Suspense's "Momentum" was adapted from a Depression era short story by Cornell Woolrich published under the titles "Momentum" and also "Murder Always Gathers Momentum." According to Frances M.Nevins in his book Cornell Woolrich, First You Dream, Then You Die: "When it comes to putting us in the skin of a frightened little guy in a miserable little apartment with a hungry wife and children and no money and no job and fear of tomorrow eating him like a cancer, Woolrich has no peers. There is more of the anguish of the thirties in stories like "Goodbye, New York" (1937) and "Dusk to Dawn"(1937) and "Borrowed Crime" (1937) and "Murder Always Gathers Momentum" (1940) than in volumes of social history."*
Woolrich's short story opens with the main character, Richard Paine, arriving at the house of his former employer, Mr. Burroughs. Paine is desperate and has come hoping to collect back wages. Years earlier he had deferred half of his salary to help get his employer through hard times, but instead, Burroughs filed a suspicious bankruptcy cancelling his company's debts. Paine's attempts to retrieve what is due to him set this fugitive-on-the-run story in motion.
Suspense's version skipped the Depression era setting and packaged the story differently, presumably for their contemporary audience. In this version Richard Paine's resentment towards his former employer is over a wrench that he claims to have invented. Paine, as he is portrayed here by Victor Mature, is hard to like and it doesn't appear that anyone does like him except his wife, though he doesn't treat her well.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents aired "Momentum" in 1956 with Skip Homeier and Joanne Woodward. The teleplay kept the sadness and the frenzy of Woolrich's original story but was made clean and bloodless for television. As Paine rushes across town, dying of a gunshot wound, he does not have a speck of blood on his suit or hands.
The short story "Momentum" can be found in The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus.
(Image from Morguefile.com)
*Frances M Nevins, Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream,Then You Die (New York: The Mysterious Press. 1988) pg. 127