The Five Best “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” Episodes

Guest blogger Rick29 writes:

In terms of longevity, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was the most successful American television anthology series. It ran from 1955 to 1962 in a half-hour format and then from 1962 to 1965 as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The list below includes only the 268 half-hour episodes.

1. Lamb to the Slaughter – When a meek housewife (Barbara Bel Geddes) learns that her cheating husband is leaving her, she whacks him–fatally–with a frozen leg of lamb. She then calmly calls the police to report that her husband was murdered by an intruder. This darkly amusing tale, written by Roald Dahl, works to perfection–right down to the killer punchline. It was one of only 17 episodes (of the total 268) directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

2. Man from the South – Based on another Dahl story, this episode stars Steve McQueen as a young man who bets a wealthy oddball (Peter Lorre) that he can light his lighter 10 times in a row. If he can, he wins Lorre’s snazzy convertible. But if the lighter fares to produce a flame just once, he loses a finger. A suspenseful, well-acted classic featuring another one of Dahl’s trademark twists.

3. Revenge – The very first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents raised the bar very high. A distraught woman (Vera Miles) tells her husband  (Ralph Meeker) she has been assaulted. When the police investigation goes nowhere, the couple seek their justice and go looking for the assailant. In a long-running series featuring a number of memorable twist endings, “Revenge” features perhaps the most potent one. Directed by Hitchcock.

4. The Glass Eye -Director Robert Stevens won an Emmy for this haunting tale of a middle-aged woman (Jessica Tandy) who falls in love from afar with a ventriloquist she has never met. After they begin exchanging letters, he agrees to meet her–with disastrous results. This beautifully written teleplay (by Stirling Silliphant) provided underused actor Tom Conway (George Sanders’ brother) with his last good role. It’s ultimately a very sad story of two lonely people.

5. Bang! You’re Dead – Hitchcock directed this wonderfully tense episode about a young boy (Billy Mumy) who mistakes a real gun for a toy pistol and spends the day playing with it. The worst part: the gun is loaded. Mumy’s success as Will Robinson on Lost in Space has obscured his finest TV work, as in this episode and the “It’s a Good Life” episode of The Twilight Zone.

Honorable Mentions: One More Mile to Go (a man with a corpse in his car trunk) and Victim Four (a Paul Henreid-directed episode about a woman whose bad headaches are really bad). It’s interesting to note that both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone featured adaptations of Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. However, The Twilight Zone episode was actually a short French feature filmed two years before its broadcast on TZ.

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!

Also check out the article:

Alfred Hitchcock: Ten Things To Know About The Master of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

  • Susan

    Can’t thank you enough for your post. Excellent job. If you had considered the one hour episodes, I would hope that you might have include the eerie presentation, The Nurses. This incredibly suspenseful episode starred Dana Wynter as a home nurse who was charged with the duty of providing care for a dying man in his spooky rural farm house on a dark and stormy night. A murderer on the loose is stalking women, and the only man on the place, the gardener, is forced to leave the house to bring back an oxygen tank from town. His hysterically frightened housekeeper wife is brilliantly played by Louise Latham. She becomes intoxicated, as she imitates the imagined laugh of the murderer, she thinks she heard. She’s certain he is hiding in the shadows of the gothically shadowed winding staircase. The shocking ending scared the socks off my high school slumber party. Some of the girls never forgave me for insisting on watching the show.

    • Kate

      Susan, Thank you so much for posting this, I have been trying to figure out for years if this episode was on any of his DVD’s. You had great recollection of the episode, I remembered the young nurses name was Stella and and it was my favorite show, what a perfect storm the plot had. Any info as to how to find it would be appreciated.

  • GrizzledGeezer

    Unlike “The Twilight Zone”, AHP had many excellent episodes. “Revenge” is my all-time favorite, because you don’t see the nasty twist ending coming, even though it’s obvious in retrospect. The delicious (!!!) irony of “Lamb to the Slaughter” is also estimable.

  • Wayne P.

    Reward to Finder (1957)

    Storyline:
    John Gaminsky finds a wallet containing a lot of money. He sees an ad in the paper asking for its return. His wife tells him to give the wallet back, but John lies to her and tells her he already did so. When she sees the ad again, she realizes he kept the cash for himself. She gives him a choice: either let her shop at an expensive store or she’ll call the police. John opts for the former. When she goes on a buying spree, however, he realizes there is not enough to share. His wife comes to the same conclusion.
     
    It’s a pretty good show with a great “double twist” ending…all good choices so far, below, too!

    • Wayne P.

      Btw, my fave line from the above Hitch episode is:  “Anna, you sure know how to make a good cup of coffee”  Its about the only nice thing he had to say about his wife, until the last ‘drop’!

  • Kentgravett

    Mine is an episode the network would not let him do. He told the story once on an nterview show. It goes this way: A man is out in some sort of wasteland, perhaps the Austrailia outback and has car trouble. He goes to the only house in the area and is welcomed by a very kind family who feed him, locate a mechanic, and invite him to spend the night. During the night a woman enters his bedroom, has sex with him, but insists that they keep the lights off and will not give her name. The next day as he is leaving he tries to get some sign from the wife or someone as to who the woman was. As he leaves the husband apologizes for not  introducing him to another member of the family. It is his daughter, and as he says, “We are embarrassed because, you see, she has leprosy.” Only Hitchcock could have pulled that off. Wish it had been made, and he said it was his only regret of a film he was not able to do.

    • Susan

      WOW!

    • John George

      Fantastic! Would have loved being able to see that….

      • Blair Kramer

        The thing is… With the lights off… You WOULDN’T have been able to see it!

  • Blair Kramer

    I’m sure it was an episode of AHP. Scared the sox off me when I was a kid!  A little girl (under 10, I believe) has the ability to make very terrible things happen from a distance.  When she cuts a photo of her dad,  his cheek begins to bleed!  Later, she points her finger at the bedroom of a house across the street to cause it to immediately burst into flames!  Very soon,  the entire house is ablaze!  I just don’t remember the title of the episode or how it ends.  Can anyone help in that regard?   

    • Lorraine M.

      I dimly remember that episode and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an “Alfred Hitchcock.” It was either a “Twilight Zone” or “Thriller” show and the malicious child was a young boy, not a little girl. The boy set the house across the street on fire as revenge against the neighbor who reported to his parents some misdeed or other. When the father, played I think by Leslie Nielsen, realized his son’s demonic behavior and tried to stop him, the boy lost his temper and slashed the picture that made his father bleed. It ended with the parents staring in helpless horror at their monster-child.

  • Brygolf

    the best alfred hitchcock presents i remember involved a shootout  and a grandfather clock in a house  does anyone else remember this episode

    • blademan

      yeah, it starred ellen corby, darrin mcgavin and gene barry.

  • Billintheretirementhome

    I

    I don’t know if this one was half or full hour and I have forgotten its name.   Burgess Marideth played a miled-mannered, middle-aged man who never can satisfy his love of reading.  In the final scene, he, at last, is able to enjoy fully his obsession.  I shall not create a spoiler but I will tell you that I consider the ending to be unforgetable.   

    • Gord Jackson

      I think you are referring to an original “Twlight Zone” half hour entry.  And yes, it’s brilliant!

    • Lorraine M.

      That would be “Time Enough At Last” and that was indeed a 30 minute “Twilight Zone” episode. The character’s name was Henry Bemis.

  • Gord Jackson

    The Hitchcock-directed “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “Revenge” also starred two ‘blondes’ whom Hitch had/would direct on the big screen – Barbara Bel Gedes in “Vertigo” and Vera Miles in my favourite Hitch, “The Wrong Man.”

    • Wayne P.

      The latter noted is also the title of Hitch’s fine feature length film The Wrong Man, with Henry Fonda, made in 1956.  Very different from his usual mystery/suspense thriller but great storytelling!

  • blademan

    What was the name of the one where the guy who belonged to some sort of gourmet club where every so often the members were served a special treat meal, coincidentally just after a recently missing member was given the rare honor of a meeting with the chef?

  • Severian

    I’ve been trying to find the name of a great episode for years… it was about this woman who receives creepy phone calls from a stalker: he’d say things like “I can see you, you’re wearing this and this”… the woman becomes more and more paranoid until she catches a glimpse of one his neighbors moving while the stalker is on the phone… Does anyone else remember this? I’d really love to find it!

  • james edge

    Glad to see you included REVENGE although it would have been my first pick. Due to the total irony as an ending, it made a total impact on me and one I have never forgotten. Definitely Hitch at his best.

  • judy amos

    The episode titled “The Jar” scared the heck out of me. A backwoods farmer buys a jar at a freak show. It’s full of “stuff” that no one can figure out what it is. Every night his neighbors come to his house to sit and stare at it, trying to guess what it is. The twist ending still haunts me.

  • Lorraine M.

    I read somewhere that HItchcock thoroughly enjoyed working with Teresa Wright on “Shadow of a Doubt” and certainly she gave two of her finest performances on his television series, both involving a wife confronting marital betrayal. In the haunting “Lonely Place” she is a weary, negected wife of a rough hewn peach farmer (played by Pat Buttram) being menaced by sadistic hired hand Bruce Dern as her husband pretends not to see. In the darkly amusing “Three Wives Too Many” she is an “understanding” wife who discovers her businessman husband (Dan Duryea) has been keeping younger, prettier wives in different cities.

  • Malakas

    “Breakdown” is the best AHP episode ever for me. Season 1, Episode 7