Thursday, 16 August 2012

Tales of the Unexpected

For the last couple of months we've been working our way through Tales Of The Unexpected on DVD. I discovered this series during one of the HTV book trees, it had been selected by one of the girls during the 'Short Story Tree' and not long afterwards I spotted the DVD boxset in HMV.A little while later we received some money as a late wedding/first anniversary present and decided to put it towards some entertainment for ourselves. And having enjoyed the stories, we hunted down the DVD boxset.

The boxset comprises of all 112 episodes, spread across 19 discs. When we started it seemed like a pretty formidable task. I thought that we'd still be watching them come Christmas; however the episodes tend towards around twenty-four minutes long so we could usually watch one while we were eating out tea and maybe another afterwards - occasionally we'd stretch to three if Tara was asleep and not getting near the time for her walk.

The series originally aired between 1979 and 1988; earlier episodes were introduced by Roald Dahl and many were based on his original stories, some of the later ones were inspired by W. Somerset Maugham. I'm fairly certain that there were some other well-known names in there also, as well as one penned by someone who won a competition to write a storyline for the series as well.

It's not a continuous series, each episode is a stand-alone in its own right (though the character of Mr Botibol crops up in two of the stories, the second of the two appears to be a prequel to the first judging by the ending of the first). Some are American-made, while the others are British. I tend to prefer the British ones to the American ones; the American ones seem to have a bigger budget but I tended to find them a little more obvious than the British ones.

One of my favourite things while watching this series has been trying to guess what the twist would be. When Mr Click and I were first going out we watched a series called Thriller which operates on a similar premise (though I believe those were longer episodes) and aired in the mid-seventies. I'll have to admit that I wasn't particularly impressed with Thriller, the stories there seemed to go on a little bit longer than they needed to (I often complained that when they got to a good place for them to finish they'd then go on for another fifteen or twenty minutes).

I was always very pleased watching Tales of the Unexpected because I frequently was able to figure out the ending, but occasionally I'd get one that would catch me off guard. It was good fun speculating with Mr Click and trying to work out whether we were right. Sometimes the twists were a little out-there but they ranged from the macabre (a landlady who honed her taxidermy skills on her tenants) to the heart-warming (an illiterate man who was forced out of his position at the local church and so becomes a wealthy businessman instead).

It's also good fun spotting all the famous actors; most of them famous at the time of the series being made, but some who obviously weren't so well-known at the time it was made. Mr Click was pleased to spot both John Mills and Hayley Mills, but there's also Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed, Michael Gambon, Judy Geeson and Joss Ackland. There were also some of those moments where we recognised people but it took a while before we could place them; I spent best part of an episode wondering whether or not the bank manager in it was Radar from M*A*S*H* (it was! but I had to wait for the end credits to double-check it was Gary Burghoff) and not to mention wondering who that familiar young man in another episode was, before having a head-slap moment as it dawned on me that it was a very young Bilbo Baggins, none other than Ian Holm!

Overall I've really enjoyed this series. There have only been a handful of episodes which I didn't totally enjoy, some that were a little bit out-there or which I struggled to follow. I was a little bit worried that it was going to be very like Thriller, but if anything it was exactly what Thriller should have been. It's going to be tidied away into a cupboard at home shortly, but it's definitely one that I'd like to revisit in the future, maybe in a few years time so that the stories aren't too familiar in my mind. In the meanwhile we found a big copy of Roald Dahl short stories which include Tales of the Unexpected when we went to Dunoon to get Tara, so it's on the bookcase awaiting my attention.

The next series that we plan to watch is Band Of Brothers followed closely by The Pacific. The former we got with Amazon vouchers we received when we got married, the latter I received a voucher which we used toward The Pacific in HMV. Although they're two separate series we intend to watch them one after the other as they'd both produced by the same people and set during the same time period.

I've seen Band of Brothers before and it amazed me. It's such a fantastic, moving series; it's very upsetting in places (particularly the episode dealing with the liberation of a concentration camp), but I'd really recommend it. But I'll save my thoughts on it just now until we've watched it and then I can review it then.


  1. Ah Cait, I love Tales Of The Unexpected. A lot of childhood memories for me when Dad would allow me to stay up late and watch them. They're often repeated on Sky Arts now too so it's good to be able to catch up with them and so many are still so fresh in my memory. I really love that one with John Mills as the veteran safecracker and the honey one with Timothy West 'bzzzzz' haha! I know Thriller, but haven't seen many - but these are very much my era of TV, I love the nostalgia :) Got to love Band Of Brothers too

    1. I liked the Timothy West one as well, the woman playing his wife in that one was also in another of my favourites with the woman who kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb then serves up the evidence to the police.

      I'm enjoying Band of Brothers, though it frequently makes me want to cry. After this and The Pacific I'm planning on rewatching All Creatures Great And Small. So many good TV series and so little time!

  2. PS reminds me of how much I love Roald Dahl's adult novels too, especially the fruity ones like Switch Bitch, The Uncle Oswald stories

  3. I've got a big collection on my bookcase with a bunch of Roald Dahl's stories for adults including Tales of the Unexpected, My Uncle Oswald and Switch Bitch.

    It's waiting for my attention because I've not had a chance to read it yet.


Let me know what you think. :-)