Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (Umbrella Ent) (1990)

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Released 25-Sep-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer-(1:40) 1.78:1, 16x9. Tagged at end of film.
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 92:58
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Harrison

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring James Remar
Deborah Harry
David Forrester
Julianne Moore
Matthew Lawrence
Christian Slater
Robert Sedgwick
Steve Buscemi
Donald Van Horn
Michael Deak
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music John Harrison
Chaz Jankel
Jim Manzie

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Deborah Harry shops for paperboy dinner.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   A popular TV anthology series of the 1980s was Tales from the Darkside. Running in the US from October 1983 through to July 1988, two years after its demise the title rose from the grave in the form of a feature movie, not surprisingly called Tales from the Darkside : The Movie.

    Here we have three separate stories, bound together by  The Wraparound Story which is a bizarre twist on Hansel and Gretel. A young paperboy (Matthew Lawrence) has been imprisoned by a beautiful witch (Deborah Harry), whose intention is to roast the lad for dinner. To entertain her prey while she begins dinner preparations, the witch has given the boy a book of tales to read, and to stave off his final journey into the oven, he entices the witch to listen to three of those stories.

    The first, Lot 29 is based on a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Michael McDowell (Beetle Juice). Lot 29 is actually a mummy, complete with sarcophagus, which nerdy archaeology student (Steve Buscemi) has re-directed to his basement, with the assistance of a fellow student (Christian Slater). The nerd is out for revenge against two tormentors (Julianne Moore and Robert Sedgewick), and to this end resurrects the mummy to act as his avenging monster. This is pretty good scary mummy fare, with some impressive and unusual effects, and good performances from a youthful and, in 1990, relatively unknown cast. Julianne Moore is at times almost unrecognizable.

    The middle story, Cat from Hell, is the least impressive of the boy's three tales. A pharmaceutical millionaire (William Hickey) has amassed his huge fortune from products which were initially tested upon thousands of cats, all of whom were killed in the process. The millionaire is terrorised by his domestic tabby, and hires a hitman (David Johansen) to eradicate his feline bete noir. This one is from a story by Stephen King , adapted by George Romero. The humans are fine, as is the real cat, but the extremely obvious stuffed stunt double tends to bring the piece down.

    The best is kept till last. In an original by Michael McDowell, James Remar (Dexter's dad) plays an artist, struggling of course, who after an atmospheric evening in a bar, witnesses a murder committed by a hideous gargoyle. The artist is then confronted by the creature but his life is spared on the condition that he never tells what he has just seen. After agreeing to this condition, the terrified artist makes his way home. On the way he encounters a beautiful young woman, played by the lovely Rae Dawn Chong (Quest for Fire. The artist takes the girl back to his room to protect her from the marauding creature. We flash ten years forward and the artist is now a success, happily married to the beautiful young woman he saved, and with two young children. What then develops is gripping, suspenseful and frightening, and should not be spoiled. Very good performances all round in this solid and atmospheric gem.

   In conclusion we return to the boy who would be baked, and see if the beautiful witch has her culinary way with him.

   This is a satisfying four course meal, with any budgetary limitations thoroughly compensated for by an abundance of energy and style. The scripts are terse and intelligent, with director John Harrison expertly handling a large cast, and dispensing the thrills, scares and humour with great skill. Performances are uniformly excellent, with James Remar possibly the stand-out. Photography , by Robert Draper, is interesting and inventive. Also inventive is the colour design, ranging from the almost monochromatic Cat from Hell, to the oversaturated tones of Lot 249.The music, each tale with its own composer, also adds to the thrills and atmosphere.

    For fans of the genre this is a minor treat with quite a few major pleasures.

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Transfer Quality


    The quality of the image is very pleasing. Transfers of this "class" of movie can often be notoriously bad, but this is not the case here.
    After a title sequence matted to 1.75:1,the balance of the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio was 1.85:1.
    The transfer is always clear and sharp, though not up to the standard of the best new transfers.
    There is a moderate amount of grain, which gives the film an atmospheric cinema feel.
    Shadow detail is extremely good, while blacks are beautifully deep and solid - a definite plus, particularly for this type of movie.
    Low level noise was at a minimum.
    The colours were bright and very well reproduced, with extremely natural skin tones.
    MPEG artefacts were not observed, and film artefacts were limited to the occasional fleck.

    This is a single layer disc.
    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Although the slick claims that there are two audio streams on the disc, English 2.0 and English 5.1, there is in fact only the six channel stream.
    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, with no sync problems.
    The audio is very clean, with no hiss, clicks, pops or dropouts.
    The dialogue is front and centre, with the front sides contributing many effects, with a small amount of assistance from the rears. There are one or two instances, however, where the rears are used very effectively.
    The music is well reproduced, with the surround channels contributing to the at times very effective musical support.
    Contributions from the subwoofer channel are minimal.
    One general criticism would be that the sound seems a little "light", with not much richness or depth. This is being very critical, and generally the sound here is probably better than you would expect.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


       The only extra is the original theatrical trailer tagged on at the end of the film.
       There was no Main Menu on my review disc. After inserting the disc, there was the Umbrella logo, then straight into the film.
       The movie is divided into thirteen chapters, but the only access is to use the "next' button while the disc is playing.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:40) : 

The trailer is in very good condition, just a little inferior in quality to the feature itself. It is presented at 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Nicely structured, but be warned that it does "spoil" a few key moments in the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release misses out an a feature length commentary by George Romero, and director John Harrison, and a French audio stream.
    The Region 1 release also has the trailer which is the only extra on our local release.



Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, November 30, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
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Rae Dawn Chong - Nick REPLY POSTED
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