For whatever reason the 80s revamp of vintage television suspense anthology series ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS gets minimal mention in genre worship circles. Perhaps that’s due to its very existence, chained as it was and will be forever to the memory of its source. Perhaps it’s the fact that the series was syndicated to death during its decade and people channel surfing cited it a bit of an eyesore and took it for granted. I’m really not sure.
But the second wave ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was actually often very, very good, with some standout episodes that made up for some of the less effective installments. Many of the best of them were in fact remakes of the existing AHP episodes. And for me, the standout among that pack is 1985’s “Final Escape”, a bone-chilling short film that condenses the narrative of the 1964 original (which appeared in the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR incarnation) from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, tightening and toughening the tale and amplifying the cruelty central character and offering a final act twist that ruined me as a youth.
Recently, I was chatting loosely about my memories of the show, mentioning how when I was little, my mom and I would watch the program weekly when it ran in prime time on NBC. I spoke on how effective “Final Escape” was and how its impact on me stayed with me almost as profoundly as any episode of my beloved THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
This chat inspired me to seek the show out anew and, 31 years later, I was affected by it once more.
“Final Escape” is one of 23 AHP episodes produced by veteran TV and feature writer and producer Christopher Crowe (among his credits is penning both the Michael Mann version of LAST OF THE MOHICANS and the awesome 1983 horror anthology NIGHTMARES). It’s written by Charles Grant Craig, a free adaptation of the source story by Tom Cannan and Randall Hood and was directed by Thomas Carter (COACH CARTER, SWING KIDS). In it,Season Hubley plays sociopathic socialite Lene Trent, a black widow whose reign of murder and corruption finally catches up to here and, as the show opens, she’s sentenced to life in prison. Swearing, in true noir fashion, that “no joint can hold her”, Lena immediately sets on trying to manipulate those around her.
First, she unsuccessfully tries a lesbian come-on to the ward’s brutal leader and then, she plays the Warden in hopes of getting a transfer to a cushier environment. None of her ploys work, however and, when she hits her bottom, she encounters the kindly handyman Doc (Davis Roberts), an elderly employee whose job it is to crate and cart the recently deceased prisoners and drive them to the cemetery for burial. Seeing this as her last chance of escape, she makes a deal with the impoverished Doc to, undercover of night, bury HER in the next coffin with whatever stiff resides therein. The idea being that later, Doc will return to dig her up and Lena will them reward him financially.
The plan proceeds and soon, Lena finds herself six feet under. But who’s in the casket with her?
There’s no point in revealing the twist as I am posting the 22 minute “Final Escape” in its entirety below. Outside of the shock of the climax, it’s just a great piece of entertainment full stop. From the opening, colorized bumpers from the original show to Hubley’s malicious performance and the care taken to make us truly care about Doc and his plight, it’s a mini-masterpiece of horror and suspense.
Watch it now and see if you agree with us…