01/07/2012. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
region 2 DVD: pub: Revelation Films B006VIP0MS. 4 DVDs 484 minute 22 * 30 minute episodes. Price: £13.99 (UK).
check out website: www.revfilms.com
Customers buy DVDs for two main reasons. Firstly, they have seen the TV programme or film sometime in the past few years and want to see it again. Although TV series are repeated (but not usually when it is convenient to watch or soon enough), films are more difficult. Seen in the cinema, there is a wait before they are transferred to the small screen. It is easier to buy the DVD, then it can be watched whenever. Secondly, a boxed set hits the nostalgia button. There are always TV programmes that we watched when younger and wonder if they are as good as we remember.
This is the third season of 'Tales From The Darkside', a series of unsettling half-hours that were first screened in the USA between 28th September 1986 and 17th May 1987. The format follows the same pattern as the previous two seasons with mostly a small cast and limited sets. The plotlines again are a mixture of horror, SF and fantasy with the occasional descent into farce. Some are treatments of extant short stories, others written especially for the series. Some stories stand out more than others.
'I Can't Help Saying Goodbye', based on a story by Ann Mackenzie, has everything you can want from a half-hour play. The girl at its centre says goodbye to people who die soon after. While the watcher would probably interpret her actions as prescience, her sister believes that she is causing the deaths. The performances are excellent and realistic and the storytelling subtle. This is probably the best of the twenty-two episodes in this season.
'The Geezenstacks' is a well-known story from Frederic Brown and, as in 'I Can't Help Saying Goodbye', it is the central performance of the child actor that provides the unsettling atmosphere. The dolls-house is brought as a present for his niece by an uncle who is an estate agent. He found it in an empty house. The child of the family plays with the four dolls and claim that they tell her what is going to happen. As can be expected, children are ignored. Although these two episodes have features in common, there are enough differences in execution and outcome to make both equally and differently enjoyable.
It is good to have dreams and ambition can be the spur to achieving them. Taking short cuts is not always the best approach and the apprentice shoemaker finds in 'The Social Climber'. His boss believes that the right shoes are important for the right occasion and he has a store of magic nails in his backroom. When he believes that an ambition needs a helping hand, he puts one on the shoe he is making. The apprentice, however, borrows the shoes without permission and as might be expected comes to a sticky end. This is a subtly told episode, using filmic techniques and good editing to achieve its effects.
Another episode that makes good use of editing is 'My Own Place'. The dream apartment rented by the main character comes at a very low price but has a hole in the window. He is surprised to return home one day to find an old Hindu gentleman in residence, claiming that he also lives there. The conflict between the two is about whose space it is. At the same time, the main character begins to have dreams of a crowded Bombay slum. Again, the rendering of the plot is subtly and neatly done.
Into any mixture of this sort, there has to be some camp. 'My Ghostwriter, The Vampire' provides it. A hack writer does a deal with a vampire, giving him a place to hide during daylight in return for his life story which is turned into a best-selling novel. Considering the way the actors ham it up, it is not surprising that this story, originally by Scott Edelman, was first published by DC Comics.
Other well known and respected short stories adapted in this series include 'The Circus' by Sydney J. Bounds. 'The Bitterest Pill' by Frederik Pohl, 'Deliver Us From Goodness' by Suzette Haden Elgin, 'Seasons Of Belief' by Michael Bishop and 'Everybody Needs A Little Love' by Robert Bloch. As every paper anthology has a story by the editor, so George A. Romero, the series creator, has his own episode. In this season it is 'Baker's Dozen'. It concerns a voodoo practitioner who runs a cookie shop. The extra ingredients she adds affect the customers, usually in a positive way. Her limited edition gingerbread men can be used in a less benign way, as she finds to her cost.
There is more subtlety in the stories in this season and rough edges have been smoothed, though some episodes do still suffer from the limited set format. Although they would become diminished if set beside contemporarily produced half-hour programmes, there is still a lot worth watching amongst these.
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