: Kim has never been to Paris—he’s been in a hospital in Arizona. He escaped from the hospital to come to their hometown. She and Perry bribed the undertaker, her father helped with the death certificate and no one else knows the truth. What truth? Then the real bombshell: Kim killed his father. Accidentally with a loaded hunting rifle after an argument.