Alfred Hitchcock Presents-Season One (1955)

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Released 15-Jul-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Booklet-Very good 16 Page Season One Guide.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 961:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (25:00)
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Stevens
Paul Henreid
Herschel Daugherty
Norman Lloyd
Studio
Distributor
MCA TV / Universal
Madman Entertainment
Starring Vera Miles
Ralph Meeker
John Forsyth
Cloris Leachman
Gene Barry
Darren McGavin
Joseph Cotton
Peter Lawford
John Cassavetes
Jo Van Fleet
Mildred Natwick
Lorne Greene
Steve Brodie
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $49.95 Music Gounod


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/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 character.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Opening monologues by Hitchcock.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Madman have just made available what must be one of the outstanding releases of this, or any, year - the complete first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Evidently licensed from Universal, we must be grateful that this release spreads the thirty-nine half hour episodes over six discs. The Region 1 Universal release packed all episodes, plus one short featurette which Madman have omitted, onto three double sided discs. The compression required resulted in discs that were problematic, with numerous reports of "freezing". The local release avoids any of those "consumer beware" issues, so buy and enjoy.

    Alfred Hitchcock is a true genius of the cinema. His career began in England in the 1920s and saw him move from British silents into talkies, then came Hollywood and critical acclaim right through the thirties and forties. The early fifties saw growing commercial success with mass appeal, colourful entertainments which included Rear Window, To Catch a Thief and The Trouble with Harry. In July of 1955 he completed filming the fourth of these sunnier films, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and August saw the release of To Catch a Thief. Despite popular acclaim, The Hollywood Reporter's criticism of the Cary Grant and Grace Kelly starrer sent Hitchcock to bed for three days, prostrate with grief and anxiety. His next film, The Wrong Man, was to be a return to the darker themes of Hitchcock's earlier work. One evening while watching a TV drama the director became intrigued by the young, blonde star, Vera Miles. He saw in the lovely actress a replacement for Grace Kelly as his new blonde heroine. At the same time agent Lew Wasserman was urging Hitchcock to expand into television with a suspense anthology series. The CBS network came up with an offer that persuaded Hithcock to take the plunge. For supervising the project, and directing only when he wished, Hitchcock was to be paid an astonishing $129,000 per episode, with all rights of sale and rebroadcast reverting to the director after the first airing. Vera Miles was signed to a seven year contract, and grooming began for her big screen debut opposite Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man. Miss Miles was also slated into one of the first television episodes filmed, and this episode actually became the first to air on October 2nd 1955. The individual titles and stars of the season's thirty-nine episodes are :

Disc 1 :
Revenge : Vera Miles, Ralph Meeker
Premonition : John Forsyth, Cloris Leachman
Triggers in Leash : Gene Barry, Darren McGavin, Ellen Corby
Don't Come Back Alive : Sidney Blackmer, Virginia Gregg
Into Thin Air : Pat Hitchcock, Alan Napier
Salvage : Gene Barry, Nancy Gates
Breakdown : Josph Cotten, Raymond Bailey

Disc 2 :
Our Cook's Treasure : Everett Sloane, Beulah Bondi
The Long Shot : Peter Lawford, John Williams
The Case of Mr Pelham : Tom Ewell, Raymond Bailey
Guilty Witness : Judith Evelyn, Kathleen Maguire
Santa Claus and the 10th Avenue Kid : Barry Fitzgerald, Virginia Gregg
The Cheney Vase : Darren McGavin, Patrcia Collenge, Carolyn Jones
A Bullet for Baldwin : John Qualen, Sebastian Cabot

Disc 3 :
You Got to Have Luck : John Cassavetes, Marisa Pavan
The Older Sister : Joan Loring, Carmen Matthews, Patricia Hitchcock
Shopping for Death : Jo Van Fleet, Robert H.Harris
The Derelicts : Robert Newton, Philip Reed
And So Died Riabouchinska : Claude Rains, Charles Bronson
Safe Conduct : Claire Trevor, Jacques Bergerac, John Bauner, Werner Klemperer

Disc 4 :
Place of Shadows : Everett Sloane, Sean McClory
Back for Christmas : John Williams, Isobel Elsom
The Perfect Murder : Hurd Hatfield, Mildred Natwick
There Was an Old Woman : Estelle Winwood, Charles Bronson
Whodunit : John Williams, Amanda Blake
Help Wanted : John Qualen, Lorne Greene

Disc 5 :
Portrait of Jocelyn : Phillip Abbott, Nancy Gates
The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby : Robert H. Harris, Meg Mundy
Never Again : Phyllis Thaxter, Louise Albritton
The Gentleman from America : Biff McGuire, Ralph Clanton
The Baby Sitter : Thelma Ritter, Mary Wickes
The Belfry : Jack Mullaney, Pat Hitchcock

Disc 6 :
The Hidden Thing : Biff McGuire, Robert H. Harris
The Legacy : Leora Dana, Jacques Bergerac
Mink : Ruth Hussey, Vinton Hayworth
Decoy : Robert Horton, Cara Williams
The Creeper : Constance Ford, Steve Brodie
Momentum : Skip Homeier, Joanne Woodward 

    Production of the series was handed over to Joan Harrison and associate producer and occasional director, Norman Lloyd. Lloyd had moved from acting in Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre stage company to film appearances in Hitchcock's Saboteur and Spellbound, then into direction for television. According to Lloyd, Hitchcock demanded that "the work be done at the highest possible level of execution". The Vera Miles / Ralph Meeker opening episode looks and feels like a 1950's feature movie, with Meeker, a fine actor, given a rare opportunity to be more than a virile heavy. While the actors who appear may not have been "A-List" stars, this is some of the best talent working in film and television in the 1950s. If you really know your films of the period you will even spot the occasional newcomer in a small role. (Who remembers Mark Damon?)  Only the very best stories were chosen by Harrison and Lloyd, from authors such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Dorothy L. Sayers, John Wyndham, Alexander Woollcott and Roald Dahl. Donald Spoto, in his excellent 1983 book on Hitchcock, The Dark Side of Genius, has this to say of the series :

    "There is no doubt that the polished scripts, direction, and casting contributed greatly to the program's popularity, but there is also no doubt that its success was sealed by Hitchcock's presence and by his regular appearances. To the syncopated measures of Guonod's 'Funeral March of the Marionette', the camera photographed Hitchcock in silhouette as he stepped into the life-size outline of the caricature he had drawn of himself.... He then framed the week's story with comic, acerbic comments that astounded and amused his listeners."

    To many viewers these comments became highlights of each week's episode, but they were not the director's own words, having being scripted by James B. Allardice, a sometime playwright (At War With The Army). Allardice was told by Hitchcock that he wanted to introduce the off-beat humour of The Trouble with Harry to television, and that he also wanted to take frequent potshots at the sponsors and censorship - unheard of in 1950s television.

    The pleasures of this series have in no way diminished over the past fifty years. Superb entertainment, there is the pervading theme of the shortcomings of the American dream coupled with Hitchcock's total distrust of authority, and of law enforcement agents in particular. This is an absolute treasure trove, and to be able to dip in for an episode or two is a luxurious treat. Originally running for seven seasons, the first three are currently released in the United States, with Season Four coming in November. Here's hoping that this truly remarkable release is snapped up by Australian DVD collectors.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The quality does vary a little from episode to episode, but generally this is an extremely satisfying transfer of the source material.

    The least satisfactory aspects of the episodes is the quality of the Hitchcock monologues. Some of these are quite scratched and have minor debris. This is made more apparent as most of Hitchcock's solo appearances are in front of a blank white background, which obviously highlights any positive flaws. Once we get into the action of each episode the transfer delivers an extremely fine black and white image.
    There is generally strong contrast, with solid blacks and stable whites.
    Detail is exceptionally good, with shadow detail a very rare problem as dark scenes were generally avoided in early television shows.
    There is fine, soft grain, which gives a nice period film appearance to the image.
    There is a very pleasing lack of compression problems.
    There is the occasional film to video artefact, such as the occasional scratch and minor flecking, but nothing is distracting.
    Generally the image is exceptionally good.

    There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

    Each disc has a single audio stream, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 224 Kbps.
    There is no aspect of the soundtrack that is going to lesson enjoyment of any of the thirty-nine episodes.
    The original mono sound is sharp and clear, with surprising presence and depth. Every syllable of dialogue is crystal clear, without any sync problems.
    There is generally a small amount of hiss, and the occasional crackle or pop. But this is all very slight.
    Music is delivered quite satisfactorily.
                                                          

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

Extras

       There are no extras on the discs themselves, but the insert booklet is very worthwhile.
    

Main Menu

    The main menu is very simple, utilising a still of Hitchcock, holding a wide format screen, on which appears a montage of scenes from the episodes on that particular disc. The Guonod theme is heard throughout.

    The options presented are : Play All
                                              Story
Selection: Selecting this activates the music to stop and  a zoom into the Hitchcock-held screen, on which the episodes on that disc are listed.
Special Features

Insert Booklet : Alfred Hitchcock Presents : Season One Guide
Full marks to whoever is responsible for this inclusion. The cover reproduces the photo of Hitchcock used on the Main Menu, here "holding" a title card for the booklet. Included in the sixteen pages we get an interesting introductory essay from Grant Taylor (?) giving a brief, but accurate, account of the birth and life of the TV series. The four pages of this text are broken by the insertion of four amusing framed-blowups of Hitchcock's monologue appearances. Then comes a five page Episode Guide, which gives a short plot outline for each episode, with stars, trivia notes and original broadcast dates. These pages are alternated with four full page publicity shots for four of the episodes, with the final photograph a full page portrait of an austere Hitchcock. The back cover is the famous caricature used at the opening of each episode.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release misses out on :
Featurette (14:42) : "A Look Back" in which Pat Hitchcock (daughter/actress), Norman Lloyd (Producer/Director/Actor) and Hilton Green (Assistant Director) discuss Season One, with the concentration being on Hitchcock's transition from the "big screen" to television.
Spanish Subtitles
Universal Home Video promotional trailers (2)

    The Region 1 release misses out on :
Booklet Insert
Six Disc Set -
instead of 3 - with improved quality.

The Region 1 compression problems would make the local release much more preferable.

Summary

    "Classic" is a sorely abused tag, but it most definitely applies to this release. The discipline in compressing each story down to twenty-five minutes sharpens most of the episodes to the point where they glitter with sheer brilliance. Scripts, direction and performances are first rate, and to top everything off we have the priceless monologues from Alfred Hitchcock himself. Image and sound are surprisingly good, and the insert booklet adds to the enjoyment of the episodes. Classic from beginning to end.

    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
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)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Is R2 the package as R4 - NewcastleBoy (read my bio) REPLY POSTED