Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Tis the season to be jolly…scary: On the Feast of Stephen

Over the next four nights I’ll be presenting four self-penned Christmas ghost stories that hopefully owe more to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents rather than Christmas presents.

Our first tale of seasonal chills sees a man who discovers the hard way that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas…

On the Feast of Stephen

Steve hated Christmas. He hated everything about it. In fact he went out of his way to make it as horrible an experience as he could for as many people. His only pleasure was other people’s misery.

He knew that people loved their animals, so every year on the run up to Christmas Steve would go round trapping and hiding other people’s cats and dogs in his cellar and then enjoy hearing the distraught owners travel out in all weathers to try and find them, but they never did…and this year would be no different.

This had gone on for years and whenever people came prying or asking too many questions he would simply pack up his few belongings and move on. It wasn’t a problem as there was only himself to worry about and no one ever noticed him when he was there so they would miss him even less when he was gone.

This year he had done himself proud and managed smash his own ‘previous best’. His haul this year though had been gained at considerable risk as normally he would pick up cats and dogs from the street or tied up outside shops, but this year for the first time he had broken into backyards and garden sheds.

There was no doubt that he would have to move before next Christmas as such daring raids had undoubtedly aroused suspicion, but he knew that no one could touch him. He even used to joke to himself that even the police had no leads, when in fact often that was all that often remained of people’s canine companions.

Still, just to be on the safe side Steve had joined hordes of locals on searches of the local area such as woods, streams and the local quarry. He had even helped fly poster the usual local shop windows and lampposts.

Steve always ensured that he kept one of the photocopied ‘missing’ photos that he would neatly put into a ring binder file, alphabetically in the name of the pet of course, so he would always have a memento.

And to think that his teacher had always told him that he would amount to nothing and he would never make a difference to people’s lives. Well this would show his English teacher, Mr Orsett, this would show all of them. Indeed, all those years ago Mr Orsett’s cat, Bilbo, a beautiful tortoiseshell, had been his very first ‘prize’ and from then he had never looked back.

The ‘booty’ Steve had collected was plentiful and varied as he laid claim to the usual menagerie as well as rabbits and even a ferret! Time for celebration indeed as Steve purchased the largest turkey that money could buy.

Come Christmas Day, Steve, complete with crumpled paper crown from a cracker, ate like a King and gorged himself. He ensured that no morsels were tossed to the animals below. If he heard their cries and whimpers then he would just turn up the volume of the tirade of festive repeats on television to drown it out.

As usual Steve fell asleep in a drunken stupor in the chair. As he slept he felt something suspiciously like a cat brush against his leg. Can’t be, he thought, as he knew the door to the cellar was firmly bolted. Then he felt his hand licked by something that felt like the tongue of a dog. He woke with a start and peered round the darkened room, lit only by the flicker of the television…nothing.

He drifted back into sleep. Again he felt something against him, this time he heard the noise of padded feet on the floor. It sounded like a small dog, a Jack Russell he thought. He rose from his slumber as he remembered that he had not “kept” a Russell for at least a couple of years. Suddenly he felt the clenching of teeth against his naked hand. The wound burned as the Jack Russell hung on for dear life.

As Steve whirled round in pain he sent empty beer cans flying in all directions. He stopped momentarily as he noticed that the entire room was full with rag-tag dogs and cats, dogs and cats that he had thought he had long seen the back of, dogs and cats that had come for some justice. Stood at the front leading the army of quadrupeds was a tortoiseshell cat, its fur stood on end, claws drawn for attack and eyes wild with revenge. It let out a migraine-inducing hiss that penetrated every bone of Steve’s body.

Finally he managed to prize the Russell from his hand, along with half of his skin, and retreated back to the only safe haven that he could find, the cellar door. He hadn’t heard any noises down there for a while so knew he would be safe. As the animals crept slowly forward, Steve finally managed to flee into his dark, dank place of sanctuary.

He stood at the other side of the door until the noise of clawing and whining ceased. Through a crack in the door he could see that the living room was now empty. Steve chuckled to himself as he knew those animals wouldn’t be getting out no matter whether they were upstairs or down below in the cellar. There was no food left as he had eaten it all just as his beloved mother had taught him to.

Satisfied that the coast was now clear Steve went to open the door and when he found those ‘vermin’ he would start pulling fur as any normal person would pull crackers. He’d be ready for them as was something he had been looking forward to all day, feeling somewhat rejuvenated after his Christmas Day snooze.

Steve yanked at the door but it would not budge. He hammered at the heavy wooden panels until his hands bled. Whether it was the noise he was making or the smell of blood from his self-inflicted wounds that had roused them he wasn’t sure, but roused them he had, there was no doubt of that. Steve heard several large growls and hisses. These noises were not the ghosts of pets past but the very real and very hungry ones of those of Christmas present.

The other side of the door Bilbo the cat curled up by the door and purred contently. The purring increased in intensity and Steve held has head as it shook his very brain. Holding his head he moved back from the door and stumbled backwards landing awkwardly. He felt something snap as he fell.

Steve fell from the steps right in front of the dozen or so dogs and cats, even the rabbit and ferret were there for the ensuing fun. The huge German Shepherd was the first to investigate but certainly not the last to enjoy the feast of Stephen.


Moore than meets the eye: Remembering The Man Who Haunted Himself

Roger Moore was in London last weekend, attending a conference that celebrated all things film, and especially Bond. It may be Moore’s most famous role but Dean Newman sheds light on perhaps his finest acting role, made a full three years before he took ownership of his trusty Walther PPK. The name’s Pelham…Harold Pelham.

Roger Moore. James Bond, The Saint, that raised eyebrow. But between his time as Simon Templar and Her Majesty’s finest Sir Roger gave us one of his finest performance – it is in fact his favourite film featuring himself – in the early 70s thriller chiller, The Man Who Haunted Himself.

With its early 70s London setting I often see it as a companion piece of sorts to what I regard as Hitchcock’s last hurrah, Frenzy, also set in the Capital. interestingly enough a version of The Man Who Haunted Himself made it onto Alfred Hitchcock Presents in under the title of The Case of Mr Pelham, the title of the book on which the film is based.

Things start of cheery enough with typical shots of a untypically moustached Moore driving round the sites of London with some really rather upbeat music. Then, almost without warning it is the turn of the strange as Pelham (Moore) takes his belt off and races down the M4 with maniacal grin and scant regard for those all around him.

He then has the mother of all crashes and finds himself in an operating theatre as they fight to save his life. At one point two heartbeats appear on the heart rate monitor as the surgeons battle to save him thus unwittingly unleashing a second Mr Pelham on the world, a devilish, charismatic, womanising version, yet both men seem to inhabit the same world and interact with the same people, including work colleagues and lovers.

Whilst the original Pelham is mild and your Mr Average, the new version is, just like his sports car, souped up and souper charged. Ironically at one point Pelham discusses a merger, but he see it as a takeover, which is exactly the battle that rages within Roger Moore, is it a merger or a takeover?

I suppose in a way you could see it as a 70s version of Face Off, minus the slow mo action and doves of course. Although highly stylised in that early 70s manner – cue jaunty camera angles, crash zooms and dubious rear screen projection but it adds to the whole atmosphere of the piece.

For those who thought Moore was just adept at punning whilst saving the world they will be pleasantly surprised at his dark side, and whilst we saw flashes of that in Bond, such as the harder edged Bond in For Your Eyes Only kicking a car off a cliff and flicking a man from his tie to his death in The Spy Who Loved Me.

We share the original Pelham’s panic when a whole host of people claim he has been in one place when he has been in other, inviting friends round when he hadn’t, all of which creates some excellent pacing as the actual Pelham begins to question his sanity when an increasing amount of people have seen ‘him’ when it is actually his doppelgänger.

At certain points the audience even begins to question which is which and the pace of the film never really lets up as we eventually head onto a collision course with two Pelham’s finally meeting, giving a whole new meaning to double 0 heaven. It is an excellent tension raiser as we really feel the hysteria that Moore brings to the role and makes us ask ourselves, what would we do if it happened to us?

Bursting into his Gentlemen’s club, looking for the imposter personating him, Moore’s brow becomes more sweaty – we, like Moore are never really sure if it is an imposter or not. Gradually, the awful truth becomes clear. When he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, a doppelgänger (or “alter ego”) was released…. and now the real Pelham and his sinister double are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other.

The role(s) of Pelham ranks as a career best role for Moore who really makes us believe that he is two people, just as Sam Rockwell did in Moon.

Dated, of course, but there is no denying that this film has a certain vibe about it that is sure to see it remade in the near future. One can only hope it is someone like Christopher Nolan in the Director’s chair, who covered similar ground in both Memento and The Prestige.

A supernatural tale with a sting in its tale the film had one more dark surprise to unleash, Basil Dearden, the director, died shortly after completing filming, dying in a car crash in a place that was in the ‘exact’ same location that a major character dies in the film. An incredible coincidence and a sad loss, but Dearden’s legacy was this film that deserves to be discovered and seen by a wider audience, even though part of me is pleased that it is still something of a hidden gem.