The short story on which it is based is "The Morning After" by Andrew West, first published in the February 1964 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. According to the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Andrew West was a pseudonym for Robert Arthur, who registered the copyright with a publication date of December 1, 1963. It seems likely that Arthur wrote the story and sold it both to the producers of the TV show and the magazine editor at the same time, since the magazine came out right after the TV show was supposed to air.
"The Morning After" begins as Paul Baxter, a student at a Midwestern law school, awakens one June morning in his two-room apartment, having gotten drunk the night before while celebrating graduation. Engaged to beautiful Susan Davenport and set to go to work at her father's Chicago law firm, he worries that his fall off the wagon will hurt his prospects, since he has been sober for an entire year. His friends Bert and Steve tried to stop him, but to no avail, and he recalls little of the night before; he slept till noon and has a lunch date with Susan and her father at 12:30. Getting up from the couch where he spent the night, he observes the figure of a blond woman lying in his bed, but when he tries to wake her he discovers that she is dead and that the marks on her throat show that she was strangled.
Paul assumes he brought her home while he was drunk and killed her in a rage; he thinks of how this will ruin his plans to marry well and become a successful lawyer. Bert and Steve knock at his door but he does not respond, so they leave to catch a plane to the Coast. Deciding that he has no choice but to find a way to dispose of the body, Paul realizes that this will prove difficult, since the campus is crowded with students and their families visiting for graduation. Old Annie, the maid, comes in to clean his rooms but he convinces her to give him more time by telling her that a friend is asleep in his bedroom. Frantic for a way to get rid of the corpse, he spies the dumbwaiter that leads to the basement garage where his car is parked.
|Michael Parks as Baxter|
Ten years later, it is 1964 and Paul meets up with Bert and Steve at a school reunion. They admit having planted the corpse in order to try to scare him out of ever taking another drink. Shocked to learn that his best friends were behind the prank, Paul attacks them, "screaming with laughter," before men from an ambulance come and take him back to the asylum--a nurse explains that he has been confined there for ten years and slipped away while on an outing.
|Joby Baker as Doc Carroll|
In adapting Robert Arthur's story for television, James Bridges took bits and pieces of the source and used them to craft an outstanding script that changes the focus of the original and expands it, completely reworking the ending and hitting on themes that had been touched upon in prior episodes of the Hitchcock TV series.
The show opens in an anatomy class at a college, where the lecture is disrupted when a cadaver covered by a sheet suddenly sits up and is revealed to be practical joking student Doc Carroll, who corresponds to Bert and Steve in the short story. In the Bridges version, the students are in college rather than law school, and much is made of the fact that Doc, the prankster, is a brilliant student with a love for playing jokes that threatens to endanger his academic career.
In a residence hall late that night, Doc's studying is interrupted by the arrival of Skip Baxter, his roommate (who corresponds to the story's Paul Baxter, who lived alone); Baxter is drunk once again and determined to throw his girlfriend Barbara in the shower. Skip is a chronic drunkard, unlike Paul in the story, who has been on the wagon for a year, and Skip is comfortable with violent acts toward women and men--he holds Barbara under the shower and attacks Doc when he pulls Skip off of her. Right from the start, Skip is shown to be out of control.
|Martin Blaine as the professor|
The next morning, Skip awakens with another hangover and sees a woman in his bed; actually, all he sees is the platinum blond hair covering the back of her head. Doc tells him that it is Ruby the waitress and she is dead. As usual, Skip recalls nothing and Doc tells his roommate that he found her that way in Skip's bed that morning, strangled. This marks a significant departure from Robert Arthur's story, where Skip lived alone and discovered the body himself. His friends tried to tell him it was a joke but the message was never delivered. In the TV version, Doc purposely lies to Skip, whose reaction is understandable.
|Skip leaves his room with the body in the rug|
After the class is done, the professor discovers that a corpse is missing from the morgue, and Doc admits having removed the body. This is a departure from the short story, where no such thing occurs. The professor, taking the place of the medical school janitor in the story, tells Doc that this is an old prank and orders him to have the body back in its drawer by the next morning. Meanwhile, Skip has wrapped the body in a rug and carries it out in full view of other students, explaining that he is taking the rug to be cleaned. Gone is the entire episode with the dumbwaiter and gone is the fear Paul feels in the short story about how he will get the corpse out of his room. Skip does not go to the basement and carry the cadaver through the maze of underground tunnels in order to return it to the morgue. Instead, Bridges takes the show in a completely new direction.
|Ruth McDeVitt as Mrs. Fister|
Skip pulls his car into Mrs. Fister's garage and we see her late husband's work bench, where she demonstrates a circular saw that he used to use in the evenings to do wood work. She mentions how they used to be able to burn garbage and we can see Skip's mind working on a way to dispose of the body. He barely speaks while she chatters on and on. Mrs. Fister calls her neighbor to remind her to wrap and put out her trash and she remarks that it will all be thrown into a truck and ground to a pulp, meaning that it will disappear before anyone is awake the next morning. The camera zooms in on Skip's face as he continues to formulate his plan. In a nice piece of editing, he begins to turn his head and there is a cut to the tavern, where Ruby's head completes the turn. We are reminded that, while Skip thinks she is dead, she is very much alive. There is more cutting back and forth between the tavern, where Doc has gone to look for Skip, and Mrs. Fister's house, where Skip is drinking his host under the table. Before she passes out, she again mentions her husband's saw and the importance of wrapping the garbage.
|Skip prepares to cut up the body|
Back at school, Skip is in the locker room, where he watches each piece of his football equipment being cataloged and tossed in a bucket. Very quickly, we realize that this parallels his own acts of the night before, where he took the pieces of the body and tossed them in the garbage can. The last piece of equipment is the helmet, and when it falls on the floor Skip jumps, recalling the cadaver's severed head. Skip refuses to pick up the helmet, even though Ed tells him "It won't bite." What superb work by James Bridges to come up with these scenes, which are completely new to the story!
|Doc has taken the place of the cadaver|
"The Cadaver" features an outstanding script that benefits from the usual careful attention to structure by James Bridges. Alf Kjellin's direction is quite good and the performances are entertaining, especially that of Ruth McDeVitt as Mrs. Fister. The theme of cutting up a body recalls other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents such as "Bad Actor," "The Hatbox," and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
|Jennifer West as Ruby|
Alf Kjellin (1920-1988), the director of "The Cadaver," directed twelve episodes of the Hitchcock series; the last one discussed here was "A Tangled Web."
Starring as Skip Baxter is Michael Parks (1940- ), whose career onscreen began in 1960 and continues today. He starred in the TV series Then Came Bronson (1969-1970) and also had a singing career. He played Jean Renault on Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and later was in both parts of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (2003-2004). There is a website devoted to his career here.
Playing the doomed prankster, Doc Carroll, is Joby Baker (1934- ), who was born in Montreal and had a career on TV and in film from 1952 to 1978. He was on the Hitchcock show four times, including "The Right Kind of Medicine" and "Madame Mystery," and later had a career as a painter, as shown by his website here.
The working class sexpot waitress Ruby is played by Jennifer West
(1939- ), who played a similar role (with short shorts) in "The Star Juror." She was on screen from 1958 to 1970 and later wrote a memoir called Thora Ann. She now travels and performs with her husband, as is shown here.
The professor is played by Martin Blaine (1913-1989), who had a career on screen from 1958 to 1973 but not many credits. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.
Finally, Rafer Johnson (1935- ) plays Ed Blair, the team manager on Skip's football team. An athlete turned actor, he won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 and was one of three men who tackled Sirhan Sirhan after he shot Robert Kennedy in 1968. Johnson was only on the Hitchcock show once but had a career on screen from 1960 to 1989.
"The Cadaver" is not yet available on DVD or online.
Thanks to Peter Enfantino for helping to find this elusive story and for providing a copy to read.
ADDENDUM: After this article posted, a comment from someone identified as "Blakeney" revealed that the short story was based on a radio play from 1949. Robert Arthur and David Kogan were the directors and producers of Murder By Experts, a radio series that premiered June 13, 1949. The first episode, "Summer Heat," is almost identical to the short story titled "The Morning After." The story is credited to Andrew Evans and the radio play is credited to Arthur and Kogan. I think it very likely that Andrew Evans is another pseudonym for Arthur, who later copyrighted the story under his own name.
The radio story differs from the published short story in a few ways. It begins at the ten-year reunion, then mostly occurs in flashback before returning to the reunion at the end. Rather than finding a dead woman in his bed, Paul finds a dead man in his bed, and in the man's chest is Paul's hunting knife. Instead of carrying the body through tunnels, he puts it in the back seat of his car and covers it with a blanket. He has a couple of close calls with a policeman and a gas station attendant before returning and meeting the janitor at the morgue. I have not been able to find any evidence of publication prior to 1949, so it seems likely that Arthur took his old radio play and dusted it off for TV in 1963. The title refers to the heat that Baxter must endure as he drives around with the corpse. Coincidentally, Alfred Hitchcock became the host of Murder By Experts toward the end of its run in 1951.
Many thanks to "Blakeney" for this tip. If you would like to be credited by name, please let me know. Listen to the radio show here.
In two weeks: "Murder Case," starring John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands!