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1959-60, Universal, approx. 16h 23m, $39.98, DVD-1 By Michael Barrett

Our review of the first four sea-

sons of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRE- SENTS (VW 165:38) expressed the hope that Universal wouldn’t abandon its DVD release of this classic anthology series. We don’t know if our pleas were heard, but the fifth season came forth in early 2012. Originally aired in 1959-60, the show continues its parade of sour suburban spouses at each other’s throats (literally) while splicing in several fantastical out- ings that would have fit into an- other show airing that season: the debut year of Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Hitchock directs the first two episodes, “Arthur” and “The Crys- tal Trench,” which are typical for the series. In the former, scripted by James P. Cavanagh, Laurence Harvey pulls a Hitchcock by drolly addressing the audience, both in his present and his flashbacks, freely confessing to a macabre murder just between him and us and the picture tube. The plot, set on a chicken farm, derives its

frisson from being cheeky and obvious as it lightly revisits the

territory of the third season’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.” It should have been called “Nobody Here But Us Chickens.” The effete Harvey’s scenes with victim Ha- zel Court are like cocktails with

Highlights from Season 5 of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: Peter Lorre as the finger-hungry gambler of “The Man From the South” and Michael Burns as the youngest of a mushroom-loving family in “Special Delivery”—both directed by Norman Lloyd.

poisoned ice. Hitch’s post-game spiel tosses off a particularly ab- surd comeuppance that we’re not expected to take seriously. Robert Douglas and Patrick Macnee are cops.

Macnee shows up again in “The Crystal Trench,” a minor if bizarre anecdote scripted by Stirling Silliphant (ROUTE 66) from a story by A.E.W. Mason (THE FOUR FEATHERS). Set in the Swiss Alps, the macabre touch is provided by a body fro- zen in the ice 40 years. James Donald (QUATERMASS AND THE PIT), Patricia Owens (THE FLY) and Werner Klemperer appear.

Stanley Ellin’s story “The Blessington Method,” scripted as a black comedy by Halsted Welles, takes place in the hy- gienic future of 1980, when life expectancy is 125 and the old fogeys are sponging off the young ‘uns. An eager beaver (Dick York) sells his anti-life-in- surance service to a business- man (Henry Jones) plagued by his mother-in-law (Elizabeth Patterson). DP John F. Warren shoots the satirical future as bright, flat, and crisp, while di- rector Herschel Daugherty dares a visual shock you’d think would have been handled indirectly. Another famous Ellin story, “Specialty of the House,” becomes a classic episode of morbid droll- ery about an executive (Robert Morley) who introduces his protégé (Kenneth Haigh of the “Banquo’s Chair” episode and TWILIGHT ZONE’s “The Last Flight”) to the delights of a highly exclusive restaurant. Both Ellins share a vision of the world as a predatory place, a world of canni- bal capitalism between genera- tions and old-boy networks. Robert Stevens superbly directs a script by Victor Woolfson and Ber- nard C. Schoenfeld. One of the delights of this vivid, eccentric

episode is the presence of Ma- dame Spivy, a New York caba- ret singer who ran her own club and acted in THE FUGITIVE KIND, REQUIEM FOR A HEAVY- WEIGHT and THE MANCHU- RIAN CANDIDATE. There’s no avoiding that she’s as butch as all get-out, and we must wonder if her casting as the owner-chef Spirro (assumed to be a man at first) involves a subtle joke on butchery. Her ambiguous mien is meant to signal danger, the “sin- ister”; such shorthand wasn’t un- common, although her type of presence was rare on 1950s TV. Genre fans will also appreciate glimpses of Charles Wagenheim (FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT) and Tetsu Komai (ISLAND OF LOST SOULS) among her pa-

trons, while her maitre d’ is George Keymas, the bellowing Leader on TWILIGHT ZONE’s “Eye of the Beholder.”

“Special Delivery,” a bald vari-

ant of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and contemporary of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, depends on Ray Bradbury’s flow- ery dialogue (even quoting “some- thing wicked this way comes”) and the unnerving, sometimes queasy visual approach of direc- tor Norman Lloyd and DP Lionel Lindon. There’s even a “You’re Next!” moment when Steve Dunne briefly but unconsciously ad- dresses the camera, and a spooky shot of a silhouette with glowing eyes harks back to Bradbury’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. Beatrice Straight co-stars in this clean suburban nightmare of iden- tical homes, with the threat posed by one’s children and their obses- sion with mushrooms, that avoids any tacked-on resolution. A rendition of Ambrose Bierce’s famous “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” about a man (Ronald Howard) slated to hang during the Civil War, predates Robert Enrico’s Oscar-winning


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