Tales of the Unexpected: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition-Volume 1 (1979)

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Released 4-May-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 292:51 (Case: 300)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Graham Evans
Alan Gibson
Herbert Wise
John Gorrie
Studio
Distributor
Time Life Starring Jose Ferrer
Julie Harris
Sir John Gielgud
Susan George
Joan Collins
Joseph Cotton
Wendy Hiller
Jack Weston
Derek Jacobi
John Mills
Case Slip Case
RPI $49.95 Music Ron Grainer
Richard Harvey
Kevin Peek


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

   Like many children all over the world, I grew up with the marvellous stories of Roald Dahl. Unforgettable novels such as, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and James And The Giant Peach, still have the ability to totally capture a child's imagination. Dahl's talent as a writer did not stop with children's stories, he also wrote amazing stories for the adult reader. These short story compilations, together with his adult novel, My Uncle Oswald, all have a place of prominence on my bookshelf.

    Much like his children's stories, Dahl's adult stories have an underlying touch of the macabre about them. Most have an element of black humour, which lurks just under the surface of the narrative. This is generally more apparent with the revelation of the surprise, twist ending. This quality made many of his stories perfect candidates for an adaptation to the small screen. Anglia Television took up this challenge in the late nineteen-seventies and the first of 112 individual episodes of Tales Of The Unexpected screened on British television in March 1979.

    The series was initially solely based on the stories of Roald Dahl and featured the author himself doing a brief monologue before each episode. In time, Tales Of The Unexpected began to also adapt the stories of other writers, with Dahl still providing a brief introduction to each episode. Eventually, Dahl left the series, but the episodes continued on without his contributions.

    In the ten years of its production, Tales Of The Unexpected has featured scores of well-known actors in various roles. To name just a handful who appear in this first volume of twelve episodes, they include, José Ferrer, Julie Harris, Sir John Gielgud, Susan George, Joan Collins, Joseph Cotton, Wendy Hiller, Jack Weston, Derek Jacobi, John Mills  and many others.

    This first volume of Tales Of The Unexpected consists of the entire first series (nine episodes) and the first three episodes of the second series. Each episode has been adapted from short stories featured in the Roald Dahl books, Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You. The running time of each episode is between twenty-three and twenty-six minutes.

    Without giving anything away, the following is a brief synopsis of the twelve episodes in this first volume, three DVD set.

Disc One:

Episode One - Man From The South

    A casual conversation in a Jamaican café leads to a most bizarre bet. A mature and debonair gentleman makes a bet with a young American sailor that he cannot ignite his cigarette lighter tens times in a row. If the sailor wins, he will receive the gentleman's Jaguar car. If the gentleman wins, the sailor will loose the little finger from his left hand.

Episode Two - Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

    Mrs Bixby is the wife of a successful dentist. Every three months Mrs Bixby leaves her husband behind to visit her elderly aunt. The trip is really a disguise to continue a long and secret love affair with the Colonel. This time, the Colonel leaves Mrs Bixby with a parting gift of an expensive mink coat. To avoid being caught out by her husband, she devises what she believes to be a foolproof plan that will enable her to keep the coat without drawing suspicion.

Episode Three - William And Mary

    The late Dr William Pearl was the most respected lecturer at the University, a man with a great academic brain. At the reading of her domineering husbands will, Mary is confused by his request that she must visit Dr Landy, a neurologist at the University. Upon her visit she is told that William has become part of an amazing experiment. William consented to having his brain removed from his body, so it might be kept alive and alert in Dr Landy's lab. One eye is still attached by an optic nerve, so his sight also remains active. Mary is soon insistent that William's brain belongs at home with her.

Episode Four - Lamb To The Slaughter

    Mary returns home from the local store to discover her detective husband dead on the living room floor. In a fit of hysteria, she calls the police, who arrive on the scene quickly. The cause of death is established as a blow to the head with a heavy, dull instrument. The police believe that if they can just find the murder weapon, they will also find the murderer.

Disc Two:

Episode Five - The Landlady

    Arriving in Bath on business, Mr Weaver goes looking for some comfortable accommodation. He sees a Bed & Breakfast sign in a town house window and decides to ring the bell. The house is run by a middle aged landlady, who seems more than just a little strange. Mr Weaver's suspicions are further heightened when he notices the names in the guest book.

Episode Six - Neck

    Sir Basil Turton is an avid art lover and collector. He has sculptures placed throughout the grounds of his palatial estate. His wife, Natalia on the other hand despises art and is keener on seducing the male houseguests at every opportunity. One day while cavorting with a guest, Natalia accidentally gets her head stuck in one of the sculptures. After many attempts to free her, Jelks the butler delivers a solution.

Episode Seven - Edward The Conqueror

    Edward and Louisa are an elderly couple living a relaxed and quite life in the country. When a stray cat arrives on the property, a series of amazing coincidences convinces Louisa that the cat is actually the reincarnation of the composer, Franz Liszt. Edward is not at all convinced and wants the cat gone.

Episode Eight - A Dip In The Pool

    While enjoying a holiday on a cruise ship, William Botibol plans a bet that will see him collect a handsome dividend. He spends the very last of his money on a bet to guess the amount of miles the ship will travel in the next twenty-four hour period. When it looks like Mr Botibol is about to lose all his money, he has an idea that might just make the ship slow down.

Disc Three:

Episode Nine - The Way Up To Heaven

    Mrs. Foster hates being late for anything. This anxiety manifests itself in the form of a nervous tick around her eye when she begins to stress about possible lateness. Her husband is generally the reason for this stress, as he is never in any hurry and is always overly casual. Things are brought to a head when Mrs. Foster is running late to catch a plane and Mr. Foster is again, the cause.

Episode Ten - Royal Jelly

    Albert is one the country's most knowledgeable beekeepers. He and his wife, Mabel have a baby daughter, who has not been feeding well. Their baby is losing weight by the day and Mabel is frantic with worry. That is, until Albert comes up with a solution that totally reverses the situation.

Episode Eleven - Skin

    Drioli is now a down and out homeless man, but his life wasn't always so gloomy. He was once a tattoo artist, who was married to a beautiful woman. He was also best friends with Soutine, an up and coming Russian painter - but that was long ago. While walking past an art gallery he sees a familiar artwork. Drioli is amazed to discover the piece is worth a fortune. The work is by his old friend, Soutine and all his art is now popular and very expensive. He enters the gallery and is immediately told to leave by the owner. But there is a change of attitude when Drioli reveals to everyone in the gallery that he has another work by Soutine very close to him.

Episode Twelve - Galloping Foxley

    William Perkins is a dapper gentleman, who is very fond of routine. So when a stranger arrives on the train station platform and disrupts that routine, he is none too pleased. This unusual gentleman takes Perkins' regular seat on the daily train trip into work. However, it soon becomes apparent to Perkins that he actually knows this man. Perkins is convinced that the man is Galloping Foxley, the school prefect who made his life an absolute misery many, many years ago.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for Tales Of The Unexpected is only average.

    The series is presented fullscreen in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. I believe, the correct aspect ratio for the series is 1.33:1.

    Unfortunately, sharpness and clarity levels are generally only average. The transfer is naturally limited by the quality of the source material. The quality of the image does vary slightly between episodes and even between scenes. Generally speaking, the main issue was one of softness. Blacks were average and occasionally exhibited mild degrees of low-level-noise. Shadow detail was acceptable, but lacked serious definition. Having said that, I still found the entire series very watchable and would definitely recommend the purchase, especially if you're a fan. I sampled various chapters on a standard 68cm, 4x3 display and naturally found these issues to be much less noticeable. If you view your DVD's on this type of display, you are unlikely to notice too much in this area.

    Colours were mostly soft and muted, but were not problematic. This also reflected the limitations of the video source material. This colour issue is consistent with many television productions from this era.

    Film-to-video artefacts were noticed throughout the episodes. Although I occasionally cringed at the presence of some of these artefacts, thankfully they were not constantly prominent and didn't consume the viewing experience. Without being pedantic, some of the artefacts consisted of occasional instances of colour bleedingedge enhancement and comet trails. A couple of brief tracking errors were also noticed, but weren't an issue. Thankfully, film artefacts were not a significant problem and consisted of a few minor marks and light scratches, here and there.

    There are no subtitles available on these DVD's.

    All three discs are single sided, dual layer discs. The layer changes on all discs occur between episodes, so there is no disruption.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer for Tales Of The Unexpected is also a victim of the source material and is only average.

    There is only one audio track available, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). This is a mono audio track.

    By and large, the dialogue quality was quite good. I had occasional difficulties with comprehension of dialogue, but generally this was acceptable. A low frequency hum was evident on occasions, however this was not at all disruptive.

    Audio sync appeared accurate throughout all episodes.

    The music score for Tales Of The Unexpected is credited to Ron Grainer. His theme music has a whimsical, carnival-like feel, which suits the mood of the series very well.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras in this edition of Tales Of The Unexpected .

Menu

    The menu has minimal animation, features 16x9 enhancement and a sample of the theme music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I will compare this local Volume One of Tales Of The Unexpected with a R1 four disc set released by Acorn Media on 28/09/2004. The R1 set includes all 25 episodes of the first two series, which are spread over four DVD's. The only extras consist of production notes, cast filmographies and a text based biography of the late Roald Dahl.

    The R1 edition seems the obvious winner.

Summary

    It is great to see this highly entertaining series finally arrive on DVD in this country. The macabre short stories of Roald Dahl have been adapted to the small screen very well and will hopefully find a whole new audience, as well as pleasing the existing fans. Despite the less than perfect transfer, I'm certainly looking forward to the next volume of episodes.

    Reflecting the original source material, the transfers are both only average.

    Unfortunately, there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Friday, April 27, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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