Tales of the Unexpected (TV Series 1979–1988) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
15 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Classic TV adaptations of Roald Dahl stories
Doomlad23 December 2005
Having only discovered this series exists after finding the first two seasons on DVD at a local used bookstore, I took a chance and bought the first disc. The next day I returned to buy the rest, congratulating myself on stumbling across such a trove.

Like the short stories upon which they are based, the 'Tales of the Unexpected' focus on the consequences of duplicity, greed and other less-favourable traits so common throughout human kind. Little, if any, of the appeal is lost in translating these twisting tales from page to screen. The quality of the original material can be thanked for this but the talents of its legendary cast (Jose Ferrare, Joan Collins, Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed, Cyril Cusack, etc, etc, etc) must also be acknowledged. The creative cinematography, evocative settings and careful casting also contributes to the series' eerie, expectant feel. The result of all this is a must-see for aficionados of speculative fiction as well as devotees of the author, who won't have to worry about his work being desecrated. He introduces each story himself, offering an evocative glimpse of the mind that

Dahl knew that for a short story to be effective, the reader must be made emotionally dependant on its outcome within the brief space allotted. Subsequently, his characters force a reaction from the reader; whether sympathy, affinity or disgust. Similarly, his plots generate a sense of unease in that you can sometimes guess a few different ways they might end but you're never sure until its done. Even then things often turn out to be worse than imagined. The episodes in 'Tales...' follow this rule religiously; superfluous dialogue is non-existent; a twitch of an eye carries the gravity of a soliloquy. The end result is that viewers find themselves inexorably drawn into the action and, at its conclusion, wonder how a half-an hour long program can resonate in the mind for long afterwards.

Some suggest that 'Tales...' is campy. I can't agree and am perplexed at the opinion. Camp to me triggers thoughts of 'The Benny Hill Show,' the Adam West-era 'Batman' or any other program that takes itself less than seriously. This series couldn't be farther from that genre. Admittedly, the opening credits are dated and were probably unimpressive even at the time, but the show itself is executed in the time-tested traditions that give British drama its fine reputation; its use of humour is sparing, satirical, focused and ghoulishly black. The tone, whether deadly serious or incongruously whimsical all serve to throw the ultimate conclusion into skin-raising contrast.

I think the 'Tales...' are consistently excellent but if I had to name my favourites...

The Man From the South - ironically, Rod Serling's 'Twilight Zone'adapted this tale for TV long before the author himself,

Royal Jelly - a beekeeper's obsession becomes his legacy,

Skin - the tattoo on his back offers a down & out man the chance of a new life

Galloping Foxley - drawn from Dahl's own school days, this story showcases a different type of terror(s)

The Hitchhiker - Cyril Cusack. Say no more.
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The unforgettable British style!
Keep_Searching12 June 2004
This old-fashioned British TV serial has a terrific atmosphere . The opening scene with the mysterious dancing woman,the skulls,gun and cards is quite impressive.The plot is strange:different actors play in every single episode which is based on a short story.Many of them are written by the well-known Roahld Dall.The episodes are called horror and triller but in fact there is nothing which can scare you.Yes , there are murders , secrets and twists in the tale,and sometimes a dreadful atmosphere but the violence and assassination are shown very stylish.There are episodes that are really interesting and the end is surprising : The Olderely World of Mr Appleby,Man From South,Edward the Conqueror and many others.Unfortunately there are also episodes which look naive and boring.The actors are excellent:many famous British stars act in this TV series.I must mention the music which is very good.
20 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wonderful Kitsch from The 70's
desmondorama5 August 2002
Regardless of what some viewers may think, I had a great time watching this series as a young adult late in the evenings and before the station screening it closed for the night.

It was brilliantly written by the fabulous Mr Roald Dahl and the theme soundtrack was worth the wait for 'the Unexpected Tale' with a usually camp and fascinating end to unfold.

The series starred many budding and now household names from the British Theatre world and yes, the costumes, sets and furnishings were glam and stylish for the period when the world was a more innocent and romantic place to be.

I wish it could be screened again in Australia for older and even newer audiences to enjoy again; especially now that the 70's are hip and back!
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Camper than a row of tents
nick_oke1 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Along with 'Hammer House of Horror', this was another series which will live long in the memory of thirtysomethings like myself. The title sequence with super-imposed flames licking round a dodgy bird gyrating in silhouette are true seventies kitsch. Then, in his leather-bound easy chair, with his leather-bound journal in his lap, we are introduced to the author himself - Roald Dahl with his leather-bound face. He introduces us to the protagonists with his low measured tones, lending a strange eerieness to the proceedings.

In amongst the cheesiness there were actually some gems. My own personal favourite has Susan George clubbing her adulterous policeman husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb. His colleagues arrive to investigate and end up eating the evidence!

Many of these tales have passed into folklore. Next time you visit one of those 'urban legends' websites, bear in mind that some of the original ideas were from Mr Dahl - remember the guy who gambles with his fingers?

By the time the original Roald Dahl short stories had all been filmed, followed by a selection of half decent shorts by other writers of the genre, the franchise became very tired. The later series should probably have been titled 'Tales of the Boringly Expected'.
17 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Enjoyable Diversions
HoldenSpark28 August 2015
I'd never heard of this series then one day a couple years back I noticed an episode on youtube and watched it. I enjoyed it and watched another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And.. well, you get my drift. It became like a bag of chips, you can't eat just one, your hand just keeps drifting into the bag almost without thinking when you finish one then pull out another and start on it. Eventually over about a week I'd watched all 112 (I think it was 112 total) episodes. I liked it enough to compile my own list of what I think the top 12 Tales of the Unexpected (TOTU) episodes are. They are:

The very best episode of this series is called:

"The Flypaper"

The remaining top 12 TOTU episodes are (in order):

(2) "Number Eight"

(3) "Wink Three Times"

(4) "The Open Window"

(5) "The Way Up To Heaven"

(6) "The Luncheon"

(7) "Bosom Friends"

(8) "Scrimshaw"

(9) "Nothing' Short of Highway Robbery"

(10) "Who's Got The Lady"

(11) "Back For Christmas"

(12) "The Landlady"

I have to give a shout-out to the episode titled "The Luncheon" (which I've ranked the 6th best episode of the series). When I first watched it I didn't catch all of it. I had to re watch it a couple times to realize how clever this particular episode really is.

And, really I should give a shout-out to all these great top 12 episodes. "Scrimshaw" is so so well done. "Bosom Friends" still makes me shudder with a different kind of squirmy horror, you'll see what I mean, "Nothing' Short of Highway Robbery" with its delightfully surprising ending, the fun of seeing it coming in "Back for Christmas", the creepyiness of "The Landlady", the smoothness and coolness of "Who's Got The Lady", the delightfully confusingness till the end of "The Open Window", how crazy the man is in "Number Eight", the psychological twistedness of "The Way Up To Heaven", and finally the delighfully something completely different in "Wink Three Times" that gives this episode cake its icing.

And now here is something regarding the remaining 100 episodes in the series, there was one thing I noticed about this series, and that is that clearly a full one half of the episodes, 50 percent or better of the episodes have one common theme unifying them, and that is that half of the episodes of this series feature marital strife in one form or another. This series seems to have mined that particular mine field repeatedly as it's go-to plot structure when choosing which stories to script and film for the series. Thats not a bad thing, but one does eventually get tired of watching Ma vs. Pa and Daddy fussing with Mommy and Honey Bunch rubbing Honey Do the wrong way over and over and over. In these days of marriage equality, if one had this series to study and nothing else to study in order to learn about human marriage, one might not think marriage was all that great.

Watch my top 12 TOTU episodes. I suggest you watch these top 12 episodes NOT in ranked order from the top of the list down to the bottom of the list or vice versa, instead watch them in the order they were originally broadcast and you will find its more enjoyable to watch the series mature and unfold in that much better way. So, watch them in this order:

The Landlady (1979) s1e5 - **The Landlady** Ranked #12 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

The Way Up to Heaven (1979) s1e9 - **The Way Up To Heaven** Ranked #5 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Back for Christmas (1980) s2e14 - **Back For Christmas** Ranked #11 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

The Flypaper (1980) s3e1 - **The Flypaper ** Ranked #1, Best Episode of the TOTU Series

Bosom Friends (1981) s4e14 - ** Bosom Friends** Ranked #7 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Who's Got the Lady? (1982) s5e17 - **Who's Got The Lady** Ranked #10 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

The Luncheon (1983) s6e10 - ** The Luncheon** Ranked #6 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Number Eight (1984) s7e5 - **Number Eight** Ranked #2 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

The Open Window (1984) s7e15 - **The Open Window** Ranked #4 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Nothing' Short of Highway Robbery (1985) s8e3 - Ranked #9 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Scrimshaw (1985) s8e4 - **Scrimshaw** Ranked #8 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

Wink Three Times (1988) s9e6 - **Wink Three Times** Ranked #3 in the Top Twelve TOTU Episodes

You can find that list of mine here:

Tales of the Unexpected - The Top Twelve Episodes.


4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A wonderful anthology series
jc1305us8 December 2011
Being a huge fan of anthology series, I'm always on the lookout for ones I haven't seen. I've had some hits (Twilight Zone, Night Gallery) and a few misses, (Thriller, most of Hammer House of Horror) but then I stumbled across Roald Dahl's 'Tales of the Unexpected'

Always being a short story, horror, and sci fi fan, I jumped at the chance to try some programs I had never seen. Having some familiarity with Roald Dahl's work, I was intrigued, having read that he was a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and O Henry. I sat back to enjoy the first story of the series, the fine, 'Man from the South' about a man who bets the little finger on his left hand that he can't light his lighter ten times in a row. Filmed on location in Jamaica, it is a very clever tale that sets the tone of future episodes. Now don't misunderstand, the episodes are not all 10's, but the majority are very, very good, including 'The Landlady', and 'The Flytrap' which is a CHILLER, all the while featuring a wonderful sense of storytelling along with some excellent actors, including Jose Ferrer, Joseph Cotten, and Joan Collins, to name but a few.

If you enjoy really well told tales that hold your attention and are genuinely entertaining, get the first two sets of this series, they really are a wonderful way to spend a few hours.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good stories, shame about the production quality
TheJiveMaster15 January 2008
Tales of the Unexpected took the short stories created by Roald Dahl from the book of the same name and others and put them on the small screen. Later on, other writers would be used and Dahl would provide an introduction to each story. This introduction was eventually dropped in favour of a voice over.

The key to each story was in the ending which originally was usually totally unexpected. The content and the background to each storyline often involved murder, often without holding back some visualisation and this lead to it being broadcast late on Sunday evenings.

The series suffered from poor production quality. It is likely that the series was shot on video tape which is evident nowadays. The appearance of studio sets is apparent as there is a definite transition between the quality of lighting indoors and for shooting on location. Some of the stories were quite laboured as the introduction of the characters and initial plot creation were quick. This left a large gap of time until the unexpected outcome. The acting was sometimes slow with long pauses in an attempt to spin out time.

Despite it's faults, Tales of the Unexpected managed to attract well known names in asting for episodes and sustained an audience following for 8 years. The stories were varied in their creation and the eventual outcome but eventually the ending could be predicted. In 1988 the series was quitely axed and reruns can now be seen on digital channels in the UK.

If you can ignore the poor production, it is well worth seeing, even after all these years.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A series which evokes so many different thoughts and emotions.
Sleepin_Dragon8 February 2016
One of those Series that is very difficult to review as a whole, largely due to the vast degree in quality between the episodes, on the whole though I'd say I love Tales of the Unexpected, it's a unique series, one millions remember very fondly, for good reason.

I always preferred the introductions when Roald Dahl was sat in his chair, he added to the sense of Theatre in his own inimitable style.

Fair to say the earlier Series were a better standard then the later ones, at the end they became a little sad and repetitive. The 'twist' was always the best bit, and in the first few series, the twists were big.

Highlights include Lamb to the Slaughter, Fat Chance, The way up to Heaven and Royal Jelly, but it's fair to say that the out and out best episode of the entire Series, is the opener to the third run, The Flypaper, truly one of the nastiest, most horrifying pieces of television ever made, even to this day it's intensely disturbing.

Is that possibly the most iconic set of opening credits and music ever put together, instantly recognisable, impossible to forget, I wonder the mix of emotions that tune creates for people.

No wonder Tales ran for nine years, a great series. 8/10
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Series I Briefly Watched Two Decades Ago
theowinthrop23 September 2005
This series was on the air in the U.S. very briefly - about one year only, which is unlike the British series that lasted nearly a decade. I recall watching it, and seeing John Houseman introduce the episodes. The particular one I can recall seeing (I was on a date the night it was being shown) was shown in April 1983 and called THE MEMORY MAN. Colin Redgrave is an expert in helping people improve their memory by various ways, including hypnosis. He discovers that a new customer (Bernard Cribbins) is having problems with his memory, but also seems quite hostile to questions that Redgrave asks innocently enough. Soon Redgrave remembers that Cribbins had another name, and was involved in a violent robbery where he stole thousand of pounds. Redgrave is slowly using his knowledge of hypnosis to extract the information that Cribbins has forgotten (and so has sought Redgrave's assistance to recall). In the end neither man does too well out of the experience.

When Houseman introduced the episode, he tried to illustrate the problem of memory by shooting out one question after another. One he shot out was, "Who was the 14th President of the United States?" I amused my date by shouting out, "Franklin Pierce".

Many of the stories are by Roald Dahl, and I suspect, if they are watched, some of them would have to be compared with versions of the same stories (like "Mrs.Bixby and the Colonel's Coat") that originally appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (in that case, and in "Lamb to the Slaughter", Hitchcock directed the television episodes). One wonders if the image of Hitchcock, with his plump person, and his delivery of his introduction, was behind the use of Houseman (with his plump person and delivery) as the host.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So many great memories and just as fresh when repeated!
sgodrich10 June 2011
Tales of the Unexpected is an iconic series which lasted around 10 years starting in the late 1970s to the late 1980s. As you'd expect with any TV series, there are fantastic, classic episodes and some that aren't so great. Thankfully the great episodes outnumber the not so great quite significantly.

Originally, the series was meant to showcase the stories from Roald Dahl's books "Tales of the Unexpected" and "More Tales of the Unexpected". Each of these episodes were introduced by Dahl himself in a mock sitting room in front of a roaring fireplace. A short description of where the idea came from regarding the upcoming story then led to 25 minutes of television magic. Each story was meant to end with a twist. Although many did, some had a twist of not actually having a twist but a natural conclusion which you think could never go all the way but it does.

After Dahl's stories ran out, other similarly themed stories were used by well known authors such as Henry Slesar, Bert Salzman, Jeffrey Archer and many others. They didn't have the Dahl introduction and the name "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected" was thus shortened to the familiar "Tales of the Unexpected".

Many big names have appeared in the show from Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Cole, Toyah Wilcox, John Mills, Telly Savalas and many, many more. Some early in their careers, others in their prime and some in the twilight.

So if you like a story with a twist ending, you can do far worse than check out this gem. When you hear Ron Grainer's fantastic theme tune starting up and the silhouetted lady dancing in the flames, you'll be gripped for 25 minutes. After that you'll hunger for your next fix of 'The Tales'.

My top 10?

1. The Eavesdropper 2. Would you Believe it? 3. Taste 4. The Tribute 5. The Flypaper 6. Shatterproof 7. The Way To Do It 8. Kindly Dig Your Grave 9. Never Speak Ill of the Dead 10. Down Among the Sheltering Palms
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"The idea for this story..."
ShadeGrenade29 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
At a lavish showbiz party in the late '70's, Roald Dahl approached film producer and television executive Sir John Woolf and made him an offer he could not refuse: "How would you like to make a series out of all my stories?". Sir John jumped at the chance. As well as a bestselling writer of children's books, Dahl was also known as the literary Hitchcock, the master of the suspenseful short story.

The result was 'Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected', made by Anglia Television, which ran for the best part of a decade. Some of the stories had been filmed before as part of the U.S. series 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. Nevertheless, the show proved hugely popular, attracting the likes of Sir John Gielgud, Joan Collins, Sir Bernard Miles, Sir John Mills, Derek Jacobi, Timothy West, Susan George, Ron Moody, Denholm Elliott, Joss Ackland, Brian Blessed, and American actors of the calibre of Telly Savalas, Joseph Cotton, Gloria Grahame, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris and Jack Weston.

The opening titles were an unsettling blend of James Bondian imagery ( a gun, playing cards, a dancing nude woman ) and Gothic horror, backed up by Ron Grainer's carousel-style music. Dahl himself introduced the stories in Hitchcockian fashion.

Ronald Harwood and Robin Chapman penned many of the scripts. Predictably, some stories worked better on television than others. 'Man From The South' got the series off to a fine start, casting Jose Ferrer as a madman who tricks a young American tourist into a bizarre wager which, should he lose, means he forfeits the little finger of his right hand. 'Lamb To The Slaughter' was about the only truly perfect murder ever conceived, whereas 'Neck' had a rich husband revenging himself on his adulterous wife. Easily the worst episode, however, was 'Royal Jelly', the ending of which was not so much unexpected as unspeakable.

Critics renamed the show 'Tales Of The Bleedin' Obvious', yet many episodes did contain genuine surprise endings, such as 'Genesis & Catastrophe' and 'Skin'.

When the production team ran out of Dahl stories to adapt, they turned to the works of other writers. Eventually, Dahl and his name disappeared from the show. Some of the later American-based episodes were a bit weak, often coming across as belonging to a different show entirely.

As D.V.D. releases and I.T.V.-3 reruns will attest, this show at its peak is still rattling good fun.

By the way, the 'dancing nude woman' in the titles was Karen Standley.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
i love this show!
louisemcmahon28 September 2002
one evening my dad made me sit down and watch this show with the family and i thought what rubbish it seemed! however once i watched one episode i was hooked! ok so the storylines are silly but they are surprsingly entertaining. unfortunately granarda plus have stopped showing them!
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So bad it's quite good.
rajkowski16 February 2002
Although there are a lot of the original Roald Dahl stories in here, there are also quite a few from other writers, which are successful to varying degrees. What is apparent from the series though is it's age - I have never witnessed acting, filming, sets, hairstyles, music, and costumes to look so dated (and just plain bad!) so quickly. Indeed the series is the quintessential "Its so bad its good" - I certainly laughed at things when no humor was implied, this may explain it's cult status in some circles. When the stories work, they're very good, and the poor acting etc doesn't seem to matter too much, but all too often either nothing interesting happens or you can see the punch line coming a mile off. The most remembered parts of the series are of course the opening credits and music (mention Tales of the Unexpected to anyone in the UK and that's what they'll comment on).
5 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Dahl Does Hitchcock
screenman23 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Remembered by my then youthful generation more for its beginning as a cause of erections whilst the naked, nubile dancer cavorted provocatively amongst leaping flames to a music-box anthem. The erotic nature of such imagery belayed the series content, as it cut to curmudgeonly Roald Dahl, outlining what was to follow in the way that Hitchcock had about a decade before.

Production values, as usual, inclined towards the cheap end, but Dahl's inventiveness still usually worked its spell. Worth watching again today, as much for their amazing casts. How the makers managed to tempt so many big names into such a small production, which wasn't exactly given a primetime viewing slot on account of the often alarming ideas, is quite baffling. Fun though.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tales of the Unexpected
fuyu_yuki_flakes7 May 2017
The series itself was okay, although I suspect it was more famous for its title sequence than its actual content. Basically, Tales of the Unexpected was Roald Dahl's attempt at the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits - a screen adaptation of the eponymous short story collection. Having not read this book, I couldn't tell you how well the stories were adapted, although like the aforementioned TV shows, they sometimes involved an element of the supernatural and one of the characters usually getting their just deserts by the end. I've seen them described as campy, although I think mediocre would have been a better word to use. Most episodes are watchable and are of acceptable entertainment value, although some having pacing issues and the production quality certainly isn't up to today's standards.

If you're a fan of the Twilight Zone, this might be worth a look.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed