DVD Review – Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Complete Series)

alfred-hitchcock-presents-DVDThis set presents the complete seven seasons of Hitchcock’s iconic TV show, which brought episodes of murder and weirdness to the small screen from 1955 to 1962, before The Twilight Zone. It was one of the first successful anthology shows on TV, a genre that has sadly fallen out of favour—although it’s recently seen a bit of a revival with multi-director efforts like Black MirrorTrue Detective and American Horror Story.

The series featured suspense stories with horror elements. It also reinvigorated Hitchcock’s filmmaking career, not least by using his TV crew he made arguable his most iconic film Psycho. It’s often debated how much personal input he had on each episode (he only directed 17 episodes himself) but he did indeed have a strong hand in making practically every episode in the series. Other directors represented include Robert Altman, Stuart Rosenberg, and Ida Lupino. Altman’s episodes, “The Young One” and “Together,” were among his very first directing jobs.

There are 268 episodes in the set, the most famous one of which is “The Man From the South,” a Roald Dahl story which stars a very young Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre (this particular tale has been remade twice on TV, and once—partially—by Quentin Tarantino). Dahl was a frequent contributor; thriller-style stories by Ray Bradbury were also in the mix, as was work by Ira Levin, Chares Burmount and Robert Bloch (the author of Psycho). The final episode was based on a short story by Robert Bloch, “The Sorcerers’ Apprentice,” but was pulled, as series sponsor Revlon found it too gruesome for prime time. It is included here, however, as is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the Ambrose Bierce story that also appears in The Twilight Zone (and which some critics—especially James F. Maxfeld—have cited as a possible inspiration for Vertigo.)

The cast was also legendary, with roles played by Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Barbara Steele, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Falk, Dean Stockwell, Gina Rowlands, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, James Coburn, John Cassavetes and many other young actors who would soon become household names. Veterans like Joseph Cotton and Vincent Price also found their place in these tightly scripted short teleplays.

The show obviously was a massive success, with a long list of awards such as Emmys and Golden Globes. Hitchcock introduced every episode with his characteristic dark sense of humour, helping to cement his image in the public mind. Hitchcock said about the series that “It brought murder back into the home, where it belongs.” There are no bonus features, but with this amount of material there is hardly space for more but a nice documentary on the series would have been a welcome inclusion.

Ian Schultz

Television, Mystery | USA, 2015 | 12 | Fabulous Films | 2nd November 2016 (UK) | Dir.Alfred Hitchcock |Alfred Hitchcock, Steve McQueen, Vincent Price, Bette Davis, Robert Redford | Buy: The Complete Collection [DVD]