Classic TV – The Alfred Hitchcock, Um, Touch

The Master of Suspense (and Comic Timing)
The Master of Suspense (and Comic Timing)

by Doug Snauffer

I love Alfred Hitchcock Presents (and its later incarnation, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour), but I hate Hitchcock’s famous and oh-so-skillfully delivered epilogues.  Earlier this morning, for example, MeTV, a classic TV mini-network, aired one of the best hour-long episodes, “Ten Minutes From Now,” starring actor Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica) as an unstable artist/bombing suspect.

The episode has a great hook at the end, which I won’t reveal. But afterwards Hitchcock made his customary closing comments in which he drolly offered a wrap-up to the story that basically ruined the wonderful, surprise ending that the episode’s writer and director had so skillfully crafted.

Hitchcock did this regularly, on an almost-weekly basis.  Viewers would tune in and watch in suspense, for example, as someone committed the perfect crime, only to have Hitchcock come on for his closing epilogue and reveal the man was stopped for speeding a mile down the road, broke down and confessed on the spot, and is now serving hard time.

I think you can see why I always hated those final remarks, regardless of how cleverly they were worded and, I admit, perfectly delivered.

I suspect Hitch had to go this route because of the rules, both official and unofficial, of TV in the era in which the series was originally produced (1955-65).

This was a period in television history when killers, thieves, and other assorted evildoers were expected to face their comeuppance in the final act.  At the time, this was regarded as being socially responsible, but as someone who didn’t watch TV – or even breathe – back then –  I for one  find this inability of one of the greatest filmmakers in history to stick to his creative guns unnecessary, annoying, and an artistic flaw to an otherwise perfect TV program.

Are you watching these old Hitchcock shows? What do you think?

Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television.  Check him out on IMDB.