Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.