21 September 2014

And So Died Riabouchinska (1956)
25 min.
Airdate: Feb. 12, 1956
Directed by Robert Stevenson.
With Claude Rains, Charles Bronson, Claire Carleton, Lowell Gilmore, and Virginia Gregg.
Jose Cruz
It’s just a regular busy night at the theater as all of the acts prepare to take the stage. As John Fabian (Rains) readies himself for his ventriloquist act, terror strikes the company when a corpse is discovered in the darkness beneath the stage. The police are summoned and Detective Krovitch (Bronson) immediately begins questioning possible suspects.

It seems there is quite some tension between Fabian and his wife Alice (Carleton). Alice is sickened by the attention John gives to his beloved dummy Riabouchinska (voiced by Gregg) and has thus found comfort in the arms of John’s manager Mel (Gilmore). This seems like a ripe opportunity for a homicide to take place, but it turns out that Alice and Mel had nothing to do with the crime and that John is fully aware of their affair.

Searching for answers and not getting any information from Fabian, Krovitch eventually begins consulting with Riabouchinska who not only seems to have a mind of her own but an overriding desire to tell the truth. What unfolds is a tale of spurned love, obsession, and the tragic facts concerning Riabouchinska’s creation…

Adapted from a story by Ray Bradbury, the episode has our attention right from the word “Go” when the cadaver is found in a purely Hitchcockian manner; the search for a flipped coin reveals that it is lying on top of the murder victim! From there on out the mystery slowly unravels itself, each detail coming to the surface at a measured pace that never rushes to the conclusion and keeps our concentration all the way through.

In addition to the intriguing mystery, we have an excellent cast to make this bizarre tale fully come to life. Bronson is icy smooth as the investigative detective and Carleton is perfectly conflicted as the point of a strange love triangle with her husband and his Russian princess puppet.

But this episode belongs to Rains, and the revelation at the episode’s end is enough to make you choke back a few sobs. Taking material that might come off as hammy in the hands of a lesser performer, Rains truly elevates this story to emotional heights that one might not think possible. His tearful despair is so painfully genuine that you can’t help but be convinced that he loves his dear Riabouchinska as much as he says he does.

While perhaps not one of the overall best of the series, And So Died Riabouchinska is worth the price of a matinee ticket alone for the powerhouse performance by Rains. Fans (and phobics) of ventriloquism will also do well by viewing The Dummy from The Twilight Zone and the infamous final segment from Dead of Night (1945).

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