Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Five Best "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" Episodes

In terms of longevity, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was the most successful American television anthology series. It ran from 1955 to 1962 in a half-hour format and then from 1962 to 1965 as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The list below includes only the 268 half-hour episodes.

Barbara Bel Geddes looking calm.
1. Lamb to the Slaughter - When a meek housewife (Barbara Bel Geddes) learns that her cheating husband is leaving her, she whacks him--fatally--with a frozen leg of lamb. She then calmly calls the police to report that her husband was murdered by an intruder. This darkly amusing tale, written by Roald Dahl, works to perfection--right down to the killer punch line. It was one of only 17 episodes (of the total 268) directed by Hitchcock.

2. Man from the South - Based on another Roald Dahl story, this episode stars Steve McQueen as a young man who bets a wealthy oddball (Peter Lorre) that he can light his lighter ten times in a row. If he can, he wins Lorre's snazzy convertible. But if the lighter fares to produce a flame just once, he loses a finger. A suspenseful, well-acted classic featuring another one of Dahl's trademark twists.

Vera Miles in Revenge.
3. Revenge - The very first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents raised the bar very high. A distraught woman (Vera Miles) tells her husband she has been assaulted. When the police investigation goes nowhere, the couple seek their justice and go looking for the assailant. In a long-running series featuring a number of memorable twist endings, "Revenge" features perhaps the most potent one. Directed by Hitchcock.

4. The Glass Eye -Director Robert Stevens won an Emmy for this haunting tale of a middle-aged woman (Jessica Tandy) who falls in love from afar with a ventriloquist she has never met. After they begin exchanging letters, he agrees to meet her--with disastrous results. This beautifully written teleplay (by Stirling Silliphant) provided underused actor Tom Conway (George Sanders' brother) with his last good role. It's ultimately a very sad story of two lonely people.

Billy Mumy with loaded gun.
5. Bang! You're Dead - Hitchcock directed this wonderfully tense episode about a young boy (Billy Mumy) who mistakes a real gun for a toy pistol and spends the day playing with it. The worst part: the gun is loaded. Mumy's success as Will Robinson on Lost in Space has obscured his finest TV work, as in this episode and the "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone.

Honorable Mentions:  One More Mile to Go (a man with a corpse in his car trunk) and Victim Four (a Paul Henreid-directed episode about a woman whose bad headaches are really bad). It's interesting to note that both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone featured adaptations of Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. However, The Twilight Zone episode was actually a short French feature filmed two years before its broadcast on Twilight Zone.

26 comments:

  1. Great! When I opened the link I thought "I bet you the leg of lamb episode will be on here." I always really enjoyed the "Coo Coo Clock" one as well, which Patricia Hitchcock appears in. Really creeped me out as a 5th grader.
    This post has made me want to go home and crack open my Alfred Hitchcock Presents seasons :)

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  2. Lamb to the Slaughter is definitely the best, with the best twist ending. Ralph Meeker was excellent in Revenge (especially the last close-up of his face when he realizes the truth...). I recall another AH episode Meeker did, in which he's a husband who's being poisoned by his wife - it also had a great sly, twist ending.

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  3. I've always liked "Man with a Problem":

    https://sassone.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/and-now-alfred-hitchcock-presents/

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  4. That Peter Lorre one with the finger got me as a kid. I shuddered reliving it here as I read the list! I vaguely remember the one with Barbara Bel Geddes, anxious to see it now for the ending. I love a good twist and this show certainly had them!

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  5. Rick, again you set yourself a daunting task to pick just five episodes. I've seen a fair number of episodes, but nowhere near all. One I do recall that made a strong impression on me is about a boy who orders a home mushroom-growing kit from a comic book and installs it in his basement. It's almost a variation of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and more like a typical "Twilight Zone" episode than a typical "AHP" episode, which is probably why I recall it so well. One interesting thing is how often actors who had worked or were to work in Hitchcock films--like Barbara Bel Geddes, Jessica Tandy, Henry Jones, and John Williams--were cast in the TV series.

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  6. Rick, I would also include "Into Thin Air" from 1955 starring Patricia Hitchcock. A plot eerily similar to that of "So Long At The Fair" (1950), which I suspect had attained "urban myth" status by this point.

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  7. I really liked the one where the intruder comes into this housewife's house when she's home alone and it turns out, at the very last second that she's actually blind. that one was awesome!

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  8. I think "Lamb to the Slaughter" must have planted a little seed of doubt in the minds of generations of husbands regarding their loving spouses. Every time I go to the freezer the hubby mentions that episode, chuckles awkwardly and gives me a kiss. So far, he's lasted 24 years. Time will tell.

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  9. Rick, this is an excellent selection of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." "Revenge" is truly thought provoking and chilling; even the picture you posted of Vera Miles is quite disturbing. I am very fond of Roald Dahl's dark humor and Barbara Bel Geddes is marvelous in "Lamb to the Slaughter." "One More Mile to Go" is fascinating in that something so seemingly small could foil a clever plot. Well done!

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  10. Rick, To be honest, the only Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode I distinctly remembered is "Lamb to the Slaughter." After reading your selections, though, I did recall "Man from the South" and "Bang! You're Dead." "Lamb to the Slaughter" has to be one of the greatest episodes of any mystery/suspense series ever. Excellent selections.

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  11. Great post, I've only ever seen a few of these but I will try and watch more after reading your excellent post

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  12. Thanks for the comments and wonderful recommendations. I will be seeking out: "Coo Coo Clock," "Malice Domestic," "Man With a Problem," and "Into Thin Air." Toto, "One More Mile to Go" is a personal fave!

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  13. A couple of bits and pieces that you didn't mention:

    - You didn't mention "Man From The South"'s director: Hitchcock's right-hand man/protege Norman Lloyd, who contributed mightily to the whole show.

    - Still with "Man Fron The South", Steve McQueen's leading lady was his then-wife, Neile Adams. Knowing that as you watch them together gives their scenes a kind of subtext, if you know what I mean ...

    - And, in "Lamb To The Slaughter", the cop who gets lamb-chopped is played by cowboy star-emeritus Allan "Rocky" Lane, who several years later was "reincarnated" as the voice of Mister Ed (next time you watch, listen to him talk ...)

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  14. Not quite true in terms of US television...even if one excludes THE HALLMARK HALL OF FAME as too loose and irregular a series for contention, there was DEATH VALLEY DAYS...

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  15. Nice catch. I should have said AHP was the longest-running anthology series on network television. I consider the HALLMARK HALL OF FAME a series of specials--not a continuous TV series.

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  16. "The Perfect Crime" with Vincent Price has always been one of my favorites. There are a couple on your list I haven't seen, I'm gonna have to check 'em out!

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  17. Not to nibble you to death duck-style, but even with the US networks, you have MASTERPIECE THEATRE, and even MYSTERY! before incorporation into MT, running weekly enough longer than AHP:...and AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE might qualify there, too (though that series wasn't quite weekly, most seasons). And STUDIO ONE had 10 slightly scrambled seasons on CBS-TV. But for US commercial networks with a more or less continuous play (even given the net jump and slight shift in title at the end), yes, Hitch's baby was the champeen.

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  18. I liked The Ikon of Elijah

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  19. In the first season "Help Wanted" is the best!

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  20. "Sorcerer's Apprentice" gave me and my sister nightmares for weeks

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  21. I found the list interesting and liked all the episodes.
    Personally I would rate "Premonition" as the best.

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  22. Does anyone remember an old Alfred Hitchcock TV Show that was called "Jail" or "Prison"? It was about a future police state world where an innocent young man is arrested and is tried and convicted.The punishment is that he is to be aged 40 years and to do this he has his brain switched to the body of an old sick inmate and the old sick inmate gets his brain put in the young man's body.This brain switcheroo was accomplished by some kind of process where they sat side by side and had some kind of helmets attached to their heads and then this machine turned their into a smoke like vapor and switched their brains from one to another! I remember the episode but can find no trace of it on the internet...does anybody know of it?

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  23. I've only seen the first two seasons but to me, None Are So Blind is easily the best episode so far.

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    1. man with a problem. i never get tired of watching.easily the fastest plot twist!!!

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  24. how about the episode titled the creeper from 1956. always thought this was well acted as most ahp episodes are the ending was great and yes a little creepy! love all his tv output. rob

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  25. Was thrilled to see this as one of your tabs.I loved this show. So many great episodes. Kudos too for your taste in Roald Dahl :)

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