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1950's television was pretty bland by almost any yardstick. That's not
to say that certain series, such as the early Gunsmoke, were not daring
and edgy in their own way. Or that the early I Love Lucy did not have
its hilarious moments. However the governing concepts were
unadventurous at best, or just plain dull, at worst. After all, no
matter how good some of the episodes, bringing law and order to the Old
West or following the humorous escapades of a zany housewife were not
exactly novel concepts in TV programming.
Two series, however, did come along to challenge convention. The Twilight Zone, at decade's end, attacked frontally with huge doses of imagination and exotic story-lines that often overwhelmed viewers, thereby opening American living-rooms to the expanding world of unthought-of possibilities. It was, and remains, a classic appreciated by young and old alike. However, the other ground-breaking series did not attack frontally. Instead, in true stealthy fashion, it snuck past the guardians of Good Taste and Morality, otherwise known as the department of Standards and Practices. That's probably because each episode was introduced by a funny-looking fat guy with a British accent, who came out to crack a few bad jokes and abuse the sponsors. Who could suspect that what followed such a slow-talking Humpty-Dumpty would subtly undermine some of TV's most entrenched conventions.
Yet that's exactly what the Hitchcock half-hours did. Perhaps the most subversive change lay in the series's really sneaky treatment of wrong-doers. To that point, convention insisted that culprits be apprehended on screen, the better to teach the audience that Crime Doesn't Pay. And while that may have conveyed a comforting societal message, it also made for a very predictable and boring climax to even the best stories. What the Hitchcock show did that was slyly revolutionary was to transpose the comeuppance from the story to Hitchcock's often humorous epilogue. There the audience would learn that the culprit was duly punished and that justice had once again prevailed, apparently enough to keep the censors of the day at bay. So the story-line might end on screen with a grotesque murder, while only later would the audience be told by Hitchcock that justice had indeed caught up. Maybe that seems like just a minor change. But in fact, it was highly significant. For now the audience could follow plot developments, without knowing how the story itself would end, while the deadening element of predictability was transferred to the easily ignored epilogue. It was a truly ground-breaking event in the evolution of TV.
All in all, that element of uncertainty made for the kind of programming that continues to entertain, even into today's super-charged era of technicolor and relaxed censorship. It also accounts largely for why Hitchcock Presents remains one of the few series from that long-ago time to still be re-run. There were other sly subversive wrinkles such as the black humor that sometimes accompanied the most heinous crimes. Or the subtle insistence that murder often begins at home. In fact, the series as a whole managed to mirror much of Hitchcock's movie-making personality, which suggests the producers (Norman Lloyd and Joan Harrison) were very protective of what the Hitchcock brand name implied. Anyway, like any other series, some episodes were better than others, but only rarely did one really disappoint. In fact, the high quality remained surprisingly steady throughout the half-hour run, before dropping off noticeably during the over-stretched hour-long version.
Some of my favorites: "Mr. Pelham" (good semi sc-fi); "The Creeper" (suspense & fine acting); "The Glass Eye" ( well-done horror); "Back for Christmas" (typical Hitchcock irony); "Poison" (you'll sweat a bucket load); "Design for Loving" (off-beat premise well executed); "Human Interest Story" (Hitchcock meets the Twilight Zone); "Special Delivery" (truly spooky); "Specialty of the House" (It ain't Mc Donalds); "Breakdown" (Why don't they hear me?), and anything with the deliciously repulsive Robert Emhardt.
I'm sure there are many others not so fresh in my memory. Anyway, in my book, a big thanks is due Alfred Hitchcock for doing something no other movie heavy-weight of the time was willing to do. He risked his big league reputation by squeezing into millions of little black boxes once a week for seven years to bring the audience outstanding entertainment. His snooty peers may have sneered, but generations of grateful viewers have since proved him right.
A delightful mix of suspense and humor, the serious and the absurd, Alfred Hitchcock Presents may be the best filmed anthology of all. The half-hour show ran seven seasons, the hour-longs lasted for three. I prefer the shorter shows, which have more punch and variety, and also seem more energetic and original. Aided by producers Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd, Hitchcock owned the show through his production company, yet actually had little to do with the series, of which he directed only a small number of episodes. But Harrison and Lloyd knew Hitch and his tastes quite well, and the Hitchcock shows reflected his interests and preoccupations. He also delivered the droll introductions, which are still a joy to watch, becoming somewhat of a celebrity as a result. Drawing on such disparate sources as Ray Bradbury and John Collier, Ambrose Bierce and Guy de Maupassant, the show drew on some of the most gifted actors (if not biggest stars) in the business. They are best viewed without commercial interruption, one after the other. Their dry mood and subtle humor is still charming after all these years.
For those who like classic television, it doesn't come any better than
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents". Although he did not direct every episode by
himself, his stamp is on every program. Almost every episode is of high
quality, with clever and creative stories combined with writing and acting
that ranges from good to outstanding. There is also terrific variety - you
never know whether a given episode will be serious or light-hearted, whether
there will be a happy ending or a tragic one. Each show keeps you guessing,
and most have a twist at the end, many of them quite memorable. There are
also a lot of big stars who appear in one or more episodes, as well as some
young actors who would become stars, and the ones that don't have anyone
famous generally have a pretty good set of character actors. If all that
weren't enough, you have Hitchcock himself introducing each episode with
some hilarious remarks - often making fun of TV commercials - and often in
humorous settings that have a connection to the upcoming
Episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" are well worth the trouble to find, whether you are fortunate enough to find broadcasts of them or whether you need to track down some videos of selected episodes.
You can catch this on 'Chiller' channel in many areas....via satellite.
This classic series from 1955-1965 features the most varied suspense,
horror and curious human behavior, as Hitchcock was so adept at
Better than some of the Twilight Zone stories as there is less science fiction, more study of human behavior, psychology and murder. A few of the more intriguing vignettes come to mind. One episode involves a murderer and his wife Jocelyn, who believed to be dead, mysteriously returns to the scene of the crime, a seaside village. Another episode is with Margaret Natwick and Hurd Hatfield ("The Picture of Dorian Gray" lead). He plays a scheming nephew attempting to gain his inheritance through murder of his elderly aunt. There is a twist.
As only Hitchcock can, there is suspense to the end of the story, keeping the audience guessing. Hitchcock once said the element of horror is not the actual blood and gore, but the suspense and mystery leading up to it. The finest director we have seen, and this series is a do not miss. Highly recommended. 10/10.
Truly a classic, this long-running TV series(1955-65) was way ahead of its time. Its host, Alfred Hitchcock presented stories in this weekly, half-hour dramatic/suspense anthology that virtually no other program would even dream of presenting. Like many of Hitch's films, the stories presented frequently dealt with murder and deception, sometimes on a humerous level. Anyone expecting the show to end with the conventional happy ending would fare better to tune into another television program. In addition to hosting the show, Hitchcock directed several episodes of the series as well.
I was introduced to Hitchcock as a kid at 11 in 1985 for the short-live colorized version back on NBC, five years after his passing. But I am kind of an old-fashioned person myself. And love it being in black & white. Even though the show was way ahead of its time and the scripts were good and the acting was superb. It made Alfred Hitchcock a star as he climbed from behind the scenes to center stage. He was the main reason for the show's success! Thanks to his jokes and puns. Hitchcock's wit and charm carried the show. And proved he wasn't just being "serious!" Hope that Nick At Night or TV Land will unleash this baby one day. In Black & White because I love the original. The original is the original.
I've only seen a few episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", but just
those few identify it as a great show. The opening with his shadow
approaching his outline gives a hint of suspense, but when we see the
Master of Suspense offering a slight explanation of what's about to
happen, there's no turning back.
One can see that Hitch - who would have turned 108 yesterday - occasionally used the show to introduce his movies, and did a really clever job with it: one episode featured a woman stealing money (remember in which movie that happened?). Another episode was set on a train (now where did we see a train?) All in all, I would call this the perfect way that any director could get involved in TV, and who else could do it except Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock? You just gotta see it to really get a feel for it. But when you do watch it, just be prepared for what sorts of things you're about to see.
When it premiered on CBS on October 2, 1955, Alfred Hitchcock Presents
was an instant hit destined for long-term popularity. The series'
original half-hour anthology format provided a perfect showcase for
stories of mystery, suspense, and the macabre that reflected
Hitchcock's established persona. Every Sunday at 9:30 p.m., the series
began with the familiar theme of Gounod's "Funeral March of a
Marionette" (which would thereafter be inextricably linked with
Hitchcock), and as Hitchcock's trademark profile sketch was
overshadowed by the familiar silhouette of Hitchcock himself, the
weekly "play" opened and closed with the series' most popular feature:
As a good-natured host whose inimitable presence made him a global
celebrity, Hitchcock delivered droll, dryly sardonic introductions and
epilogues to each week's episode, flawlessly written by James Allardyce
and frequently taking polite pot-shots at CBS sponsors, or skirting
around broadcast standards (which demanded that no crime could go
unpunished) by humorously explaining how the show's killers and
criminals were always brought to justice... though always with a nod
and a wink to the viewer. This knowing complicity was Hitchcock's pact
with his audience, and the secret to his (and the series') long-term
success. It's also what attracted a stable of talented writers whose
tele plays, both original and adapted, maintained a high standard of
excellence. Hitchcock directed four of the first season's 39 episodes,
including the premiere episode "Revenge" (a fan favorite, with future
Psycho costar Vera Miles) and the season highlight "Breakdown," with
Joseph Cotten as a car-accident victim, paralyzed and motionless, who's
nearly left for dead; it's a perfect example of visual and narrative
economy, executed with a master's touch. (The fourth episode, "Don't
Come Back Alive," is also a popular favorite, with the kind of sinister
twist that became a series trademark.) Robert Stevenson directed the
majority of the remaining episodes with similar skill, serving tightly
plotted tales (selected by associate producers Joan Harrison and Norman
Lloyd) by such literary greats as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Cornell
Woolrich, Dorothy L. Sayers, and John Collier. Adding to the series'
prestige was a weekly roster of new and seasoned stars, with
first-season appearances by Cloris Leachman, Darren McGavin, Everett
Sloane, Peter Lawford, Charles Bronson, Barry Fitzgerald, John
Cassavetes, Joanne Woodward, Thelma Ritter, and a host of Hollywood's
best-known character players. With such stellar talent on weekly
display, Alfred Hitchcock Presents paved the way for Thriller, The
Twilight Zone, and other series that maximized the anthology format's
Packed onto three double-sided DVDs, these 39 episodes hold up remarkably well, and while some prints show the wear and tear of syndication, they look and sound surprisingly good (although audio compression will cause many viewers to turn up the volume). The 15-minute bonus featurette, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back" is perfunctory at best, but it's nice to see new anecdotal interviews with Norman Lloyd, assistant director Hilton Green, and Hitchcock's daughter Pat (a frequent performer on these episodes), who survived to see their popular series benefit from the archival convenience of DVD.
Starring: Alred Hitchcock (Host) Director: Robert Stevens.
Television in the 1950's,was pretty bland by almost any yardstick.
During that period,you had the opportunity to see either detective
dramas,and family comedies not to mention all of the above. That's not
to say that certain series,such as the early Gunsmoke were not daring
and edgy in their own way. Or that the early Ozzie and Harriet or the
early I Love Lucy did not have its hilarious moments. After all, not
matter how good some of the episodes were,either the adventures of a
typical suburban family,bringing law and order to the Old West or
following the humorous escapades of a zany housewife were not exactly
novel concepts in television programming. Even the typical variety show
had some flaws in them too,but sometimes was rarely notice.
Two series,however did come along to challenge convertion. The Twilight Zone,by the end of the decade,attacked frontally with huge doses of imagination and exotic story lines that often overwhelmed viewers,thereby opening America's living rooms to the expanding world of unthought not to mention unheard of possibilities. It was an original,and it remains to this day a standard classic appreciated by one and all. However,the ground breaking series did not attack frontally. Instead in true fashion,it snuck past the guardians of Good Taste and Morality,otherwise known as the Department of Standards and Practices. This was during the opening of each episode was introduced by a chubby guy with a British accent who could give a brilliant introduction while cracking a few bad jokes and abuse the sponsors. This is what Alfred Hitchcock's half-hour anthology series did.
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" made its premiere on CBS-TV on October 2, 1955,and from the opening sequence became an instant hit that stayed on the network for seven seasons(CBS-TV from 1955 to 1960,and later went to NBC-TV for its final two seasons from 1960 until 1962,all in classic black and white). A total of 270 episodes were produced for this half-hour series that was produced by Norman Lloyd and Joan Harrison,under Hitchcock's production company,Shamley Productions for Revue Studios/MCA-TV-Universal. Hitchcock himself was not only a master showman,but he was an original in which each week was for its time slyly revolutionary-to transpose within the comeuppance from the story to Hitchcock's often humorous epilogue. There the audience would learn that the culprit was punished and that justice have once again prevailed,apparently to keep the censors at bay. The storyline might end up on screen with a gruesome murder while only later would the audience be told by Hitchcock that justice had indeed caught up with the suspect of the crime. Maybe that seems like a minor change,but in fact was highly innovative not to mention significant. For now the audience could follow the plot developments,without knowing how the story itself would end,while the deadening element of predictability was transferred to the easily ignored epilogue. For its time,it was truly ground-breaking event in the history of television. And still holds that title today,and it continues to entertain,and remains one of the few television series of long ago to still be.
Two episodes,both directed by Hitchcock himself are consider the best out of the entire series: "The Case of Mr. Pelham" with Tom Ewell,and "Lamb to the Slaughter" with Barbara Bel Geddes,were simply brilliant along with "The Glass Eye","Breakdown","Special Delivery",are just to name a few.
I am a massive Hitchcock fan and would argue that his creative peak in features was in the mid-late 50's, ironically just at the time he commenced production of this short-form series bearing his imprimatur, even if he only had time to personally direct a handful of episodes. Of the first four episodes I've watched from series 1, I've been impressed by their coherence, consistency and diversity, for instance one was set in the wild west, a genre you can hardly imagine the Master covering in his own work. Snappily scripted, plotted and edited, these short programmes prefigure the likes of "Twilight Zone" in the 60's and "Tales Of The Unexpected" in the 70's. The production values are high as is the acting talent involved; famously this is how Hitch discovered Vera Miles, who was to feature in two of his features in the years ahead as well as a penchant for a low budget, black and white shoot which would result in a certain movie centring on a psychologically disturbed motel owner, the title of which escapes me. All the episodes benefit from acerbic intros and outros by the man himself, playing up to his curmudgeonly persona while the sinisterly jocular theme music still conjures up that famous pencil-profile image which he would fill over the titles. I think it's great that a top Hollywood director in his prime could make time to adapt so well to the TV market as Hitchcock did here. These programmes are fun, pithy and entertaining and still worth watching today.
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