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Breakdown 1980
Description: William Callew is involved in a terrible traffic accident on a rural road, that leaves him so paralyzed he appears lifeless, and when support arrives they think he's really dead.
Released: 13 Nov 1955 Director: Alfred Hitchcock Writers: Francis M. Cockrell (teleplay), Louis Pollock (teleplay), Louis Pollock (story) Actors: Alfred Hitchcock, Joseph Cotten, Raymond Bailey, Forrest Stanley Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
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Breakdown Reviews:

A "water-cooler" entry-- I expect folks all over the country were talking about this tense 30 mins the next day. Big-wig executive Joseph Cotton is mistaken for dead, and he better figure out a method to allow the authorities know before they start the slice and dice of the coroner's table. Problem is that he's fully paralyzed except for gradual movement in a tiny finger. Will that be enough? We suffer bucket-loads with him as the gurney edges ever closer to the coroner's scalpel.Really off-beat and well-thought-out premise with fine ironical ending. Don't overlook the first five mins even though it's an uneventful set-up for what follows. Because there we understand that Cotton really does deserve to suffer some poetic justice, extreme though it is. If you think about it, there's a moral here. Anyway this is one of the initial episodes that really place the series on the TV map and continues to package a wallop fifty years later.


Hitchcock, of course, understood exactly how to make suspense. His typical explanation involved a bomb under the table: if it explodes out of nowhere, then that's surprise. If the audience knows that the bomb is under the table but not when it will go off, that's suspense. Thus, the secret for mastering suspense was to let the audience to know something that the film's characters didn't – for, whatever we may know, we are absolutely helpless to do anything. Hitchcock occasionally transferred the elements of this director/audience interaction to his own characters, as we see in 'Rear Window (1954),' in which Jimmy Stewart sits immobile and helpless in his apartment. "Breakdown" (Season 1, Episode 7) was the second episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" to be personally directed by the host, and, tellingly, it's also the greatest of the series so far. Hitchcock once again utilises the premise of a central hero who, like the audience, is powerless to influence the happenings of the story.Joseph Cotten plays William Callew, a callous businessman with tiny regard for human emotion. After a long-time employee weeps uncontrollably after losing his job, Callew unsympathetically condemns his lack of self-control. However, poetic justice is about to ensue. After becoming involved in a ghastly vehicle collision with a truck of chain-gang prisoners, Callew wakes up paralysed from head to toe, but conscious enough to thinking logically. The fleeing prisoners offer hope of rescue, but instead – believing him to be dead – seize the occasion to loot his clothing. Despite regaining slight movement in a single finger, nobody seems to recognise that Callew is still alive, and he seems destined to be buried that way. Hitchcock uses point-of-view shots to strong effect, and Cotten – though not named upon to do much in the method of acting – delivers a creepy monotone voice-over that communicates his overwhelming paranoia. Though a lesson is proposed by the conclusion, its presence seems to be tongue-in-cheek, with Hitchcock spelling out the necessity of a "moral" in his introduction.


This has to be one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. It's a nice thing that Hitchcock had his TV series where he should direct this episode. To run this storyline any longer than the 25 mins would have seemed to drawn out but this storyline fits just perfectly in the allotted time. It's a chilling and suspenseful storyline that is imaginatively shot from one person's perspective. I won't tell more; just see it. (Even being a large Hitch fanatic I had never seen any of his TV shows; actually it's so simple to see just the episodes he directed through iTunes. This was the first episode I've seen and it definitely lives up to the Hitchcock brand.)



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