Retro TV Times: The Rockingham Tea Set – Studio One 2×20 (1950)

Sara Mappin is a young nurse charged with looking after Celia, a young woman paralysed from the waist down in a car accident from which her fiance David, walked away unharmed. Although a difficult patient, Sara does her best to take care of her, but her vicious nature and suspicions that Sara is having an affair with David make caring for her difficult. Then Celia is found dead, and of course blame falls on Sara, who believes that Celia’s spirit is following her, not allowing her to move on with her life.

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In the same vain as shows like ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ this show attempts to present us with a mystery, build a reasonable amount of suspense and then have everything wrapped up in a nice hour long episode. And for the most part, this show really does succeed in doing that. There is something about these old school mystery type shows that just sinks it’s hooks into me. The tension is palpable and the suspense is fantastic.

This story went in a direction that I really wasn’t expecting. The reveals and twists that came in the second half of the episode were fantastic and somehow managed to take me by surprise, even if now, in retrospect I can see how predictable they were.

Although Grace Kelly is the big star here, it is really Louise Allbritton who stands out here. Her portrayal of the jealous, paranoid and manic Celia is just fantastic. Yes, sometimes her delivery swings a little too close to melodramatic, but it even that adds to the unsettling, tension ridden atmosphere of the story. She was the real stand out star for me.

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I don’t necessarily think that the story needed the introduction and epilogue scenes that it got which show the events that happen involving Celia and David are being recounted by Sara to her prospective new employer. I would have been just as happy if the story Sara was telling was the whole thing, and not a recounting of what had happened to her. And then the story would have been left on almost a cliffhanger. By the end I had forgotten about the characters in the present, and was almost surprised to see them show up again at the end. It really pulled me out of the story.

Also there were quite a few line fumbles and mistakes that were in the final version that stuck out like a sore thumb. Was there no way they could have re-shot those scenes? Some of the decisions made by the characters, David in particular were illogical and ridiculous. He went to hunt down Sara immediately after his wife’s death, making them both look guilty, and despite them both saying they weren’t having an affair. Celia so openly showing the real extent of her injuries, and her involvement in the accident were both points that I think should have been revealed more slowly, but doe to the short form nature of the show, had to be a little too rushed.

Overall though I really enjoyed this a great short mystery, with great atmosphere.

Final Rating: 4 Stars

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