The Hitchcock approach to TV
The master of suspense mastered the medium.
When Alfred Hitchcock Presents debuted in 1955, audiences were already familiar with the title filmmaker. Hitchcock was famous for such celebrated works as Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train. He was a marketing mastermind; Hitchcock created cameos for himself to better his brand. All of these things added up to make Alfred Hitchcock a known commodity.
But with such strong audience familiarity, Hitchcock's transition to TV was wrought with questions. Would it be much the same as his movies? Or would the new medium provide chances for innovation? Would his work be just as scary, just as suspenseful on the small screen?
Luckily for fans past, present, and future, Hitchcock himself took to The Ottawa Citizen to reveal his spine-chilling secrets.
"I expect to commit a coherent story to film in a mere matter of two days. The very idea of Alfred Hitchcock, the calm, complacent Hitchcock beset by the frantic frenzy commonly associated with television, seems to have provided many hilarious moments of contemplative amusement to those who have less important things with which to concern their thoughts. It annoys me, this notion that I cannot move around rapidly when the occasion demands. And I'm not so certain at all that the occasions will be as frequent as one might be led to believe!
"For one thing, one of the most time-consuming elements in filming a motion picture is the lighting. Those enormous movie screens provide a medium which requires a certain number of large sets. Large sets require a great deal of careful lighting... and that takes time. Once the set has been made ready for me and the cast, I have always worked with rapidity."
The different time constraints were hardly the only adjustments Hitchcock would have to make. He'd also have to shift his framing for closeups.
"Television, as a matter of fact, by the very nature of the medium, tells its story best when the camera concentrates on the faces of the performers. If these faces are to be seen clearly on the television screen, they must fill the frame to a greater degree than in making a motion picture."
In hindsight, it's clear to see how little fans really needed to worry. Hitchcock and his collaborators were a natural fit for the television medium. All it took was a few episodes to prove it.