Alfred Hitchcock Presents

TV classics: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

USA 1955-62, 268 episodes, 25 minutes each, CBS and NBC. Presented by Alfred Hitchcock, Cast examples: Julie Adams, Gene Barry, Barbara Bel Geddes, Charles Bronson, Tom Conway, Joseph Cotten, Anne Francis, Rosemary Harris, Patricia Hitchcock, Brian Keith, Werner Klemperer, Wesley Lau, Steve McQueen, Leslie Nielsen, John Qualen, William Shatner, Nita Talbot, Jessica Tandy, Dick York et al.

Plot summary: In this anthology series, Alfred Hitchcock presented new mysteries on a weekly basis, always introduced by a comment from the master of suspense himself.

Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents was one of the many successful anthology series of the 1950s and 60s, hosted by Alfred Hitchcock who commented on the weekly stories in the beginning and at the end of each episode. Often welcoming his audience with a friendly “Good Evening”, the master of suspense was a pivotal part of the show for which he caricatured his own silhouette to appear in the title credits. Although praised as Hollywood’s best directors, Hitchcock did not direct more than seventeen episodes of the original show and only one of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour which was produced for another three years after the completion of his half-hour original in 1962.

Focusing on murder, mayhem and mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a more constricted theme for its episodes than the majority of other anthology programs, something his famous name already suggested. Always relying on suspense, a decent cast and excellent scripts, the show lived up to be one of the 100 most popular shows on TV and was rewarded with several Emmy nominations including two for the renowned director himself. Successfully rerun for many years, a re-imagined show, The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, brought more crime to American living rooms in 1985, a popular time for revivals of popular black & white franchises.

Today, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is available on DVD and online to be enjoyed by old fans and new ones alike. Still gripping and entertaining, the episodes are a treat for everyone who enjoys great storytelling and ironic or deadpan comments on sometimes gruesome yet never horrific cases. As the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock was celebrated for his skills to seduce his audience into witnessing upsetting circumstances without haunting them with gory images. His approach was reflected in this show and still offers many hours of first class diversion – a true gem to rediscover on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

A Lion is in the Streets

Talkie of the Week: A Lion is in the Streets

USA 1953, 88 minutes, color, Warner Brothers Pictures. Director: Raoul Walsh, Written by: Luther Davis, Based on the novel by Andria Locke Langley, and loosely based on Huey Long. Cast: James Cagney, Barbara Hale, Anne Francis, Warner Anderson, John McIntire, Jeanne Cagney, Lon Chaney, Frank McHugh, Larry Keating, Onslow Stevens, James Millican

Plot summary: Peddler Hank Martin has a way with words and enters politics with the strong support of the simple  folks he has learned to manipulate with his slick charm and populist ideas. But his rise to fame comes as quickly as his downfall is inevitable.

Review: A Lion is in the Streets, produced by William Cagney, is a performance vehicle for his larger-than-life brother James Cagney. The plot, although haunting and engaging, circles around his main character Hank Martin and his scary rise to political fame in the South. Never mind if you feel reminded of All the King’s Men (1949, remade in 2006) and the real life story of Huey Long, the effect is the same, the overall storyline however is different, similarly excruciating, painful to watch but worthwhile nonetheless.

Fans of James Cagney may appreciate his bulldozing performance from beginning to end. For those who prefer a softer touch in conveying a roller-coaster of emotions, Jeanne Cagney delivers a breathtaking performance as one of Hank Martin’s most enthusiastic supporters, Jennie Brown. Barbara Hale supports James Cagney as Verity Wade, a schoolteacher from Pennsylvania who is spellbound by Hank Martin’s tricks and marries him. Like Jeanne Cagney, her portrayal is much more refined and soft-spoken than Mr. Cagney’s, but every bit as memorable and stirring. These two women alone carry so much of the important emotional side of the movie, it’s almost as if they allow the audience to breathe after James Cagney has finished one of his whirlwind scenes.

All in all, A Lion is in the Streets is not your mellow Sunday afternoon relaxation flick. It was made in the early 1950s and thus has comments on McCarthyism, political extremism and fanaticism incorporated in its every pore. The film is not, however, a period piece in the classic sense. It is rather contemporary in its approach and morale, and ends on a feeling of queasiness in our entertainment-thirsty times.

Available on DVD and VHS.