BOB HOPE PRESENTS CHRYSLER THEATRE “The Fatal Mistake” NBC, 30 November 1966 (Season 4, Episode 10). Roddy McDowall, Arthur Hill, Michael Wilding, Marge Redmond, Laurence Naismith, Alice Rawlings. Teleplay: Jacques Gillies. Director: Mark Rydell. Currently streaming online here.

   The Chrysler Theatre, often hosted by comedian Bob Hope, a fixture at NBC at the time, was a general 60-minute anthology series which ran from 1963 to 1967. Included among its offerings were musicals, dramas, comedies and mysteries. This (not surprisingly) is one of the latter.

   The two male leads, playing off each other magnificently throughout the show, are perfectly cast. Roddy McDowall plays a smarmy “insurance agent” who comes by the home of an accountant (Arthur Hill) to pick up a monthly blackmail check. There is something in Hill’s past he does not want either his wife or 17-year-old daughter to know about, much less the rest of the world.

   Posing as a friend of the family, McDowall showers the two women in Hill’s life with small gifts and flattery, while all Hill can do is stand there and take it, all the while seething inside. The fact that he keeps a small collection of reptiles in a back room, some rather deadly, tells the viewer exactly where the story is going.

   Which of course it does, with a small mild twist in the tale, unfortunately well telegraphed in advance. It’s a perfectly acceptable story, and well acted. (Roddy McDowell is superb, as always.) It’s just not quite up to the standards of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, for example, but then again, what is (or was)?