Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

[Ephebiphobia] Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Young One (1957)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Young One - Title Screen
Title Screen
Teenager Janice is tired of living under the old fashioned rules of her stodgy aunt Mae, always dreaming of living a life of luxury and freedom to do whatever she damn well pleases. She has latched onto Stan, wrapping him around her pretty little finger in an attempt to manipulate him into rescuing her. He is only 18, though, unemployed and unable to take her away from this life of doldrums.

Janice decides that she needs an older man, and so in the midst of her date with Stan, she breaks into a swing dance that earns the attention of the much older blue collar bad boy Tex. They have a fantastic bit of give-and-take, and he appears interested in her but ultimately blows her off when she tries to persuade him to run away with her. Rejected, she says she has to return to Stan, who has already stormed off in a huff but is waiting for her outside. How does she know he’s waiting? Because that’s what Stan does. “He always waits."

Stan leaves her at her house, apologetic for such a lousy evening, and Janice proceeds to get in a row with her aunt about her whereabouts. Funny thing, though. Mae doesn't seem anything at all like the repressive old shrew that Janice makes her out to be. In fact, she seems quite caring and compassionate, maybe a little old fashioned, but doing her best to raise Janice the proper way. Janice will have none of her aunt's concern and worrying, though, launching into one emotional fit after another before screaming "Why can't you leave me alone!? Just leave me alone!"

We flash forward to a bit later that night, where Janice has returned to the disreputable juke joint that Stan had taken her to earlier. Tex is still there, milling about, and there is some mild flirtations between the two that is interrupted by a police officer (acting as a small town Chris Hansen) who tells Janice to go home, and that he will stop by later to make sure that she is there. Janice leaves, all right, but unbeknownst to the cop, Tex goes along with her.

Back at Janice’s house, he coerces himself inside, on the prowl for some teenage tail. She leads him through
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Young One - Janice's Dance of Seduction
Janice's Dance of Seduction
the darkened entryway and into the sitting room, but keeps stalling and stringing him along. Hearing the police car pull up out front, Janice quickly sets the scene—tearing her blouse and knocking a lamp to the floor to simulate a struggle. She runs outside, feigning tears, with a story that Tex tried to rape her...and murdered her poor aunt Mae. The officer rushes inside and finds Mae's corpse at the foot of the stairs in the entryway, right where Janice had left her.

On any other show, Tex might be handcuffed and hauled off to prison for a crime he didn't commit. But this is ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, so the real wrap-up begins moments later when Stan arrives, already in shock, babbling about how he came back to see Janice earlier but she was gone...and Mae was already dead.

Caught, Janice collapses and in a chilling, almost child-like voice, she declares "I didn't want to kill her. It's just that, she wouldn't leave me alone."

Aside from the whole framing-a-man-for-murder angle, most of Janice's rebellion, which may have been shocking at the time, seems pretty tame by today's standards. She orders a beer but gets served lemonade, she takes a single puff on a cigarette before snuffing it out, and she runs around with her boyfriend Stan, whom her aunt Mae actually does approve of. It's unlikely that Janice has any real interest in Tex, seeing him only as a possible escape. Then again, she probably has no real interest in Stan, either. She dreams of freedom and getting away from the town that she feels stuck in, but who didn't feel that way as a teenager? Very few of us went to such heights to make those dreams a reality, though.

Janice is beautiful, has a baby face, and occasionally speaks in a childish voice. She appears at first glance to be an icon of innocence, but after spending any amount of time with her it becomes obvious that she is a Bad Seed and a Lolita character rolled into one. Deceitful, manipulative and, in the end, downright evil, she looks like sugar but she tastes like salt.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Young One - Emotionally Unstable
Emotionally Unstable
It was obvious from her confrontation with Mae that Janice was not an emotionally stable person. She alternated between fury and depression at the drop of a hat, which makes you wonder about the root cause of it all. It is stated that her parents are deceased, but it is never made clear how. As both parents apparently passed at the same time, the logical guess is that they were in an accident of some sort. This might have been the cause of abandonment issues in another child, but Janice seems to suffer from the reverse. She's not afraid of being left alone, she's afraid of not being left alone.

The only hint of her childhood that we are given is when Janice says that she misses the luxuries that she had grown up with. Mae reminds her that those luxuries were not hers, but rather belonged to the family that her parents worked for. Janice insists that the wealthy family that employed her parents loved and adored her, and wanted her as their own. After her parents died, Mae then ruined everything by taking custody of her.

It is not stated bluntly, nor is it really implied, but it seems to me quite possible that Janice, as a child, murdered her parents under the false day dreams that the wealthy family would take her in and give her everything that she had ever hoped for. If she is capable of murdering a parental figure, then why not her parents themselves?

If she did murder her parents, she got away with it so well that not even the scriptwriters knew about it. She might have gotten away with it this time as well, if she didn't have poor Stan so well trained. Not only did he always wait for her, but he always came back for her, too, and that proved to be her downfall.

This was the third season's ninth episode, originally airing on December 1, 1957. It was an early directorial effort for Robert Altman, who started off making educational and industrial shorts and eventually went on to direct MASH (1970), POPEYE (1980), GOSFORD PARK (2001) and many others. The same year as this episode aired, he had helmed THE DELINQUENTS, starring Tom "Billy Jack" Laughlin, which would have fit in quite nicely with this month's theme.

Stan was portrayed by Stephen Joyce, who appeared on many TV series over the course of his career but
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Young One - Stan & Janice
Stan & Janice
managed very few notable big screen roles aside from parts in Sean S. Cunningham's A STRANGER IS WATCHING (1982) and BILLY BATHGATE (1991). The role of Aunt Mae was filled by veteran actress Jeanette Nolan, who already had over 50 credits to her name by the time filming began. This was the first of four appearances she would make on the series, and she sup-plied the voice of Norma Bates in Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960).

Vince Edwards played the not-quite-innocent Tex here four years before landing his most iconic role as the titular doctor in BEN CASEY. Carol Lynley had only been in a few television episodes when she was cast as Janice. She would later appear in a 1962 episode of THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, and had a pretty impressive career, including roles in Samuel Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963) with Roddy McDowell, Otto Preminger's fantastic BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965), and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972, also with Roddy McDowell).

THE YOUNG ONE was written by Sarett Rudley, who doesn't seem to have had much of a career aside from 9 episodes for Hitch and a few other television series, which is a shame, really, because the dialogue is pretty damn good, though obviously a little dated. The back-and-forth that Janice has with Tex and her aunt Mae might be slightly melodramatic at times, but it is seamless and solidly entertaining. There is also little biographical information about Rudley to be found, but I have to imagine it was quite the thrill and privilege that one of his episodes, MR. BLANCHARD’S SECRET (1956), was directed by Mr. Hitchcock himself.


1 comment:

  1. Carol Lynley was not in Fuller's Shock Corridor. She was Denis Saunders' Shock Treatment, a thriller/psycho-drama that clearly would have never existed if Shock Corridor had not appeared first. It's a pretty underrated little film with a fine cast that also includes Ossie Davis, Lauren Bacall and star Stuart Whitman.