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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two
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"Good evening…" With dramatic flourish, Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock used these simple words to introduce all of his 39 timeless episodes of horror, mystery and intrigue in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two, now available in a 5-disc collection. Not only loved by millions of TV viewers around the world, this legendary season also received three Emmy awards as well as a Golden Globe for Television Achievement. Loaded with twists, turns, and things that go "bump" in the night, these classic half-hour tales of menace and mayhem feature such iconic stars as Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Rip Torn, Vic Morrow, and many more. It's time to tune in once more to the master storyteller as he delights viewers with some of the most deliciously wicked and chilling television ever aired!
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1: WET SATURDAY
2: FOG CLOSING IN
3: DE MORTUIS (ABOUT THE DEAD)
4: KILL WITH KINDNESS
5: NONE SO BLIND
7: ALIBI ME
8: CONVERSATION OVER A CORPSE
9: CRACK OF DOOM
11: THE BETTER BARGAN
12: THE ROSE GARDEN
13: MR. BLANCHARD'S SECRET
14: JOHN BROWN'S BODY
16: NIGHTMARE IN 4-D
17: MY BROTHER RICHARD
18: THE MANACLED
19: A BOTTLE OF WINE
20: MALICE DOMESTIC
21: NUMBER TWENTY-TWO
22: THE END OF INDIAN SUMMER
23: ONE FOR THE ROAD
24: THE CREAM OF JEST
25: I KILLED THE COUNT (1)
26: I KILLED THE COUNT (2)
27: I KILLED THE COUNT (3)
28: ONE MORE MILE TO GO
29: VICIOUS CIRCLE
30: THE THREE DREAMS OF MR. FINDLATER
31: THE NIGHT THE WORLD ENDED
32: THE HANDS OF MR. OTTERMOLE
33: A MAN GREATLY BELOVED
34: MARTHA MASON, MOVIE STAR
35: THE WEST WARLOCK TIME CAPSULE
36: FATHER AND SON
37: THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MR. WEEMS
38: A LITTLE SLEEP
39: THE DANGERIOUS PEOPLE
I know everyone will enjoy these episodes as much as I did. I've spent the last 24 hours watching all 39 episodes & let me tell you there Great!! The picture quality is great, the sound is great. No problems here!! There are many well known stars in this set that were just starting out when AHP aired on tv. A lot of the episodes seen in this set, were never seen on Nick at Night. I used to watch them when they were on & I would have remembered them. I know everyone will be very pleased with this set. Universal finally did the right thing by putting them on 5 single sided DVD'S. I wish I could give this set more than 5 stars. This set is well worth the money that you will pay for it. THANK YOU UNIVERSAL FOR FINALLY DOING IT RIGHT!!!!!
One of the troubling things about Universal's first two box sets (another is on its way, covering the third season) is that Alfred Hitchcock's introductions and postscripts aren't the ones we've come to know and love after more than 40 years of syndicated re-runs. Because it's not just the wicked and subversive stories that make this series one of the high-water marks of television. It's also Alfred Hitchcock's presence as host, with his droll delivery, his apparent delight in murder, and his obvious distaste for being interrupted by commercials.
For those of us who love this show, Universal's first box set was a mixed bag. We'd been waiting for it since like, forever. The technical process of the remastering had been accomplished beautifully. But the product was presented on a type of disk (double-sided, double-density) that played poorly in most DVD machines. And even worse, Alfred Hitchcock's introductions and postscripts were edited so badly that many of them seemed incoherent. (A few of the shows were exactly as they aired originally - they even contained a title card indicating that the show was "Brought to you by Bromo-Seltzer," which was deleted when the show went into syndication - but most of the shows appeared to be edited, and not very skillfully, either.) Wherever Hitchcock made a snide comment about his sponsor, the footage was snipped, and even if you hadn't been a fan, you would have noticed something was missing. Most of Hitchcock's appearances on these disks seemed like a joke without a punchline. It was hard to understand why Universal would commit such an atrocity. Did some scissors-happy gnome in Hollywood think we'd be confused if Hitchcock made funny remarks about the upcoming commercial, if the DVD didn't contain the commercial?
I was so dismayed by that first-season set that when the second was released, I delayed a year before buying a copy. Judging by the angry comments I saw on this forum, I could see that this second-season set had the same problem.
But now that I've finally bought the set and I've started watching these disks, I think I finally understand what happened. It's the strangest thing: Universal, without explanation, has decided to give us the BRITISH version of the show.
One thing few people know is that Hitchcock filmed multiple introductions for each program - one for American audiences, one for the British, and one for the French (or so I've read). In the second-season box set, the introductions and postscripts are decidedly different than the ones that we saw in America. A few of them are edited from the American versions, but most of them do not appear to have been edited, and these follow a much different format than the ones that aired in the states. If you watch closely, you'll see that there is no place where a commercial might have been inserted. At the same time, the content is decidedly un-American.
I'll offer a couple of examples. One of the clearest clues comes in the introduction to the episode, "Nightmare in 4-D." Hitchcock's comments begin,
"Good evening. Tonight's play is entitled 'Nightmare in 4-D.' It will be presented in only two dimensions, however. We could present it in 3-D. In fact, we did in America, but the viewers kept getting involved, and during one of the more violent scenes we lost half our audience. We wouldn't want that to happen here."
In another program, we find a clue that is even more telling. In the postscript to the episode "Crackpot," we see Hitchcock standing in what he describes as an impregnable "sealed chamber." Suddenly, from behind him, someone pounds on the wall with a sledgehammer and knocks a hole in the plaster. "I knew it," Hitchcock says. "It's the I.T.A. It's futile to try to escape. We shall be back with another play. Don't you try to escape."
This had me scratching my head -- it's a reference that means absolutely nothing to me, and I'm sure it means nothing to anyone in this country. But after a little searching on the Internet, I found out what Hitchcock must have meant. He must have been referring to Britain's Independent Television Authority, a commercial network that started operation two years before this particular episode was shown.
Suddenly everything makes sense, and since Universal hasn't bothered answering customer emails, and its DVD packaging contains no information about the source of the shows, let me outline a scenario that might explain it all. In Britain, Hitchcock's show must have been presented on the BBC, which didn't carry commercials - and so all those snide remarks about the sponsor wouldn't have made any sense. In the first season, these references were crudely deleted, along with the fade-to-black points where commercials might have been inserted. (Perhaps the series hadn't been picked up in Britain at the time the first-season episodes were filmed.) But for the second season, Hitchcock filmed additional introductions and postscripts for the British market, a vast improvement over the previous season. If I'm right about this, I suppose these DVDs are a little more authentic than I thought before. My outrage has been subdued.
But is the British version the right version to be presenting in a "definitive" collection of the series? Absolutely not.
It's an American show. Always was, always will be. It aired first on American networks. The American version is the most complete. After 40 years of re-runs, we EXPECT Hitchcock to say nasty things about the upcoming commercial, and when he doesn't, we feel cheated. Heck, it wasn't so long ago that these shows were running every day on cable TV. It's not as if the American shows have been lost - we've been watching them all along. This British format just doesn't feel right. Even if the editing was done 50 years ago, many of the butchered introductions and postscripts don't make sense; at best, they don't flow very well. And the ones specially-filmed for the British audience don't strike me as interesting as the ones we saw over here. (Perhaps they might be included on future releases as a "Bonus Feature.")
I hope Universal did the right thing and used the American version of the show in its Season Three box set. We'll know when it comes out next month. At least Universal got one thing right in this second release - it abandoned the double-sided disks. The standard-type disks in this set appear to play perfectly. (I probably should make a technical point here as well, to avoid confusion -- this might be the British version of the show, but there are none of the problems associated with PAL to NTSC transfers, because the show was produced on film in the first place.)
Look, this is one of the best TV series ever. The stories are classics, and there's a style to this show we rarely see today, emphasizing character rather than action or cinematography. The original packaging was absolutely brilliant, with those witty Hitchcock bits at the beginning and end of each program. The sheer number of these shows is absolutely staggering - there were some 260 episodes of the half-hour Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and another three seasons of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. I can't wait to buy them all. I guess this is my way of saying that the way this show is presented - it matters.
Those Brits didn't know what they were missing.
This set includes all 39 second-year "AHP" episodes on five single-sided, dual-layered discs (which is a nice change from the first-season set, which has thirty-nine shows placed onto three double-sided DVDs). These 2nd-season shows appear to be uncut for the most part too.
A few seconds of Hitchcock's dialogue may possibly have been trimmed here and there (leading into what were the commercials breaks when the shows originally aired), but nothing of a substantive nature has been cut out from what I can detect. And the running times would tend to back up that conclusion as well. In sampling a few episodes from Disc #1, I found running times of 26:11, 26:21, 25:28, and 25:33 for the first four programs.
I, personally, have experienced very little difficulty at all while playing any two-sided discs from Universal, but I still like the fact that USHE now seems to be utilizing the one-sided DVD format for most of its television catalog. The single-sided discs look nicer too....they aren't as plain-looking, in that the single-siders include a label on each DVD, complete with photos, show title, and of course an easy-to-read disc number.
The same photo of Mr. Hitchcock (holding a hangman's noose, which seems fairly appropriate) is displayed on each of the five disc labels in this AHP-2 collection. It might have been nicer to have a different picture adorning each of the discs....but the redundant photo doesn't bother me at all. Heck, I just like opening this package and seeing SOME type of label on the DVDs, period.
Other than the switch to the single-sided discs, this set is almost identical to the Season-One release in most respects (such as the packaging and the DVD menu design and layout).
The Main Menu provides choices for "Episode Index", "Subtitles", and a "Play All" option. (The "Play All" can be accessed from any of the "Episode Index" menu screens as well.)
Eight shows occupy each disc (except Disc #5, which has seven). English subtitles are available for each program. The "Episode List" (title only) text screens that were a part of the first-season release have not been included in this second-season boxed set.
Universal has also elected to omit the episode description text screens from the S.2 menus. A wise move too, because a lot of "spoilers" were revealed in the S.1 show summaries. For Season Two, when an individual episode is selected, you're taken straight to the episode (without going to a sub-menu first).
Unlike Season One, chapter breaks have been inserted for all 39 of these year-two episodes, which I like a lot. There are four total chapters (scenes) per program. Advancing past the first "chapter" takes the viewer directly to Act 1 of the episode, while skipping the opening credits as well as bypassing Hitchcock's prologue/introduction.
Alfred's droll intros are fun to see....but being able to get right to the beginning of the body of the program with one quick click is quite handy too. That's a very nice chaptering option to have.
I haven't seen many of these Hitchcock episodes for quite some time, so some pleasant memories were rekindled when I watched some of the AHP shows on these DVDs -- including the following impressive entries:
"Fog Closing In", "None Are So Blind", "De Mortuis", "Vicious Circle", "Father And Son", "Nightmare In 4-D", "Kill With Kindness", "The Night The World Ended", "Mr. Blanchard's Secret", and the three-part story starring frequent AHP guest star John Williams entitled "I Killed The Count".
In addition to the above-mentioned installments, the Season-Two episode I enjoy the most is "One More Mile To Go" (first aired on April 7, 1957). I actually had no idea that this episode was even going to be a part of the S.2 collection, so it was a real treat indeed to see this one pop up in the Episode Index on Disc #4. It is also one of the very few episodes directed by Mr. Hitchcock himself during this second season of his television series.
"One More Mile To Go" stars David Wayne and is an episode filled with tension, suspense, and the one thing that frightened the daylights out of Director Alfred Hitchcock more than anything else -- the police. According to Mr. Hitchcock's daughter (Pat), and via interviews with Hitch himself in the years prior to his death at age 80 on April 29, 1980, Alfred very much feared the police.
Perhaps that fear of "men in blue" was the springboard for episodes like "One More Mile", which has a script that features a motorcycle cop trailing after David Wayne throughout the program. And, according to what Pat Hitchcock has said in the past about her father, "nothing could be more menacing than that" (i.e., being pursued relentlessly by a policeman) -- especially if the person being chased (in this case Wayne) has a terrible secret he wants to hide....a "secret" in the form of something that Wayne stuffed into the trunk of his car shortly before being pulled over by that menacing man in the blue uniform.
"One More Mile To Go" has been compared in some ways to the movie "Psycho" (which Hitchcock directed three years later). I hadn't really thought about the "Psycho" comparisons in the past, but the AHP episode does mirror that iconic Hitch film in several ways, including the part of a policeman tailing the car being driven by the story's main character.
I could probably watch "One More Mile" every day of the week and not tire of it. It's an episode that has an eerie and mysterious quality that, for me, makes each repeat viewing just as satisfying as the one that preceded it.
More "AHP-Season 2" DVD Details:
Video -- Full Frame (original 1.33:1 TV ratio).
Audio -- Dolby Digital Mono (2.0).
Subtitles? -- Yes (English only).
Bonus Features -- None (except for some ads for other Universal DVDs).
Packaging -- A three-panel folding Digipak case with an outer slipcover/box.
Paper Insert? -- No.
The "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 2" DVD collection is another excellent reason to start building a "Classic TV On DVD" library (if you haven't already started building one, that is). With 39 gorgeous and well-written half-hour B&W teleplays available in one convenient and affordable DVD package, "AHP-2" earns a "Very Much Recommended" label from this reviewer.
(Note: He recorded these alternate pieces in English, French and German-- Hitchcock was fluent in all three languages.)
His stable of regulars once again deliver fine performances, the scripts are well-written and direction and photography expert. Transfer to DVD quality is of the highest caliber. This second full season of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS is certain to please the most discriminating of vintage TV show collectors, while Hitchcock fans will be most delighted.
The averaged-out 1 to 10 score for this DVD set was calculated from viewer polling numbers maintained by a film resource website. Currently, these 39 episodes are rated: 5.5.
Following is a program list that includes individual poll scores, original airdates and main actors for each show.
(6.1) Wet Saturday (#1 - 9/30/56) - Cedric Hardwicke/John Williams/Tita Purdom
(5.2) Fog Closing In (#2 - 10/7/56) - Phyllis Thaxter/Paul Langton/George Grizzard
(5.2) De Mortuis (#3 - 10/14/56) - Robert Emhardt/Cara Williams/Henry Jones
(5.4) Kill with Kindness (#4 - 10/21/56) - Holly Bane/Hume Cronyn/James Gleason
(5.6) None Are So Blind (#5 - 10/28/56) - Hurd Hatfield/Mildred Dunnock/K.T. Stevens
(5.1) Toby (#6 - 11/4/56) - Jessica Tandy/Robert H. Harris/Ellen Corby
(5.7) Alibi Me (#7 - 11/11/56) - Lee Philips/Chick Chandler/Alan Reed
(5.4) Conversation Over a Corpse (#8 - 11/18/56) - Ray Collins/Carmen Mathews/Ted Stanhope
(5.7) Crack of Doom (#9 - 11/25/56) - Robert Horton/Robert Middleton/Gail Kobe
(5.5) Jonathan (#10 - 12/2/56) - Corey Allen/Georgann Johnson/Douglas Kennedy
(5.8) The Better Bargain (#11 - 12/9/56) - Don Hanmer/Kathleen Hughes/Henry Silva
(5.5) The Rose Garden (#12 - 12/16/56) - John Williams/Patricia Collinge/Evelyn Varden
(5.8) Mr. Blanchard's Secret (#13 - 12/23/56) - Robert Horton/Meg Mundy/Mary Scott
(5.3) John Brown's Body (#14 - 12/30/56) - Russell Collins/Leora Dana/Norman Leavitt
(5.6) Crackpot (#15 - 1/6/57) - Biff McGuire/Robert Emhardt/Mary Scott
(5.5) Nightmare in 4-D (#16 - 1/13/57) - Henry Jones/Norman Lloyd/Virginia Gregg
(5.3) My Brother, Richard (#17 - 1/20/57) - Royal Dano/Inger Stevens/Harry Townes
(5.9) The Manacled (#18 - 1/27/57) - Gary Merrill/William Redfield/Rusty Lane
(5.5) A Bottle of Wine (#19 - 2/3/57) - Herbert Marshall/Robert Horton/Jarma Lewis
(5.6) Malice Domestic (#20 - 2/10/57) - Ralph Meeker/Phyllis Thaxter/Ralph Clanton
(5.6) Number Twenty-Two (#21 - 2/17/57) - Russell Collins/Peter Leeds/Rip Torn (minor role)
(5.8) The End of Indian Summer (#22 - 2/24/57) - Philip Coolidge/Gladys Cooper/Mason Curry
(6.2) One for the Road (#23 - 3/3/57) - John Baragrey/Georgann Johnson/Mickey Kuhn
(5.7) The Cream of the Jest (#24 - 3/10/57) - Joan Banks/Don Garrett/Claude Rains
(5.5) I Killed the Count (Part 1) (#25 - 3/17/57) - John Williams/Alan Napier/Charles Cooper
(5.3) I Killed the Count (Part 2) (#26 - 3/24/57) - John Williams/Rosemary Harris/Alan Napier
(5.3) I Killed the Count (Part 3) (#27 - 3/31/57) - John Williams/Rosemary Harris/Alan Napier
(6.6) One More Mile to Go (#28 - 4/7/57) - David Wayne/Steve Brodie/Louise Larabee
(5.7) Vicious Circle (#29 - 4/14/57) - Russell Johnson/George Macready/Dick York (all in support)
(5.5) The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater (#30 - 4/21/57) - Raymond Bailey/Barbara Baxley/Isobel Elsom
(5.5) The Night the World Ended (#31 - 4/28/57) - Edith Barrett/Paul Brinegar/Harry Shearer (bit part)
(5.7) The Hands of Mr. Ottermole (#32 - 5/5/57) - Theodore Bikel/Rhys Williams/Torin Thatcher
(5.2) A Man Greatly Beloved (#33 - 5/12/57) - Robert Culp/Cedric Hardwicke/Hugh Marlowe
(5.6) Martha Mason, Movie Star (#34 - 5/19/57) - Robert Emhardt/Judith Evelyn/Vinton Haworth
(5.4) The West Warlock Time Capsule (#35 - 5/26/57) - Sam Buffington/Bobby Clark/Mildred Dunnock
(4.8) Father and Son (#36 - 6/2/57) - Charles Davis/Edmund Gwenn/Pamela Light
(5.5) The Indestructible Mr. Weems (#37 - 6/9/57) - Harry Bellaver/Ted Bliss/Russell Collins
(5.3) A Little Sleep (#38 - 6/16/57) - John Carlyle/Barbara Cook/Vic Morrow
(5.5) The Dangerous People (#39 - 6/23/57) - David Armstrong/Ken Clark/Albert Salmi
Four of the five discs in the set are on top of each other. As with the first set Hitch directed some of these himself--four to be exact "Wet Saturday", "Mr. Blanchard's Secret", "One More Mile To Go"and "The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater". I watched these first. "Wet Saturday" is a droll story of murder and looks at the wrong man theme that is prevelant in Hitch's work.
***Warning a couple of spoilers ahead***
In "Wet Saturday" (on disc one)A father (Cedric Hardwick) discovers his idiotic daughter has murdered a boy she thought was in love with her. When the boy foolishly admits he is in love with someone else she clocks him. The dim witted siblings conspire with their father to try and cover up the murder when a friend (John Williams) comes to visit. This provides them with the perfect set up and alibi.
"One More Mile to Go" (on disc four) demonstrates the brilliant visual sense that Hitch always used in his films. It's a stand out episode. The episode opens with a shot of a muffled argument between a husband and wife seen through the front window of their house. We don't hear what is said but don't need to as we see the way it ends. How you ask? Why with murder of course! Visually stunning with smooth camera work a story that unfolds building suspense with virtually no dialogue in the first fifteen minutes (at least none that can be made out) and a nice O. Henry type pay off at the end the episode is prime Hitch undermined only by the melodramatic music score. Although Bernard Hermann would have been a bit too expensive for the episode it simply cries out for one of his unusual atonal scores.
That's not to suggest that the rest of the episodes are trash--far from it and the half hour episodes all have top notch writers (Stirling Silliphant, Evan Hunter), TV directors (Robert Stevens, John Meredyth Lucas, Paul Henreid) and casts (Sir Cedric Hardwick, John Williams, William Shatner, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn). The half hour format works well for most of these "mini-movies".
The show looks good in its presentation. There aren't any extras as with the first set (which included a featurette on the production of the series). I would have liked to see a commentary or two comparing the production of Hitch's TV shows vs. his films or, at the very least, a featurette focusing on the various directors that worked on the show. We get "Sneak Peeks" which are previews of other Universal TV shows. It's a pity that no one thought to do a featurette on the other directors (such as TV stalwarts like Paul Heinrid,Robert Stevens and others) that worked regular on the show).
From early viewing it appears this is a superior set to the first just because they discontinued the dual sided discs. Definitely worthwhile for fans of Hitchcock and suspense dramas. I do think that Universal should reissue the first season (and exchange a revised 3 disc dual sided set for 6 single sided DVDs). It would be good customer service. Unlike the first set I can recommend the second season for fans of the show.
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