1/07/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Network B0000D9GPL. 4 DVDs 580 minutes 8 * 80 minutes episodes. Price £29.99 (UK).
check out website: www.networkdvd.co.uk
Being old enough to remember the series of 'Mystery And Imagination' by Thames Television in the 1960s, I was delighted to hear that it is being released on DVD by Network DVD. However, looking at the list of episodes I was dismayed to see that only eight of the original twenty-four remain. All the rest, I'm afraid, have been irretrievably lost. Turned to dust and ashes, so to speak. If by chance you are reading this and know where to find tapes of the other episodes then you are very fortunate indeed.
What are you getting on this DVD? Four discs each containing two episodes of 'Mystery And Imagination'. Each episode is roughly eighty minutes long. Now, made in the 1960s for TV, you're not going to get great pictures. In black and white with relatively crude definition compared to high definition TV we have today, the images are also squarish in shape because they were made for an aspect ratio of 1:33. Widescreen did not exist in these days. Okay, so you're going to get a crappy picture. Surprisingly, this only increases the dramatic effect of the episodes.
What you will get is excellent drama with some of the best actors of the day. After watching this, you will be cursing the fact that sixteen other episodes have disappeared. Nevertheless, let's be thankful for what we've got. Well then, just what have we got?
On ten hours of entertainment on the four discs, we've got eight episodes of 'Mystery And Imagination'. Don't expect electric light bulbs. There's only candles and oil lamps in these 19th-century Gothic tales. On the first disk you get 'Uncle Silas', a chilling story from Sheridan Le Fanu. This Irish writer incorporated his dreams into fiction but this will give you nightmares. We also have an adaption of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. The well-known British actor Ian Holm plays both the creator and the monster. As with God, it was created in its own image. Both were from 1968.
On the second disc you'll find 'Dracula'. This story needs no introduction. Denholm Elliott and Susan George star this episode from 1968. Also on the same disc and in colour there is 'The Suicide Club'. This was adapted from a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. You wouldn't want to be a member of this club!
Disk three contains two colour episodes from 1970. 'Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber' who converted this clients into pies, is played by the well-known actor Freddie Jones. Now in his 80s, he is still going strong and appears in lots of current British drama but there's no better portrayal of Sweeney Todd than the one you'll find in this episode. Also on the disk, 'The Curse Of The Mummy'. This is actually the last episode of the entire series. It stars Patrick Mower who later went on to play a part in 'Callan' and ended up in the soap opera 'Emmerdale'.
It's back to the black and white episodes of 1966 for the fourth disc. Denholm Elliott and Susannah York are in Edgar Allan Poe's tale, 'The Fall Of The House Of Usher'. Roderick Usher had very sensitive hearing and his daughter was mad but this doesn't deter a young man from taking an interest in the affairs of the family. Finally, 'The Open Door'. The Mortimer family headed by Colonel Mortimer played by Jack Hawkins did not exactly have an open policy but someone comes into their lives.
Apart from these episodes you will find lots of extras including bits and pieces of missing episodes and lots of black and white and colour photographs from the entire series. There is also an excellent booklet which covers virtually everything you will want to know. My distant memory recalls many of the episodes that are now missing. I don't know if the contents of these discs represent the best episodes but it's all we have and for that we should be thankful.
This is a journey into the past in more ways than one. Firstly, you go back to vintage television from the 1960s. Okay, we don't have flashy special effects and high definition pictures but the acting more than compensates for any failings in these areas. Secondly, we go back to 19th century Gothic horror at its best. Classic writers and classic stories! This DVD is essentially a resurrection of the dead, in more ways than one, but that's not a bad thing for anyone reading this column. Definitely recommended!
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