Runt Of Hitchcock Litter Arrives Late To TV
Under Capricorn (1949) Is Hand-Me-Down For Home Viewers
A book was out in summer 1967 that laid down whole of the coming TV season, including most of movies that would play network, with thumbnail reviews by NYT's Howard Thompson (once chairman of the New York Film Critics --- does anyone read his archive today?). Slightly oversized and soft bound, TV 68 was priced high for the time ($1.25), but a joy for heads-up of what we'd watch in a coming year. Sure beat pants off TV Guide's annual Fall Preview, which was sketchier re upcoming net features, with only a handful of titles to tease readership. 1967-68 was a banner year for primetime movies, and peak of exposure for Alfred Hitchcock on all three networks. His vid series was gone, other than syndication, but here was feast of favorites he'd done for theatres, most appearing for a first time on TV. Ratings record setter for the movie season was The Birds, a blockbuster 38.9 rating with a 58.8% audience share for its 1/6/68 Saturday night premiere, stats that beat higher-touted Bridge On The River Kwai on ABC in 9/66. There'd be four Hitchcocks for 1967-68 in addition to The Birds, surprise one being Under Capricorn, made way back in 1949, that decade's output generally shunned by primetime that stuck to later product. I marveled that such an oldie would land on prime real estate that was CBS Friday night (12/7/67), my curiosity whetted to see this seeming rarest of the Master's work.
Under Capricorn had not been syndicated to locals ("Never Shown On TV" said announcement of its sale to CBS), so was fresh produce. Ownership had gone round blocks, first with Transatlantic, which was Hitchcock and partner Sidney Bernstein's company, then to Daniel O'Shea, a Selznick associate well versed in distribution. Warner Bros. had distributed Under Capricorn in 1949 to loss of $500K, and had no residual interest in the negative. O'Shea set up a company, Balboa Distributors, to reissue Capricorn in 1963, but theatre attendance was spotty, the
|Wild and Woolly Art To Promote Capricorn's 1963 Reissue|
There was grim competition among network movie programmers for this summit season of ratings war. Overtake of ABC's Bridge On The River Kwai by The Birds at NBC spurred pricing for both feature packages and ad rates --- would supply keep pace with demand? There were but so many blockbusters in any studio kitbag, so net shoppers for '67-'68 had to be creative and find films others had overlooked. That led them to vaulties that for one reason or other had not been on television before. "As the well runs dry on feature pix, the networks have become increasingly susceptible to vintage product --- provided, of course, there's story and marquee values," reported Variety (3/29/67). The Paley pact with Showcorporation resulted in two runs for Under Capricorn, 12/7/67 and 5/24/68. Of five Hitchcocks network-shown that season, it would rank next to last ratings-wise, with an 18.4 rating and a 30.8 audience share. The Trouble With Harry for ABC would do worse (17.0/30.4), while The Birds, North By Northwest, and Marnie landed among top lures for the feature-driven TV season. Notable was Under Capricorn's 5/24/68 second run during a non-ratings week, these typically a ghetto for little regarded titles.
|Prospects Look Drab at TFE '68, Where Under Capricorn|
Will Be First Offered To Syndication
Still, it did score network play, and Showcorporation could run with this ball to selling meets for syndication. Under Capricorn would be among "proven pictures" offered at the annual TFE convention (Television Film Exhibit) held 4/68, Showcorporation peddling pix with soothe of free drinks in their hospitality suite at
When did TCM last show Under Capricorn? Folks who saw it there said the print was a wash-out. I saw the DVD released by Image in 2003, being one of several Amazon lists, a number of them imports. Quality could be lots better, but the thing is watchable. A Blu-Ray would dazzle, considering Technicolor and the fact Capricorn was photographed by the great Jack Cardiff. I understand the BFI did a restoration, their print shown at UCLA. There are smart scholar/critics who call Under Capricorn one of Hitchcock's greatest films (Dave Kehr put it among a top half-dozen). Long takes AH used for Rope are not Capricorn-confined to a single set, going in/out of doors, up stairs, through room after room, a real tour de force the director intended as just that. Plenty of behind-scenes lore is told by not only Hitchcock bios, but