Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame B&W
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Featurette – Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back
Length: Approx. 16 hours 43 minutes (3 DVDs)
What terrific fun for Halloween viewing! This new 3 DVD set of this
groundbreaking television series, which paved the way for TV shows of
mystery and suspense, contains all 39 episodes (1955-56) of this
phenomenally popular television show which endured 10 years and
featured 359 episodes. I’m sure many recall eagerly looking forward to
Alfred Hitchcock visiting our living rooms each week. What a treat it
was to watch the suspense build around the culprits and their mischief
and the innocents we wanted to warn!
Even though the TV screen was tiny in this mid-50s era, Hitchcock
produced everything on 35 mm just like major motion pictures of the
time. Therefore it transfers well to DVD (unlike kinescope sources),
but some episodes do look rather grainy. The navigation around the DVDs
is illustrated with helpful stills for each episode featured. Audio
also varies in quality and level from one episode to another.
Most memorable is the silhouette which became so famous at the
beginning of each show which Hitchcock would walk into in time to The
Funeral March of the Marionettes. In “A Look Back” – the only extra on
this 3 DVD disc (2 sides per disc) – we learn that the lead ins
and lead outs were written by James Allardice. These brief hilarious
and clever pieces were “brilliant writing, but Hitchcock was the
brilliant vehicle for these mad ideas” which Allardice wrote for
10 years. The lead ins and lead outs were icing on the cake, allowing
Hitchcock to tease his audience at the outset and to provide some
resolution at the conclusion. In the very first lead in, he states “I
shall not act but act as an accessory before and after the fact.”
Actors such as John Forsythe, Claude Rains, Cloris Leachman, Joanne
Woodward, Charles Bronson, John Cassavettes, Claire Trevor, Lorne
Greene, Vera Miles, Barbara Bel Geddes, Joseph Cotton and many more
wanted to work on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, even though he did not
direct all the episodes. Pat Hitchcock, his daughter and a good
actress, appears in a number of the shows, playing both big and small
In Hitchcock’s world respectable people often get caught up in serious
dilemmas and ordinary people do things they normally would not do. But
not to worry, in these tales of murder, betrayal, torrid triangles,
bizarre obsessions, and surprise endings, there are plenty of
thoroughly wicked characters as well.
A Look Back enhances this treasure, with notable Hitchcock associates
describing how the show was developed and produced. The only quibble I
have is the one special feature is only about 15 minutes long and even
more details would have been welcome. It is a well illustrated and
lively account featuring Norman Lloyd (associate producer, actor,
director), Hilton Green (assistant director) and Pat Hitchcock and
others. Fascinating is hearing how Hitchcock and his team worked. Lloyd
and Joan Harrison (producer and originally a scriptwriter who came to
the U. S. with the Hitchcocks to work on the productions–Norman Lloyd
later followed) would first find stories and later writers to do
screenplays, submitting each to Hitchcock for his approval each step.
He would sometimes add some ideas. Some of the writers were Ray
Bradbury, Roald Dahl and Robert Block.
Below are only a few of my favorites from this 16+ hours of great
storytelling. It requires some restraint not to mention more of the
ones I have viewed so far. I can’t wait to watch each one remaining and
to re-watch others.
“Back for Christmas” – An older gentleman (John Williams) murders his
wife and buries her in the basement of their home in England, only to
receive a postcard in America containing some incriminatory information.
“Decoy” is about a nice guy, secretly in love with a married woman,
being framed for murder and his desperate search for the real murderer.
“The Creeper” is certainly creepy. A New York strangler who is a locksmith uses his job to gain access to homes of his victims.
“And So Died Riabouchinska” features a young Charles Bronson as a detective and Claude Rains as an obsessed ventriloquist.
In “The Case of Mr. Pelham” (Tom Ewell) nominated for an Emmy, Mr.
Pelham, a wealthy businessman, discovers someone has been impersonating
him and eventually confronts his double with dire consequences. An
early incident of identity theft.
“The Older Sister” gives an intriguing twist on the Lizzie Borden story.
In “The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby” a cunning killer murders his
first wife for money. When his second wife finds him out, a surprising
series of events ensue.
“Breakdown” is so chilling I’ve not managed the nerve to finish
watching it yet. Joseph Cotton plays a hardhearted businessman who
survives a near fatal car crash but is completely paralyzed. He is sent
to the morgue and pronounced dead–but he isn’t.
Highly recommended for Halloween and beyond! Hopefully, Universal will release on DVD the 320 episodes remaining.
– Donna Dorsett