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"Tales of the Unexpected" Neck (1979)

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An interesting addition to the series

Author: John from Washington, DC
22 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's been a very long time since I saw "Tales of the Unexpected." I used to watch it when it first came on TV in the U.S. back in the late 1970s-early 1980s but I was always struck by the cruel and ironic twists of fate that befell the characters.

In this episode, I liked Roald Dahl's opening discussion about how "black comedy" is ultimately uncomfortable as he points out that those things which are tragic are usually not funny, but black comedy is. Then he asks why, and leaves it to us to try to figure it out. The fact is that, although we laugh, we are simultaneously uncomfortable because it is black comedy which, at worst, means something tragic or at least mortifying has happened. Usually, such things are not funny.

In this episode Joan Collins plays an arrogant, unpleasant woman married to a rich, titled art collector. She's so bossy that she runs his family business whereas he suffers in silence while the servants roll their eyes behind her back. She also carries on numerous affairs under her husband's nose.

One weekend her husband invites an art historian to his wife's house party who turns out to be young and handsome, not old and staid (like her husband). In the course of being her usual unpleasant, temperamental self she attempts to seduce the young man -- who doesn't discourage her but also doesn't push her away -- only to be foiled by the butler, her husband's most faithful, and ever watchful servant. The butler is apparently the lady's bete noir -- at least at first.

The next morning the lady is out enjoying the grounds with another one of her boyfriends, a British Army Major who, temperamentally at least, is more her type than the art historian. While making fun of the artwork in her husband's sculpture garden, she puts her head in the hole of one priceless work and gets stuck. Now, the servants, her husband and the other guests -- including the handsome art historian -- combine forces to try to pry her loose to no avail, even using lard to help "grease" her head out of the hole. Of course, in the midst of all this the lady's predicament makes her look absurd -- a fact not lost on either her or everybody else present. Even the art historian has to hide a smile or two.

At the end, the butler produces an axe from the suit of armor in the front hall of the mansion as well as a saw for the master of the house to choose from to free his wife's head. We see the husband choose the axe, we see the art historian's astonished face, we hear the wife's scream of fear, and then the end credits roll without our ever knowing if the baronet chopped off his wife's head or demolished his valuable sculpture in orderto free it.

Funny, but also troubling. But why? Obviously, it's not funny when somebody gets decapitated even if they are unpleasant. But assuming that didn't happen, which in all probability it didn't, why is it still unsettling? It's more the implied malice that is the final "twist of the knife" than anything else. One doesn't really believe that a British Baronet is going to chop his wife's head off, no matter how tempting the prospect. He's not a murderer and, besides, she's not worth going to jail for. But the enjoyment of the lady's predicament -- her comeuppance as the old saying goes -- is where the real twist of the knife comes into play.

At the end of the day one feels a little bit sorry for her. Ultimately, the presence of the handsome young art historian makes things worse. Here is someone whose opinion we think Lady Turton actually cares about. She was sexually attracted to him. He's handsome, cultured and worthy. So his opinion matters to her, and to us. Yet he, unwittingly, has become witness to her humiliation as she is taken down a peg or two.

What adds to the irony is that the art historian -- although clearly finding the lady attractive -- never actually encouraged her infidelity, so his conduct remains blameless whereas hers is dubious, at best. There is a sense that she gets what she deserves, and yet the punishment still feels harsh and a little mean. It doesn't help that her callous disregard for anything she doesn't care about led to her predicament; After all, nobody told her to stick her head in the hole of a sculpture. This makes her embarrassment all the more cruel because she honestly has nobody to blame but herself.

Like I said, it's a twist of the knife. :-)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A fun episode, but it's the majesty of Gielgud that makes it watchable.

7/10
Author: Paul Evans from Swansea, United Kingdom
9 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Young John Bannister is invited to a House Party by Si Basil Turton, a wealthy landowner and modern art fanatic, he has a younger, beautiful, but adulterous wife, Natalia. She tries it on with every male guest, when engaging in some horseplay with Major Haddock she gets her head stuck in a sculpture

The absolute brilliance of Sir John Gielgud is clearly visible, he is wonderful, gives an acting masterclass. Michael Aldridge and Carmen Silvera are really good value. Joan Collins adds a definite glamour, even if her acting is a little questionable at times.

A wonderfully clever episode, funny and dark, well written, it's a really clever tale. That wonderful line, 'the saw or the axe sir?'

7/10

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Decent Tales of the Unexpected episode.

6/10
Author: Paul Andrews (poolandrews@hotmail.com) from UK
30 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tales of the Unexpected: Neck is set in a huge stately house in Norfolk, England owned by newspaper tycoon Sir Basil Turton (Michael Aldridge) & his domineering & unfaithful wife Natalia (Joan Collins). Basil loves modern art & his latest purchase is a strangely carved wooden shape with a hole in it, Natalia thinks their weird & while poking fun at his latest buy she gets her head stuck in the hole. This incident causes much merriment amongst Basil's guests & a lot of embarrassment to Natalia, then Jelke's (Sir John Gielgud) the loyal butler brings Basil a huge double bladed axe from a suit of armour inside the house. The only decision Basil has to make is whether to use the axe on his brand new wooden sculpture or on his wife's neck...

This Tales of the Unexpected story was episode 6 from season 1 & originally aired here in the UK during April 1979, directed by Christopher Miles Neck isn't the best story from season 1 but it's still quite fun to watch. The story by Roald Dahl was dramatised by Robin Chapman & in his introduction Dahl says that writing a black comedy is one of the hardest things to do & because of the presence of two famous actor's Neck turned out funnier then he ever thought it would, that's a bit strong but the cast does help & his imaginative source material must also get some credit. Neck is a tale of someone unpleasant getting their comeuppance in a ironic & twisted way, in that respect it works very well & is good fun. However at only 25 minutes in length there isn't really enough time to set the Natalia character up so the final pay-off has maximum impact, sure we know she's not a very nice person but I never hated her & maybe if it had more time the script could have painted her as a really nasty piece of work which would have made the cool ending even better. A small quibble though & Neck is still a good Tales of the Unexpected episode.

This one looks really nice & hasn't dated as badly as many episodes from this series, it's set in one of those timeless & gorgeous stately homes here in the English countryside. There's nothing scary in this episode & there's no tension either but the first 20 odd minutes is nothing but build-up to the ending. Unfortunately we never get to see what decision Basil makes as the credits come up just has he brings the axe down, I guess it's left up to the viewer to decide which way he went. Again I am impressed with the cast, did Tales of the Unexpected ever have a bad cast without at least one famous face? Here we get Joan Collins in her first Tales of the Unecpected appearance, she also stared in Gerogy Porgy (1980) from season 2, & the late Sir John Gilgud makes his first appearance & would go on to appear in Parson's Pleasure (1980) also from season 2.

Neck is a neat little Tales of the Unexpected story from the imagination of Roald Dahl, it's not the best Tales of the Unexpected story but it's far from the worst & is quite fun in it's own right.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Neck: I miss Roald Dahl's fireside introductions to Tales of the Unexpected

7/10
Author: Parker Lewis from United States
7 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Roald Dahl's introductions to Tales of the Unexpected are worth the price of admission alone, seeing him resting in his armchair by his fireplace. I'm not sure if it was filmed in a studio, but the setting was very convincing.

It's a shame the Dahl introductions didn't continue for every episode.

Neck was released in the same year Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK. Already you could see the sun shining in the episode, bright skies and no longer the winter of discontent and gloom from the previous Labour administration. This episode exudes brightness and optimism, country estates (Norfolk), stables and horses, flashy cars, expensive wardrobes in Neck, from Tales of the Unexpected. Peter "Rumpole of the Bailey" Bowles, Carmen "'Allo 'Allo!" Silvera both support big stars Joan Collins and Sir John "Caligula" Gielgud in this early episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

Mr Dahl is someone who usually doesn't hold back in gruesomeness and political incorrectness (see his short story Pig) but I'm afraid here the episode held back (we see the axe wielded and Joan Collins' scream) but then it cut to the end credits. Kind of a politically correct ending if you ask me.

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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Superficial Talent

Author: fabledmabel from Orange County, CA.
26 April 2013

I have always thought that Joan Collins had EXTREMELY limited talent and don't quite understand how she even broke in to acting. She has no stretch whatsoever and plays the same character over and over.

I suppose it was because she was pretty that she got into the big time, but this episode of "Unexpected" (as does the one with Pauline Collins that I can't remember the name of) just demonstrates how talentless she is.

I love my IMDb friends and don't want to offend anyone here, but I seriously believe that Joan Collins can't act her way out of a paper bag.

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