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This old-fashioned British TV serial has a terrific atmosphere . The opening scene with the mysterious dancing woman,the skulls,gun and cards is quite impressive.The plot is strange:different actors play in every single episode which is based on a short story.Many of them are written by the well-known Roahld Dall.The episodes are called horror and triller but in fact there is nothing which can scare you.Yes , there are murders , secrets and twists in the tale,and sometimes a dreadful atmosphere but the violence and assassination are shown very stylish.There are episodes that are really interesting and the end is surprising : The Olderely World of Mr Appleby,Man From South,Edward the Conqueror and many others.Unfortunately there are also episodes which look naive and boring.The actors are excellent:many famous British stars act in this TV series.I must mention the music which is very good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Along with 'Hammer House of Horror', this was another series which will
long in the memory of thirtysomethings like myself. The title sequence with
super-imposed flames licking round a dodgy bird gyrating in silhouette are
true seventies kitsch. Then, in his leather-bound easy chair, with his
leather-bound journal in his lap, we are introduced to the author himself -
Roald Dahl with his leather-bound face. He introduces us to the
with his low measured tones, lending a strange eerieness to the
In amongst the cheesiness there were actually some gems. My own personal favourite has Susan George clubbing her adulterous policeman husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb. His colleagues arrive to investigate and end up eating the evidence!
Many of these tales have passed into folklore. Next time you visit one of those 'urban legends' websites, bear in mind that some of the original ideas were from Mr Dahl - remember the guy who gambles with his fingers?
By the time the original Roald Dahl short stories had all been filmed, followed by a selection of half decent shorts by other writers of the genre, the franchise became very tired. The later series should probably have been titled 'Tales of the Boringly Expected'.
Having only discovered this series exists after finding the first two
seasons on DVD at a local used bookstore, I took a chance and bought
the first disc. The next day I returned to buy the rest, congratulating
myself on stumbling across such a trove.
Like the short stories upon which they are based, the 'Tales of the Unexpected' focus on the consequences of duplicity, greed and other less-favourable traits so common throughout human kind. Little, if any, of the appeal is lost in translating these twisting tales from page to screen. The quality of the original material can be thanked for this but the talents of its legendary cast (Jose Ferrare, Joan Collins, Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed, Cyril Cusack, etc, etc, etc) must also be acknowledged. The creative cinematography, evocative settings and careful casting also contributes to the series' eerie, expectant feel. The result of all this is a must-see for aficionados of speculative fiction as well as devotees of the author, who won't have to worry about his work being desecrated. He introduces each story himself, offering an evocative glimpse of the mind that
Dahl knew that for a short story to be effective, the reader must be made emotionally dependant on its outcome within the brief space allotted. Subsequently, his characters force a reaction from the reader; whether sympathy, affinity or disgust. Similarly, his plots generate a sense of unease in that you can sometimes guess a few different ways they might end but you're never sure until its done. Even then things often turn out to be worse than imagined. The episodes in 'Tales...' follow this rule religiously; superfluous dialogue is non-existent; a twitch of an eye carries the gravity of a soliloquy. The end result is that viewers find themselves inexorably drawn into the action and, at its conclusion, wonder how a half-an hour long program can resonate in the mind for long afterwards.
Some suggest that 'Tales...' is campy. I can't agree and am perplexed at the opinion. Camp to me triggers thoughts of 'The Benny Hill Show,' the Adam West-era 'Batman' or any other program that takes itself less than seriously. This series couldn't be farther from that genre. Admittedly, the opening credits are dated and were probably unimpressive even at the time, but the show itself is executed in the time-tested traditions that give British drama its fine reputation; its use of humour is sparing, satirical, focused and ghoulishly black. The tone, whether deadly serious or incongruously whimsical all serve to throw the ultimate conclusion into skin-raising contrast.
I think the 'Tales...' are consistently excellent but if I had to name my favourites...
The Man From the South - ironically, Rod Serling's 'Twilight Zone'adapted this tale for TV long before the author himself,
Royal Jelly - a beekeeper's obsession becomes his legacy,
Skin - the tattoo on his back offers a down & out man the chance of a new life
Galloping Foxley - drawn from Dahl's own school days, this story showcases a different type of terror(s)
The Hitchhiker - Cyril Cusack. Say no more.
Regardless of what some viewers may think, I had a great time watching
series as a young adult late in the evenings and before the station
screening it closed for the night.
It was brilliantly written by the fabulous Mr Roald Dahl and the theme soundtrack was worth the wait for 'the Unexpected Tale' with a usually camp and fascinating end to unfold.
The series starred many budding and now household names from the British Theatre world and yes, the costumes, sets and furnishings were glam and stylish for the period when the world was a more innocent and romantic place to be.
I wish it could be screened again in Australia for older and even newer audiences to enjoy again; especially now that the 70's are hip and back!
Tales of the Unexpected took the short stories created by Roald Dahl
from the book of the same name and others and put them on the small
screen. Later on, other writers would be used and Dahl would provide an
introduction to each story. This introduction was eventually dropped in
favour of a voice over.
The key to each story was in the ending which originally was usually totally unexpected. The content and the background to each storyline often involved murder, often without holding back some visualisation and this lead to it being broadcast late on Sunday evenings.
The series suffered from poor production quality. It is likely that the series was shot on video tape which is evident nowadays. The appearance of studio sets is apparent as there is a definite transition between the quality of lighting indoors and for shooting on location. Some of the stories were quite laboured as the introduction of the characters and initial plot creation were quick. This left a large gap of time until the unexpected outcome. The acting was sometimes slow with long pauses in an attempt to spin out time.
Despite it's faults, Tales of the Unexpected managed to attract well known names in asting for episodes and sustained an audience following for 8 years. The stories were varied in their creation and the eventual outcome but eventually the ending could be predicted. In 1988 the series was quitely axed and reruns can now be seen on digital channels in the UK.
If you can ignore the poor production, it is well worth seeing, even after all these years.
This series was on the air in the U.S. very briefly - about one year
only, which is unlike the British series that lasted nearly a decade. I
recall watching it, and seeing John Houseman introduce the episodes.
The particular one I can recall seeing (I was on a date the night it
was being shown) was shown in April 1983 and called THE MEMORY MAN.
Colin Redgrave is an expert in helping people improve their memory by
various ways, including hypnosis. He discovers that a new customer
(Bernard Cribbins) is having problems with his memory, but also seems
quite hostile to questions that Redgrave asks innocently enough. Soon
Redgrave remembers that Cribbins had another name, and was involved in
a violent robbery where he stole thousand of pounds. Redgrave is slowly
using his knowledge of hypnosis to extract the information that
Cribbins has forgotten (and so has sought Redgrave's assistance to
recall). In the end neither man does too well out of the experience.
When Houseman introduced the episode, he tried to illustrate the problem of memory by shooting out one question after another. One he shot out was, "Who was the 14th President of the United States?" I amused my date by shouting out, "Franklin Pierce".
Many of the stories are by Roald Dahl, and I suspect, if they are watched, some of them would have to be compared with versions of the same stories (like "Mrs.Bixby and the Colonel's Coat") that originally appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (in that case, and in "Lamb to the Slaughter", Hitchcock directed the television episodes). One wonders if the image of Hitchcock, with his plump person, and his delivery of his introduction, was behind the use of Houseman (with his plump person and delivery) as the host.
Tales of the Unexpected is an iconic series which lasted around 10
years starting in the late 1970s to the late 1980s. As you'd expect
with any TV series, there are fantastic, classic episodes and some that
aren't so great. Thankfully the great episodes outnumber the not so
great quite significantly.
Originally, the series was meant to showcase the stories from Roald Dahl's books "Tales of the Unexpected" and "More Tales of the Unexpected". Each of these episodes were introduced by Dahl himself in a mock sitting room in front of a roaring fireplace. A short description of where the idea came from regarding the upcoming story then led to 25 minutes of television magic. Each story was meant to end with a twist. Although many did, some had a twist of not actually having a twist but a natural conclusion which you think could never go all the way but it does.
After Dahl's stories ran out, other similarly themed stories were used by well known authors such as Henry Slesar, Bert Salzman, Jeffrey Archer and many others. They didn't have the Dahl introduction and the name "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected" was thus shortened to the familiar "Tales of the Unexpected".
Many big names have appeared in the show from Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Cole, Toyah Wilcox, John Mills, Telly Savalas and many, many more. Some early in their careers, others in their prime and some in the twilight.
So if you like a story with a twist ending, you can do far worse than check out this gem. When you hear Ron Grainer's fantastic theme tune starting up and the silhouetted lady dancing in the flames, you'll be gripped for 25 minutes. After that you'll hunger for your next fix of 'The Tales'.
My top 10?
1. The Eavesdropper 2. Would you Believe it? 3. Taste 4. The Tribute 5. The Flypaper 6. Shatterproof 7. The Way To Do It 8. Kindly Dig Your Grave 9. Never Speak Ill of the Dead 10. Down Among the Sheltering Palms
Being a huge fan of anthology series, I'm always on the lookout for
ones I haven't seen. I've had some hits (Twilight Zone, Night Gallery)
and a few misses, (Thriller, most of Hammer House of Horror) but then I
stumbled across Roald Dahl's 'Tales of the Unexpected'
Always being a short story, horror, and sci fi fan, I jumped at the chance to try some programs I had never seen. Having some familiarity with Roald Dahl's work, I was intrigued, having read that he was a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and O Henry. I sat back to enjoy the first story of the series, the fine, 'Man from the South' about a man who bets the little finger on his left hand that he can't light his lighter ten times in a row. Filmed on location in Jamaica, it is a very clever tale that sets the tone of future episodes. Now don't misunderstand, the episodes are not all 10's, but the majority are very, very good, including 'The Landlady', and 'The Flytrap' which is a CHILLER, all the while featuring a wonderful sense of storytelling along with some excellent actors, including Jose Ferrer, Joseph Cotten, and Joan Collins, to name but a few.
If you enjoy really well told tales that hold your attention and are genuinely entertaining, get the first two sets of this series, they really are a wonderful way to spend a few hours.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At a lavish showbiz party in the late '70's, Roald Dahl approached film
producer and television executive Sir John Woolf and made him an offer
he could not refuse: "How would you like to make a series out of all my
stories?". Sir John jumped at the chance. As well as a bestselling
writer of children's books, Dahl was also known as the literary
Hitchcock, the master of the suspenseful short story.
The result was 'Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected', made by Anglia Television, which ran for the best part of a decade. Some of the stories had been filmed before as part of the U.S. series 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. Nevertheless, the show proved hugely popular, attracting the likes of Sir John Gielgud, Joan Collins, Sir Bernard Miles, Sir John Mills, Derek Jacobi, Timothy West, Susan George, Ron Moody, Denholm Elliott, Joss Ackland, Brian Blessed, and American actors of the calibre of Telly Savalas, Joseph Cotton, Gloria Grahame, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris and Jack Weston.
The opening titles were an unsettling blend of James Bondian imagery ( a gun, playing cards, a dancing nude woman ) and Gothic horror, backed up by Ron Grainer's carousel-style music. Dahl himself introduced the stories in Hitchcockian fashion.
Ronald Harwood and Robin Chapman penned many of the scripts. Predictably, some stories worked better on television than others. 'Man From The South' got the series off to a fine start, casting Jose Ferrer as a madman who tricks a young American tourist into a bizarre wager which, should he lose, means he forfeits the little finger of his right hand. 'Lamb To The Slaughter' was about the only truly perfect murder ever conceived, whereas 'Neck' had a rich husband revenging himself on his adulterous wife. Easily the worst episode, however, was 'Royal Jelly', the ending of which was not so much unexpected as unspeakable.
Critics renamed the show 'Tales Of The Bleedin' Obvious', yet many episodes did contain genuine surprise endings, such as 'Genesis & Catastrophe' and 'Skin'.
When the production team ran out of Dahl stories to adapt, they turned to the works of other writers. Eventually, Dahl and his name disappeared from the show. Some of the later American-based episodes were a bit weak, often coming across as belonging to a different show entirely.
As D.V.D. releases and I.T.V.-3 reruns will attest, this show at its peak is still rattling good fun.
By the way, the 'dancing nude woman' in the titles was Karen Standley.
one evening my dad made me sit down and watch this show with the family and i thought what rubbish it seemed! however once i watched one episode i was hooked! ok so the storylines are silly but they are surprsingly entertaining. unfortunately granarda plus have stopped showing them!
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