on October 17, 2005
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" first aired on network TV on October 2, 1955, when television was quite young indeed. This anthology drama/suspense series was very popular and was on the air for seven seasons (spanning 268 black-and-white episodes), with the series ending in June 1962. One of those episodes never actually aired in prime-time ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice", which was released on VHS videotape by "GoodTimes Home Video" in 1998).
Mr. Hitchcock, in September of 1962, then turned his half-hour series into "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", which had a pretty successful TV run all its own (3 seasons and 93 hour-long dramas).
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released "Alfred Hitchcock Presents Season One" as a 3-Disc DVD set on October 4th, 2005 (coinciding almost perfectly with the 50th anniversary of the show's debut). It's nice to have all 39 of these teleplays from Mr. Hitchcock's first TV endeavor available in one compact DVD collection.
Some buyers of this set are far from pleased with the quality of the DVD transfers (and the double-sided DVD-18 software itself, which gives some players fits it seems). But, in my own personal opinion, I don't think there are enough serious gripes with this Hitchcock set to warrant not purchasing it.
I haven't experienced a single "freeze up" on the DVDs either (as yet). Every episode has played perfectly all the way through on my Panasonic player.
The episodes look very nice on these DVDs (especially for a program that is now a half-century old). The program entitled "Breakdown" has some major "vertical-line" problems and dirt blemishes in some portions of the show (mainly during the opening titles and the Hitchcock intro, which look fairly bad), but even that episode clears up nicely for the bulk of the story. A fine ep. too, featuring the great Joseph Cotten.
Other episodes I've watched seem to be very good in overall video quality. The audio, in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English only), sounds a bit harsh, particularly the opening theme music. But that's not a big deal, IMO. Dialogue comes through well, however.
Classy DVD packaging too. A nice "two-toned" kind of cover, with raised lettering for the show title; plus some nice black-and-white pics on the interior parts of the Digipak that's used to house the three DVDs.
The droll witticisms of Mr. Hitchcock are fun to experience at the beginning and end of each show. The ending to "The Case Of Mr. Pelham", where Hitch has to do a little acting himself, is one of my favorites. ("Bubble gum in his pocket indeed!") :)
I'm not thrilled, though, about the fact that a few portions of Mr. Hitchcock's intros and epilogues (aka "lead-ins" and "lead-outs") have been trimmed off of these episodes for the DVD release. Some of this editing was no doubt done for continuity sake, to eliminate the references by Hitchcock to the upcoming sponsor's message. I wish, however, that every second of each program had been included on these discs, but I'm not exactly ready to slash my wrists with a dull razor either due to a few missing seconds here and there.
The aforementioned "Mr. Pelham" episode, starring Tom Ewell, is one of my all-time favorite "AHP" programs during this first (or any other) season of the series. And it looks absolutely sensational on this DVD. Gorgeous video quality on that one.
When perusing the complete roster of shows contained in this first-season AHP set, I've found quite a few really top-flight episodes (that I hadn't realized were all aired during the very first year of Hitchcock's series before getting this DVD collection). Such as:
>> "Premonition", with John Forsythe and Cloris Leachman.
>> "The Cheney Vase", featuring Carolyn Jones and Darren McGavin.
>> "Back For Christmas", starring John Williams.
>> "The Creeper", with Constance Ford.
"The Creeper" really gives off some eerie vibes. It's "creepy" alright, and showcases the fine acting abilities of Constance Ford, Reta Shaw, Steve Brodie, and Harry Townes. And when Percy Helton is also tossed into the cast mix, you know you're in for a frightful time. Mr Helton, who popped up in guest roles on many TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s, radiates a kind of built-in unnerving eeriness that makes him perfect as "George" in the "Creeper" episode. Helton, who reminds me a lot of Peter Lorre, doesn't usually play villains in his TV appearances, however -- he just gives you the impression that he might turn out to be one whenever he shows up.
Helton, who died in 1971, appeared in a great number of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episodes, including several in this first season alone. Helton might also be remembered as the drunken Santa Claus at the beginning of the original "Miracle On 34th Street" (1947) -- which only proves my point that he's not usually a villain on screen. :-)
Here now is a quick "Pros" and "Cons" breakdown of this "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season One" DVD boxed set:
>> 39 (almost) uncut episodes on three DVDs, packed in a handsome, slender, easy-to-store Digipak case.
>> Very good picture quality (everything considered).
>> "Play All Episodes" option is here.
>> English and Spanish subtitles are included.
>> A nice little bonus featurette is also included ("Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back"), featuring interviews with Pat Hitchcock, Norman Lloyd, and Hilton Green. Laurent Bouzereau produced this 2005 DVD supplement, which is fairly short (at 14:44), but quite fun to watch. English and Spanish subtitles are available for this featurette, too.
>> A handy quick-reference "Episode List" is provided on all sides of all three discs, which lists the episode titles for all 39 shows in the DVD set and the corresponding disc side where each program can be found. (An episode guide is also available on the inner Digipak case, which is even a faster method of locating a particular episode, because that entire guide is printed all on one case flap. Whereas the "List" on the actual DVDs takes up three different Menu screens.)
>> Easy-to-navigate, non-animated Menu design.
>> Some of the prologues/epilogues have been edited/trimmed.
>> No Chapter Breaks at all for any of the episodes.
>> Some episode descriptions on the DVD Menus are way too detailed, giving away crucial plot points of the story.
>> Looped "Hitchcock Theme" music plays continuously on Main Menu screen. It's pretty shrill-sounding here too. (Having it play just once and then quit would have been much better. Or, better still, just have the Menu totally silent to begin with.)
In the final "All-Things-Considered" analysis -- I think these Hitchcock TV episodes are terrific and, for the most part, look just great on these discs. Even with a few edits here and there, I'm still enjoying watching these programs that were aired right smack in the middle of the so-called "Golden Age Of Television". And after seeing many of these wonderfully-written episodes, it's easy to see why such a "Golden Age" tag has been attached to TV shows from that 1950s era.
Even though this DVD set is not 100% perfection, I certainly don't want to deprive myself of these 39 Hitchcock TV gems. Do you?