Distributor: Via Vision Entertainment
Release Date: June 16, 2021 & August 18, 2021
Region: Region Free
Video: 576I (MPEG-2, PAL)
Main Audio: 2.0 English Mono Dolby Digital
Notes: This series is not yet available on the Blu-ray format.
“I am entering television because I am the tip of a tendril. I am a slave to MCA.” —Alfred Hitchcock (The Los Angeles Times)
One has to wonder if the tonal similarities between Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents are coincidental. The television series fell right on the heels of the film, and their productions overlapped. After the film premiered in Barre Vermont on September 30, 1955, it was given a general release a few days later on October 03, 1955. Can anyone guess what occurred between those two dates? … You guessed it. Alfred Hitchcock Presents premiered on CBS on October 02, 1955. Perhaps the film’s failure at the box office was due to the simple fact that viewers had gotten their Hitchcock fix while remaining on their sofas.
“The Trouble with Harry’s importance was eclipsed by the début, on October 02, 1955, of a new television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It is difficult now to reconstruct how revolutionary it was, back in those relatively early days of television, for a front-rank, top-class movie director to involve himself in any way with this trashy, despised medium. Hollywood was still burying its head in the sand, trying to shrug off the competition of television and pretend it did not exist… But as yet few of the majors had had the sense to see that the thing to do, if you couldn’t beat them, was to join them. Not so MCA… The heads of MCA had early seen the potential of television and got more and more involved on the production side — and at the same time Hitch was deeply involved with them. In the process of accretion, the agency which represented him had been incorporated into MCA, and so from 1945 he was represented in all his business dealings by MCA and in particular by Lew Wasserman, the head of MCA, who became one of his closest personal friends. When Lew Wasserman talked, he listened. And in 1955 Wasserman did some very effective talking.
At a managerial conference the question of new television shows for the company to produce came up. Wasserman suddenly said, ‘We ought to put Hitch on the air.’ Exactly how he did not know, but Hitch’s name, his reputation and his eccentric personality seemed to make him a natural. There was some skepticism. Could he do it? Would he do it? Would it work if he did? To all of which Wasserman answered, practically, that it would do no harm to ask, and to test the market in the usual way with preliminary research. So Wasserman went to Hitch with the idea. Hitch was cautious but open-minded. He had nothing against television, and the financial advantages if the series turned out well would be considerable. On the other hand, did he need this at a time when his theatrical moviemaking was immensely successful and satisfying, and he had more projects buzzing round in his head than he could ever find time to do? Finally, he asked Wasserman’s opinion as a friend as well as an agent—did he think Hitch should do it? Very decidedly, Wasserman did. He did not see how it could do anything but good, and strengthen Hitch’s position in the cinema as well. In his most sanguine moments, though, he had no idea how much.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
Hitchcock understood the publicity value of being a recognizable television personality, but his decision to lend his name and talent to television was at least partially swayed by other incentives.
“With Wasserman oiling the gears, CBS offered Hitchcock a state-of-the-art contract. He would lend his name to the series, serving as host and producer and directing a set number of episodes. His salary would be higher than he received for many of the feature films had directed — reportedly $125,000 per episode. And in one of those clauses that were Wasserman’s specialty, all rights to the series would revert to him after [the] first broadcast.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, October 19, 2010)
Even with such a lucrative deal in place, Hitchcock was unwilling to give up his filmmaking career for any television show. The cinema was his first love, and it would remain his primary priority. This meant that he would have to place much of the work in capable hands that he could trust.
“He set up a company nostalgically named Shamley Productions and called in his old associate Joan Harrison to act as producer on the series. She gathered together a small staff which was eventually to include as her assistant — and later successor — Norman Lloyd, who had worked with Hitch as an actor in Saboteur and Spellbound, writers such as Francis Cockrell, who wrote an amazingly high proportion of the early scripts, including seven of the episodes directed by Hitch himself, the photographer John L. Russell and a nucleus of readers and editors, as well as James Allardyce, whose job was to write the brief framing discourses for each episode delivered by the master himself [more on this later]. The organization was tight and efficient, and once the pattern was established Hitch found it possible to delegate most of the work. He was most closely involved with Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as the new series was called, for the first two years… Hitch gradually had less and less directly to do with it.
But from the outset he knew very precisely what he wanted… He directed his group’s attention to some of his favorites among the older short-story writers, like John Collier, and some younger writers, such as Roald Dahl, who thought along the same lines as himself. And having laid down the guidelines he left them very much to themselves. Of course, he could trust them completely not to do anything which would devalue the image, which was very necessary since he did not have time to read all the stories and scripts himself, let alone supervise the actual production at all closely. He did have synopses of the stories projected, and went through them rapidly each week giving a yes or a no. Usually it was yes, but whenever he found it necessary to say no he gave very clear and succinct reasons for his refusal.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
Of course, every self-respecting television series needs a recognizable theme song.
“For the underlying music Bernard Herrmann suggested ‘Funeral March of a Marionette,’ written by Charles Gounod in 1872, a classical novelty Herrmann had used on ‘Suspense’ and later recycled as a temporary sound track for The Trouble with Harry… ‘Even when people hear the music today,’ wrote McCarty and Kelleher, ‘what they usually think of is Hitchcock’s silhouette countenance merging with the odd little line drawing that he had sketched of himself for the show’s logo.’ —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, October 19, 2010)
They may also think of the filmmaker’s iconic opening and closing monologues.
“[These] introductions [were what] really made the series, and [they] incidentally made Hitch one of the most famous people in the world, a star wherever he went. He came up right away with the format when the series was first mooted. The familiar profile caricature, which he had started doing of himself in his twenties, and had varied since only by the disappearance of the three wavy hairs on top; the same profile in his actual shadow; and the little jokey chat with the audience, making cynical comments on the story to be shown and even — something totally taboo at the time on television — saying slighting things about the sponsor. The problem was to find a writer who could consistently hit just the right note, capture Hitch’s personality in this very brief compass week after week. Finding James Allardyce was a stroke of great good fortune. He met Hitch a couple of times, and Hitch showed him a rough cut of The Trouble with Harry as the best indication of what he wanted… Allardyce at once created just the right material, and continued to write the introductions throughout the series. It was a source of constant amazement to the rest of the staff of Shamley Productions the things Hitch could be persuaded to do on screen. That a great director, and one usually so protective of his dignity, should appear as a child in knickerbockers, or with a hatchet buried in his head, or variously, grotesquely disguised in moustaches and beards, or even sometimes play his own brother — that was really beyond imagination, especially since in some mysterious way he always managed to emerge from the most absurd stunts with his dignity intact. Yet another aspect of the Hitchcock enigma. And it was through these appearances, far more than his serious work, that most people got to know Hitch and have an opinion about him. He would drop in periodically at the studio and shoot them very casually at the rate of eight or nine a day — and the rest is history.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
At least two entirely different monologues were recorded for each episode. One of these was for American television, and the other was for British television.
“There’s no difference between the English and American versions insofar as use of English is concerned. We do have to make a separate run for England because TV there is government controlled, and we must not run our commercial into the introduction.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock Murders a Blonde, Syndicated Article, May 31, 1958)
In addition to The Trouble with Harry, it seems likely that the show’s prologues and epilogues were also influenced by Robert Benchley’s work.
“Hitch had seen several of the shorts the woebegone, disenchanted comic had made, illustrated lectures by himself on such subjects as How to Sleep, A Night at the Movies, and The Sex Life of the Polyp, and had appreciated a dry, grotesque sense of humor not unlike his own. Years later he was to remember the tone and format when devising his own famous introductory monologues for Alfred Hitchcock Presents on television.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
The series was unique for its day, and many of the anthology shows that followed owe it a significant debt.
“No other U.S. television show could claim quite the same pedigree, drawing on stories by a British Who’s Who of authors including H. G. Wells, A. A. Milne, Rebecca West, Julian Symons, V. S. Pritchett, Eric Ambler, and John Mortimer. Roald Dahl and Stanley Ellin were probably the most frequently adapted, and more than once Hitchcock returned to authors whose novels he had already filmed, Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, Ethel Lina White, and Selwyn Jepson among them…
…The bulk of the stories involved murder under suspicious or peculiar circumstances. Episodes were sometimes darkly comic, sometimes stark or mordant, and most of the episodes had twist endings. Among the first season’s highlights was the story Hitchcock once cited as an inspiration for The Lady Vanishes — ‘The Vanishing Lady’ by Alexander Woollcott (with Pat Hitchcock as the daughter of a woman who vanishes at the 1899 Paris World Exposition). [This episode is titled Into Thin Air] The first season would boast adaptations of Dorothy Sayers, Anthony Armstrong, and John Collier. But Alfred Hitchcock Presents also had its share of American writers, and the first season featured stories by Rear Window author Cornell Woolrich (who never wrote directly for the program, though again and again his stories were adapted) and Ray Bradbury, who wrote originals as well as adaptations throughout the run of the series.
Television scripts called for a brevity and economy similar to the demands of radio, and many of the scriptwriters also had cut their teeth in radio. The most prolific were Suspense alumni: Harold Swanton, James P. Cavanagh, Louis Pollock, Mel Dinelli. Francis Cockrell — who wrote all four of the episodes Hitchcock directed in 1955–56, and seven of the twenty shows Hitchcock directed for television — was a southerner who wrote humor, short stories, novels, and films (often with his wife Marion). The Cockrells and Joan Harrison had collaborated on 1944’s Dark Waters, a Hitchcockian frightened lady film.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, October 19, 2010)
It may seem all the more impressive that Alfred Hitchcock and his team were able to accumulate such an incredible assembly of stories to adapt in such a brief period of time before heading into production, but one must remember that the director had been reading and collecting material from which to make his films for decades.
“I intend to rely, almost exclusively, on short stories by famous authors for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Obviously, in its original form, the short story is conceived with the prime objective of developing character and plot in a minimum amount of printed space. Obviously, therefore, any adaption for television of a well-written story should, I feel, provide smoother results with far fewer production problems than, say, an attempt to condense a long novel into a 30-minute script. I have observed, with mixed emotions, several television attempts to telescope into 30 minutes stories which, on the motion picture screen, could be presented properly in nothing less than two hours. Conversely, since I believe few short stories can benefit by being padded and stretched to meet the length, timewise, of a good motion picture, I have accumulated quite a store of fascinating yarns which, until now, I have never had the opportunity of committing to film. And I’ve cherished them for years, these stories by Michael Arlen, Dorothy Sayers, Cornell Woolrich and others, with the frustrating knowledge that I could never do justice to them as full length motion pictures.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock Brings His Directing Techniques to the Medium of Television, Syndicated Article, September 18, 1955)
One of the most aggravating pet peeves amongst Hitchcock fans are individuals who assume that he directed all of the episodes in the series. In reality, he only directed seventeen episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents throughout the show’s seven season run, but most of them are among the best of the series.
“He had the pick of the stories for those he would direct himself. From the outset it was part of the idea that he should direct some of the shows — the pilots, the keynote shows, whatever else he fancied and had time to do. He has repeatedly disclaimed any special interest in those shows he did direct — twenty out of an estimated 365 Shamley productions — pretending that he merely took up whatever was in preparation when he had a gap in his schedule. In fact he seems to have chosen his own shows with great care, using many of his favorite actors in them and selecting stories which particularly appealed to him. In every other way he religiously observed the limitations imposed on the series in general. Normally the half-hour shows were permitted two days of rehearsal and three days of shooting; Hitch always brought his in on time. He found it an interesting discipline. He would pick out in each show the two or three most important shots, and concentrate on them. If they were right, the rest could be left to fall respectably into place. Not surprisingly, among the twenty shows Hitch directed are several of those that everyone remembers best out of the whole series. Revenge, for example, in which Vera Miles is attacked by a man, later recognizes him in the street and after her husband has beaten to death the man she pointed out promptly recognizes another. Or Banquo’s Chair, in which John Williams as a detective hires an actress to pretend to be a murder victim’s ghost in order to flush out the killer, then discovers after his scheme has worked successfully that the actress was unable to keep the appointment … Or, most famous of all perhaps, Lamb to the Slaughter, from a story by Roald Dahl, in which Barbara Bel Geddes kills her husband with a deep-frozen leg of lamb, then cooks it to feed the policemen investigating the crime as they talk about the mysterious disappearance of the murder weapon. These could hardly have come about by some mere happy accident.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
While the director always put his theatrical films ahead of his television work, he would still bring his sharp eye to his position as a television director. Of course, he was forced to work much faster and couldn’t always utilize the same intricate approach that he preferred using in his films. Instead, he adapted a different aesthetic that he felt was more suitable for the medium.
“In filming a picture called Rope several years ago, I used a technique which, to a great degree, is quite similar to that being used in television studios on both coasts today. Our performers went through their scenes without a stop; walls silently disappeared as the camera moved around for better angles and, in fact, all the movements of the camera crew, the stage hands and the cast were timed with great precision. Of course, there is one great difference between the technique used in filming Rope and that of a ‘live’ show like Climax! or Studio One. We used only one camera!
…One of the most time-consuming elements in filming a motion picture is the lighting. Those enormous movie screens provide a medium which requires a certain number of large sets. Large sets require a great deal of careful lighting . . . and that takes time. Once the set has been made ready for me and the cast, I have always worked with rapidity.
Large sets requiring so much careful lighting, however, have no place in a medium where the resultant image averages but 21 inches in width. Elaborate long shots are not only for the most part completely unnecessary, but disturbing to the home viewer. I may discover, when we start production on Alfred Hitchcock Presents that I am whistling in the dark. But, at present, it is my belief that elaborate, time-consuming lighting is completely unnecessary when the camera is concentrating on the small areas used in filming a television show.
As well, I have observed that the deep blacks and shadows, so necessary for clear projection of motion pictures on large screens, seem unnecessary in television. The prime objective in lighting for television is to produce a sharp, clear picture, free of unusual lighting effects. These may be worth the time they take to achieve in the enhancement of the large screen motion picture, but they seem unnecessary and, in fact, often objectionable in the creation of the proper mood for television.
Television, as a matter of fact, by the very nature of the medium, tells its story best when the camera concentrates on the faces of the performers. If these faces are to be seen clearly on the television screen, they must fill the frame to a far greater degree than in making a motion picture. This very fact would seem to simplify so many of the problems encountered in filming movies, and, accordingly, producing for television has every reason to be achieved more rapidly…
…The very requirements of achieving coherent interest on the home television screens seem to dictate the short production schedule that’s supposed to terrify me. I regret that, having done an entire motion picture in a lifeboat and having photographed two hours of action through the rear window of a New York apartment, I shall not be able to oblige those who visualize me as a pathetic, though somewhat humorous figure, inventing new television techniques with wild-eyed frenzy.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock Brings His Directing Techniques to the Medium of Television, Syndicated Article, September 18, 1955)
Television has progressed quite a bit since this period in history. In fact, one might say that the line between one’s aesthetic approach to television dramas and theatrical films are narrowing every year (the exception would be television sitcoms). However, Hitchcock’s observations about the medium were true in 1955. However, none of this means that he didn’t carry his visual approach to storytelling and adapt them to conform to these more restricting parameters. One imagines that other directors were expected to do the same, and this may be the reason that Alfred Hitchcock Presents was such a triumph.
The Hitchcock Seventeen
The following is a list of the seventeen episodes that were directed by Alfred Hitchcock:
(Season One — Episode 01)
The series premiere of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is one of the show’s best episodes. It first aired on October 02, 1955 and starred Vera Miles and Ralph Meeker. Those who admire The Andy Griffith Show will also notice Frances Bavier in a supporting role. The story by Samuel Blas follows Carl and Elsa Spann, a newlywed couple just starting their life. Elsa has recently suffered a nervous breakdown but seems to be on her way to recovery. Unfortunately, Carl returns home from work one evening to find that his wife has been attacked. When the police prove to be unhelpful, Carl decides to get justice on his own.
Vera Miles gives a great performance that looks forward to her portrayal of Rose Balestrero in Alfred Hitchcock’s under-appreciated docudrama, The Wrong Man. The director was so impressed with Miles in this episode that he decided to use Revenge for the series première instead of Breakdown (which was the first episode that was shot).
(Season One — Episode 07)
Originally intended to be the first episode of the series, Breakdown instead aired on November 13, 1955 as the third episode. The short is based upon a story by Louis Pollock and includes a wonderful (if decidedly motionless) performance by Joseph Cotton as a hard hearted business man who has no time or respect for people who get emotional.
The Case of Mr. Pelham
(Season One — Episode 10)
The Case of Mr. Pelham is one of the most unusual episodes of the entire series due to its decidedly ambiguous nature. It originally aired on December 04, 1955 and stars Tom Ewell as Albert Pelham as a man who is convinced that a doppelganger is attempting to take over his life. Raymond Bailey also appears a psychiatrist named Dr. Harley. The script was based on a story by Anthony Armstrong.
Back for Christmas
(Season One — Episode 23)
Back for Christmas aired on March 04, 1956. This dark but amusing tale was adapted from a story by John Collier, and it concerns a man named Herbert Carpenter (John Williams) who is tied to a somewhat demanding wife named Hermione (Isobel Elsom). While Hermione plans a holiday trip with her husband, Herbert is making a few plans of his own. They involve ridding himself of his wife once and for all, but we all know what they say about the best laid plans. This is one of the absolute classics.
(Season Two — Episode 01)
Wet Saturday is another adaptation from a story by John Collier. It aired on September 30, 1956 as the second season’s premiere episode. It stars Cedric Hardwicke and John Williams and tells the story of a patriarch who attempts to hide the truth about a murder committed by his daughter in order to keep protect his family’s name.
Mr. Blanchard’s Secret
(Season Two — Episode 13)
Mr. Blanchard’s Secret pales in comparison. The episode first aired on December 23, 1956 and starred Mary Scott, Robert Horton, Dayton Lummis, and Meg Mundy. The story by Emily Neff revisits some of the themes better explored in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Babs Fenton, a housewife with an overactive imagination who fancies herself a writer, believes that Mr. Blanchard has murdered his wife. However, her suspicions are called into serious question when Mrs. Blanchard shows up at their door looking to be very much alive. Babs alters her theory as to the reason behind Mr. Blanchard’s suspicious behavior only to be proven wrong once again.
One More Mile to Go
(Season Two — Episode 23)
One More Mile to Go aired on April 07, 1957 and is based on a deceptively simple story by F.J. Smith. Shades of Psycho can be found in this road bound tale of a man (David Wayne) moving the body of his murdered wife in his trunk. It’s one of the greatest episodes in the entire series. Interestingly, James P. Cavanagh was responsible for the episode’s script, and Cavanagh was asked to work on Psycho before being replaced by Joseph Stefano. He also scripted 15 other episodes of the series (including the Hitchcock directed Arthur).
The Perfect Crime
(Season Three — Episode 03)
The Perfect Crime aired on October 20, 1957 and was adapted from a story by Ben Ray Redman. Vincent Price owns the role of an arrogant detective named Charles Courtney who prides himself on a flawless career. Courtney turns to murder when a defense lawyer (James Gregory) approaches him with evidence that he helped to execute an innocent man.
Lamb to the Slaughter
(Season Three — Episode 28)
Lamb to the Slaughter is rightly mentioned amongst the series best episodes. It aired on April 13, 1958 and stars Barbara Bel Geddes (who portrayed Midge in Vertigo that same year). The story by Roald Dahl follows a devoted housewife named Mary Maloney who decides to kill her cheating husband with a frozen leg of lamb rather than let him leave her. What follows is classic Hitchcock.
Dip in the Pool
(Season Three — Episode 35)
Dip in the Pool was yet another Roald Dahl adaptation that aired on June 01, 1958. Keenan Wynn plays a compulsive gambler named William Botibol who is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win a cruise ship’s pool. Other cast members include Fay Wray, Doreen Lang, and Philip Bourneuf.
(Season Four — Episode 01)
Poison—which was based upon another tale by Dahl—first aired on October 05, 1958 and stars Hitchcock alumnus Wendell Corey and James Donald. Harry Pope (Donald) wakes up with a poisonous snake in his bed. Worse, it finds a comfortable place to rest right on his chest. The entire episode is devoted to solving this tense predicament.
(Season Four — Episode 29)
Banquo’s Chair was adapted from a story by Rupert Croft-Cooke and aired on May 03, 1959. The story concerns a Scotland Yard detective named Inspector Brent (John Williams) who goes to extreme but effective measures in order to get a suspect named John Bedford (Kenneth Haigh) to confess to a murder that he committed.
(Season Five — Episode 01)
Arthur first aired on September 27, 1959 and stars Laurence Harvey in the title role. Unusually for an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, the story begins with Arthur standing amongst a large number of chickens as he addresses the audience directly. After this opening monologue, we flash back in time as he tells the viewer how he killed his gold-digging girlfriend and was able to get away with it. The story itself is rather amusing, but the framing device at the beginning and end doesn’t work very well (possibly because there is already an introduction and epilogue performed by Hitchcock).
The Crystal Trench
(Season Five — Episode 02)
The Crystal Trench is one of the less successful episodes that Hitchcock directed. The story by A.E.W. Mason concerns a woman who loses her husband in a mountain climbing accident and refuses to move on with her life. It aired on October 04, 1959.
Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat
(Season Six — Episode 01)
Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat is more benign than many episodes, but it has a very similar sense of irony. It originally aired on September 27, 1960 and stars Audrey Meadows, Les Tremayne, and Stephen Chase. The story by Roald Dahl follows Mrs. Bixby as she visits her secret lover “the Colonel,” who ends their affair but offers her a mink coat as a parting gift. She isn’t sure how to explain the coat to her husband, so she pawns the item without putting a description on the ticket. She then tells her husband that she has found the ticket and instructs him to turn it in for the pawned item. Obviously, things aren’t going to work out in quite the way that she expects.
The Horse Player
(Season Six — Episode 22)
The Horse Player is a charming and often overlooked episode that aired on March 14, 1961. Claude Rains stars as a pastor who is thrown into an interesting moral dilemma when a gambler makes a sizable donation to his church after winning at the horse races.
Bang! You’re Dead
(Season Seven — Episode 02)
Bang! You’re Dead originally aired on October 17, 1961 and is the final episode that Alfred Hitchcock directed for the original half-hour series. It was based on a story by Margery Vosper and stars Billy Mumy as a young Jackie Chester — a spoiled six-year-old who mistakes a loaded gun for a gift from his uncle. The child then proceeds to pretend he is an outlaw and points it at the random people he meets throughout the day. It is only a matter of time before he actually pulls the trigger. Meanwhile, his family has discovered the mistake and tries frantically to locate him. Hitchcock’s gift for building suspense is evident throughout the duration.
Into Thin Air
(Season One — Episode 05)
Into Thin Air was directed by Don Medford, but it has particular interest for Alfred Hitchcock enthusiasts for two reasons. First of all, it stars Patricia Hitchcock as Diana Winthrop. More importantly, however, is that it is based upon the same premise that inspired The Lady Vanishes (1938).
“Did you know that the same story had been filmed three or four times? … Not remakes, but the same basic story done in different forms. The whole thing started with an ancient yarn about an old lady who travels to Paris with her daughter in 1880. They go to a hotel and there the mother is taken ill. They call a doctor, and after looking her over, he has a private talk with the hotel manager. Then he tells the girl that her mother needs a certain kind of medicine, and they send her to the other end of Paris in a horse-drawn cab. Four hours later she gets back to the hotel and says, ‘How is my mother?’ and the manager says, ‘What mother? We don’t know you. Who are you?’ She says, ‘My mother’s in room so and so.’ They take her up to the room, which is occupied by new lodgers; everything is different, including the furniture and the wallpaper.
I made a half-hour television show on that, and the Rank organization made it into a film with Jean Simmons, called So Long at the Fair. It’s supposed to be a true story, and the key to the whole puzzle is that it took place during the great Paris exposition, in the year the Eiffel Tower was completed. Anyway, the women had come from India, and the doctor discovered that the mother had bubonic plague. So it occurred to him that if the news got around, it would drive the crowds who had come for the exposition away from Paris. That’s the basic idea of the story.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)
The episode aired on October 30, 1955 and is certainly one of the first season’s highlights.
3 of 5 MacGuffins
Seasons One – Four
There are 20 DVDs in the first boxed set: 6 Season One discs, 5 Season Two discs, 5 Season Three discs, and 4 Season Four discs. Each season is given its own case with similar artwork to what is shown above (but with different color tints to the background for each season — red, lime green, violet, and blue). The clear cases are the standard size that is used for most DVD releases and include a tray for each disc. The insert is dual sided so that episode information can be seen in the interior of the case. There is a “PG” ratings logo at the bottom left corner of box’s artwork, but the individual season artwork isn’t marred by this label.
Seasons Five – Seven
The second set contains 15 DVDs: 5 Season Five discs, 5 Season Six discs, and 5 Season Seven discs. It is very much the same design as the first set as each season is given its own case with similar artwork (but with different color tints to the background for each season —rust, green, violet, and turquoise). The clear cases are the standard size that is used for most DVD releases and include a tray for each disc. The insert is dual sided so that episode information can be seen in the interior of the case. There is a “PG” ratings logo at the bottom left corner of box’s artwork, but the individual season artwork isn’t marred by this label.
2 of 5 MacGuffins
All of the following special features are included in the first boxed set (Seasons One – Four).
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back
Gary Leva’s 15 minute featurette is far from a comprehensive examination of the series, but the retrospective interviews with Norman Lloyd, Hilton A. Green, and Patricia Hitchcock do reveal some general information about how the show was produced and those responsible for its success. This supplement is part of the first season’s package.
Fasten Your Seatbelt: The Thrilling Art of Alfred Hitchcock
This six minute fluff piece includes interviews with Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Eli Roth, and Joe Carnahan. Unfortunately, none of these filmmakers say anything particularly enlightening. It is almost like an EPK created to sell the idea of Hitchcock’s brilliance without ever revealing anything that isn’t immediately obvious. It is part of the fourth season’s package.
“I believe viewers who tune to CBS Television for Alfred Hitchcock Presents will witness interesting half-hour dramas which will concern themselves with startling, shocking, suspense-filled stories having a surprise twist at the end.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock Brings His Directing Techniques to the Medium of Television, Syndicated Article, September 18, 1955)
Fans will witness the same on these boxed sets. Together, they include every original episode from the series. However, these releases raise one very important question: Why isn’t Alfred Hitchcock Presents available on the Blu-ray format? Frankly, we’d even settle for a proper Blu-ray release of just the Hitchcock directed episodes! Fans have been waiting for quite some time, and it is difficult to understand why Universal hasn’t invested in such a much needed upgrade. Then again, some of his theatrical films still aren’t available on the format.
Review by: Devon Powell
Alfred Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock Brings His Directing Techniques to the Medium of Television, Syndicated Article, September 18, 1955)
Anonymous Writer (Alfred Hitchcock Murders a Blonde, Syndicated Article, May 31, 1958)
François Truffaut (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)
John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)
Martin Grams, Jr. and Patrik Wikstrom (The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion, 2001)
Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)
Sidney Gottlieb (Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Volume 2, 2015)