“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 so brightly lit, a darkside.”
Not since the likes of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits has there been a really good sci-fi/horror anthology until 1984’s Tales. Not to say that each episode was a winner. In fact, most were pretty weak and relatively lame, but when this show was good, it was very good. These tales weren’t any ordinary specter spectaculars, but were told by spectacular story writers, directors, and producers. Look at just this first season, and you’ll find some of the top names in the field involved in one way or another. You’ll see the likes of Stephen King, Tom Savini, George Romero, Robert Bloch, Frank De Palma, and Harlan Ellison. The tales often came with a twist, or at least a big finale in the end. Much like a train’s headlight in a long tunnel, you might have seen it coming from a mile away, but it’s hard to avoid the impact.
The episodes are pretty much low-budget and ran in syndication during its television run. Each episode was about 20 minutes (half hour of grid time) and usually went right to the point. You won’t find any fancy frills or large casts here. Most episodes rely on just a couple of characters to make the point. It’s more like theater than television. There’s no end-of-story morality wrapup. You’ll figure it out for yourself.
Here are a few of the best moments you’ll find waiting for you in Season Three:
I Can’t Help Saying Goodbye: This is a very creepy episode about a little girl. Whenever she says goodbye to someone, they croak. It’s helped by the fact that the girl herself does a great job of deadpan.
The Geezenstacks: I don’t know what it is about little girls, creepiness, and this season. But here’s another one. This girl can make her family do things just by imagining it with her dolls.
Black Widows: A young woman is about to get married and learns a terrible secret about her family. It’s a lot like Val Lewton’s The Cat People, but with giant spiders.
Seasons Of Belief: This is a deliciously rotten holiday tale about a creature called The Grither. It’s a nightmare-story-come-true type of episode.
My Ghostwriter, The Vampire: This one is a delight. A writer wants to write vampire stories, but he’s just a hack. He buys a coffin for the atmosphere and finds it contains a real-life vampire. Now with the Count feeding him material, he’s writing hot books. Unfortunately, he decides to cut the Count out of his share of the loot. Big mistake.
Each episode of Tales From The Darkside is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. Unfortunately, these transfers are simply horrible. They’re barely one step up from the extended-play tapes I made during the original run. This image was not taken from any film element. These are obvious video dubs, and not very good ones at that. Colors run, and this image is about as sharp as watching a film through three inch leaded glass. I’m not sure what the problem was here. Maybe the original film is unavailable. Whatever the reason, these transfers have seriously dampened my excitement about the release.
The Dolby Digital mono track is almost as bad. While you can hear the dialog clearly, there is a distinct muddiness to the entire presentation. The theme warbles and distorts at times. I have to believe that there are better masters out there than this.
I have to admit that the quality wasn’t as good here as the first two seasons. There are still a few gems waiting for you. The set isn’t priced high enough to warrant skipping a season. You’ll really want to end up with all four seasons, so that “The darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try and enjoy the daylight.”