Alfred Hitchcock Presents-Season Three (1957)

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Released 17-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Main Menu Audio & Animation-Live action plus Gounod theme.
Featurette-Alfred Hitchcock Presents : A Look Back (14:45)
Booklet-12 pages, extremely well produced with 17 photographs.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 965:27 (Case: 963)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Multi Disc Set (5)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Stevens
Paul Henreid
Alfred Hitchcock
Norman Lloyd
Studio
Distributor
Revue / MCA
Madman Entertainment
Starring Barbara Bel Geddes
Jessica Tandy
Hume Cronyn
Keenan Wynn
Jan Sterling
Jo Van Fleet
Mildred Dunnock
Mildred Natwick
Peter Lorre
Vincent Price
Ann Todd
Robert Horton
Joseph Cotten
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $49.95 Music Charles 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, Typical of the 1950s.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

     Madman have recently released the complete Season Three of that magnificent half-hour series from the 1950s, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Originally running in the US for seven seasons, from October 1955 through to June 1962, an astonishing two hundred and seventy-three half-hour dramas were produced. Madman have already given us the first two seasons licensed from Universal and this five-disc set sustains the exceptional quality of those earlier releases. We have here the complete thirty-nine episodes of Season Three, each of approximately twenty-five minutes, originally telecast in the US from October 1957 through June 1958.

     Alfred Hitchcock Presents was, and still is, superb television entertainment. The then popular anthology format gave us "half-hour" self-contained stories of suspense and mystery, superbly produced and acted, with twists and surprises to keep the delighted viewing audience on its toes. Hitchcock himself was the occasional director, in this third season helming two episodes, with another two directed by the soon-to-be-great Robert Altman. That leading man of the forties, Paul Henreid (Now, Voyager) frequently directed as did Robert Stevens. Writers as diverse as Robert Bloch, Roald Dahl and Leon Uris also appear in the credits of various episodes. The huge array of actors may not include many "A listers” from the fifties, but without exception these are faces you should recognize, faces that belong to some of the most reliable performers ever to appear on the screen. My personal favourite is the marvellous Barbara Bel Geddes, who here stars in two episodes. Miss Bel Geddes was the original Broadway star of The Moon Is Blue and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, as well as making a handful of unforgettable Hollywood films in the late forties and fifties, such as I Remember Mama (1948), Caught (1949), Panic in the Streets (1950) and Fourteen Hours (1951). If none of that resonates, then perhaps you might remember her as the matriarch, "Miss Ellie", in TV's Dallas. The actress's second offering, Lamb to the Slaughter, deserves its reputation as a television classic. Almost every episode has in its cast at least one performer who warrants some delving into his or her body of work. There are some great talents here - Mildred Dunnock, Jan Sterling, Jean Hagen, Peter Lorre, Herbert Marshall, Michael Rennie, Ann Todd, Hume Cronyn and Academy Award winners Jessica Tandy and Jo Van Fleet, to name just a few.

     But hang on! We haven't covered the real on screen star of this series, which is Alfred Hitchcock himself. Each episode is introduced by the roly-poly director, often in some macabre setting. Then at the end of each episode we get two shorter sign-off segments which originally had the final commercial sandwiched between them. The opening musical theme, Funeral March of the Marionette by Gounod, leads into each of Hitchcock's brilliant monologues written by James B. Allardice, tailored to the director's inimitable delivery. Hitchcock takes pot-shots at the sponsors, his audience and himself, in superbly written gems which emulate the comedic tone of The Trouble with Harry (1956). Mostly it is just Hitch in a suit in front of a white screen, but we also get to see him in some very surprising settings, even luxuriating in a bubble bath!

    The details of the thirty-nine episodes from Season Three are :

Disc One :
1. The Glass Eye (24:41) : Jessica Tandy, Tom Conway, William Shatner
2. The Mail Order Prophet (24:30) : E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman
3. The Perfect Crime (23:37) : Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Vincent Price , James Gregory
4. Heart of Gold (25:06) : Mildred Dunnock, Darryl Hickman, Nehemiah Persoff
5. Silent Witness ( 24:34) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with Don Taylor, Dolores Hart, Pat Hitchcock
6. Reward to Finder (24:42) : Jo Van Fleet, Oscar Homolka
7. Enough Rope for Two (24:36) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with Jean Hagen, Steve Hill, Steve Brodie
8. Last Request (24:20) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with Harry Guardino, Cara Williams, Hugh Marlowe

Disc Two :
1. The Young One (25:05) : Directed by Robert Altman, with Carol Lynley, Vince Edwards
2. The Diplomatic Corpse (25:09) : Directed by Paul Henreid with Peter Lorre, George Peppard, Mary Scott, Isobel Elsom
3. The Deadly (24:49) : Directed by Don Taylor, with Phyllis Thaxter, Lee Philips
4. Miss Paisley's Cat (24:17) : Dorothy Stickney
5. Night of the Execution (24:44) : Pat Hingle, Georgann Johnson
6. The Percentage (24:53) : Alex Nicol, Nita Talbot
7. Together (24:25) : Directed by Robert Altman, with Joseph Cotten
8. Sylvia (24:31) : Ann Todd, John McIntire from a story by Ira Levin

Disc Three :
1. The Motive (24:40) : Directed by Robert Stevens, with Skip Homeier, William Redfield and Carl Betz
2. Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty (24:51) : Directed by Robert Stevens, with Mildred Natwick and Tita Purdom
3. The Equalizer (25:00) : Leif Erickson, Martin Balsam and Norma Crane
4. On the Nose (25:01) : Jan Sterling, David Opatoshu and Carl Betz
5. Guest for Breakfast (24:40) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with Joan Tetzel, Scott McKay and Richard Shepard
6. The Return of the Hero (24:09) : Jacques Bergerac, Susan Kohner and Marcel Dalio
7. The Right Kind of House (25:01) : Directed by Don Taylor, with Robert Emhardt, Jeanette Nolan and James Drury
8. The Foghorn (24:13) : Barbara Bel Geddes, Michael Rennie

Disc Four :
1. Flight to the East (23:54) : Directed by Arthur Hiller with Gary Merrill and Patricia Cutts
2. Bull in a China Shop (25:02) : Dennis Morgan, Estelle Winwood, Ellen Corby, Elizabeth Patterson and Ida Moore
3. Disappearing Trick (25:04) : Directed by Arthur Hiller, with Robert Horton, Betsy von Furstenberg, Perry Lopez, Frank Albertson
4. Lamb to the Slaughter (25:06) : Directed by Alfred Hitchcock from a story by Roald Dahl, with Barbara Bel Geddes and Harold J. Stone
5. Fatal Figures (25:02) : Directed by Don Taylor, with John McGiver and Vivian Nathan
6. Death Sentence (25:00) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with James Best, Katharine Bard and Steve Brodie
7. The Festive Season (25:06) : Directed by Arthur Hiller, with Carmen Mathews, Edmon Ryan and Richard Waring
8. Listen, Listen .....! (25:02) : Directed by Don Taylor, with Edgar Stehli

Disc Five :
1. Post Mortem (25:00) : Directed by Arthur Hiller, with Steve Forrest, Joanna Moore and James Gregory
2. The Crocodile Case (25:04) : Directed by Don Taylor, with Denholm Elliott, Hazel Court, John Alderson and Pat Hitchcock
3. Dip in the Pool (25:02) : Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Keenan Wynn and Fay Wray - plus sneaky product placement of Hitchcock paperbacks.
4. The Safe Place (24:43) : Directed by James Neilson, with Robert H. Harris, Joanne Linville, Jerry Paris and Wendell Holmes
5. The Canary Sedan (25:05) : Directed by Robert Stevens, with Jessica Tandy and Murray Matheson
6. The Impromptu Murder (24:51) : Directed by Paul Henreid, with Hume Cronyn and Robert Douglas
7. Little White Frock (24:52) : Herbert Marshall, Julie Adams and Tom Helmore.

     There is only one word to describe this series and that is "classic". Every episode is a polished twenty-five minute lesson in dramatic structure and execution, with many episodes glittering as true gems. We have here, in Madman's release, transfers which present the episodes looking better than we have ever seen them before, plus an informative twelve-page booklet with seventeen photos related to these actual episodes. There is even an interesting fifteen minute featurette. It would have been great to have had more background on the series and its creator, but there are many books available on Hitchcock, the best possibly being The Dark Side of Genius by Donald Spoto (1983). It seems undeniable that Hitchcock was indeed a twisted and sadly tormented being, just listen to Tippi Hedren his star of The Birds and Marnie. However, the uproariously genial host seen here belies that sad truth.

     Alfred Hitchcock Presents Season Three is the best TV on DVD release of the year.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Considering the age of this material, over sixty years, we have to be delighted with the quality of the images on these discs. The image is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 without enhancement.

     The quality of the Hitchcock monologues is a little better than on the first two sets, although it is here that most of the imperfections are seen. This is emphasised by the fact that the director is frequently presented against a blank white background, making any positive imperfections all the more noticeable. Nevertheless, the artefacts are minor, ranging from flecking and scratches to the odd hair. These in no way detract from the wonderful content of Hitchcock’s segments.

     Once we begin each actual episode the quality approaches excellence. There is strong contrast, with solid blacks and stable whites. The black and white image is extremely sharp, with detail very good indeed revealing the meticulous attention to set dressing.

     There is fine, soft grain, giving a totally film-like appearance to the material. I was not aware of any compression problems. Film to video artefacts were extremely minor and infinitesimal considering that these discs contain almost one thousand minutes of dramatic material.

     There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

     There is a single audio stream on the discs, English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 224Kbps.

     The only real flaw noted was in the Hitchcock introduction to The Deadly on the third disc. The introduction begins with the volume down considerably, then there is a total dropout for a second after which the sound comes back at the correct volume.

     Overall the audio is sharp, crisp and clear with dramatic presence and depth. Dialogue is crystal clear and there are no sync problems. There was no background hiss noticed, and crackles and pops were minimal.

     Although mono, the music is always presented effectively.

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

Extras

Menu

     The main menu is virtually identical to those on the first two sets in the series. It is presented 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer, accompanied by the famous Guonod theme. Once again Hitchcock is seen holding a widescreen ratio "card" on which is playing a montage of the eight, or seven in the case of the final disc, episodes on that disc.

     Options presented are :

    Play All : Select this option and the episodes on that disc are played in sequence.

     Story Selection : Select this option and the music ceases while we zoom into the montage card where the images are replaced by a listing of the individual episodes on that disc. Each story has four chapter stops.

Booklet

     Excellent as far as it goes, this high quality twelve page booklet gives a brief summary of each of the thirty-nine episodes, with comments on personnel of interest. Unfortunately the writer's knowledge of most of the actors seems to be limited to their TV appearances, ignoring earlier screen successes and Broadway stardom. Incorporated into the text are some excellent photographs, some framed blow-ups and other publicity shots. Most are thumbnail size, but there are three full-page shots as well, plus the Hitchcock cover and back cover reproduction of the famous profile sketch. The booklet and amaray case are housed in a matching slip-case.

Featurette : Alfred Hitchcock Presents : A Look Back (14:45)

     This absorbing little documentary could have been much longer. Presented 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer, with new (2005) colour interviews, we get a brief history of the Revue production company, the importance of agent Lou Wasserman in Hitchcock's artistic life and the company's move from Republic Studios after the purchase of Universal. The talking heads include Hitchcock’s daughter, Pat (Strangers on a Train) who also appears in a couple of episodes, and actor/producer Norman Lloyd, both giving high praise to the director's long time producer, Joan Harrison. Lloyd’s association with Hitchcock began in England when he was cast in the 1942 production Saboteur, a film which also features Joan Harrison's name in the credits as one of the writers. While some dwell on the "dark side" of Hitchcock, there obviously are others who elected to work with the man for decades. Hitchcock remains a fascinating enigma, a filmmaker who introduced us to the film "thriller", back when that word actually meant something.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 release misses out on  : the eight-page booklet, although it appears that there are additional photographs incorporated into the US digipac.
                                                  : the fourteen minute featurette.
    The R4 release misses out on English subtitles.

Summary

     This is brilliant television drama. There is simply nothing better and here we have thirty-nine classic episodes looking immeasurably better than they ever looked on 1950s television. Even at the RRP of $49.95, that works out to approximately $1.30 per episode. The US has recently seen the release of Season Four and hopefully sales here will warrant Madman's releasing further seasons locally.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, August 06, 2010
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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