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This Tales of the Unexpected episode features Denholm Elliott as
Harold, a man who hasn't been totally successful in his career and who
is despised by his flighty wife (Patricia Quinn, Magenta from the Rocky
Horror Picture Show). He meets up with Jack (Joss Ackland) who is not
only successful, but who is the school bully from years gone by who
tormented Harold with the nickname 'The Stinker'.
So far the tale resembles the John Mills episode, Galloping Foxley, but The Stinker turns out to be a little bit darker. Not entirely successful in its execution, it benefits from good casting, as many of the Tales episodes did, and keeps you wondering until the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tales of the Unexpected: The Stinker starts with a chance meeting
between two people, lowly accountant Harold Tinker (Denholm Elliott) &
rich businessman Jack Cutler (Joss Ackland) who went to school together
many years ago. Harold remembers Jack as a bully who gave him the name
'Stinker Tinker' which stuck with him & had to endure years of hell as
everyone else in school started to call him it, however Jack remembers
things differently & he puts it down to teenage silliness. Jack offers
Harold a highly paid job which at first he turns down but his wife Phyl
(Patricia Quinn) makes him change his mind. Harold has never liked Jack
& when Jack starts calling him 'Stinker Tinker' again all the bad
memories from his childhood come flooding back...
This Tales of the Unexpected story was episode 7 from season 3 & originally aired here in the UK during December 1980, the third of ten Tales of the Unexpected episodes to be directed by Alan Gibson this one is actually pretty good like a lot of the early episodes are from this generally quite variable series. The story by Julian Symons was dramatised by Julian Bond & like most Tales of the Unexpected episodes The Stinker succeeds or fails with it's twist ending, I am pleased to report that the twist here is quite good. Sure it's not astoundingly original or breathtakingly amazing but it works well enough & I have to say I didn't guess it so it must have done something right because usually they are pretty obvious & predictable. The Stinker with it's theme of old bullies & their victims meeting up many years later in the middle of their lives is not new to Tales of the Unexpected & The Stinker feels like Galloping Foxley (1980) from season two, only difference is The Stinker is more memorable & has a much darker & effective twist ending. Having said that until the ending The Stinker felt like a fairly dull & slow moving moral drama as Harolds insecurities from his past comes back to haunt him & for the first 20 odd minutes there's no crime, no devious scheming or supernatural elements so you will definitely have to stick with it as the whole 25 minutes rests on the twist ending.
This is one of those episodes which was originally shot entirely on location using 16mm film & has no videotape or studio inserts so it looks pretty good throughout. Usually Tales of the Unexpected is pretty tame but someone gets a bullet in the head here, there's plenty of people seen smoking & someone even dares utter the word 'b*stard'. I have said it before & I will say it again some of the actors they managed to get to appear in this series is incredible, here we have Denholm Elliott, Joss Ackland & Patricia Quinn. When you consider Tales of the Unexpected was a low budget regional program (it was originally made by Anglia Television a subsidiary of ITV which now only make regional news programming) some of the cast members who agreed to appear in it better know for their film work & who did very little TV are amazing.
The Stinker is a decent Tales of the Unexpected episode which I liked, there's the usual good cast & a solid twist which wasn't always the case with this series. fans should check it out & I could see more casual viewers also enjoying it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harold Tinker is a mild mannered man. Haunted both by the bullying he
experienced at School, branded 'The Stinker,' and the effects of his
bully of a father. Tinker one day meets Jack Cutler, the instigator of
his bullying at School, randomly offers him a job. His nagging,
domineering, younger wife Phyl pushes him into accepting the job, he
agrees. A dinner Party is given by Jack and his wife Blanche, Phyl gets
very drunk, Jack continues to call Harold 'The Stinker,' and anger
begins to build up inside Harold, he believes Jack and Phyl have begun
an affair, the events are catastrophic.
Two of the Countries finest actors go head to head, Joss Ackland is a brilliant, charismatic performer, so strong, he's wonderfully well contrasted against Denholm Elliot, who gives a much milder, almost softer performance, both are commanding. Patricia Quinn and Diane Holland are excellent too.
Very high quality episode, with a great nasty back story, you can sense the tension building throughout.
Top notch, 8/10
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