Alfred Hitchock Presents - DVDs 1-7

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 00:00 Written by 

Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Seasons 1 to 7 - out now on UK DVDWhile his cinematic work is well known, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was a half-hour TV anthology series which demonstrated he was also a master of small screen tales. All seven seasons are out now as a box set containing 35 DVDs, and thanks to Fabulous Films we had a copy up for grabs, as well as a couple of sets of Season One for runners-up (961 mins over six DVDs). All you had to do to be in with a chance was to VOTE in this year’s Cult TV Awards.

Between October 1955 and July 1965, Hitchcock used the simple words “Good evening…” to introduce 268 timeless stories of horror, mystery and intrigue, 17 of which Hitchcock himself directed. Screening on CBS and NBC, the show received three Emmy awards as well as a Golden Globe for Television Achievement, and set the gold standard for all television mystery series to come. In the words of Alfred Hitchcock himself, it “brought murder back into the home - where it belongs”.

Who could possibly resist the running time of 6,679 mins for this all-encompassing release, which accounts for ALL the episodes, including the 1962 story “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” which was not broadcast by NBC (they felt the ending, involving the “sawing a woman in half” trick was too gruesome)?

One of the most famous episodes is Roald Dahl's “Man from the South” starring Steve McQueen, in which a man bets his finger that he can start his lighter ten times in a row. Interestingly, with Dahl’s stories appearing in this series six times (adding in “Lamb to the Slaughter”, “A Dip in the Pool”, “Poison”, “Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat” and “The Landlady”), the favour was returned in Tales of the Unexpected - where these six stories adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents also turned up in the Anglia Television show, as well as “Back for Christmas”, “The Orderly World of Mr Appleby” and “Wet Saturday”.

With the working title of “The Alfred Hitchcock Theater”, the indelible impact of Hitchcock is present right from the opening titles. We fade in on a simple caricature drawing of a side profile of the man, as the iconic theme “Funeral March of a Marionette” by Charles Gounod sets the mood, before a silhouette walks in front of the brush strokes, becoming the man himself as he introduces each episode.

It is widely held that at least two versions of these sequences were shot for each story, the ones present in this set being for the American market, which in early episodes would include Hitchcock leaving a gap for a sponsor’s message to be inserted, something he would comment on (albeit without knowing who the sponsor was). The alternate takes were designed for UK and European audiences, which included poking fun at Americans.

Hitchcock would bring the curtain down on the show in much the same way as it had begun, which for the hard of thinking would explain what had happened, or tie up any loose ends from the story. For later seasons the opening gambits were also filmed in French and German for the show's international screenings, as he was fluent in both these languages.

This series was a half-hour format. It would return in September 1962 as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, lasting for three seasons and 93 episodes. The format was revived in May 1985, back with the title Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with a pilot movie which consisted of remakes of the stories “An Unlocked Window” (originally Season 3 Episode 17), “Man from the South” (Season 5 Episode 15), “Incident in a Small Jail” (Season 6 Episode 23), and “Bang! You’re Dead” (Season 7 Episode 2).

With this being well-received, and with Hitchcock being colourised from his original episode footage, the format returned in September 1985 for four seasons and 76 further editions, ending in July 1989.

But that wasn’t the end. In 2010, the-then ‘BBC Radio 7’ adapted five stories that were deemed unsuitable for the television series as The Late Alfred Hitchcock Presents – all of these had been published in novels back in the 1950s and 1960s under the umbrella title “Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do On TV”. They were “The Waxwork”,  “Sredni Vashtar”, “The Perfectionist”, “Being a Murderer Myself”, and “The Dancing Partner”.

Hitchcock was a multiple nominee and winner of a number of prestigious awards, receiving two Golden Globes, eight Laurel Awards, and five lifetime achievement awards including the first BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award, as well as being five times nominated for, albeit never winning, an Academy Award as Best Director.

After refusing a CBE in 1962, Hitchcock received a knighthood in 1980. Asked by a reporter why it had taken the Queen so long, Hitchcock quipped, “I suppose it was a matter of carelessness”.

Walt Disney was not a fan though. He refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland for Alfred Hitchcock Presents because Hitchcock had made “that disgusting movie “Psycho”.”

Hitchcock was infamous with cast and crew for his practical and warped jokes. While some were harmless, such as colouring all the food at a lavish dinner party with blue food dye, others were more macabre. Actress Elsie Randolph revealed her fear of fire to Hitchcock, which led him to getting an electrician to pump smoke into a telephone box, after she had been locked inside.

Much has been made of how Hitchcock tortured Tippi Hedren during the filming of “The Birds”, but he also extended this sadistic humour to her six year old daughter, Melanie Griffith, to whom he sent a wax figure of her mother in a coffin, dressed up in the same costume she wore in “The Birds”. Unsurprisingly Melanie Griffiths has said about Hitchcock “He was a mother******, and you can quote me”.

Despite this reputation, a great many stars still queued up to work with Hitchcock.

For those of you into ‘star-spotting’, several stars made more than a couple of appearances during the show’s run. These included Robert Horton (Wagon Train – 7 episodes), Dick York (Bewitched – 6), Alan Napier (Batman – 6), Claude Rains (“Casablanca” - 5), Barbara Bel Geddes (Dallas – 4), Walter Matthau (“The Odd Couple” – 4), Brian Keith (The Zoo Gang, Hardcastle & McCormick – 4), Hazel Court (“The Bride of Frankenstein” - 4), Paul Maxwell (Fireball XL5, UFO – 4), Joseph Cotten (“Citizen Kane” - 3), Jo van Fleet (“Cool Hand Luke” - 3), Charles Bronson (“The Magnificent Seven” - 3), Jessica Tandy (“Driving Miss Daisy” - 3), Julie Adams (“Creature from the Black Lagoon” - 3), James Best (The Dukes of Hazzard – 3), Cloris Leachman (The Mary Tyler Moore Show – 3), Murray Matheson (Banacek - 3), and Michael Ansara (Kang in Star Trek - 3).

For more detail, here’s a by-no-means-complete list of just some of the other guest stars which you can find across the seven seasons of episodes:

Season One:

Joanne Woodward (“The Three Faces of Eve”), Vera Miles (“Psycho”), John Forsythe (Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels), Gene Barry (The Adventurer), Darren McGavin (Kolchak - The Night Stalker), Frank Gorshin (Batman), Peter Lawford (“The Thin Man”), Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family), Lorne Greene (Battlestar Galactica) and even producer Aaron Spelling as a ‘Road Worker’!

Season Two:

Hume Cronyn (“Cocoon”), Rip Torn (“Men in Black”), Vic Morrow (Combat!), Henry Silva (“The Manchurian Candidate”), Steve Forrest (The Baron), Nancy Kulp (The Beverly Hillbillies), David Wayne (The Ellery Queen Whodunnit), Theodore Bikel (“My Fair Lady”), Dan Sheridan (Lawman), Robert Culp (I Spy), and Harry Shearer (The Simpsons).

Season Three:

William Shatner (Star Trek), Steven Hill (Mission: Impossible, Law and Order), George Peppard (The A-Team), Leif Erikson (The High Chaparral), James Drury (The Virginian), Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), Paul Maxwell (Fireball XL5, UFO), Patricia Cutts (Spyder’s Webb), Denholm Elliott (The Man in Room 17), Steve Forrest (The Baron – again), Jack Klugman (Quincy), Vincent Price (“House of Wax”), Peter Lorre (“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”), Fay Wray (“King Kong”), Michael Rennie (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”), Keenan Wynn (“Dr Strangelove”), Carol Lynley (“The Poseidon Adventure”), Hume Cronyn (“Cocoon” - again), Nehemiah Persoff (“Some Like it Hot”), Martin Balsam (“Psycho”), Pat Hingle (“Batman”, “Batman Returns” and “Batman Forever”), Gwendolyn Watts (“Billy Liar”), Joanne Linville (Star Trek “The Enterprise Incident”) and even future writer and producer Paul Playdon (Mission: Impossible, Switch, Cannon, Garrison’s Gorillas, CHiPs).

Season Four:

Steve McQueen (“Bullitt”), Bette Davis (“All About Eve”), James Coburn (“Our Man Flint”), Roger Moore (The Saint, The Persuaders!), Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched), Kenneth Haigh (Man at the Top), Art Carney (“Harry and Tonto”), Mary Astor (“The Maltese Falcon”), Denholm Elliot (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Leslie Nielsen (Police Squad!), Barry Sullivan (The Man Called X), Barry Nelson (“The Shining”), Kent Smith (Peyton Place) and Margaret Leighton (Space: 1999 “Collision Course”).

Season Five:

Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE), Burt Reynolds (“Smokey and the Bandit”), Jackie Coogan (The Addams Family), Richard Chamberlain (Dr Kildare), Dennis Weaver (McCloud), Anne Francis (Honey West), Steve McQueen (“Bullitt” – again!), Peter Lorre (“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” – again!), Dick Van Dyke (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Diagnosis Murder), William Shatner (Star Trek - again!), James Franciscus (Longstreet), Eric Portman (The Prisoner “Free for All”), Michael J Pollard (“Bonnie and Clyde” and Star Trek “Miri”), Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H), Joanna Moore (“Touch of Evil”), Harry Dean Stanton (“Alien”), Henry Jones (Mrs Columbo), Will Kuluva (Primus), Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show), and an uncredited Angela Cartwright (Lost in Space) in the episode “The Schartz-Metterklume Method”, along with her older sister Veronica (Daniel Boone) – Harold Innocent (Doctor Who “The Happiness Patrol”) also appears uncredited in the same episode.

Season Six:

Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap), Gena Rowlands (Peyton Place), Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie”), Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island), Rip Torn (“Men in Black 2”), Robert Loggia (THE Cat),  Peter Falk (Columbo), Will Kuluva (Primus), Leslie Nielsen (Police Squad!), Bernie Hamilton (Starsky and Hutch), Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones in Star Trek), James Franciscus (Longstreet), Keenan Wynn (“Dr Strangelove”), Antoinette Bower (Neon Rider), Martin Balsam (“Psycho”), and Slim Pickens (“Dr Strangelove”).

Season Seven:

Robert Redford (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), Anne Francis (Honey West), Robert Duvall (“The Godfather”), Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Wayne Rogers (M*A*S*H), Diana Dors (Queenie’s Castle), Joanna Moore (“Touch of Evil”), Cecil Parker (“The Ladykillers”), Michael Rennie (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”), Henry Jones (“Vertigo”), Antoinette Bower (Neon Rider), Robert Loggia (THE Cat),  Whit Bissell (The Time Tunnel) and Billy Mumy (Lost in Space)

Quality-wise, the prints look superb, the monochrome simply adding to the unsettling mood of a lot of the stories. This marks the first time that seasons four to seven have been available on a UK DVD release.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Complete Collection is out now from Fabulous Films/ Fremantle Media Enterprises. The 35 DVD set has a ‘12’ certificate, a running time of 6,679 mins approx, and a RRP of £149.99.

All seven seasons are also available individually, Seasons 1 and 2 are cert ‘PG’, Seasons 3 to 7 are cert ‘12’, all with a RRP of £29.99 each. Alternatively, the sets are available for less at www.culttvstore.com

  • Season 1 – 6 discs, running time 961 mins approx.
  • Season 2 – 5 discs, running time 958 mins approx.
  • Season 3 – 5 discs, running time 963 mins approx.
  • Season 4 – 4 discs, running time 930 mins approx.
  • Season 5 – 5 discs, running time 930 mins approx.
  • Season 6 – 5 discs, running time 962 mins approx.
  • Season 7 – 5 discs, running time 975 mins approx.

You had a chance to get hold of the grand prize, seasons 1-7, worth an RRP of £149.99, just for voting in the Cult TV Awards 2015. There's were also two copies of Season One available for a pair of runners-up. The Voting Form had a total of 27 categories. 13 of these Awards are part of our HALL OF FAME – an ever-expanding pantheon of the most deserving from nearly seven decades of television.

All you had to do to be in with a chance of being a winner of one of our ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS prizes was to make your selections on our voting form. The winner of the top prize, the complete seasons 1-7 DVD box set, was Martin Best of Wimborne. The runners-up prizes of season one DVD sets were Geoff Hibbert of Paignton and Roy Jefferies of Yates. Well done all!

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 08:48

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