Alfred Hitchcock: The Television Years: 8 Indelible Episodes

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“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of hell”-Edgar Allan Poe

Alfred Hitchcock Presents opening credits

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The camera frame evolves into a most simplistic line-drawing, a chubby caricature of Alfred Hitchcock’s endearing profile which then converges with Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette” as suggested by Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann had scored so many of Hitch’s feature films, as well as John Williams and Dimitri Tiompkin. Hitchcock appears at first in a shadowy silhouette from the corner of the screen, then stepping prominently into the outline, filling his place as the master of the evening’s suspenseful ceremonies.

Now,I offer a brief snap shot or oeuvre featuring some of my very favorite episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. They never stale, they always tickle and cause that most delicious little shudder, from some of the finest mystery and suspense writers and re-experiencing the delight of seeing how the show had given some of the best acting talent their very first start…right here.

THE GLASS EYE

Season 3 episode 1 aired on (6 Oct. 1957)

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Jessica Tandy, Tom Conway, William Shatner, Rosemary Harris and Billy Barty

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Robert Stevens and written by Sterling Silliphant.

Jim Whitely (William Shatner) and Dorothy (Rosemary Harris) begin cleaning out the apartment of his dead Cousin Julia (Jessica Tandy), Jim comes across a small wooden box that contains a mysterious glass eye, and starts to relate the strange and macabre story to his wife of why it remains in Julia’s possession.

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The proper, lonely and romantically repressed Julia had fallen in love with a famous ventriloquist named Max Collodi (Tom Conway)Becoming obsessed with the performer she saw all his performances, sending him letters requesting to meet him.Eventually quitting her meager job, in order to follow his show around Europe, Max agrees to meet Julia, setting forth certain conditions upon their first encounter.

Once she arrives at his hotel room, she finds him sitting in a dimly lit atmosphere of mystery, surrounded by shadows and subterfuge. The darkness envelopes him, and he asks her to keep her distance. He sits at a table with his small dummy George.

Overcome with passion as the two begin to talk, Julia tries to reach out and touch the object of her undying passion -Max Collodi, but it comes along with grave consequences.

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An Unlocked Window

Season 3, Episode 17 aired on (15 Feb. 1965)

Dana Wynter as Stella, T.C. Jones as Nurse Betty Ames, and Louise Latham as Maude Isles

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by Joseph M. Newman, from a story by Ethel Lina White.

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Nurse Killer-“You’re Such a Pretty Nurse, Freda” cackle, cackle

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Over the course of  two weeks a psychotic maniac is on the prowl, being reported all over the television and radio.The police are baffled by this madman who is preying exclusively on live-in nurses.

Set the stage for a dark and stormy night, where Nurse Stella Crosson (Dana Wynter) and Nurse Betty Ames (T.C. Jones) are held up by the storm at the house of the man they are taking care of (John Kerr) He’s got a bad heart and lives in a creepy old mansion on the outskirts of town.

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Suddenly, the women get a phone call from the murderer telling  them that he knows they’re alone, and is on his way over to kill them both. Stella goes around the house making sure all the windows and doors are locked tight, but discovers that they overlooked a small window in the basement that is flapping open from the storm. Is he already in the house?

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Maude Isles-“I read a book about a man who only killed trombone players, he beat them to death with their own trombones.”

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WATER’S EDGE-

aired on (19 Oct. 1964) Season 3 episode 3

Starring the vivacious, the amazing  Ann Sothern, & John Cassavetes.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Bernard Girard with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes, based on a short story by Robert Bloch.

Robert-Bloch
The prolific Robert Bloch, genius writer of the horror suspense genre

John Cassavetes plays Rusty Connors who tricks his prison cellmate Mike Krause (Rayford Barnes) into telling him every detail about his gorgeous girlfriend Helen Cox (Ann Sothern). On his deathbed, Mike reveals to Rusty that he’s got a stash of $56,000 hidden away with the help of his dead accomplice, Pete Taylor.

Once Rusty is released, he goes in search of the epic Helen, and finds her in the small town of Hanesville working as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner slinging hash and, and not quite as divine as Mike had related in his verbal memoirs.

Rusty pretends to be enamored with the voluptuous Helen, in order to enlist her in helping him find the stashed cash from the robbery.The journey leads them to a ramshackle boat house on a lake, inhabited by a sea of hungry rats.

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LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER

Season 3, Episode 28 aired on (13 Apr. 1958)

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Barbara Bel Geddes as Mary Maloney, Harold J. Stone as Lieutenant Jack Noonan, Allan Lane as Patrick Maloney,

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock himself with teleplay and story by the great darkly humorous British writer Roald Dahl.

Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd.

Roald Dahl
British writer of the darkly comedic fairy tale world, Roald Dahl

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Barbara Bel Geddes plays the dutiful Mary Maloney, devoted wife and housekeeper. Husband police chief Patrick Maloney comes home and coldly tells her that there’s another woman he wants to marry and that he wants a divorce. Oh, yeah and Mary’s pregnant with his child, but he’ll let her have the child, they’ll probably be okay.

The usually composed and polite Mary erupts in a moment of rage killing him by way of blunt force trauma to the head with a giant frozen leg of lamb.

She then calmly calls the police, giving them her quick alibi, a story that she’d been out shopping, while the murder occurred. Lieutenant Noonan is the investigating officer on the case. He is bewildered by the lack of a murder weapon missing from the scene of the crime.

Mary being the ultimate hostess and good cook invites the hard working detective Noonan and the other police officers to stay for dinner. Noonan says while stuffing his face with Mary’s fine meal, “For all we know, it might be right under our very noses.”

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CapturFiles_11 Old Mrs Keating gave me the ring test dangled it over my tummy, and it's a boy
“Old Mrs Keating gave me the ring test today… dangled it over my tummy, and it’s a boy”
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“I want a divorce…now we’ve got to be calm and sensible about it”
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“You must have your supper darling, I wouldn’t ever let you go without your supper”

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I won’t let you leave, you can’t… you can’t
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“Try and stop me”

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Road Hog

Season 5, Episode 11 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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Raymond Massey as Sam Pine, Robert Emhardt as Fred Fratus, Ray Teal as Ben Tulip, Richard Chamberlain as Clay Pine, Brad Weston as Sam Pine Jr. (27 Sep. 1962)

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by Stuart Rosenberg, teleplay by Bill S. Ballinger from a story by Harold R. Daniels. Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd

Dynamic character actor Robert Emhardt is deliciously vile as a very selfish and rude traveling trashy and risqué, novelty salesman who willfully forces a truck off the road, making it virtually impossible for the young injured Pine boy to make it to the hospital for medical care. He ultimately dies because of Salesman Fratus’ actions.

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Don’t Look Behind You

Season 1, Episode 2 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by John Brahm and written by Barré Lyndon

Vera Miles is Daphne engaged to Harold (Jeffrey Hunter) Abraham Sofaer plays Dr.McFarlane, Dick Sargent (the 2nd yet inferior Darrin on Bewitched) is Dave Fulton who is madly in love with Daphne, Mary Scott is Wanda Hatfield and Alf Kjellin is Edwin Volck a brilliant composer.

The world of academia is occupied by intellectual types, social misfits and radical thinkers. At one such particular local college, there is a fiend ravaging women while they walk home through the neighboring woods. At a social gathering of faculty, they speculate the motives of the madman, using their knowledge of criminal psychology and floating theories around while drinking cocktails and fawning over the beautiful Daphne. Is Daphne going to be the maniac’s next victim?

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Return of Verge Likens

Season 3, Episode 1 aired (5 Oct. 1964)

alfred opening of Verge Likens

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Arnold Lavin and based on a short story by Davis Grubb

Peter Fonda is Verge Likens a simple, respectable farmer’s boy who’s father is murdered by a ruthless politician again perfectly befitting the acting chops of Robert Emhardt as Riley McGrath who thinks he can get away with anything. George ‘Goober’ Lindsay plays D.D. Martin, McGrath’s cutthroat flunky in a role that is quite a contrast from the oafish and good natured Goober Pyle.

But Verge is smart, patient, and not impetuous when it comes to laying the blueprints for his master plan of revenge.

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Lonely Place

Season 3, Episode 6 aired on (16 Nov. 1964)

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Starring Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram and Bruce Dern.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Directed by Harvey Hart, with a teleplay by Francis Gwaltney from a short story by C.B. Gilford

This is perhaps one of the most disturbing pieces of suspense television, that would quite aptly fit onto the larger  screen adapted as a major motion picture. The cinematography is stunning and Teresa Wright and Bruce Dern’s acting is so distinctively nuanced that it lifts the narrative beyond mere television drama. The theme of isolation, dread and psychological/physical abuse by Emery and Jesse is stunning and at times nightmarish. Teresa Wright plays the meek Stella, a woman who has been so beaten down by her obnoxious and domineering cretin of a husband Emery played by Pat Buttram. Stella is a gentle soul, who loves animals, befriending a little squirrel who becomes her only source of joy. Along comes the menacing Bruce Dern as the mysterious Jesse who is willing to work for $5 a day picking peaches, knowing all too well that Emery is exploiting his labor. He proceeds to terrorize Stella, kill her pet squirrel, and turn the ineffectual and spineless Emery against her, as he is unwilling to protect or defend his own wife, being a cowardly neanderthal himself.

Dern inhabits one of the most striking performances as a vicious socio-pathic drifter, so transcendent for it’s day that it’s utterly chilling to watch the narrative come to force . Dern’s Jesse makes his sleazy character Keeg in Cycle Savages 1969 pale in comparison.

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The landscape of a Gothic Americana horror story

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‘GOOD EVENING’-MonsterGirl

Boris Karloff’s Thriller 1960s television series

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From the show’s opening iconic musical score, you know something deliciously sinister is about to occur. The word THRILLER appears against a fractured white web like graphic title design quite a bit in the style of Saul Bass. The discordant piano and horn stabs of modern jazz already bring you into the inner sanctum of menacing story telling. As Boris would often say as a precursory welcome,“Let me assure you ladies and gentlemen, as sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a thriller”

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Boris Karloff’s THRILLER was an anthology series that ran from 1960-1962. It included 60 minute B&W episodes, 67 in all, that were expected to compete with The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

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The series was developed by Executive Producer Hubbell Robinson and producers William Frye, Fletcher Markle  & Maxwell Shane for MCA’s Revue Studios. The format was somewhat plagued by two ambivalent themes, leaving the show’s narrative straddling both crime melodrama and tales of the macabre genres. But… either atmospheres created by some of the best writers, directors and players delivered a highly intoxicating blend of both.

“I think the title leaves the stories wide open to be based on melodrama not violence or shock. They’ll be stories about people in ordinary surroundings and something happened to them. The whole thing boils down to taste. Anybody can show you a bucket of blood and say-‘This is a bucket of blood’, but not everyone can produce a skilful story”-Boris Karloff (1960)

Karloff starred in five episodes: The Prediction, The Premature Burial, The Last of the Somervilles, Dialogues With Death, and The Incredible Doctor Markesan.

Many of the stories were based on writing taken from Weird Tales and scripted by that magazine’s contributors such as Robert Bloch (author of the novel Psycho) who wrote one of my favorite episodes The Cheaters as well as adapting his story The Weird Tailor.

Other contributing writers were Donald S. Sanford, Richard Matheson, Barré Lyndon and August Derleth John Kneubuhl, Alan Caillou, Robert Hardy Andrews, Charles Beaumont, Robert Arthur, William D. Gordon, Jay Simms and Wilkie Collins.

THRILLER had an incredible line up of serious dramatic players. Leslie Nielsen, Mary Astor, Rip Torn, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson, Martin Gabel, Cloris Leachman, Fay Bainter, Victor Buono, Audrey Dalton, Alan Caillou, Elisha Cook, Robert Lansing, Mary Tyler Moore, Beverly Garland,Warren Oates, Werner Klemperer, Harry Townes, Jack Weston, Paul Newlan, Ed Nelson, Mildred Dunnock, Phyllis Thaxter,William Shatner, Elizabeth Allen, Guy Stockwell, Susan Oliver, Nehemiah Persoff, Torin Thatcher, Marlo Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Ireland, Pippa Scott, Jeanette Nolan, Guy Rolfe, Hazel Court, Lloyd Bochner, Brandon DeWilde, Sidney Blackmer, George Macready, Tom Poston, Constance Ford, Elizabeth Montgomery, John Carradine, Edward Andrews, Estelle Windwood, Bruce Dern, Jo Van Fleet, Jane Greer, Richard Long, Ursula Andress, Lillian Bronson, Reta Shaw, Dick York, Howard McNear, Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, John Fiedler, Linda Watkins, Martita Hunt, George Grizzard, Robert Middleton, Natalie Schafer, James Griffith, Bethel Leslie, Patricia Medina, Richard Chamberlain, Sarah Marshall, Conrad Nagel, Reggie Nalder, Henry Jones, Russell Johnson, Natalie Trundy, Diana Millay, Philip Carey, Kathleen Crowley, Susan Oliver, J. Pat O’Malley, Judith Evelyn, Tom Helmore, Robert Vaughn, Virginia Gregg, Scott Marlowe, Judson Pratt, Marion Ross, Antoinette Bower, Jocelyn Brando, William Windom, George Kennedy, Abraham Sofaer, Monte Markham, Patricia Breslin, Charles Aidman and so many other great character actors.

Ida Lupino Looking Through Movie Camera
Ida Lupino directed Last of the Summervilles, The Lethal Ladies, The Bride Who Died Twice, La Strega, The Closed Cabinet, What Beckoning Ghost? Guillotine, Mr. George and Trio for Terror

The series drew much of it’s artist edge because of the directors who contributed their stylistic observations of the story telling like Robert Florey, French Screenwriter who was responsible for contributing to The Outer Limits , Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone as well as assistant director on Murders In The Rue Morgue and the 1946 film The Beast With 5 Fingers yet another take of the Orlac saga. John Brahm had directed the 1944 version of The Lodger and Hangover Square. Much of the overall tone of the series combined elements of film noir and classical horror. The shadowy gray toned cinematography created so much of the atmospherics for some of the most memorable episodes in the series. Pigeons From Hell is yet another story adapted from Weird Tales Magazine. This episode was directed by John Newland of One Step Beyond, a television series consisting of half hour episodes that were purported to be based on true paranormal events. Some other notable directors who contributed their work to the series was the ever versatile Ida Lupino Arthur Hiller , Lazlo Benedak, (The Wild One ’53) Hershel Daugherty , Paul Henreid, Douglas Heyes and Jules Bricken.

THRILLER’S musical compositions seemed to be sculpted perfectly for each episode, underscoring the haunting and poignant quality of each story in such an evocative way that the music itself became integral to the narrative. The subtly intrinsic emotional quality in each of the arrangements help forge a climate of the distinctive theater of dramatic and unearthly chills.

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Jerry Goldsmith , Morton Stevens & Pete Rugolo  wrote some of the most vivid and beautiful melodies for the series. I was inspired by the episode God Grante That She Lye Stille, to name a song on my album Fools and Orphans after it.

Henry Daniell, who in addition to his marvelous face, had a wonderfully theatrical voice, plays the 17th century reincarnation of his ancestor Vicar Weatherford in God Grante She Lye Stille. He condemns the witch Elsbeth Clewer to be damned to the fires of hell and burn at the stake. Memorable is his invocation “God Grant That She Lye Still.” in that measured and lucidly flowing tone of his.”Thou shall not suffer a witch to live!”

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Henry Daniell in God Grant That She Lye Stille

Daniell would inhabit several striking characters on the series, including Dirk van Prinn the alchemist in The Cheaters.

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Henry Daniell as the cruel headmaster in Jane Eyre 1943

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I’ll be writing about some of my favorite episodes in depth because THRILLER was so ahead of it’s time in terms of the serious and artful risk taking of the various directors on board, the incredibly spellbinding story telling and dialogue, inspired set & art design, experimental cinematography, dramatic performances and evocative musical scoring.

Together the confluence of all these elements contributed to a show that often pushed the boundaries of what you might expect from a 1960’s television series. It’s moody, compelling and haunting quality, have not been duplicated on any other anthology series of it’s type to date. Although I also feel passionately about The Outer Limits for much of the same reasons, a show philosophizing on morality with a very science fiction lens. I plan on covering that series in depth as well. Alfred Hitchcock Presents & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was a fabulous mystery series that also merged noir with suspense. This is another show I’ll be talking about in the future. Yet THRILLER holds a special fascination for me, partly due to my enduring love for Boris Karloff.

Somehow THRILLER seemed to encapsulate it’s own Gothic methodology and mythos.

The sets had a uniquely eerie landscape and their own vitally uncanny, bizarre and shadowy environment. Not unlike the way Val Lewton seemed to create his own unique cycle of supernaturally themed shadow plays for RKO.

The show still evokes chills and Gestalt response in me even after having watched these episodes a hundred times over.

Also notable is Jack Barron’s make-up on the series, including The Incredible Doktor Markesan~

So please stay tuned as I journey back to Boris Karloff’s Thriller and wander through some of my most treasured episodes I’d love to share with you!

Also notable is Jack Barron’s make-up on the series, including Doktor Markesan ~

 

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a few scenes from a most groundbreaking & thrilling series!

A Wig for Miss Devore
A Wig for Miss Devore – Patricia Barry & Linda Watkins
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The Storm-Nancy Kelly
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What Beckoning Ghost?-Judith Evelyn
Fingers of Fear
Fingers of Fear- Robert Middleton
Mr George
Mr.George- Virginia Gregg and Lillian Bronson
Masquerade
Masquerade – John Carradine, Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery
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Rose’s Last Summer– Mary Astor
Parasite Mansion
Parasite Mansion- James Griffith and Jeanette Nolan
Pigeons from Hell
Pigeons From Hell– Ottola Nesmith
Prisoner in the Mirror
Prisoner in the Mirror – Lloyd Bochner and
The Cheaters
The Cheaters- Mildred Dunnock
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The Ordeal of Doctor Cordell-Robert Vaughn
the grim reaper
The Grim Reaper– himself
the hollow watcher
The Hollow Watcher– Audrey Dalton
the hungry glass
The Hungry Glass– William Shatner and Joanna Heyes
The Premature Buriel
The Premature Burial- Sidney Blackmer
The Purple Room
The Purple Room
the remarkable mrs hawk
The Remarkable Mrs Hawk– Jo Van Fleet
the weird tailor
The Weird Tailor- Sandra Blake & Hans the mannequin
The Incredible Doktor Markesan
The Incredible Doktor Markeson – Boris Karloff
Doktor Markeson
Doktor Markeson
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There are 2 episodes listed that never made it to the screen- A Secret Understanding and The Black-Eyed Stranger

 

Season One –

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Season Two