Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The simple way out.
Hitchcock on the assembly line, saccharine, pruning and commercials.
Suspicion is quoted.
The Oblong Box
The crucified Christ is kept locked and chained in an upstairs room, his countenance is reckoned so repulsive to the common eye.
The reason is, he is a winebibber and lover of prostitutes.
A complicated scheme to rescue him goes awry, he is buried alive and a murder victim exhibited in his stead.
Resurrectionists place him in a shady doctor’s keeping, per Whale’s The Invisible Man he strikes out at his adversaries.
The theme just grazes tantalizingly on “The Masque of the Red Death”, adding a touch of Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry.
Variety, for example, had no idea what it was about. The second theme of African explorers and witch doctors leads to the settled conclusion that the King of the Jews was ironically taken for an emperor.
Scream and Scream Again
The initial structure of disparate nightmares gradually resolves into a straightforward narrative on precisely Frankenstein as a government project that of course sucks blood and requires an arm here, a leg there.
A confraternity is revealed with a totalitarian state in Europe, or a collegial rivalry, they’re in the same racket.
Vampire Over London (dir. John Gilling) has the same satirical idea, and it’s a comedy properly called Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire.
Hessler’s manual of frights is treated quite seriously as abstractions for the sake of pure horror, it would seem, until tenuous connections are made and the monster is formed.
Cry of the Banshee
The gentle anachronisms are enough of an irritant to dislodge the picture profitably (Shakespeare has his) from an examination of sixteenth-century superstition into a common sense of witch hunts in the modern age or any age, this makes a fertile hallucination that is clear-eyed at the center of it.
The new authority, the old religion, natural law, human cruelty, masters and servants, men and women, “Establishment, Witches, Villagers” per the credits, are brought into the purview conglomerated, as it were.
Vincent Canby couldn’t sort it out, “only mildly diverting” (New York Times).
Witchfinder General (dir. Michael Reeves) is held by Time Out Film Guide to render this film nugatory by comparison.
“Modest horror film”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “which fails to do justice to its interesting plot.”
Murders in the Rue Morgue
The absolutely pure Guignol, grand, very grand indeed, analyzed for the cinema as pure Surrealism, Ernst’s La Femme 100 têtes is particularly close.
It adheres to the theatrical representation throughout, and daringly breaks from the Rue Morgue Theatre where Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue is the featured attraction, only to return, again and again, dreams and drama.
Howard Thompson of the New York Times didn’t get it, “a tacked-on, drawn-out postscript almost flattens the fun,” but he thought it the best of the film versions, “it’s the most interesting, at least artistically.”
Time Out Film Guide is of very much the same opinion.
Halliwell’s Film Guide finds it “a good time waster”.
A supremely able political satire, closely related to Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor by dint of a little suggestion or two, and expressly derived from the Scarface theme also in Scream Pretty Peggy.
Brother and sister (mining establishment) are no longer provided for in the will, and he owes money to the syndicate, they scheme to destroy the emended will.
Atlantis is mentioned.
Cradle of democracy, Greece, Rhodes, for location.
The satire works both ways, her very dull well-to-do guitar-playing folk-singing fiancé is exactly matched in Dassin’s The Rehearsal.
Evidently this could not be perceived at the time.
Scream Pretty Peggy
The material can easily be discerned from The Oblong Box, with a major satirical turn from Castle’s Strait-Jacket (and Corman’s A Bucket of Blood) for the fanciful artist, a schizophrenic sculptor who hides the bodies his other half kills inside his works.
This has an interesting psychopathology extending from Poe and Hitchcock.
The veneer is niceness, the nice college student who takes a part-time job keeping house for the nice, reasonable sculptor and his somewhat more aloof mother, who drinks.
A Cry in the Wilderness
What the neighborhood is made of, out in the wilds of Oregon, is fearful folk on far-flung farms, fearing the flood.
And it comes, dousing the landscape in a hydrophobic’s nightmare.
One of the farmers (George Kennedy) has brought his wife (Joanna Pettet) and son (Lee Montgomery) from Chicago to a little spread, a skunk bites him one day while pulling up tree stumps, the symptoms gestate and he fears rabies, so he chains his ankle to a post in the barn (he saw this done as a boy) and watches the creek drop.
That means trouble in spring, water dammed upstream could come loose. The wife has gone off for a doctor, which is where we came in.
Is the farmer hydrophobic or just plain savvy? He leaves strict instructions not to unchain him, and even he isn’t sure.
A most excellent nightmare, good around the campfire or anytime at all, in season or out. Collin Wilcox Paxton and Liam Dunn and Irene Tedrow are Oregonians, among others.
The story is told among the far-flung Texas farm folk in Stevenson’s Old Yeller.
Pray for Death
A subtle air of mystery from the old serials, even the French silents, cultivates the dry humor of the piece.
The finale is noteworthy is several respects, as it pits the reserved, helmeted ninja against Limehouse Willy with a chain saw. This takes place in a sawmill, lyrically Oriental music begins even before the ninja skewers Willy’s two hands to a log and hits the switch that sends him on his way, praying for death as promised he would.
Afterward, the ninja in suit and tie is handed a star, if not a badge.
Wheels of Terror
The 27th Panzer Replacement Unit, also referred to as the 27th Panzer Penal Regiment, composed of politicals and sociologicals from Nazi prisons, fighting on the Eastern front.
A platoon is ordered to blow up a Soviet oil train behind enemy lines in daylight, long leave is promised, some of the men have wives and children.
The leave is two weeks in demolition school, followed by more Eastern front. The men kill their officers.
The lad from Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron is in the platoon. The style more generally recalls Fuller’s The Big Red One.
Hessler’s film is also known as The Misfit Brigade.