Does Appellate Judge Tom Becker have a darkside? Does he ever.
Our review of Tales From The Darkside: The First Season, published February 13th, 2009, is also available.
Until next time…try to enjoy the daylight.
The '80s saw a wave of syndicated horror anthology series, including Monsters, Freddy's Nightmares, The Twilight Zone (which started its run on CBS but finished up on syndication), and Tales From the Darkside. The last one was produced by George A. Romero. Tales From the Darkside ran in syndication for four years and later spawned a movie called, appropriately enough, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie.
This set gives us all 24 episodes from Tales From the Darkside: The Second Season.
• "Ring Around the Redhead"
• "Parlour Floor Front"
• "Halloween Candy"
• "The Satanic Piano"
• "The Devil's Advocate"
• "Distant Signals"
• "Ursa Minor"
• "Effect and Cause"
• "Monsters in My Room"
• "Comet Watch"
• "Dream Girl"
• "A New Lease on Life"
• "Printer's Devil"
• "The Old Soft Shoe"
• "The Last Car"
• "A Choice of Dreams"
• "Strange Love"
• "The Unhappy Medium"
• "Fear of Floating"
• "The Casavin Curse"
I have to admit, I'd never paid much attention to Tales From the Darkside. It's been running on some station or another since 1984, and I've caught an episode here and there, but I always considered it filler TV, something to watch while waiting for another program. I never really found it scary, and the few episodes I did catch were hampered by kind of lame dialogue and set ups and mediocre performances.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, by the quality of the shows on this set. The first few didn't do much for me, with "Ring Around the Redhead" coming off as a bit annoying and not very well-thought out, but there are several very strong episodes here. "Parlour Front Floor" benefits from a twisty script and a terrific performance by Adolph Cesar. "Halloween Candy" is nastily clever. While it's a bit on the silly side, "The Trouble with Mary Jane" gives us the chance to see old pros Phyllis Diller (thankfully subdued) and Lawrence Tierney at work. "Monsters in My Room" is actually pretty scary, and a really young Seth Green is very good. "The Old Soft Shoe" is clearly inspired by an old campfire-style ghost story and works well thanks to Dooley and Fiedler. "Dream Girl" is an interesting premise that's not executed all that well, "The Last Car" builds suspense but doesn't really go anywhere, but "Printer's Devil" plays the selling-your-soul-for-success conceit for some welcome black humor. "The Shrine" features a strong performance from Lorna Luft and a script that's reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, Abe Vigoda does fine work in "A Choice of Dreams," and "The Casavin Curse" is a neat and surprising little take on a classic horror film of the '40s.
For me, the best episode on this set is "Distance Signals," a charming and quirky tale of lost chances and the enduring power of fandom. The great Darren McGavin offers a truly touching performance as a has-been actor who finds himself getting an inexplicable second shot, and Lenny von Dohlen is a nicely offbeat one as a mysterious character with unlimited resources and a childlike eagerness to see a long-ago cancelled TV show get an appropriate send-off. McGavin's final speech, in which he speculates about what we've just seen, moves this into the realm of modern fairy tale.
Paramount's work here is pretty standard: full-frame transfers with little or no remastering, mono soundtrack, and a single extra: an interview with George Romero about "The Devil's Advocate," the lone episode on this set that he wrote.
Tales From the Darkside is never especially frightening, and it doesn't have that stay-with-you effect that the best episodes of anthologies past did. Its special effects are on a par with a Bewitched episode, and many of the denouements are either obvious early on or so muddled as to make no sense at all. Still, it's fun, quirky, and sometimes very good TV. Worth checking out.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.