The Alfred Hitchcock Hour-Complete Second Season (1963)

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Released 22-May-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Isolated Musical Score-Plus FX, on all but 2 episodes.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 1540:44 (Case: 1600)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (96:00)
Multi Disc Set (8)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alf Kjellin
Joseph M. Newman
Bernard Girard
John Brahm
Studio
Distributor
Revue / MCA
Madman Entertainment
Starring Gloria Swanson
Anne Baxter
Ray Milland
Robert Culp
George Segal
Darren McGavin
Roddy McDowell
Teresa Wright
Kim Hunter
Leslie Neilsen
Gena Rowlands
Joan Hackett
Christopher Lee
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $59.95 Music Lyn Murray
Bernard Herrmann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Isolated Score & Effects Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, In period (1960s)
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Incredibly, Season Two is even better than Season One!

     Fans who enjoyed the initial season possibly will be delirious over the thirty-two episodes contained in this second hefty volume. Having all three, or even one, of the volumes comprising this series, is like having a loved collection of short stories on your library shelf. Escape can be found at any time by selecting just one of these stories, settling back and putting yourself in the hands of possibly the greatest movie storyteller of all time.

     After seven successful seasons of the twenty-five minute series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in 1962 the famous director hosted a new series which was expanded to fifty minutes under the new title The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. This new series ran for three seasons, maintaining the same extraordinary quality that had cemented the original series in the viewing habits and hearts of millions worldwide. The original executive-producer was Joan Harrison, who started with Hitchcock as a secretary in 1935, but in 1958 she had married novelist/screenwriter Eric Ambler (The Mask of Dimitrios), and mid-season two Norman Lloyd took the helm, always under Hitchcock's scrutiny. The thirty-two episodes, here presented in correct chronological order, were telecast in the USA beginning 27th September 1963, and concluding on 3rd July 1964. Madman locally released the original half-hour series, five seasons of which I have reviewed, and happily for fans of "the master of suspense", all three seasons of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour are now available locally. This release should be particularly supported by Hitchcock fans as the series has not been released in the USA. There has been a messy release in Germany, available in the UK, with only ten episodes per set, and not giving the episodes in telecast order. So this Madman release of material from the Universal vaults is very special indeed.

     This was another anthology series, a collection of individual stories without any continuing characters or themes, that each week delivered to its viewers fifty minutes of murder, mystery and intrigue. The format of these longer episodes remained true to the half hour series, beginning with the familiar theme, Charles Guonod's Funeral March of the Marionette. This season drops the famous opening using Hitchcock's profile and replaces it with a modestly animated "spooky" opening, seen on Episode Four of Season One. It is also a different recording of the Guonod theme, taken at a slightly slower tempo. Rest assured that the brilliant openings and closes featuring Alfred Hitchcock are all here, for these were the highlights of the hour for many viewers. Most of the closings include an introduction to scenes from the next week program, but these previews are not included. In one of these closes Hitchcock is seen wielding a mini-watering can, dressed in a tweedy jacket and sporting a very English moustache. For the remainder he is impeccably tuxed, and once again looks considerably slimmer and healthier than he did for his hostings on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The strength of these "hour long" episodes comes from the writing and the fabulous array of stars. Many of the stories first appeared in either Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, but there are other tales which are original or adapted from another source. Amongst the writers you will recognize established, or past names, such as Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells and Ellery Queen, as well as writers who were establishing themselves. These include Robert Bloch (Psycho), James Bridges (The China Syndrome) and Leigh Brackett (The Empire Strikes Back). As for Season One, Season Two is comprised of thirty-two episodes, each of just over forty-eight minutes, with Madman's release spreading them over eight discs. The titles and stars are:

Disc One

  • 1. A Home Away from Home : Ray Milland
  • 2. A Nice Touch : Anne Baxter and George Segal
  • 3. Terror at Northfield : Dick York, R.G. Armstrong and Jacqueline Scott
  • 4.You'll Be the Death of Me : Robert Loggia
  • Disc Two

  • 5. Blood Bargain : Richard Kiley, Richard Long and Anne Francis
  • 6. Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale : Gary Merrill, Phyllis Thaxter and Fess Parker
  • 7. Starring the Defense : Richard Basehart
  • 8. The Cadaver : Michael Parks
  • Disc Three

  • 9. The Dividing Wall : James Gregory and Katharine Ross
  • 10. Good-bye George : Robert Culp and Stubby Kaye
  • 11. How to Get Rid of Your Wife : Bob Newhart and Jane Withers
  • 12. Three Wives Too Many : Teresa Wright and Dan Duryea
  • Disc Four

  • 13. The Magic |Shop : Leslie Neilsen
  • 14. Beyond the Sea of Death : Mildred Dunnock and Diana Hyland
  • 15. Night Caller : Bruce Dern and Felicia Farr
  • 16. The Evil of Adelaide Winters : Kim Hunter and John Larkin
  • Disc Five

  • 17. The Jar : Collin Wilcox and Slim Pickens
  • 18. Final Escape : Stephen McNally, Robert Keith and Edd Byrnes
  • 19. Murder Case : John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands
  • 20. Anyone for Murder? : Barry Nelson and Richard Dawson
  • Disc Six

  • 21. Beast in View : Joan Hackett and Kevin McCarthy
  • 22. Behind the Locked Door : Gloria Swanson and James MacArthur
  • 23. A Matter of Murder : Darren McGavin, Pat Crowley and Telly Savalas
  • 24. The Gentleman Caller : Roddy McDowell and Ruth McDevitt
  • Disc Seven

  • 25. The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow : Patricia Collinge and Jessica Walter
  • 26. Ten Minutes from Now : Donnelly Rhodes and Lou Jacobi
  • 27. The Sign of Satan : Christopher Lee and Gia Scala
  • 28. Who Needs an Enemy? : Richard Anderson, Steven Hill and Joanna Moore
  • Disc Eight

  • 29. Bed of Roses : Patrick O'Neal and Kathie Brown
  • 30. The Second Verdict : Martin Landau, Frank Gorshin and Nancy Kovacs
  • 31. Isabel : Bradford Dillman and Barbara Barrie
  • 32. Body in the Barn : Lillian Gish and Maggie McNamara
  •      What a line-up of talent! There are great stars of the past, such as Lillian Gish, possibly the greatest female star of the silent screen, and the grandest dame of them all Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd.). There are no less than five Oscar winners: Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend), Teresa Wright (Mrs Miniver), Joan Fontaine (Suspicion), Anne Baxter (The Razor's Edge) and Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire). There are so many names here, some which you will know from films of the 40s, such as Dan Duryea, some from the 50s, Bruce Dern, and some in Hollywood via Broadway, such as Guys and Doll's Stubby Kaye and Kismet's Richard Kiley, the first man ever to sing Stranger in Paradise on stage.

         There is a hugely diverse wealth of acting talent here. From my perspective some of the most welcome names are Maggie McNamara (Three Coins in the Fountain), Roddy McDowell (Lassie Come Home / Cleopatra), Joan Hackett (Support Your Local Sheriff), Richard Baseheart (He Walked By Night), Michael Parks (The Bible) and that prolific husband and wife team John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands ( A Woman under the Influence). There are other wonderful faces that pop up in minor roles, enriching the enjoyment of many episodes. There's the wonderful Kathleen Freeman - I was fortunate enough to see her deliver her show-stopper in The Full Monty on Broadway - as well as the beloved Alice Pearce (On the Town), plus Norman Fell, David Opotashu, William Marshall, Jane Darwell, James Best, Jocelyn Brando, Billy Bart - the last five all in Ep.17 - Whit Bissell, George Macready, Neile Adams (Mrs Steve McQueen), Torin Thatcher, Dabney Coleman, Peter Lind Hayes and Kent Smith. In the music department we have Bernard Herrmann scoring seven episodes, with many of the remainder scored by Lyn Murray (The Paleface / To Catch a Thief).

         This was a series that exuded quality in every department. There is everything an audience could wish for, story and stars delivering tales of murder, suspense and intrigue, always peppered with devilish humour and invariably with some form of twist in the final minutes of each episode. When the culprit escaped retribution at the final fadeout, censorship of the times demanded that the director, in his epilogue, reassure us of the ultimate fate that inevitably befell the evildoer. How times have changed! This is an anthology that you can dip into at any time, like a loved volume of short stories waiting to be picked up, dipped into and savoured.

         It will give fans considerable pleasure to see how great each one of these black and white episodes looks. We have never seen them in such quality. Television in the sixties was not the crisp and clear image we see today and the detail on these discs is at times spectacular. To compensate for the general poor TV quality then available, TV series were often shot in extremely brightly lit sets. Seen as they are presented in this release, some scenes look overlit and artificial. There are also close-ups that are so searingly sharp that individual eye lashes look sticky with mascara. The eyeliner on Patrick O'Neill in Episode 29 is a work of art. These are minor distractions in approximately twenty-six hours of classic TV drama.

         Hitchcock had recently completed editing The Birds, which had not been a happy experience for its star Tippi Hedren, sexually desired by her frustrated director. Perhaps Hitchcock has the final word with his comment in the closing of this season's final episode . Standing beside a scarecrow and a few bedraggled stands of corn, Hitch says that he has finally decided to come down from his pedestal, lamenting, with downcast gaze, that "the birds lack the proper respect". He then takes umbrage at "one person's observation that the whole scene looked like a coat of arms for television: a large ham rampant on a field of corn". A wickedly brilliant filmmaker.

         No fan of Alfred Hitchcock can be without this massive collection of vastly entertaining, suspenseful dramas. Seasons 3 will be reviewed very shortly.

         Note : Some of the content of this review is repeated from my review of Season One.

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    Transfer Quality

    Video

         This classic drama anthology is presented at the original ratio of 1.33:1.

         The general quality of the image is very pleasing, although this is definitely not a credit to any restoration. It is more due to the quality of the original black and white photography, and the fact that the series was shot on 35 mm film. The stock opening with the "Good evening" welcome from the famous host is in poor condition, but apart from these few seconds virtually every frame of the individual episodes is without exception extremely pleasing, sharp and clear and with very good detail. This also extends to the darker scenes, such as when James MacArthur is exploring the darkened house of Gloria Swanson in Episode 22. Close-ups are at times bizarre in their detail, with beautifully close shots of so many famous faces. The black and white photography is beautifully rendered, with very wide grey scale, deep blacks and without flaring of whites. Indicating digital processing of the image, there is the occasional instance of MPEG artefacts, particularly aliasing on fabrics and building exteriors, but these are momentary and not a real problem. There are also instances of film artefacts, with some speckling and the occasional scratch. Despite these minor flaws, admirers of the series will, I feel sure, be more than satisfied with the very fine image provided in these transfers.

         There are no subtitles.

    Video Ratings Summary
    Sharpness
    Shadow Detail
    Colour
    Grain/Pixelization
    Film-To-Video Artefacts
    Film Artefacts
    Overall

    Audio

         There are two audio streams both English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.

         On all but two episodes, Numbers 18 and 31, the second stream provides an isolated music score combined with some sound effects. (The two episodes which don't carry the isolated score duplicate the full soundtrack on both streams.) It is amazing, after all this time, to be able to hear scores created by the great Bernard Herrmann in particular, isolated in quite respectable sound. At times there is some slight distortion, but this is a miniscule complaint considering what is being made available to anyone with an interest in film music.

         This is a clean, clear mono soundtrack. Dialogue is the primary concern here, and there is not one syllable ever in doubt. There are no sync problems. There is a hollowness by today's standards, but effects are fine and the music is clear and of good, if limited, aural quality. The quality of the isolated score/effects tracks is surprisingly good, rather like listening to a good quality old mono LP. Throughout there is the occasional crackle and pop, but these are rare and never obtrusive. The subwoofer has a good rest.

         There is nothing in the audio department that will detract from your enjoyment of these classic dramas.

    Audio Ratings Summary
    Dialogue
    Audio Sync
    Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
    Surround Channel Use
    Subwoofer
    Overall

    Extras

         Nothing but the isolated scores on the second audio stream. How nice it would have been to be given as an extra a documentary that concentrates on his TV output.

    Menu

         The menu is the same for each of the eight discs, the only changes being in the episode details. The menu is presented over a monochromatic graphic of the director's profile and the famous Guonod theme.

    Isolated Music/Effects Track

         All but two episodes, 18 and 31, have an isolated score/effects track.

    Back of Slick

         Episode titles are listed along with major stars appearing in that episode.

    Censorship

        There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        There has been no release of The Alfred Hitchcok Hour in Region 1.

    Summary

         The Alfred Hitchcock Hour : The Complete Second Season tops the initial season with thirty-two superbly varied tales delivered by a veritable galaxy of stars, major and minor. In three volumes, the local Madman release of this three season series gives us the entire ninety-six episodes in correct, telecast order. Season Two is TV drama of the 60s at its very best. The quality, with prints from the Universal vaults, will delight any fan. There are minor blemishes - total restoration would have been prohibitive - but the transfers are basically clean, sharp, clear and of outstanding visual quality. Select any one of these tales and you will be transported into a world of TV nostalgia and entertainment, combining murder, mystery, mayhem and delicious wit. This is twenty-six hours of TV heaven.

    Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
    Saturday, July 27, 2013
    Review Equipment
    DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
    DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
    SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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