TALES is an estimable British made television series, first aired in 1979, continuing into 1988 and still seen often, packaged by Anglia Television, an East of England production outfit that, notwithstanding rather low budgeting, provides short films of considerable overall merit, along with a well structured sense of visual style. This anthology is comprised of four stories that offer examples of those above standard production values that are to be found within the entire set. The opening item, PEOPLE DON'T DO SUCH THINGS (1983) is smoothly albeit tritely constructed, a dramatisation by Ross Thomas of a 1976 Ruth Rendell short story that is consistent with the customary ironic tone of Rendell but demonstrates a lack of subtlety, indeed of the unexpected, although the camera-work here by Gerald Perry Finnerman is first-tier, as is the playing of Arthur Hill who strongly controls his scenes, proficiently supported by Don Johnson and Samantha Eggar. Ross Thomas is as well responsible for dramatisation of the second piece, YOUTH FROM VIENNA (1982), that is but a dim replication of John Collier's somewhat unfilmable short story included in his magnificent collection "Fancies and Goodnights". It is, nevertheless, transposed into cinema by actor Norman Lloyd, who produces and directs, leading featured players Dick Smothers and Sharon Gless. The third short film is the most successful of the quartet, from an original screenplay by Tony Wilmot, SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (1987), capably helmed by Paul Annett. This must be ranked as one of the best from the entire series, benefiting hugely from an intense performance by Charles Dance in addition to skillful turns from supporting players Zoe Wanamaker and Francesca Brill. The last entry, BIRD OF PREY (1981), lacks the essential sustained narrative impact that marks the three others, but the cinematographic technique of Dean Condey is notable as is effective direction from Ray Danton. TALES was developed to showcase macabre tales of Roald Dahl, unquestionably the finest of the lot, yet many of the subsequent films are pleasing, as is the case with these four, and production values, especially relating to style and decor, are invariably admirable.
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