I too vaguely remembered this from my childhood (even though none of my mates of the same age do) - specifically, images of a man with white eyes laughing creepily and a coffin full of maggots, both of which caused me a few sleepless nights as a 9 year old. I knew it was screened once in 1977 and never again, but all other information (especially in the pre-internet days) was scant to say the least. After a long, long search, I recently tracked down a copy of the complete series and, with the organ music and images of gargoyles on the titles just as I remembered them, I settled down to a nostalgia fuelled extravaganza.
So is this series some lost masterpiece? Sadly no. The few remembered images I mentioned above all come from the last episode 'Dorabella' which is the best of the lot by a country mile and is an offbeat vampire story with a genuinely creepy atmosphere. The rest are rather hit and miss, and at 50 minutes each, some of the extremely flimsy stories stretch well past breaking point. This is especially noticeable in the two part 'Countess Ilona/Werewolf Reunion' which could easily have been done and dusted in 30 minutes flat. At virtually 2 hours, it's almost unbearable.
Although it features a veritable who's who of British TV stars of the 70's (Billie Whitelaw, Ian Hendry, Robert Hardy, Gordon Jackson, Leslie Ann Down et al), production values on the series are noticeably low, with all the action happening in one or two sets per episodes and with the camera virtually fixed in one place. There isn't much in the way of a suspenseful soundtrack, and any sudden close ups or panned shots are invariably accompanied by an over the top blast of organ music. The stilted dialogue is rather wooden and pretentious too; the writer (Robert Muller) seems to have aspirations toward the MR James end of the horror market but sadly, his talent seems to suggest more of a Clive James, but without the wit.
Ultimately, the series is worth sitting through on it's own merits, and these just about drag it above the curiosity/novelty value of watching a long forgotten series, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to sit through them all again.
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