Initially, a slick 80s update of classic Hitchcockian stories, that later added its own original tales... for better or worse
22 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This may be the first time that I'm truly surprised that a title here on IMDb has no user reviews. This show may not have been as popular as the genre anthology classics like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits or even The Ray Bradbury Theater and the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents but it certainly isn't some forgotten, obscure, one-off like Orson Welles' Scene of the Crime (1984) or Darkroom (1981). Ironically, both of these have IMDb user reviews.

The show did have three things against it, though. It tried too hard to use the original's fame to promote itself, at least at first, and this was at the time when remakes were rarely popular if the original was still beloved (i.e. the maligned 1970s version of King Kong and its even more hated 1980s sequel or the original Godzilla vs. the first American Godzilla aka Godzilla 1985 or even John Carpenter's The Thing, a classic now but incredibly hated back when it first came out in 1982). Strike two for the show was that its own original stories were often not as strong as the ones from the 50s (sometimes to the point of being straight up generic garbage). Since the budget got lower and lower with each season (especially after the first season failed, so the show got picked up by a different TV network), even the visuals couldn't fix a bad episode. Finally, the producers of the show had controversially decided to colorize and reuse the introductory sequences from the 1950s version with, by the 1980s unfortunately very much late, Alfred Hitchcock himself. Although intriguing to some, this move was more often seen as a creepy gimmick to be made fun of, while others even saw it as nothing less than pure sacrilege and insultingly cynical desecration.

On the other hand, the show definitely had its strengths as well. The remakes of the classic 50s and forgotten 60s episodes (the show is a remake of both classic "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1955) and the now completely forgotten "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (1962) anthologies) were often actually good 80s-fied updates, whether they were near shot-for-shot remakes (season 1 episode "Revenge" for example) or with its own small twists added to the mix (season 1 episode Road Hog) or sometimes even actually better than the original 1950s version (Martin Sheen's fresh meta/in-joke take on Robert Duvall's original episode Method Actor, again in season 1). However, some episodes also gleefully fed on 80s cynicism and really dark and bleak twists, which sometimes worked in a macabre way (season 1's Final Escape) and sometimes ended up being just plain sinister and disturbing (like in season 1's The Night Caller or possibly the bleakest and darkest episode of the entire show - season 1's The Gloating Place).

The show also featured dark comedic tales like Tim Burton's The Jar (season 1 again) or even light comedies (like season 1 episode The Canary Sedan, one of the 1950s stories that received a complete overhaul, for better or worse). There were even a couple of sci-fi episodes like "The Human Interest Story" (season 1's remake of the 50s episode) and "Romance Machine" (season 4), both a mediocre mix between this show and The Outer Limits.

As it was the case with other similar shows, many people who were famous at the time or were about to hit it big guest starred in season 1 (from John Huston and Melanie Griffith in the pilot's second segment Man from the South to Robert Loggia and very, very young Joaquin Phoenix in A Very Happy Ending). Some famous faces from TV at the time (like "The Equalizer" (1985) himself, Edward Woodward, in the show's only two-parter called Hunted, that served as the season 3 finale) or B-movies (like charismatic John Vernon in season 2's Conversation Over a Corpse) or aged stars (like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly star Eli Wallach in season 3 episode Kandinsky's Vault) appeared in later seasons as well but much less frequently.

Later, the stories became much more formulaic and mediocre, so the writers relied on the twists to salvage them. These plot twists and twist endings reached the point of intentional self-parody with episodes like "Twist" in season 3.

By season 4 (its final season) the show mixed things up a bit and tried some new tricks (again, for better or worse). For instance, it featured a number of in-joke episodes that served as tributes, either to other titles or actors. "The Prisoner" and "The Avengers" star Patrick Macnee appeared in this season's Survival of the Fittest as a retired top operative. George Lazenby, the forgotten one-off James Bond of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) fame played a similar tongue-in-cheek role in Diamonds Aren't Forever. TV western and b-movie star Doug McClure appeared in a similarly tributary role in season 4's Ancient Voices, while the episode My Dear Watson actually featured Sherlock Holmes as protagonist. The show's underwhelming finale "South by Southeast" was a direct parody of Hitchcock's classic film "North by Northwest".

The lowest point for the show probably came with a couple of infamous final season episodes that suspiciously felt and looked like blatant backdoor pilots. The most notorious of these are probably "Night Creatures", the only supernatural horror episode in the whole show, that was clearly made as a pilot for a vampire hunter series, and The Man Who Knew Too Little, again clearly made as a pilot for a series based on Hitchcock's classic film.

Overall, this show is an interesting 80s TV time capsule exactly because of it's uneven quality. While most people won't care about a show like this today (most audience apparently didn't care even when the show was new), for anthology aficionados, 80s TV lovers or Hitchcockian completests, this is a show that ought to be seen.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

Recently Viewed