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Boston Globe (04/May/1985) - A little Hitch



A little Hitch

Now comes the resurrection of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," complete with the original introductions in computerized color.

Hitchcock — a master filmmaker who appealed to a broad, mass audience — should be perfect for NBC. But NBC is less than perfect for Hitchcock.

As with McGinnis and Hemingway, NBC is interested only in Hitchcock's name value, not in what made the man a name in the first place.

Tomorrow night's contemporized remakes of four episodes from the series that ran from 1955 to 1965 are entertaining enough on a superficial level, but lack the compelling eeriness and wit of Hitchcock's vision.

NBC's greatest mistake is to confuse style with technology. Where Hitchcock and his television assistants — like "St. Elsewhere's" Norman Lloyd — advanced their stories with claustrophobic atmosphere, black humor and thoughtful camerawork, the remakes rely merely on tricks of the trade — garish rock music, random close-ups and slow-motion endings.

Part of this criticism might reflect the crankiness of one who sees no good reason to remake half-hour films that were so complete in themselves the first time and that still air at 8 p.m. Saturdays on New Hampshire's Ch. 11 and at 11 p.m. Saturdays on Ch. 38. There is some inspired acting in these new films, namely from Ned Beatty as the insurance salesman whose life is endangered because of a traffic violation and John Huston as the gambler who bets a young man that his cigarette lighter won't light 10 times in a row (a reprise of the Peter Lorre-Steve McQueen episode). He wagers a new car; the young man, if he fails, forfeits a finger. In some cases, like the latter, the stories are so good that they're hard to ruin.

Even so, it's difficult to imagine a new generation of mystery fans warming to Hitchcock Redux, although NBC is pairing more Hitchcock remakes with a Steven Spielberg anthology series next year on Sunday nights. If Spielberg is successful, the pretenders to Hitchcock's throne may ride his coattails.