"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" Don't Come Back Alive (TV Episode 1955) Poster

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"No one has to die"
ackstasis18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Don't Come Back Alive" (Season 1, Episode 4) is a suspenseful little tale with a lot of problems. Firstly, the story spans a period of seven years, which is impossible to cover sufficiently with a running-time of around twenty minutes. The years passes by so hurriedly that the changes seen in each of the characters don't seem like a natural progression – instead, they are abrupt and largely left unexplained. The screenplay, by Robert C. Dennis, also leaves more than a few gaping plot-holes that make suspension of disbelief difficult. The Patridge family was due to be evicted on Monday; how did their scam (which involved the leasing of a second apartment) avert their impending financial ruin? If the dogged insurance detective (Robert Emhardt) were genuinely serious about tracking down the "other girlfriend," couldn't he have traced the letters or phone-calls, which were hardly discreet in nature? It's little things like this that make this episode rather difficult to swallow.

"Don't Come Back Alive" was directed by Robert Stevenson, not to be confused with Robert Stevens, who directed "Premonition" (Season 1, Episode 2). The three main performers do pretty well in their respective roles. Sidney Blackmer (the creepy elderly neighbour in Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby (1968)') is suitably edgy as the husband insurance fraudster, who constantly looks as though he's going to give himself away at any moment. Virginia Gregg (one of the voices of Norma Bates), as Patridge's wife, is given less to do, and I thought that – had more time been afforded – her character needed to be explored more fully. Robert Emhardt is a downright nuisance as the nosy insurance detective, who openly declares Frank Partridge a murderer from day one. Frankly, I was surprised that it wasn't the detective who ended up buried in the backyard. Maybe he did, after all. Hitchcock's closing monologue left some room for imagination.
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Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
rmax30482322 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting to see Sidney Blackmer as an ordinary bourgeois. He's a salesman, for the moment. He and his wife, Virginia Gregg, are living on the financial edge though and are about to be evicted. It's a little like Sam Loomis and Marian Crane after they've been married for fifteen years.

Blackmer gets an idea. His wife's life insurance is worth twenty-five grand if she disappears and is declared dead. That will take seven years but so what? How could things be worse? So he packs his wife off to an apartment in Los Angeles and files a missing person report.

The cops buy it but the claims adjuster -- if that's what these guys are called -- doesn't. It sounds like murder to him. He's played in a marvelously cynical and subtly threatening manner by Robert Emhardt, with his chubby infantile face and whiny and insinuating voice.

Time passes. Emhardt keeps turning up at the wrong time to look things over. Blackmer packs Gregg off to San Francisco. But, wherever she is, Blackmer is blocked from contacting her because Emhardt is now beginning to think that the husband killed the wife in order to be with the new girl friend, and he'd love to find out who that girl friend is -- not knowing, of course, that the girl friend is the living, breathing wife.

Blackmer manages to stay a step ahead of Emhardt, but Virginia Gregg isn't happy at all. She's a middle-aged woman living alone and that leads to desperation. She's at that point in life where Marian Crane would have been if she'd dumped Sam and never found anyone else. Her bond with Blackmer begins to fade. Out of sight, out of mind, you know. I won't give away the ending, which is a nice touch.

The performances from all three principles is pretty good. Blackmer often played villains but I could never take seriously any threat from a guy whose eyes looked like they belonged to two different people. Virginia Gregg was a hard-working professional who never stepped wrong, and it's hard to imagine anyone but Robert Emhardt in the role of the perfectly legal voyeur.
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An Allegory, Not an Essay
dougdoepke24 November 2008
Nothing remarkable here, just patented Hitchcock programming. Blackmer and Gregg are a penniless middle-aged couple who can't come up with rent money. They're obviously respectable and deeply attached to one another. But where to get the needed money. At this point Hitchcock takes over. They concoct an insurance scam, where she will disappear for seven years after which she will be declared legally dead, and then they can collect a fat insurance settlement. Gregg balks because she fears seven years of independence after decades as a dowdy housewife. But then they are desperate. What mastermind Blackmer hasn't counted on, however, is dogged insurance investigator Emhardt or his mousy wife.

The contest of wills between the wily Emhardt, who suspects murder, and the resolute Blackmer makes an interesting contrast. The series wisely used Emhardt in key roles over the years, -even today; that combination of baby-faced menace in a middle-aged man remains truly distinctive. Gregg's role is the demanding one since she has to carry the episode's irony, but then she was one of the great TV actresses of the day. The Hitchcock stamp emerges in showing how larceny lurks beneath even the most ordinary looking people, and, of course, in the twist ending which strikes me, nonetheless, as not very plausible. Couldn't a more plausible motivation for gardening have been concocted.

Of course, subjecting the entire screenplay to logical analysis turns up gaps that admittedly could have been improved upon even in a 30-minute format. But that misses the point, which is the insistent Hitchcockian one- that crime turns up in the unlikeliest places. Add to that the subversive note about the hidden potential of even the most dependent housewife, and you have an interesting allegory (not an essay, which would require filling in the gaps) on middle-class respectability, -a frequent Hitchcock target, especially appropriate to the conformist 1950's. No, this is not unblemished Hitchcock, but neither is it a wash-out.
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Full of holes, but, still a decent episode!
b_kite26 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 4 starts out as Frank Partridge (Sidney Blackmer) comes home to confront his wife Mildred (Virginia Gregg) that he has received a new job however the family is still tight on money and the couple are dangerously close to being evicted. Frank then surprisingly comes up with the idea to fake Mildred's death so the two can inherit a life insurance policy they signed for. However the catch is one of them must be dead for 7 years. The couple agree to Mildred disappearing for that amount of time, all works well until Mr. Kettle (Robert Emhardt) begins to hound Frank over the possibility of him murdering his wife, that mixed with Mildred's rising loneliness begins to spell trouble for the couples grand scheme...

This is a suspenseful little episode that while not really being as strong as the last three still manages to hold your attention to the end never the less mostly due to a fine cast. Blackmer is the meat and potatoes here and he does a nice job carrying the episode, Virginia Gregg isn't given much to due so shes fine in her small limited role. Robert Emhardt is his usual smug self here, and does a nice job. The plot itself has a lot of holes as mentioned by other reviewers, its defiantly hard to cover a 7 year span in a 25 minute episode and its done with mixed results here, another problem I found was insurance detective Emhardt literally declaring our main character a killer on day one after only asking him a couple of questions, and the biggest of them all is how does this couple which was on the brink of losing there home manage to keep it another 7 years, its all rather annoying and unbelievable, however the nice twist ending helps round this one out nicely and even tho it has its holes I found it rather enjoyable. The interactions between Blackmer and Emhardt save it.
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Needs More Development
gavin69428 March 2016
Frank Partridge (Sidney Blackmer) and his wife plot to cheat their life insurance company by having her hide out for seven years and declared legally dead, but an investigator believes Mr. Partridge has murdered her.

If the downfalls of this episode could be summed up briefly, I think they tried to fit too much into 25 minutes. As far-fetched as the plot may be, it would make a decent movie, but you have to develop it a bit more. It is not as simple as just moving away... I suspect unless the wife got a whole new identity, they would be able to find her sooner or later...

But, as far as a short story goes, it is alright. If we suspend our disbelief for a bit, it has a nice arc, and there is always the "comeuppance" that makes this show, "Twilight Zone" or even "Tales From the Crypt" so appealing.
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Very dated and silly
melikeemovies22 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I guess the basic idea of this story, a wife pretending to be dead so the husband to collect insurance money and profit, isn't necessarily a bad idea but the circumstances revolving around the story were not thought out very well. The husband has been looking for work for some time, and the couple is in dire straights (although you wouldn't know it to look at them). It turns out that the husband was just hired to be a salesman, but the job doesn't start for another month and the couple needs rent money right away or they'll be evicted. So, what does this couple decide to do? Sell some things to make ends meet? Does the wife try to get a job (I know woman weren't really a main part of the work force in the 50's but there were secretaries and waitresses weren't there?) No. This couple concocts a scam where the wife will mysteriously disappear and the husband will have her legally declared dead after 7 years so they can get a whopping $25,000 from her insurance policy That comes out to just under $3,600/year for all their trouble...not a lot by today's standards that's for sure.

What's even sillier is that the scheme doesn't help the couple out in their immediate situation of having to pay rent or being evicted. This part of the story is just glossed over, too. The story just skips over how they paid their rent to make way for the investigation into the wife's disappearance and the potential "murder" the husband might have committed for the insurance money. Furthermore, the wife had to change her own identity, to rent her own apartment and to get a job to support herself while living on her own. Ummm, so why didn't she just get a job to begin with and stay put with the husband?

Maybe it's simply because 50 years have passed since this episode aired but the whole thing just seemed ridiculous and like an awful lot of work to go through for not much of a payoff. The only saving grace of the episode was the performances of the husband and the insurance investigator playing off each other.
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Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Don't Come Back Alive
Scarecrow-885 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Frank Partridge (Sidney Blackmer) has to wait a month to secure a salesman position and eventually concocts a plan to have his wife, Mildred (Virginia Gregg) "go away" and pretend to be dead so he can collect $25,000 life insurance. What he doesn't expect is a life insurance investigator, Mr. Kettle (Robert Emhardt) hounding him for the seven years Mildred must be gone in order to get the money or his wife finding another life she would prefer to have absent him! This episode is about attempting fraud and paying for such a sneaky crime. Sure Frank's dilemma stinks considering his age and the inability to pay off the debts/bills frustrating his marriage and life, but initiating a crime in life insurance fraud could be more than bargained for as he learns. Certainly Mildred's transformation from appeasing, considerate domestic homemaker to appearing in nice furs and fancy dress, wanting a divorce so she can marry a well-to-do wealthy bachelor doesn't help matters for ole Frank. Emhardt's pesky life insurance investigator, a thorn in Frank's side totally convinced he killed Mildred, just won't let him relax, and Mildred's initial desire to return home only to do so later with this icy, uncaring change in personality eventually pushes him over the edge…oh, how plans backfire, eh? Okay episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" has a plot that feels kind of telegraphed from the get-go. We know that this scheme is bound to go down in flames and that Frank will eventually hang himself. Kettle wasn't about to let him "get away with murder" and collect on money thanks to it so his making Frank's life a living hell was bound to achieve results in his favor. Mildred's change of plans thanks to her time away bringing her in contact with someone in a far better financial situation than Frank is certainly what gums up the works. It is a twist that I imagine many will perhaps see coming. Something had to bring about Frank's eventual off-the-deep-end, and so Mildred's poking the bear was just the right flip of the switch. What is always fun is how Hitch introduces and concludes the show. Emhardt has just the right amount of confidence and arrogance to curtail Frank's efforts to support himself, with Gregg able to show two different people that starts and ends after nearly seven years away from Frank.
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Where'd He Get the Money
Hitchcoc3 October 2008
This episode is ludicrous. From a loving couple to a plot to be financially free. The huge risk of hiding out for seven years. The watchdog insurance guy. What's in it for him. He is Javert. He is obsessed. The whole plan is so far fetched that one can never become involved in it. We have people who have no money, yet they maintain the home that was about to be foreclosed on and the other goes to San Francisco and lives there. These are plot elements that can't be forgiven. The man seems to have a happy life. The wife is miserable and in love with him. It should have been obvious to him that he was never going to see that money when the insurance guy suspected him from the beginning. I don't know about companies in the fifties, but there would have been some investigation. What about the police. It's just a terrible episode.
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First of all
and_shove_it_up_your_butt10 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The actor playing the husband was supposed to be about 53 but appeared to be about 60-65.

This episode was doomed from start to finish I'm afraid. The final straw (after so many straws) for me was not that he killed his wife, but that she had the nerve to come back after seven long years, two days before they were to cash in. Preposterous!! Lol.
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It's just a matter of time
callanvass6 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
(Credit IMDb) Frank Partridge and his wife plot to cheat their life insurance company by having her hide out for 7 years and declared legally dead, but an investigator believes Mr. Partridge has murdered her. Another above average, if unspectacular episode. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed the first four episodes. They are breezy and entertaining, but Hitchock is capable of much more. I suspect that Hitchock had yet to hit his stride with this series. The plot for this one is nothing too special, but certainly enjoyable. It is fairly creative with some good twists as well, especially near the end. I don't think it would be possible for someone to get away with this today though. Sidney Blackmer is excellent as the sneaky lead. Virginia Gregg adds class to her part. Robert Emhardt steals the show in his role with his nosy portrayal. The ending did anger me a bit. Why would Frank bury someone where he knows they have looked in the past? You are just begging to get caught. It was a major plot hole. Also, as other reviewers pointed out, how did Frank get the money when he was broke?

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Don't bring em' back alive
sol-kay14 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Despite the fine acting in it this is not that too imaginative Alfred Hitchcock, The Master, TV episode about a down in the dumps, who are about to get evicted from their home, elderly couple Frank & Mildred Patridge, Sidney Blackman & Virgina Gegg, trying to embezzle their insurance company of $25,000.00 by faking Mildred's death. It was Frank who came up with this bright idea in having Mildred get lost for seven years and then be declared legally dead. But with keen nose and sharp eyed insurance investigator Mr. Kettle, the second half of the Ma & Pa Kette duo, played by Hitchcock regular Robert Emhardt that wasn't going to be that easy for the couple to pull off.

Mr. Kettle knows somethings up but just can't quite prove it with Mildred hidden in San Francisco,some 400 miles north where she & Frank live in L.A, under an assumed name as well as fake social security number where she can't be traced and apprehended by the police or Mr.Kettle. As the years go by Mr.Kettle starts to suspect that Frank murdered his wife and buried her in his backyard but can't get a court order to have the place dug up. Which even if he did all he'll find is nothing but flower seeds and dead rats, that were killed and devolved by local stray cats and dogs, buried there.

****SPOILERS**** It's just when, seven years later, Richard & Mildred are just about free from waiting that the old lady, Mildred, had a sudden change of mind. Now not wanting to hook up with Frank and enjoy,the $25,000.00 in insurance money,the couple's ill gotten gains she's got other things in mind. You see Mildred got sick & tired of waiting and hearing from Frank and while away in far off an San Francisco found herelf a much younger as well as attentive man to take care of her both sexual and financial needs! You can just imagine what happened when she laid out her future plans to leave Frank after he waited seven years for her to came back from the dead and into his arms!

P.S Like some IMDb reviewers have noticed I also was a bit confused in how Frank was able to pay his bills when he was totally broke as well as, at age 60, unemployable during the entire seven years that Mildred was away? Did he make a living wining at the gambling tables in Las Vegas or at the Santa Anita and Hollywood Park race tracks?
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A terrible episode that is completely preposterious, yet still better than almost everything made for tv today.
tranquility-8434918 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This episode is illogical and probably one of the worst in the series.

Frank Partridge is having financial troubles and schemes with his wife to fake her death and then wait seven years to collect from an insurance policy.

They both plot that she will change her appearance and move to another city, while still secretly maintaining contact with each other for the seven years necessary to get a court judgment of death, and collect $25,000 in insurance money.

During the next seven years Partridge is relentlessly stalked by an insurance investigator (Mr. Kettle) who is convinced Partridge actually murdered his wife.

Mr. Kettle is relentless, and such a constant and intrusive presence in Partridge's life, that you have to wonder why Partridge doesn't call the police for harassment, or physically throw this guy off his property. This harassment continues for seven years!

The seven years are almost up, but then a few days before he can get his court judgment to declare his wife dead, she shows up at his house and declares that she's made a new life with a new man and wants a divorce, and no longer wants any part of the crooked scheme. Partridge is so enraged after enduring seven long years of misery, that he murders her on the spot and buries her body in the back yard.

Then on the day when Partridge is leaving his house to go to court and get the declaration of death judgement, Kettle shows up at his door (again), and tells Partridge he's won the battle and the long fight is now over, AND, as a good will gesture, Kettle tells Partridge that he's going to tend to Partridge's garden while he's away, then he grabs a garden spade proceeds to dig up and overturn the soil in the back yard -- Partridge just stands there stupefied with a look of sheer terror on his face. (END)

There are several ridiculous things about this episode, but the thing that takes the cake, is that Partridge was able to murder his wife in an instant, but he allowed Kettle to hound him for seven years and does absolutely nothing, and he stands there again at the very end and still does nothing as Kettle starts digging up his back yard where his wife is buried. Why didn't he just grab the spade away and tell that jerk to get off his property for the last time or he's calling the cops?

Even Hitchcock admits in the epilogue that this episode was "disappointing".
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