SUSPENSE - THE LOST EPISODES...
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
The venerable old CBS series that ran from 1949 to 1962 has finally been collected on DVD. With a giant gaggle of 20th century stars (such as Orsen Welles, Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda and Cary Grant), this precursor to The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents may be a little too predictable and dated, but it's straight forward and grounded stories of suspense and terror provided inspiration for many future shows, and to have them collected on DVD is a welcome treat for die hard fans of classic television.
Is it good movie?
Originally a radio program on CBS, Suspense had the auspicious start in the pilot being directed and written by Hitchcock himself. With big name stars, high production values and a very well connected producer in the form of Elliot Lewis, the show stayed grounded in reality based stories for the most part, but branched out occasionally into Lovecraftian horror or classic SciFi fare, which was a rare treat. Aside from the smattering of big name actors, the show gave first round exposure to such future stars as Leslie Nielson, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, and Jack Lemmon. However, born in an age of pulp serials and noir dominance, the reliance on formulaic stories of the everyman thrust into terrifying (is. mysterious) circumstances doesn't make for great viewing when compared to other contemporary works. The twisting plots or convoluted narratives seen in later anthology shows like The Outer Limits and Hitchcock's own show are never seen in this program, which for the most part is pedestrian and straight forward in the story telling department. In the end of each story, the issue is resolved, leaving no tasty ambiguity or lingering evil to trouble the viewer.
The production values as well aren't the greatest, with many of the foibles of live theatre showing up on screen, with flubbed lines, stage direction mistakes and bad musical cues. he budget was obviously low, and it shows in the lighting and film quality, which serves to undercut the tension of a scene or an entire episode, making the whole collection uneven and a chore to watch actually. Couple these visual failures with some melodramatic and formulaic writing and a lot of campy acting and you have some classically bad TV moments. The final death knell for the show comes in the form of gigantic commercials in the middle of each episode, which effectively kill the tension that might have been raised and throw the viewer right out of the narrative. Did I really need that seven minute infomercial about 1950's car parts? I think not.
As a slice of TV history, and a window into a particular era, this collection is quite effective. But given the awesome narrative styles that were prevalent in other media at that time, this show seems like a waste of opportunity and potential. hank the television gods that better anthology shows came along and trumped it. If TV shows had continued like this, people would probably be reading more books these days. However, for period TV buffs, this collection is a must have as some of the earliest anthology television out there.
Video / Audio
Video: Full Screen. Grainy and uneven visually, that's what sums up the whole series
Audio: English Mono. The sound is what you would expect from an old TV show, which is to say craptacular!
None whatsoever. Bummer.
With far too many Scoody-Doo moments (with their requisite narrative exposition at the end of the audience) and an absolute lack of suspense, Suspense is a failure as an effective TV show. There are too many production mistakes, simple scripts, bad acting jobs and big, giant commercials for any serious fan of anthology shows or of horror/thrillers in general, to get either invested or interested in the show at all. But as a collection of some of the earliest televised stories, and one of the first anthology shows to come along, it really is an important slice of history, and probably a must have for collectors.