“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” – Alfred Hitchcock
The genius of famed filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is celebrated to this day. His achievements in the cinematic medium are regarded as pioneering and widely influential. Often called the ‘Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films throughout his illustrious career which began in 1919 and ended in 1980, immortalising his legacy as a director with brilliant works like 1954 effort Rear Window and, six years later, the iconic picture Psycho.
Between 1955 and 1965, Hitchcock hosted an anthology series on CBS and NBC called Alfred Hitchcock Presents where he greeted audiences with his famously dry salutation, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” As a part of the first season of his beloved show, he included an adaptation of John Collier’s story Back for Christmas which starred John Williams as Herbert Carpenter. Isobel Elsom plays the role of his wife Hermoine who plans to return to England for Christmas after the couple’s intended trip to California but Herbert has other plans.
Hitchcock once said, “I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.” That’s exactly what happens in Back for Christmas which features a characteristic murder. Herbert kills his wife and buries her in the basement, hoping to elope to California and put all his frustrations behind him. However, the black comedy takes an unexpected turn when Herbert receives a letter which informs him about the excavation crew Hermoine had hired to work on the basement as a present for her dear husband.
Directed by Hitchcock himself, Back for Christmas sticks very close to Collier’s original story but does present a lot of Hitchcock’s signature flourishes. Although its portrayal of hen-pecked marriage might appear dated to most audiences, the narrative is an example of Hitchcock’s penchant for dark humour.