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Subj: Creature Feature 119
Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 at 11:18:50 pm CST (Viewed 233 times)
For some reason, when I expand the Subject to "Creature Feature 119: Alfred Hitchcock Presents", it's seen as spam, so I shortened the title.
This week I've been watching episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which ran for 10 seasons from 1955-1965. The show had 267 half-hour episodes and 93 hour episodes known as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour(1962-65). Hitchcock was the host and creator, as well as directing 17 episodes himself. Mainly, the stories were crime/mystery/thrillers but there were a few episodes that had a sci-fi or supernatural theme. Of these, I watched "The Gentleman From America"(Season 1, Episode 31, 1956), "Human Interest Story"(Season 4, Episode 32, 1959), "Special Delivery"(Season 5, Episode 10, 1959), and "The Greatest Monster Of Them All"(Season 6, Episode 18, 1961). I'll try to give brief descriptions without spoiling the twist endings too much.
In "The Gentleman From America", a British aristocrat who has suffered some gambling losses bets an American visitor that he can't spend the night in the haunted room of his mansion. When a headless "ghost" appears to the American, he loses more than just money.
"Human Interest Story", starring Steve McQueen, tells the tale of a reporter interviewing a man who believes himself to be a Martian. In a surprising twist ending, it turns out the man is less crazy than we were led to believe.
"Special Delivery" is a great episode in which boys from all over the country start buying and growing mail-order mushrooms. The father of one boy starts to wonder about the strange effects the mushrooms are having on people and starts to believe that they are a vehicle for alien invaders to possess human hosts and set up an invasion.
Washed up actor Ernst Von Croft, known as "The Greatest Monster Of Them All" for his classic horror movies, is tempted into a comeback by some movie makers. When the director changes the theme of the movie in post-production, without Croft's knowledge, Croft is humiliated and gets his revenge.
I remember watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents quite often in the 80's, but I didn't recall any of these episodes. I also didn't realize how many episodes there were! 10 years is a long time for an anthology show. One thing I remember is the consistent high quality of the show. There may not be as many memorable episodes as from The Twilight Zone, but the writing, acting and directing are always solid. Most enjoyable was that my 10-year-old son watched a few with me. He generally won't give anything this old a second look.
All four episodes had memorable twists, with "The Gentleman From America" being the lowest(I can't say "worst" because it was still good). The effects of the headless ghost are uninspired but do the job for a 1950's TV show. This episode is enjoyable but just a bit uneven. My son didn't get the point of the twist at all.
"The Greatest Monster Of Them All" is the funniest. I guess some fans don't care for this episode because of the over-the-top humorous twist, but I found it hilarious when the vampire in the movie spoke with Bugs Bunny's voice. It's been hypothesized that Croft in this episode was inspired by Bela Lugosi's later career working with Ed Wood, and I can see why. Richard Hale, who plays Croft, does make a menacing vampire and the commentary on 1950's low-budget-monster-movie-making works.
It was great seeing Steve McQueen in "Human Interest Story". This wasn't quite a hard-hitting essay on the life of a 50's reporter but it is a good portrayal. I've always been a fan of Kolchak and His Girl Friday so I like these types of reporter stories. The Martian theme was interesting and while the twist itself didn't exactly come out of left field, the harshness with which the Martian was dealt with was surprising.
The cream of the crop was "Special Delivery". Written by Ray Bradbury, the plot is familiar, in the vein of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. The growing paranoia coming out of idyllic 1950's life works perfectly and the performances are riveting. The ending is bleak, too. Great sci-fi TV.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents promo
According to Wikipedia, both Time magazine and The Writers Guild Of America ranked Alfred Hitchcock Presents in their Top 100 best TV shows of all time.
Steve McQueen also appeared in the famous "Man From The South" episode(1960) in which Peter Lorre bets him that he can't successfully light his lighter 10 times in a row. The wager is Lorre's car against McQueen's pinky finger.
In 1985, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was revived for 4 season and 76 episodes. The series featured newly filmed stories with colorized footage of Hitchcock from the original show. I remember the remake of "Man From The South" being particularly good.
You can watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents on Hulu. Episodes are also available on Dailymotion in a minimized format.
The Gentleman From America
Human Interest Story
The Greatest Monster Of Them All
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