CBS Forecasts - "Suspense"

Variety Magazine - a review

July 24, 1940

What Columbia offers for sale in this one is the "Suspense Technique" of the English film director, Alfred Hitchcock. This series is called Suspense.

As a sample of how he does it, and what he might do regularly, if the price were right, the selection was a "Jack the Ripper" thriller, "The Lodger" by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, adapted by Joan Morrison.

It belonged to the "My-God-I-Can't-Stand-It-Anymore" school of dramatic tensity. One goose pimple says to another: "This is what I was telling you about!"

Hitchcock is a director with an exceptionally acute ear. He achieves his results by a Ravel-like rhythmic pummeling of the nervous system. Music, sound effects, the various equivalents of squealing shoes, deep breathing disembodied voices are mingled in a telling with a mounting accumulation of small descriptive touches that pyramid in tension.

As heard Monday night at 9:30 the narrative was taut and gripping. It was marked by the master touch of the temple king of Elstree. Steady, inexorable, quickening of the piece was professionally a horror zombie that made a strong case for having Hitchcock on the air this fall...Herbert Marshall doubled as the narrator and the blacked-cloak religious fanatic who took lodgings and only emerged by fog-light to prowl the streets looking for girls who were pretty, blonde, and tipsy. These he liquidated with a long knife and the next morning the headlines screamed of a new horror in London.

Marshall gave a vivid and versatile reading with inevitable recollections of Charles Laughton and Orson Welles. Good too was Edmund Gwenn in the role of the husband...and credit the actress who carried most of the burden as the frightened landlady, Mrs. Bunting. She was Noreen Gammil and very good.

All in all this Suspense had a mule-like kick and demonstrated, which is hardly surprising, that the Hitchcock of the cinema has much to sell the electrified air.

Copyright © James F. Widner 1998
Photos © Broadcast Pioneers, Cowles Education Corp, Castle Books
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