DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?
March 12th is National Alfred Hitchcock Day, and while suspense-savvy FANGORIA readers hardly need to be pointed to a top-ten of Hitchcock films, we thought we’d take advantage of the opportunity to revisit some Hitch-related ephemera that made its debut on the small screen. No, we’re not talking about the classic ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS – which ran from 1955-1965 and effectively cemented Hitch’s status as the first movie director to become a household name – but its less-celebrated rejuvenation in the 1980s – THE NEW ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS!
Scandal! Outrage! With all the Hitchcock-related films, TV specials, interviews, books, trailers, radio plays, video essays and more we could be tipping our hat to, why a half-baked television retread featuring a colorized digital version of Hitch introducing washed-up stars from THE LOVE BOAT?
Well, for one thing, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and that pantheon of small screen celebrities who flitted between guest spots on FANTASY ISLAND and HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, QUINCY and HART TO HART – well, they were my people. Such is the power of television. But a look back at the cast and crew of these episodes may reveal some surprises.
Hitchcock had already been dead for five years when NBC debuted THE NEW ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS as an anthology film being tested out as a pilot for a new series in 1985. Narrated by/starring veteran actor John Huston, the TV movie reconfigured 4 classic episodes from the original ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (in some cases casting their original stars in bit parts) and featured segments directed by distinctive genre voices Fred Walton (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS) and Steve DeJarnatt (MIRACLE MILE) and actors including Lee Ving (the aggro singer of punk band Fear) and Melanie Griffith alongside real-life mom and rightful Hitch-hater Tippi Hedren. When the TV movie’s ratings success prompted the accompanying series, hosted first by NBC and then the USA Network, the ongoing cast rounded out to include not only a bevy of TV heavyweights (including both Hardy Boys and one Keith Partridge, which is enough for me) but also the directing talents of Tim Burton, Allan King (recognized alongside Frederick Wiseman as one of the most important verite filmmakers in history), Zale Dalen (of canuxploitation classics TERMINAL CITY RICOCHET and SKIP TRACER) and Atom Egoyan, still very early in his career (it was shot in Toronto, thus explaining the many Canadian directors).
The show was a mix of newly-penned stories and remakes from the original series’ slate of suspenseful tales; admittedly no writer on the 80s incarnation could compete with the likes of the original’s roster of writers – which included Robert Bloch, Cornell Woolrich, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury and even A.A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh fame – but THE NEW ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS remains a fun component of the 80s revival of anthology horror that often gets overlooked.
The mini-films ranged from the inspired to the insipid, a spectrum you can see at work in the two selections here: In “The Jar”, Griffin Dunne of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON stars as a starving artist whose fortune changes when he finds a mysterious jar (directed by Tim Burton and featuring the BEETLEJUICE team of composer Danny Elfman and writers Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson, based on a Ray Bradbury story); and in “Career Move” – a guilty pleasure - THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY’s David Cassidy stars as a singer who fakes his own death in an attempt to get back into the charts…