1 9 5 5 – 1 9 6 5 (USA)
268 x 25 minute episodes
Although only 20 of the 300+ episodes of this anthology of murder mysteries were directed by the Master of Suspense, he presented every episode – usually from some macabre setting, such as an electric chair or impaled on a pole like a scarecrow – signing off with a sardonic, deadpan explanation of the small but fatal slip that had proved to be the criminal’s undoing.
One of the first anthologies to have a personality of its own, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (aka The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) raided the shelves of the suspense classics for its narratives, those translated for the screen by such renowned ink-slingers as Ray Bradbury, Nicholas Monsarrat and Sterling Silliphant.
The stories were cleverly crafted, centring on crimes such as murder and blackmail, but each had a surprising twist in the tail.
Among the outstanding presentations were: ‘Arthur’ with Laurance Harvey and Patrick McNee; ‘Man From the South’ with Steve McQueen and Peter
Lorre; ‘Revenge’ with Ralph Meeker and Vera Miles; ‘The Jar’ with Pat Buttram; `Escape to Sonoita’ with Burt Reynolds; and ‘Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat’ with Audrey Meadows.
The series originally consisted of 30-minute dramas, but over 900 stories were made in a 60-minute format and went out as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
One feature of Hitchcock’s dramas on television was their shattering of the industry code that forbade evil to triumph: he routinely announced in his closing remarks that the bad guys received justice, thereby circumventing the censors. However, he also ridiculed his sponsors and teased his viewers, so such disclaimers were taken seriously by very few.
The show was produced by Norman Lloyd, later to appear in front of the camera as Dr Daniel Auschlander in St Elsewhere.
The memorable theme music to the show was Gounod’s Funeral March of A Marionette.