Alfred Hitchcock is well known as the great master of suspense, mystery and psychological thrillers, delivering us some of the most influential films of all time including “Vertigo”, “North by North West” and “Shadow of a Doubt”. Midway in his career, he aired “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”, which ran from 1962 through 1965. This show was a dramatic anthology series that aired hour long episodes in the same great style of an Alfred Hitchcock motion picture. For the most part, this show was quiet good and the episodes would often have the viewer’s strung along with the story, never knowing which way the final twist would turn. However, there was one particular episode titled “Lamb to the Slaughter” that triggered a huge knee-jerking reaction out of me that I feel I need to share because this story is as far removed from a proper mystery, suspense, thriller as you can possibly get.
The story plays out as follows, a woman named Marry learns that her husband has been cheating on her, secretly going out with another woman. Filled with rage, she picks up a big leg of lamb that was meant to be their dinner and whacks him on the head with it, killing him. She then calls the police and makes up a story about an armed robber interring the house and murdering her husband. The cops investigate, find no clear evidence that she killed her husband and after discovering the leg of lamb cooked, they eat it and the woman gets away free with murder, the end. Immediately, I asked myself, what was the point, we know that the wife was the killer and the film tries to make it exciting whenever the police get close to discovering the truth. But the problem is, we want the wife to get caught, sure the husband was a jerk, but still that didn’t give her the right to just kill him and if she’s not even going to get caught in the end, what’s the point of having us watch this?
There are two things that could have made this story work, first it should have started with the cops coming in to investigate the murder, with we the audience not knowing what transpierced earlier, then let the mystery unfold. Second, how interesting would it have been if the shock of killing her husband traumatizes her to such an extent that she honestly begins to think that someone else did kill him. This wouldn’t excuse what she did but it would make her look more vulnerable and it would have made for a far more powerful ending in the cops found out what happened with her refusing that she could have done something like that. Unfortunately, neither of these two things happen and where just left with this empty murder mystery which isn’t a mystery at all. I know this film was based on the short story of the same name, wrote by the twisted author Roland Dahl and his dark stories do make good ideas for Hitchcock to adapt into film but I just feel that this episode could have been so much better. For an example of a great Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery film, join me in my next review of “Rear Window”. As for “Lamb to the Slaughter”, it stands as one of the worst crime-dramas I’ve ever seen. I give “Lamb to the Slaughter” 1 ½ stars.