Perhaps more than any other director of the Golden Age, Alfred Hitchcock was a personality, someone known by movie audiences as well as any movie star, and never was that more apparent than when he made the leap to television in 1955 with Alfred Hitchcock Presents, AKA The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
A weekly anthology of suspense and horror stories, it’s notable not just for the quality of the stories but for how it shaped the Hitchcock persona. His droll sense of deadpan humor was often on display in his movies, sometimes as part of the cameo appearances he’d make in them. For TV, it was like he became an eccentric uncle with whom you were never sure if he was pulling your leg or not.
His introductions to each episode painted him as macabre yet self-depreciating, with a dry wit and a strong sense of the absurd, much like The Addams Family years later. The creepy theme song and the stylized cartoon silhouette of him also helped sell him as an iconic persona that one looked forward to seeing as much as the stories themselves. Here’s a collection of some of his more memorable intros and outros and here are some fun facts about the show.
So nothing fancy here; just my take on a few episodes picked at random. I didn’t realize when I began planning for this post AHP (a half hour) was a little different from AHH (an hour), though it’s all basically the same show.
|Brandon DeWilde and Diana Dors|
in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
I instinctively expected a Twilight Zone-kind of ending when I saw in which direction this was going and didn’t really think it would go there, but this is not TZ, so it did indeed go there. Though we don’t actually see what happens in detail, it was still a pretty shocking (for the early 60s) ending. If it didn’t have Hitch’s imprimatur, I wonder if anyone else could’ve gotten away with it. The episode was written by Psycho author Robert Bloch.
|John Forsythe in “I Saw the Whole Thing”|
This one had me until the very end, when Forsythe reveals why he knows he’s innocent. It struck me as a reason that couldn’t have been so easily concealed, like no one knew this fact only so it could be revealed at the end and be all dramatic. Like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, he tries to establish reasonable doubt, and if the story had kept going in that angle, that would’ve been better than what they ended up doing for the sake of a twist ending.
|Darren McGavin and Pat Crowley in|
“A Matter of Murder”
This was a really clever and funny episode. I can’t recall ever seeing a set-up like this before, and certainly not played for humor. Pat Crowley as McGavin’s lover, who countermoves for every move Savalas makes, is good. She’s one step ahead of McGavin, who’s all too willing to be led around by her. Savalas is Savalas.
Paddy has a post about another great episode from the original series. The blog Shadow and Substance compares AHP to The Twilight Zone. And Gill is writing about the 1985 version of the show. There was talk of another revival of the series back in 2016, but it looks like that’s gone by the boards, at least for now.
Films by Alfred Hitchcock:
Shadow of a Doubt
The 39 Steps