Alfred Hitchcock's 'Bang! You're Dead' Reveals Life in Human 'Vegetables'

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Since it first aired in 1961, one particular episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents has lingered in the minds of millions of Americans:

The episode “Bang! You’re Dead,” which originally aired in 1961 and can be viewed in full online, tracks an afternoon of agonizing roulette. A young boy replaces the toy gun in his holster with the real revolver he finds in his uncle’s suitcase, which he partially loads with live rounds. For a pulse-pounding afternoon, the boy waltzes around town, slipping through each townsperson’s grip as he plays cowboy. “Stick ’em up!” he orders. Friends and neighbors all bashfully obey, teasing out the boy’s joke—and the audience’s horror.

Hitchock directed this episode himself, and it shows.

Not only because it's a primer in the use of story-boarding and editing to induce tension in viewers, but because, as an Englishman, Hitchcock no doubt looked down on America's gun culture as crude, juvenile and deeply dangerous.

Another educated guess:

"Bang!" is Hitchcock's self-imposed penance for widely criticized scenes in two of his films.

Francois Truffaut denounced the shocking bus bombing scene in Sabotage (1936).

Others condemned the climactic scene in the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which a phalanx of unarmed English "bobbies" is unsentimentally shot down in one pitiless sweep.

(Note: Hitchcock's contempt for the police would make a rapper blush; I've always wondered if his justification for that disdain was just a self-serving, apocryphal alibi.)

(And this isn't the place to do much more than note in passing that the villains in both films were anarchists -- the "Muslim terrorists" of Hitchcock's childhood, but largely anachronistic by the 1930s.)

In any event, it speaks volumes about the power of "Bang! You're Dead" that that particular 50+ year old, 30-minute long TV episode was chosen as the key component of a potentially game-changing medical experiment.