Sometimes we remember a show by the circumstances when it aired. Tales From the Darkside flashes me back to the college dorm. Or to be more accurate, a pal of mine’s dorm room since he had a TV. The original series came on the local UHF channel on Saturday nights. The horror anthology’s creepy end credit music served as a warning. If we didn’t head out for the night, we’d be transformed into the losers who didn’t leave the dorm on a Saturday night. That’s a horror story nobody wants to experience. Sadly this was never an actual story during the show’s four season run. There are quite a few spooky tales on the 20 episodes are featured in Tales From the Darkside: The Final Season.
The low budget syndicated series did have good horror connections in writers thanks to the work of executive producer George Romero (Night of the Living Dead). “Beetles” was written by Robert Bloch (Psycho. It’s a classic tale of man refusing to believe in a mummy’s curse. Colm Meaney guest stars. “Mary, Mary” paves the ground for Lars and the Real Girl. This story has a woman whose only “friends” are stuffed animals and a mannequin. Is the life-size mannequin more than a dummy? “The Spirit Photographer” captures ghosts on film. “The Moth” obsesses over reincarnation. A dying woman swears her soul will be put in a moth. She wants her mother to take care of the insect until science can revive her body. “No Strings” gets gruesome when a mobster wants his rival turned into a puppet. “The Grave Robber” is another mummy tale. Arnold Stang (Top Cat) plays the mummy. Instead of stalking the crypt disturbing explorer, the undead mummy challenges the guy to a game of strip Poker. Polly Draper (thirtysomething) takes part in the unwrapping.
Clive Barker (Hellraiser) contributes the script for “The Yattering and Jack.” An evil demon does his best to ruin a nice guy’s day. But the guy isn’t letting the misfortune get to him. “Seymourlama” turns a spoiled brat into a high lama. This isn’t too much of a shocker unless you fear your children never learning to be good. Stephen King spooks up a tale about a woman who ignores a phone message that her husband is going to die. “Payment Overdue” scares a collection agent that uses hardball tactics on people. She won’t stop calling them. She can’t handle it when a strange voice keeps calling her private number. “Love Hungry” deals with a creepy way to lose weight. “The Deal” is about a screenwriter’s pact with Satan. Years later, this would explain Nick Swardson’s career. “The Apprentice” exposes the dark side of working at a historical recreation museum. “The Cutty Black Sow” is an Irish demon and not a new drink. A boy must fight this demon from getting his dying grandmother’s soul. “Don’t Open This Box” is not a Christmas special. There’s something more shocking inside the box given to a couple.
“Family Reunion” forces a father to kidnap his son. He fears something is really wrong with the child. The wife tracks them down with the help of a social worker. Turns out the kid has a major issue during full moons. “Going Native” places an alien amongst us to report on earthlings. Can it merely observe and report? “Hush” awakens a pretend creature that goes after a little boy and his babysitter. This was directed by Allen Coulter (The Sopranos). “Barter” plays off I Love Lucy. Lucy makes a deal with a strange visitor (Jack Carter) to get little Nicky to stop playing the drums. Naturally Lucy screws it up. The final episode encompasses the other big Saturday night entertainment of pro wrestling. “Basher Malone” gives us a wrestler so clean cut and honest that his elderly mother serves cookies during the matches. Vic Tayback (Alice) is furious that his grapplers keep losing the good guy. He calls up the ultimate bad guy wrestler. Tayback is in full over the top acting chops. Brinke Stevens shows up as the heel’s ring candy.
Tales From the Darkside: The Final Season wraps up a series that could make things uncomfortable on a Saturday night. The show wasn’t too gruesome or shocking, but had enough twists to give you that extra jolt before hitting the bars.
“Beetles,” “Mary, Mary,” “The Spirit Photographer,” “The Moth,” “No Strings,” “The Grave Robber,” “The Yattering and Jack,” “Seymourlama,” “Sorry, Right Number,” “Payment Overdue,” “Love Hungry,” “The Deal,” “The Apprentice,” “The Cutty Black Sow,” “Do Not Open This Box,” “Family Reunion,” “Going Native,” “Hush,” “Barter” and “Basher Malone.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are rather soft. It appears the show was shot on film, but edited on video. Most of the episodes are shot on low budget sets so the softness helps hide the lack of resources. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is fine, but nothing that will send you hiding under the sofa.
Akhbar’s Daughter (21:26) appears to be from another horror anthology that never quite made it to syndication. Christopher Atkins is the star. It’s the same feel and budget as Darkside.
Attic Suite (21:28) stars Brenda Vaccaro. This is also from the failed series.
Tales From the Darkside: The Final Season wraps up the ‘80s most intriguing horror anthology. The 20 episodes vary from the intensity of “Family Reunion” to the nonsense of “Seymourlama.” The spoofing of I Love Lucy in “Barter” does bring out the laughs.
CBS DVD presents Tales From the Darkside: The Final Season. Starring: Colm Meaney, Vic Tayback, Arnold Stang and Brinke Stevens. Boxset Contents: 20 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: October 19, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.