Review for Tales From The Darkside: The Final Season Box Set (4 Discs)
Finally Season 4 (the ‘final’ season) of this wonderful horror anthology series arrives in the UK. Despite the low-budget, miniscule production values of this video-filmed and very eighties looking series, every time I reach the end of a season I find myself looking forward to the next. Sadly it’s the last. Last but by no means least.
"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality, but there is, unseen by most, an underworld... a place that is just as real but not as brightly lit... a dark side."
So starts every delicious episode of this and every season, each telling a separate self-contained tale with a new setting and a new cast. Indeed, part of the thrill of watching ‘TFTDS’ is never knowing what you’re going to get next. Will it be comedic, scary, thought-provoking, sexy or maybe all the above combined?
The series, which exudes an eighties-aura throughout, despite some episodes being of a historic nature, kicked off in 1983 and lasted for four sporadic seasons, ending in 1988.
It’s a direct attempt to emulate the success of the ‘Creepshow’ movie(s), a homage to EC comics like ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and ‘Eerie’ and borrowing much from previous anthology series like ‘Thriller’ (the Karloff vehicle, not the UK series), ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and ‘The Outer Limits’.
You might imagine that by Season 4 the series would run out of inventive steam but the facts of the matter are that the variable mix of brilliant and less-than-perfect episodes from previous series are correct and present again here. In other words – you won’t be disappointed.
Stand-out episodes are probably ‘The Moth’ which features just two actresses, one of whom is Debbie Harry in her eighties prime, turning in a remarkably convincing turn; and the fan favourite, ‘No Strings’ where a mobster employs a professional puppeteer to bring his old business partner ‘back to life’ in an effort to humiliate him. ‘Seymourlama’ is another highlight, featuring Divine and Re-Animator star David Gale.
Extras include a couple of ‘un-released’ episodes, Akhbar's Daughter and Attic Suite, neither of which feature the standard opener meaning they may have been created by the same production company for a different series, though in terms of tone and execution are very much par for the course.
Picture quality is equal to previous release which is to say unremarkable. There are clear signs of pixellation on large sets and blacks are smudgy, lacking contrast and detail. However, on a smaller set they look fine – perhaps best viewed on your laptop. I guess these are pretty rudimentary video transfers and a PAL conversion of an NTSC master – never pretty. However, they’re probably as good as you’re going to see them so bets to be thankful for that.
Here’s what you get.
Beetles: An archaeologist (Pat Harrington) brings back some treasures from Egypt with the pretence of historic interest. In truth he is really after the treasures buried with the mummy. Despite warnings from a mysterious Egyptian, he is in denial about the inevitable Beetles invasion. Interestingly, this was penned by Robert Bloch who penned ‘Psycho’.
Mary, Mary: A very surreal episode about a female photographer living out her life through ‘perfect’ mannequins, even submitting video tapes featuring them to dating sites. When a man from a nearby apartment takes an interest in the real Mary she is determined to make a dummy of him.
The Spirit Photographer: An obsessive photographer, Algernon, is determined to photograph a ghost. His friend is sceptical until one day…
The Moth: Sybil (Debbie Harry who also appeared in Tales From The Darkside - The Movie) has been dabbling with the dark arts and appears to be dying. But she knows that when she dies her sould will leave her body as a moth which, she tells her mum she will back to collect.
No Strings: A sadistic gangster murders his business partner and then hires a puppeteer to string up his corpse and make it dance and talk. But, as all horror fans know, you should never mess with a puppet!
The Grave Robber: This one is played for pure laughs with a disgruntled mummy playing strip poker with a pair of treasure hunters. But who is fooling who?
The Yattering And Jack: Based on the short story by Clive Barker a demon is sent to Earth to corrupt a man called Jack. But Jack doesn’t seem to believe in demons.
Seymourlama: A boy named Seymour is declared High Lama to a group of religious mystics. But how on earth did that happen? Divine hams it up beautifully.
Sorry, Right Number: A Stephen King tale about a lady who gets a call saying her husband is going to die. Which (sorry!) - he does. What’s even more mysterious is why the lady, Kate, is now ringing herself!
Payment Overdue: A collection agent, having spent years harassing people, becomes harassed himself by a being from ‘beyond the grave’.
Love Hungry: Another great comedy episode where a large woman, desperate to lose weight, receives a strange package containing an ear piece. When she tries it, she can hear the food she is about to eat. Imagine what happens when a mysterious pair of glasses turns up.
The Deal: A screenwriter makes a deal with the devil but then regrets it. But he need someone else to deliver his side of the bargain and that won’t be easy.
The Apprentice: Sarah starts a new job at a museum which really sparks her imagination. But soon a series of weird events seem to be pulling her back to a darker age…
The Cutty Black Sow: The titular pig is, according to a dying Grandma, a sow which devours the sould of anyone who has the misfortune to die on Halloween night. Her Grandson is determined that it’s not going to get his Grandma.
Do Not Open This Box: Jodie Foster actually directed this psychological ditty about an apparently empty box. Or is it?
The Family Reunion: Janice claims that her ex-husband kidnapped their son – or at least that’ sthe story she told the social worker. It transpires that son Bobby is suffering from the sort of illness that you don’t tell even your best friends about - which isn’t about to stop Janice trying to see him.
Going Native: An alien in female human form is sent to earth to study our planet. But landing in a support group might end up distorting the research somewhat.
Hush: A babysitter builds a toy for the sick boy she’s watching which seems to suck the sound out of everything in the house. In fact, it appears to ‘eat’ sound. Once all else is gone they have to hide – until the boy gets a tickly cough.
Barter: Another humourous episode where a housewife does a deal with a door-step alien to stop her son making a din on his practice drum kit.
Basher Malone: A huge wrestler with a strong religious conviction takes on the ultimate fight – with the devil himself.