Welcome back to my “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” marathon! We all know of the idea in TV or movies of presenting something to an audience that the characters aren’t aware of. This can be both maddening and, at least in horror or thrillers, meant to ramp up the tension until the characters figure things out. Today’s episode is an example of that. This is “Bang! You’re Dead.”
Six year old Jackie Chester gets paid a visit from his uncle Rick, who’s just come back from Africa. Rick tells the boy he has a present to give him later. Too excited to wait and with Rick out of the room, Jackie opens his bags and finds what appears to be a toy gun and goes out to play with it. Unbeknownst to him, it’s actually real as are the bullets. Will Rick and Jackie’s parents be able to get it from Jackie before he causes any unfortunate accidents?
This story was pretty good, as it both showcased a strong moral and good acting from the main characters. The moral, as Hitchcock puts it, is to urge parents to keep firearms of any kind far from young children. In terms of acting, the parents and Rick’s fear and panic were done well, while Jackie remained oblivious just like any child with a “toy” would be.
Jackie, as shown above, might look familiar to anyone who followed my “Twilight Zone” marathon last October. He’s also the little terror from “It’s a Good Life,” where I both praised his acting for the slight creepiness and also felt annoyed by his character’s brattiness. This episode came a few years before he made that appearance, and while he still has a bratty feel to his character, I felt he did a great job being just a regular kid. Jackie is going through a phase of loving cowboys and gunfights, so it’s only fitting that he plays pretend with everyone despite having a real gun. In return, the adults that interact with him outside of his parents and Rick can tell he’s just playing, so none of them are wise to the gun being real. Basically, any scene with Jackie carried a decent amount of tension to it, because you keep feeling like one of those bullets will be fired at whoever he’s pointing the gun at.
Jackie is the main focus here, though it cuts back and forth mostly between him and his frantic mother. If I have one complaint about this, it’s that I feel the episode might’ve benefited a little more by focusing more on Jackie and amping the tension up further. However, for what they were trying to achieve, it felt like a good balance between tension and natural panic. It all comes to a head in the ending, which includes a kinda cheesy but kinda cool first-person shot from Jackie’s perspective.
Overall, I liked “Bang! You’re Dead.” The moral is pretty blatant, but it’s more from Hitchcock’s hosting segments than from the episode itself. It starts off a little slow, but once Jackie gets the gun, the tension kicks off and the plot really comes together. If you like the child actor or just want a simple premise with pretty effective tension, give it a watch.