1955 was a very significant year in the life of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. He received his American citizenship and he changed the face of the young television industry forever. Alfred Hitchcock Presents came before all of the other classic anthology shows. The show combined Hitch’s trademark gallows humor with his unerring instinct for suspenseful storytelling. The show was the first overnight success, drawing millions of viewers with its first episode, no small feat for 1955.
Hitchcock was ahead of his time. He was one of the first to believe that you could apply the same standards of big budget film making with the limited scope of the newly discovered smaller screen. While Hitchcock did rely on some very talented people to provide the day to day work on the series, his presence could always be felt in every detail. Hitch himself was active in selecting stories as well as cast. The show was both entertaining and thought provoking. Hitch himself began and ended each show with some clever observations and sketches that made him a household name. He tempted fate by constantly poking fun at his own sponsors, a habit that was not always taken in good fun. Hitch also poked fun at the moral code that existed at the time for television. Bad guys were never allowed to get away with their crimes. Instead of adjusting his scripts, Hitch demanded they be unchanged. To “settle the score” as he used to call it, he would inform us of some unfortunate luck the bad guy fell into after the events of the story.
Each episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track which, of course, is basically mono. The sound does provide a bit too much hiss and crackle at times. After all, this is a 50 year old program. The defects are never distracting. You’ll hear each and every word spoken with clarity. Music cues are often distorted.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast 1.33:1 full frame black and white format. While some effort to restore the footage is evident, there are still many instances of print damage visible. There is a great deal of range here. Some episodes are quite clear, while others display greater numbers of defects. Brightness is often inconsistent, even within a particular episode.
Sadly, only a 15 minute tribute, mostly featuring Hitchcock’s daughter, gives us a small look at the man.
I must say here that it disturbs me that Universal has opted for mostly 2-sided discs these days. They are quite fragile, and reports are coming in that they are not quite as compatible with many players. I hope someone from Universal takes notice. I might be tempted to buy fewer sets for fear they will be unplayable in just a few short years.
I’ve waited a long time for this release and hope it garners enough support for future editions. Even with the uneven quality of the sight and sound, I suspect it will likely not be possible to look any better. Hitch paved the way for the likes of Rod Serling and other masters of mystery and imagination. I’d highly recommend this DVD set for anyone who wishes to have many a “good evening”.