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The television horror anthology has a long and noble history. In the
Fifties, Rod Serling blazed the trail with THE TWILIGHT ZONE; though
the series mostly veered in the direction of what may be called
"speculative fantasy", it did produce its share of horrific/macabre
episodes. This was to be followed by THRILLER in the early Sixties, a
much more overtly Gothic series hosted by Boris Karloff, and one of the
first television series to catch flack for experimenting with graphic
violence (one episode featured a man staggering down a flight of stairs
with an ax buried in his head!). Serling struck again with NIGHT
GALLERY in the Seventies, an often genuinely weird and experimental
series that, like THRILLER, often drew from the great pulp horror tales
of the past for inspiration. And, in the Eighties, came George Romero's
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE.
I vividly remember the show as a pre-teen; it would premier late at night, around 11:30 after the news and "normal" programming concluded. As that bleary witching hour approached, when the wholesome prime-time like of FAMILY TIES and THE FACTS OF LIFE seemed miles gone by, disorientation and apprehension would set in - the atmosphere was right for a kid to be scared! And nothing was scarier than DARKSIDE's opening sequence. What looked like pastoral postcard scenes of rural Vermont would give way to the ominous intonations of Paul Sparer, backed up by a prickly synthesizer score. The title card would then appear in dripping letters of crimson. It was, in a word, unforgettable.
For budgetary reasons, the episodes were shot on video; on the one hand, this gave them an air of cheapness, but on the other lent them a kind of creepy immediacy. The frequent appearance of veteran stars meanwhile, some of who hadn't then worked in years, provided some old-fashioned cachet. Eddie Bracken starred in one I'll never forget - A Case of the Stubborns, based on a story by Robert Bloch. Bracken plays a cranky old grandfather who refuses to accept the fact that he has died, much to the distress of his family. As the days pass, Bracken begins to decompose, to the point of literally sneezing his nose off. Another one that stuck with me was called Inside the Closet, which starred Fritz Weaver as a doctor with a horrible Tom Savini-designed secret locked in his doll closet. One of the (deservedly) best-loved episodes was a Christmas-themed affair called Seasons of Belief. This one had E. G. Marshall sadistically terrorizing his children with stories of The Grither, a sort of demonic Santa being whose name must never be spoken. Building to a truly spectacular conclusion, Seasons of Belief stands out as an endearingly bilious Yuletide classic. In addition to the old-timers, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE boasted some up-and-coming talent as well - the aforementioned A Case of the Stubborns also starred Christian Slater. Another one I remember, called Monsters in My Room, had little Seth Green as a boy who faces the titular trouble. To further sweeten the package, horror masters like Romero, Savini, and Bloch frequently contributed behind the camera.
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE looms large in the pantheon of Eighties horror (when the genre wasn't afraid to be bold and nasty), as well as in the hearts of those of us who remember it. As it's been off the air for some time, a DVD release may well be in order, so that a whole new generation might behold what gave many Children of the Eighties a pleasant little chill back in the day. As the show's closer immortally put it: "The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time - try to enjoy the daylight."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the more sinister television series ever to air, "Darkside" was actually passed up by the networks who thought a series of that caliber would be too dark for the demographics. Big mistake. The first two seasons of "Tales From The Darkside" had a sense of realness to them... suspending disbelief, viewers could actually believe these situations would happen. Case in point: An episode ("I'll Give You A Million") dealt with two elder businessmen. One offers the other one million dollars in exchange for the rights to his eternal soul. They agree, but the seller begins to regret his decision, especially after learning he has liver cancer. The buyer refuses to break the deal, until he learns that the seller will give him two million for the contract and his soul back. Only problem: The seller dies and a third party enters the fray. Needless to say, the buyer dies and the third party (The Devil, played perfectly by the underrated Brad Fisher) collects both souls. Many actors (unknowns and former big names) displayed great performances on "Darkside". The series was so successful that CBS revived "Twilight Zone" to capitalize on "Darkside". The show was dark, frightening, and had a sense of bizarre justice. Truly one of the best series ever to air.
The premise which inspired "Distant Signals" is guaranteed to ignite the inspiration of anyone who has loved the characters of a TV series. Mr. Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen), an otherworldly visitor, approaches the creator of a 1965 detective series (David Margulies) which was canceled in mid-season. This "fan" offers him $2 million - in gold - to write and direct six more episodes, including a vital series finale, which will remove the wandering hero from "limbo." Darren McGavin, with heartbreaking pathos, portrays the actor who is physically and metaphysically transformed from an aging dead-drunk bartender into his former self as a mythic star. This peculiarly "impossible," yet patently real idea glows with magic and life as an example of how a mere half hour installment of a small screen anthology can represent "the height of televisual art."
I don't know what the last reviewer was talking about but this show is
truly scary. I can recall watching this show when it orig. aired and
the opening seq. alone scared me to death. When it would come on and I
was alone I would run from the living room and in to my bedroom w/ the
covers over my head. I remember that I also forgot to turn the
television off so hidding from the scary intro. did not work : ) As for
the episodes, I remember that the opening credits and closing credits ,
but I don't remember EVERY episode. I remember several classic ones
that are a MUST. One involved a woman that wanted to stop over eating
and loss weight. So she went to buy a "special" pair of glasses. Lets
just say it did not end good for the woman. I wish I could tell you
more but I don't want to spoil it. It's very creepy and scary episode.
Another classic was one w/ a puppet master whos dummy comes to life and
tries to take over and kill his master.
The shows were not as scary as maybe some would like but I doubt anyone would be disappointed in this show. It is a VERY VERY CREEPY SHOW. Trust me. You watch this show at night or in the daytime alone or with someone and you will be very creeped out and perhaps scared.
"So try and enjoy the daylight."
Although I was in my early teens when I watched tales from the darkside, if left an impression on me. As a matter of fact, I still remember the first TFDS episode. The Halloween episode in which a rich old, whom everone in the town owns money to, has fun with his debtor's children by making them search for the outstanding notes in his creepy mansion. If a child found the outstanding-notes, that families debts would be wiped off. Of course, none of the children every found them...running out of the house scared out of their minds....until a real witch shows up! Needless to say, the old miser is paid a visit by the devil himself! I still rmemeber it to this day. Anyway, TFDS has dozens of episodes with eerie endings. If you like the late 80's tv series MONSTERS, you would also enjoy "tales from the darkside". It is just too bad that they don't show it any more....
This wasn't a bad show, but watching it on a regular basis could leave you with a hollow feeling. The bad guys occassionally won in this very dark series, and I was sometimes repulsed by some images. However, if you were in the right mood, you might find something to enjoy, and I myself actually enjoyed most of the episodes. Some that stand out include one Christmas episode about the "grither," kind of an anti-Santa Claus being; an episode where a grandmother makes a birthday wish, and it comes true in rather painful ways for her other family members; and an episode set in a baker's shop, where an old black lady combines baking cookies with voodoo. Pretty good stuff, just not for the faint-of-heart.
This show was really great, most of the time. Like the original
Twilight Zone, it was sometimes horror episodes, sometimes fantasy and
sometimes comedy/fantasy. 92 episodes aired, around 70 of them being
really great, and the others being stinkers. Since it was on regular
TV, it couldn't contain very much language, and the violence was
plentiful, but usually mild. The narrator Paul Sparer had a really
creepy voice and started and ended the show. The shows were often about
ghosts, demons, Satan, monsters and even a boy putting his voice onto a
computer. Each episode had a surprise ending, which made it even
better. It was often very morbid and could be depressing, but usually
wasn't. It was great.
My rating: A. 1984-1988. 30 mins. 6 volumes with 5 episodes on each are available on VHS, and one volume has two.(32 episodes available)
"Tales From the Darkside" is an interesting anthology series which has been syndicated for as long as I can remember. Every now and then you can catch the episodes on WGN out of Chicago or on the Sci-Fi Channel. The series is a poor man's "Twilight Zone". I believe that all of the episodes were made in the mid-1980s and dealt with subjects very similar to those dealt with in Rod Serling's series. The special effects were usually sophomoric and so were the performances, but the suspense and sense of the "unworldly" usually kept me on the edge of my seat. The writing and direction of most of the episodes are clever and intelligent. However, there are several duds in the series. For the most part "Tales From Darkside" is an interesting supernatural series that has been overlooked, but is usually just as potent as "The Twilight Zone" or "The X-Files". The series was popular enough to spawn a theatrical movie in 1990, but the movie falls far short of the original television episodes. Overall I give the series 4 out of 5 stars.
This was one of my favorite horror shows as it was very watchable and enjoyable. There were many shows of this type during the time it ran and one can say it was probably the inspiration for a couple of the other ones that came on during this time such as "Monsters" and ever the one that Freddy Krueger had as the stories from those two shows I sometimes think came from this one. However, this one was around first and it is the best of the bunch. Granted, the episodes on Tales from the Crypt got a little darker and you could sometimes get lucky and see some nudity this one had by far the better stories. It also had one of the coolest openings of the bunch as well, for it may have been simple it was also effective in telling the viewer that they were on a trip to the darkside. Many good episodes are to be found, one of my favorite involved a woman renting a room in a place or something and there is a hole in the wall and something seems to be living there. I also remember one about some old lady who treated her father horribly and was good at making cookies, but she gets what is coming to her in the end. All in all one of the best horror shows out there.
When i first saw this film when i was younger it scared the hell out of me. Mostly when the narrator (Paul Sparer) starts and ends the programme. His creepy voice will always send chills down my spine. Good series.
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