Monday, October 25, 2010

The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk: Season 2 Episode 13

Originally aired 12/18/61
Starring Jo Van Fleet, John Carradine, Paul Newlan.
Written by Donald S. Sanford, based on the short story by Margaret St. Clair.
Directed by John Brahm.

What is the secret behind Mrs. Hawk's remarkable pig farm? It can't be the hired hands as they seem to disappear shortly after they arrive. Three hobos (Carradine, Bruce Dern, Hal Baylor) think there may be money to be made from her through extortion, but it turns out Mrs. Hawk (Van Fleet) is always one step ahead of the men.

PE: What have we here? Proof that a Thriller comedy can be good. Yes, it's a bit overlong (but aren't they all?) but "Mrs. Hawk" pushes all the right buttons. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. Thriller veteran Paul Newlan ("The Cheaters," "The Grim Reaper," and "The Big Blackout") is as solid as always, here doing a turn as Sheriff Tom "Ulysses" Willetts and convincing me he's the real-life incarnation of a Basil Wolverton cartoon. Even John Carradine turns in a good performance. Hell, where's The Shat?

JS: Wow. Considering how you've rallied against several preceding episodes with a comedic slant, never in a million years would I expect you to stand up for this one. I actually think it's fair to call this episode overlong, particularly once it's clear what's going on. Despite a great performance by Van Fleet, this one-note story doesn't require (or deserve) an hour for the telling.

Van Fleet looking ever the Greek goddess...
PE: Jo Van Fleet is perfectly cast as Mrs. Hawk. She's got the look of an innocent, matronly woman most of the time but she can turn that into evil with just a shift of her eyes. Blink and you'll miss a very young Bruce Dern (ya gotta love that pierced heart tattoo on his scrawny tricep!).

JS: Again, if this had been a short segment in a multi-story episode, I might have been able to appreciate the cute bits that pay off at the end (my favorite being the sheriff's star). But an hour is a long row to hoe to arrive at frankly a rather silly 'twist' ending, in my opinion. I imagine there must have been any number of alternate paths the story could have taken along a crime route that would have bested this supernatural twist!

PE: SPOILER ALERT!! How about that perfectly nasty ending? Imagine if Samantha Stevens decided to turn Mrs. Kravitz into a hog and have her slaughtered. How long would Bewitched have remained America's #1 show?

JS: I don't think the audience would know any better—as long as Morty Stevens played the comedic music at the right time that tells them it's all fun and games. And one more thing I'm getting tired of—enough of the actors walking directly into the camera already!

PE: "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk" turned up in the July 1950 issue of Weird Tales (along with the already-discussed "The Weird Tailor" by Robert Bloch) as "Mrs. Hawk." Margaret St. Clair also saw two of her better known short stories adapted for Night Gallery: "The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes," and "Brenda," about a young girl who falls in love with a corpse.



  1. Sooey me -- oops, I mean SUE me -- I always thought this was a good one. The looks of horror on some of her victims' faces, when they realize what's about to happen to them, are as effective as the scare moments in most "legit" THRILLER horror eps.

    The kid at the end -- the newly arrived, smiling guy -- is so familiar. Did he go on to be Somebody, or is it just an extra who just happens to look a little like some future Somebody?

    1. My guess is it's Lee Majors

    2. Hurley Bell is still waiting for his agent to call.
      "Be somebody, be ANYbody." -- Howard Morris, The Nutty Professor (1963)

  2. After about 5 minutes in i was thinking that this lady's no Hawk, more of a wild, lanky feline type. There appeared to be some subtle innuendu going on here, which seemed pretty risque. And while most of the twists were telegraphed I still enjoyed it. Van Fleet did a masterful turn as the coquette with a secret.
    Seven and a half Karloffs...

  3. Yeah, but Bruce Dern's tattoo was on the OPPOSITE arm from where it ended up on his piggy incarnation....but, it's not important enough to quibble about.

    I like this show because it stands out from the rest. Farm and country carnival setting is a great idea, but I wish that the visuals would have been WAY creepier than they were; everything was so brightly lit, especially the interior of the house, which had probably been used from some sit-com the day before. Check the Hitchcock/Bradbury "The Jar" to see how unnervingly weird a '60's TV carnival/rural setting could be. Still, the fact that THRILLER actually put a full-scale carnival on the screen for a single scene of this episode is worthy of praise.

    Carradine is given a great opportunity to display his bountiful appetite for HAM, and what better place to do so than on a hog farm? It's great fun to watch this unique actor at work. Lots of slinky, sexy undertones to Jo van Fleet's performance, which add to the mystique of the plot. And yes, they managed to find a big old white hog that actually resembles Paul Newlan's (Wolvertonian) features for the final transformation!

    Having said all of this, I absolutely agree that this show needed something IN ADDITION to it's one-line plot; once the secret is revealed fairly early on, the story proceeds in a direct line with no detours, surprises or twists---only our mild interest to see if any of the hapless guys will escape and turn the tables on Ms. Cissy Hawk...which never happens (will she use wine, powder, syrup, donuts?...etc, etc).

    SIX squealing, grunting, porcine Karloff heads.


  4. I was wondering why she allowed Bruce Dern to change back and then lead him into the house. The only thing that came to mind was that she was using him for sex before sending him off to the slaughter house.

  5. This is one of the worst supernatural episodes for me, despite fine performances from Van Fleet
    and Carradine. Its just too ludicrous-the best
    Thriller episodes are suspenseful and terrorful, if thats a word.

  6. The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk was an odd, quirky, not too believable, but still enjoyable episode.

    Jo Van Fleet did a very good job of portraying a slightly kooky, cougarish ancient witch. I also enjoyed the performances by the three hobos. Mr. Carradine was splendid as their intellectual alpha tramp.

    The story itself was never believable, but I quickly suspended my belief and hopped in the pigsty for a 50 minute roll in the Thriller mud. What exactly is the purpose of having the power to convert young male flesh to pork?

    Was there really no better lifestyle for Mrs. Hawk than to hang around Hicksville and win the best pig contests at the local county fair. If I had her powers I'd be thinking about world domination!

    It was cute to see Mrs. Hawk foil the bumbling hobo's plan. The writers were pretty loose with allowing Mrs. Hawk to use a variety of items to turn the guys into piggies. Wasn't there a strict chemical formula for her potion?

    I was hoping that the wonderful special effects folks of Thriller would tackle the man to pig transformation ala the 1932 Jekyell and Hyde. No such luck. I wonder if they even tried. I loved the look on Carradine's face when he realized he was baconizing.

    I was surprised at the dark ending. All the pig men were being led to slaughter and Mrs. Hawk was still on the loose.

    Two and a half snout affixed Karloff heads for this fun episode.

  7. Hmmm. I posted a couple of weeks ago, but it disappeared!

    The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk was a fun and mischievous episode. Like Masquerade, it played like a sitcom episode. The plot was goofy and incredulous, but the cast did a great job of providing just the right amount of tounge and check to make TRMH successful.

    John Carradine mixed the right amount sad sack and pretension and to make a convincing hobo philosopher king. Jo Van Fleet perfectly blended country charm, discreet mischief with a dash of cougarish desire. Van Pleet matronly voice added to the believablity of character. Such a soothing sound for doing such a grotesque deed!

    I'm impressed that Mrs. Hawk could whip up a batch of her Piggy Potion in a variety of substances and in such quick time. I'd love to see the reciepe. Judging by previous Thriller episodes I thought that the special effects crew would create some sort of kick ass man to pig transformation ala Fredric March in the 1932 Jekyll and Hyde. No such luck, but we did get some terrifying screams from Bruce Dern and a priceless close up of Mr. Carradine right before he was to enter hog heaven.

    I thought for sure that Sheriff Ulysess would bring an end to the bacon production and was surprised that Mrs. Hawk got away with everything. Ah well, that black humor made for a delicious ending.

    Lastly, just what possessed someone with Mrs. Hawk's powers to live a quite life on the farm in Hicksville. I'd be like the Invisible Man and immediately role out my take over the world plan.

    Two and a half Karloff oinks for The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk.

  8. The '60s were a decade that was increasingly preoccupied with the darker implications of the supernatural, as well as an obsession with UFOs. With his avuncular appearances before and after episodes, Alfred Hitchcock made some of the nastier implications of his stories palatable. It was a brilliant formula for an era trembling at the edge of a darker era because at the beginning of the decade, folks ready for real chills and darkness could take that away from episodes like this (and of "An Attractive Family," which follows) or they could shrug it off to focus on the humor and arched eyebrows (which were a little too much in evidence in Van Fleet's performance). How quickly things changed after the TV reign of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Twilight Zone" and "Thriller" left the air.

    1. Another Thriller light comedy--fun for Ms Van Fleet! The premise is very good. As to how she acted, hammy, oops pork. Anybody remember the liberal turned conservative Al Capp-his Li'l Abner comic script--with 2 pigs--Salome and, Pigasus--schmalz.

      A very bad grade B movie with Rory Calhoun as the villain and a nasty lady/wife unknown actress, called "Motel Hell"--turning humans into a sausage blend, sure ain't kosher.

  9. Actually, in "Brenda" the girl falls in love with a big shaggy monster.

    The monster WAS pretty lovable, or at least moreso than Laurie Prange as Brenda. The eternal child (she kept playing young parts until she was over thirty), she never gave a performance that wasn't teeth-grindingly annoying.

    1. Laurie Prange was strange (as strange as the 'monster', anyway; I suppose that's the allegory), but I thought she was quite touching in this episode. One of my favorite NG's.

  10. Shockingly this episode was nominated for a Writer's Guild award.