powered by AFI
Elliot Nash is frenziedly working as a television writer-director and seeking advances on a new movie script in order to pay off a photographer's assistant named Dan Shelby, who is demanding money to suppress nude modeling shots of Elliot's wife Nell, a Broadway star unaware of her husband's dilemma. One day when his cab injures a pigeon, Elliot insists on rescuing the bird for a pet and naming it Herman. Elliot and Nell return home late that night to find their friend, Harlow Edison, a district attorney, who advises Elliot on his crime writing. Elliot gives him the basic plot for a new story in which an executive is being blackmailed for $10,000 to keep scandalous photographs out of the papers. Harlow assumes that the "executive" is actually Elliot, thus explaining his friend's nervous behavior, and gives Elliot three alternatives: pay the blackmailer, go to the police or kill the blackmailer. The next day, after real estate agent Mrs. Chandler tells Elliot that the McGruders have offered $50,000 in cash for his house, Elliot sabotages the house by loosening door knobs, scrambling the electrical wiring and crossing the plumbing to convince Nell to sell the "faulty" structure. Nell is too excited by her new 18th century gazebo she plans to install in the garden to agree to sell. Soon after he learns from contractor Sam Thorpe that the foundation will set twenty-four hours after it is poured, Elliot decides to kill Shelby and bury him in the foundation. After scheduling a Friday pour, Elliot tells Shelby to come to the Nash home on Thursday night for final payment. On Thursday at the theater, Nell shares her concern about Elliot with Harlow, explaining that she is aware of Elliot's attempts to convince her to sell the house and adds that he has recently bought a shovel, miner's hat and hip boots. Harlow assures her that he must be experimenting with props for a new crime show. Meanwhile, Elliot, following his own typed schedule for the murder, takes a tranquilizer, sets the front door ajar, lays out a tarpaulin to prevent blood stains on the floor and shovels a hole in the foundation's dirt bed. As scheduled, when a man with a briefcase arrives at the front door at 10 p.m., Elliot shoots into the darkened entryway and watches as the body lands on the tarpaulin, but when Elliot tries to move it, the tarpaulin rips, forcing Elliot to retrieve an ugly shower curtain to wrap the body. Noticing the beam of a flashlight outside, Elliot walks into the yard where Thorpe is inspecting the gazebo, notes the hole and leaves with the stray shovel. Before Elliot can return to the house, Mrs. Chandler drops by with the McGruders, who request a tour, but Elliot suggests scheduling one another day. Rushing back to the house, Elliot receives a phone call from director Alfred Hitchcock, who wants an update on the movie script. After Elliot asks Hitchcock how one might bury a body without a shovel, the director suggests using a fireplace shovel. The next day at the house, as rain begins to erode the foundation, Harlow questions Nell about Shelby who, he explains, is blackmailing several prominent women for large sums in exchange for suppressing nude shots of them. Nell admits that she modeled in the nude when she was eighteen-years old, but states that she rebuffed Shelby's blackmail attempts. After Harlow reports that Shelby has been found dead, Elliot realizes that he has shot the wrong person. Finally, when Nell confronts Elliot about the hole and the shovel and guesses that he buried the shower curtains he hated so much, Elliot gladly agrees with her assumption. That afternoon, when Mrs. Chandler drops by with a large cash offer for the home, Nell agrees to sell, explaining in a moment alone with Mrs. Chandler that the gazebo ruined the house's view. That night at the theater, Harlow interrogates Elliot about the night of Shelby's murder and asks if he has a gun. Upon Nell's suggestion, Harlow calls and asks the Nash housekeeper Matilda to locate the gun in Elliot's desk, but Matilda finds only paper. Soon after, the weapon that killed Shelby is found and identified as belonging to Joe Black, Shelby's partner, who killed Shelby and took all the blackmailing profits. Later after the show, gangsters, The Duke and Louis the Louse, abduct Nell and drive her to the house, explaining that Joe was last seen entering her home with $100,000 in a briefcase. Duke and Louis accuse Elliot of killing Joe and threaten to torture Nell if she does not reveal the location of his body. When the gazebo suddenly collapses, the gangsters find Joe buried in the foundation, take the money and leave. Elliot arrives home to discover Nell tied to a chair trying to dial the phone with her nose. Elliot is forced to tell Nell the truth and hides the dead man in the guesthouse. Soon after, the police arrive with Duke and Louis, who indicate where they left the body. Elliot admits to burying the body and is ready to make a statement but then abruptly pleads the Fifth Amendment. Unknown to the police, Herman, who had been perched on a bookshelf, directed Elliot's attention to a bullet hole in a book. While the police search the ground for Joe's body, Elliot explains to Nell that his shot did not hit Joe and deduces that the blackmailer died of a heart attack. Assuming that if the police find the bullet, Elliot will be accused of frightening Joe to death, Elliot and Nell frantically search for it, but Herman finds it first and flies off. The police conclude that they can only charge Elliot with burying a body without a permit and walk out the front door, where Herman drops the bullet on an officer's hat. Believing that the bird defecated on him, the officer discards his hat in the yard, thus ensuring Elliot's freedom.