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Tales from the Darkside Season 1 (DVD)

Tales from the Darkside Season 1 (click for larger imageReviewed by Uncle Creepy

Created by George A. Romero, Richard P. Rubenstein, William Teitler, Jerry Golod

Starring Paul Sparer (opening narrator), Vic Tayback, Christian Slater, Carol Kane, Justine Bateman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Shawn, Eddie Bracken

Directed by Various

Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment


“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 Darkside.”

As a twelve-year-old when I heard those words emanating from my television set, I knew one thing for sure — it was time to have a blissfully spooky time. Few shows have captured my imagination like “Tales from the Darkside”. As a huge anthology fan, this was like seeing a new mini-movie every week. The affection I have for this series runs impossibly deep.

Until now you could only see this show one of two ways — on a nearly worn-out and destroyed VHS tape or on a bootleg DVDr that you may have either picked up at a convention or found somewhere online for like a hundred bucks (bastards). Well, it’s time to throw away all that crap. “Tales from the Darkside” is now getting its official DVD release courtesy of Paramount Home Video, and living on the darkside has never been so bright.

Tales from the Darkside Season 1 (click for larger imageWhat makes this series work so well is the fact that it reveled in what it was. Nobody was making high art here, and everyone seemed content with having a chance to tell their tales just the way they wanted to. Many stories are full of twists and turns and riddled with otherworldly creatures, and dare I say it, some are even hilariously sprinkled with delicious black comedy. Let’s go over some of the included classics, shall we?

Things kick off with the stellar “Trick or Treat” episode in which an old miser invites his hometown’s children to come into his dwelling on Halloween to see if they can find all the outstanding bills their parents owe him. Of course this is all a ruse for him to get his rocks off by scaring the kids. Everything is going the old prick’s way until some real bits of Halloween horror show up to set the record straight.

Then there’s probably the most famous episode of the show, “In the Closet” directed by Tom Savini. Here we are told the tale of a student boarder who learns that her anthropologist landlord is keeping a deadly creature living behind the door of a small closet in her room. Seeing this episode again with adult eyes, I noticed things I never have before, such as Savini’s usage of some of the library music from 1968’s Night of the Living Dead during one of the episode’s crazier moments. Too fucking cool!

Tales from the Darkside Season 1 (click for larger imageAnd I’d be remiss without mentioning my absolute favorite of the season and the series as a whole, “A Case of the Stubborns”. Old people can be extremely stubborn. One day Grandpa (Bracken) awakens to find his family in a state of distress. What’s got them so riled up? Well, Grandpa died the night before, but he doesn’t know it, nor will he be convinced of it! Will his family, including a really young Christian Slater, be able to persuade gramps to participate in his eternal slumber, or will the old guy just keep walking and rotting? This episode alone is worth the price of the DVD.

The above are just a few examples of the gems waiting to be rediscovered here, and wow, are there some gems. What makes “Tales from the Darkside” really stick out amongst the crowd is its writing. Everyone from George A. Romero to Robert Bloch to Stephen King lend their talents as a means to turn out the terror. In a lot of ways the series feels like an extension of Romero’s stellar Creepshow, which many (including myself) consider to be one of the greatest horror anthologies ever put to film.

Speaking of Romero, the only extra to be found in this three-disc set is a commentary by the master on the series’ pilot episode “Trick or Treat”. You’ll notice while listening it sounds a bit off. That’s because George wasn’t watching it while it was being taped. Paramount had Romero interviewed for this bit of supplemental goodness, and the hour long chat was cut into a twenty-three-minute audio track. A bit odd, yes, but at least it’s something.

It is a true joy to officially have “Tales from the Darkside” in the old DVD collection. It’s been a long time coming. If you’re like me, you’re eagerly anticipating the release of Season 2, so until then remember, kids …

“The Darkside is always there waiting for us to enter; waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.”

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by George A. Romero on episode “Trick or Treat”

    Series:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 out of 5

    Discuss Tales from the Darkside in our Dread Central forums!

  • Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

    • Toxie

      “Region 1 DVD – Will only play on North American Region 1 or multi-region DVD players.”!!! This is not a good day for me.. i’m glad i’m moving to the US next year!

    • Ggoblin31

      I’ve been tearing through this since picking it up on Tuesday. So far ‘Trick or Treat’ is my favorite. I also love the one where Danny Aiello plays a bookie and the creepy guy from ‘Manhunter’ starts making crazy bets with him. The absolute worst episode of the entire season so far is ‘Djinn, No Chaser’ which is inexplicably unfunny and features Kareem Abdul Jabar as an annoying genie. Man, that episode felt like it went on for fucking two hours. All in all, a wonderful set that makes me feel like a kid again.

    • xfoley8

      Yep, this will be the best birthday present I’ve had in a long time. Love this show. Is “Anniversary Dinner” from the first season? Another of my favorites.

      Creepy, you didn’t mention that the guy who played Data on Star Trek: NG was also in “Stubborns” (as a southern preacher, no less), though I see he’s in the still you guys posted. And, yes, it is a classic of black humor- it was the first episode I ever saw, and it hooked me on the show for life. That ep was also written by Robert Bloch (author of Psycho, in case someone has been living in a box and doesn’t recognize the name). The original story ended with Grandpa coughing up a maggot on a black napkin. I think the ending here was actually an improvement, and funny as hell.

    • nakattack

      This show reminds me just how freakin’ awful Fear Itself truly was. Can’t wait to add this to my DVD collection.

    • kiddcapone

      This show brings back such memories. I’ve been Tivo’ing them on Chiller for awhile now, so it’s great I can finally delete them and own them on DVD.

      It’s funny you mention A Case of the Stubborns Steve, because that too was always my favorite of the series. Eddie Bracken reminded me so much of my own grandfather and the ending was priceless.

      I’ll be buying these for certain.

    • FilmCritic3000

      I love leaving Chiller on whenever they run a marathon of “Tales From The Darkside” (as they did earlier today).

    • Johnny Butane

      “In the Closet” scarred me for life as a kid….

    • The Woman In Black

      Seeing Slater so young was a hoot! They really don’t get much better than this set.