The music score was by Gerald Fried and the cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc. The film was funded by American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Palomar Pictures Corporation, and The Associates & Aldrich Company, and distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.
PlotThe opening scene of the film sets the tone. Claire Marrable (Page) is recently widowed and at the funeral, she frantically removes flowers from her husband's coffin, while eerie music plays in the background. A few days later, her husband's will is revealed by the junior partner of a law firm (The Bob Newhart Show's Peter Bonerz, in one of his first roles): her husband made bad investments and left nothing to her except a briefcase, a butterfly collection and a stamp collection; the home itself, and the furnishings in it, also do not belong to Claire Marrable. Marrable goes ballistic, smashing the butterfly collection to smithereens and then tearfully frets about what lies in her future. At the lawyer's prodding, she remembers that she has a distant nephew in Arizona.
Forward a few months: Marrable is comfortably ensconced in a ranch home outside Tucson, Arizona. We had seen her murder what we later understand to be one of her housekeepers/companion. She has a penchant for successfully growing pine trees, even out in the hot desert. She lives with a housekeeper, Miss Tinsley (Dunnock). One evening, Miss Tinsley asks Marrable for an update on the stocks she has purchased through Marrable; this upsets Marrable, who threatens immediately to sell the stocks, even at a loss, to rid herself, and the housekeeper, of the anxiety. Upon arrival of a new pine tree from a nursery, Marrable demands that Miss Tinsley go out in the cool night to help her plant the tree. When the two women arrive at the recently dug hole for the tree, Marrable claims her watch has fallen in the hole and asks Miss Tinsley to jump in the hole to retrieve it. When the housekeeper searches for the watch, Marrable grabs a shovel and whacks the housekeeper over the head, then buries her in the hole, using the pine tree as a testament to her latest conquest. We then see five pine trees, in varying size in a long shot of the garden, each in different stages of growth, suggesting this process has been repeated.
Ruth Gordon as Alice Dimmock appears and wins the position of sixth companion, serving Mrs. Marrable well and to her employer's liking, but, in fact, Dimmock is investigating the disappearance of the last victim whom we learn had been Dimmock's own companion. After much intrigue and suspense, another murder is committed, atypical of the previous, plus two more attempted murders, until finally Mrs. Marrable's guilt is exposed, and the enormous value of the stamp collection left to her by her dead husband is inadvertently revealed.
- Geraldine Page as Claire Marrable
- Ruth Gordon as Alice Dimmock
- Rosemary Forsyth as Harriet Vaughn
- Robert Fuller as Mike Darrah
- Mildred Dunnock as Edna Tinsley
- Joan Huntington as Julia Lawson
- Peter Brandon as George Lawson
- Michael Barbera as Jim Vaughn
- Peter Bonerz as Mr. Bentley
- Richard Angarola as Sheriff Armijo
- Claire Kelly as Elva
- Valerie Allen as Dottie
- Martin Garralaga as Juan
- Jack Bannon as Olin
- Seth Riggs as Warren