But there’s plenty more to recommend this newly-released box set of the seven series that the show went under the ‘Presents’ name before expanding running time of the stories and becoming The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Within the 268 episodes included in this set are some of the most memorable half-hours of American television, with input from some of the finest talent. Hitchcock himself directs seventeen stories, which makes them well worth spinning to for curiosity value alone (they are brilliant, though). There are also episodes with such legendary directors as Robert Altman, Ida Lupino, William Friedkin, Arthur Hiller, and John Brahm at the helm. That’s before we get to the array of acting talent, including Vincent Price in one Season Two episode. Later shows such as Boris Karloff’s Thriller and The Twilight Zone may be better known in genre circles, since the stories in Presents are often more crime related with a hint of the macabre and a large dollop of irony. While there are not many of the episodes that have gone into the global consciousness like some of the Zone stories have, they still pack quite a punch. In fact, one Season Five story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, later appeared in the final season of Twilight Zone, albeit in an imported French adaptation.
Standout episodes in the mammoth collection include premiere story, Revenge, directed by Hitchcock, and setting the tone perfectly as a husband takes the law into his own hands when his wife is left traumatised by an assault. Into Thin Air is a variation on the same tale that influenced the maestro’s own The Lady Vanishes (as he admits himself in the introduction), and contains the same spirally level of paranoia and frustration. Anxiety and suspicion is also amped to the max in The Creeper, in which a murderer has put a community in fear and one particular woman is awaiting a locksmith to put a chain on her door while her husband is working away and becomes increasingly distressed. The inimitable Bette Davis makes a batty pre-Baby Jane appearance in Season Four’s Out There – Nothing, and is almost upstaged by an adorable poodle!
As mentioned, it’s Hitchcock’s dry delivery and affable charm in the segments that bookend the stories that make this an indispensable collection. With swipes at the show sponsors and various visual aids and tricks, these are never dull and cemented the director’s reputation as a character as well as the world’s leading director of suspense. The prologues usually feature Hitch explain that the perpetrators got their just deserts, probably to offset the occasional ambiguous (but always satisfying) conclusions to the stories. The seasons are also available separately, and are highly recommended for fans of the master of suspense and classic television in general, an while there are no special features, the picture quality is superb (shame we couldn’t get Blu-ray, though) and with well over 100 hours of viewing, it’ll certainly keep you busy! Hopefully, we’ll get the remaining three seasons soon.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS – THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE - SEVEN / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: ALFRED HITCHCOCK, ALAN NAPIER, DICK YORK, CLAUDE RAINS, HAZEL COURT, WALTER MATTHAU, PETER LORRE, FAY WRAY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW