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on 11 July 2015
'Tales of the Unexpected' is one of the absolute gems of British TV from the late 70s/early 80s. Some might think that the BBC were responsible making all the quality broadcasting back then, with ITV mostly showing cheesy sitcoms and endless adverts for biological washing powder, but this series is a clear evidence that 'commerical television' could hold its own in the creative stakes.
Produced by Anglia Television in, er, Norwich, Tales of the Unexpected clocked up a total of 112 "tales with a twist" over its nine year run, and every single one of them is crammed into this DVD boxset.
So what was so good about this show? I'd argue that when at their best, these seemingly innocuous little plays had twists which were so damn wierd that they'd be burnt into your brain for the rest of your life. We're not talking visceral gore and horror, nor lurid sex and violence, no breakneck car chases or edge-of-the-seat tension: it's more often a case of rather normal little situations which over the course of half an hour somehow manage to slip sideways from the world the ordinary into the world of the bizarre, almost without you noticing, until suddenly the twist at the end shocks you awake again and you're left reeling! And as you reel, the wonderful little theme tune dances around you (penned by Ron Grainer of Doctor Who fame, no less).
Most of the early ones were written (and also introduced on screen) by Roald Dahl, whose slightly unsane imagination we ultimately have to thank for the series' delights. Of course, many different other writers supplied stories as the years went on, not all of them quite of the same calibre - occasionally we seem to be watching Tales of the Bleedin' Obvious instead :) but overall the show keeps delivering.
The acting is generally great - there are simply dozens of familiar faces on the cast list, working your way through the boxset is like thumbing through a copy of 'Spotlight' - everyone from Peter Cushing to Joan Collins, I couldn't begin to list them all. Pretty much every episode has someone you'll recognise from your favourite sitcom/ soap/ police drama/ Hammer Horror film...or even the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oh look, it's him out of The A-Team! that guy out of M*A*S*H! there's Bergerac! etc etc etc.
If I have one real criticism of this boxset, it's the rather grotty state of the sound and picture on a lot of these episodes. It looks like the DVDs were made from copies-of-copies that had been doing the rounds for showing on UK Gold and ITV3 (giveaway sign: very few of them have the original 'silver man on a horse' Anglia TV logo, instead they've got some dodgy early 90s version edited onto the end). Most of them were made on video, but some of them (particularly the American ones) were shot of film and are crying out for someone to go and remaster them in high definition from the original negatives. Maybe some day this'll be done and we'll get a 'deluxe' edition, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
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on 21 October 2015
Who could ever forget that Iconic theme music ?---one of THE best ever written. It will certainly never leave my conscience mind, especially having watched the whole Box-set in one week. That's 112 programmes, and 224 hearings of that marvellous music---greaaat ! Each session was from midnight, up to 2.30 am. I'll admit that I hadn't watched regularly during it's original runs, back in the late 70's to 80's, -but there must have been good reasons for that. Although the very high standard wasn't always maintained, which mostly I have to say, were those with American settings. ALL the actors were superb but, when the Roald Dahl story's were exhausted, a very few of the writing material weren't quite up to that standard. I will certainly watch them ALL again in the near future. It was really good and interesting to see all those great actors--British and American, who were either very young, and at the beginning of the career's at that time, and those more mature ones, who are no longer with us. I made a list of certain people who I had wondered if / or when. they had died, so I could check them online. There was quite a few surprises. Was I being macabre ? maybe, but blame it on Roald Dahl. This series is, another example of the high quality of drama--and it has to be said--black humour--that we enjoyed so long ago.
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on 14 October 2017
SO many stories, 25 minutes each so you can easily pop one on between jobs. 122 episodes I believe, some great acting from Joan Collins and Sir John Gielgud, Denham Elliot, Pauline Collins and so on.....so many British and American talent. And the sassy sexiness of 70's sultry women TV which is not tacky but grown up. Roald Dahl introduces many on the first four discs in his armchair by a fire like a favourite uncle and has written many of these twisted tales, some are gruesome, some funny and some predictable but all very entertaining. The golden age of TV there for everyone to enjoy, and the music is a classic by Ron Grainer and with one blast you are transported back to late night TV after the news at ten before its bed time on a Sunday night. The quality ? well the acting is great but some of the outdoor filming is grainynow but it does not put you off. I love it all but then I was born 1969. However the next generation should be made to watch clever and not crass TV, where dialogue and acting is everything.
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on 25 October 2013
I found the earlier episodes to be the best
great to see these actors and actresses in their prime alas a lot of them are gone now.
my top ten episodes.
1..The Hitch-Hiker
3..Parson's Pleasure
5..Never Speak Ill of the Dead
6..A Picture of a Place
7..The Eavesdropper
8..The Moles
9..Operation Safe crack
10..Back for Christmas
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on 15 August 2012
I remember watching some of these episodes when they were first shown in the 1980's. Great fun, some really dark plots and twists and a stellar cast (Jose Ferrer, John Mills, Joan Collins, Timothy West, Peter Firth, Anna Massey, Derek Jacobi etc) - how did ITV afford them in those days?? Especially of interest are the Norfolk locations - many were filmed in my county.

Each story runs in at 25 minutes (adverts not included, but a slight break where they would have been inserted). All 119! yes 119 episodes are included in this excellent box set, neatly packaged away to the size of an Concise Oxford Dictionary. Clearly not a set you can watch in one sitting, but excellent for filling in the gaps of the schedules (for me, especially when soaps are on!)
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on 13 November 2017
Not watched any of these as they were for a gift so don't know the quality of the recordings but the t.v. series made excellent viewing. A bit of nostalgic entertainment.
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on 18 October 2014
Very high quality British Anthology series made by ITV in the late 1970's / early 1980's.

Starring virtually every well known British actor of the time, and some Americans too.

It was like a British version of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone with similar dark and macabre twist endings.

Great stories from the pen of Roald Dahl, great acting, great twists.

Very highly recommended, a superb series.
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on 18 February 2015
I'm writing my review based on the first series which I already own. Great actors and stories, which at 30mins make for something when watching a film will take too much time. Over the years I've probably seen most of them, but looking forward to working my way through again, but with 19 DVDs may take quite a while...
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on 5 March 2017
Excellent series of short films from the 1980's, each 30 minute episode is a separate tale often with an unexpected twist at the end. You may remember it when it was first televised, but even so over 30 years later it stands the test if time.
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on 16 February 2017
love it - overcome with nostalgia the moment that Theme Tune starts and I just HAVE to do That Dance! Lots of entertainment in this pack, some stories better than others, but worth the purchase. Enjoyed playing "Spot the Stars" - working out who the young actors are, and figuring out what they are starring in now (sad, I know, but on a winter's night...)
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