So as my Twitter followers know, I taped about 6 hours of the 80's anthology series "Tales From the Darkside" yesterday on the Scifi channel. I had a few free hours today, so I sat down to watch a couple of episodes.
"Tales" was born out of the success of the original Creepshow in 1983, and was executive produced by George Romero and Richard Rubenstein, Romero's long time business partner. They had originally set out to take "Creepshow" to the small screen, but since Romero is such a notoriously bad business man, he did not have the rights to the name. Hence, the "Tales From the Darkside" moniker was chosen, in part to try and evoke the old EC comics feeling that many of the stories were inspired by.
Many a horror legend cut their teeth on the show, from actors to directors to effects men. It was even the place where Tom Savini made his directorial debut. The series ran from 1984 to 1988, and has lived on ever since in syndication. In 1990 a feature film with the "Tales" moniker was produced. In interviews Savini has referred to that film as "the real Creepshow 3".
I was too young to catch it in it's original run (okay well maybe not too young, but I never did see it in the 80's), so this is my first experience with it. Some of the ep's have definitely been forgettable, in particular, every one with vampires seems to suck the big one. Some of them have been downright awesome though. I was going to share them all with you but I figured I would just start with 1. If you're interested in revisiting these with me, let me know in the comments and I'll continue to report on the gems I'm discovering.
The name of this episode is "The Devil's Advocate", and it stars none other than Jerry Stiller of Seinfeld fame. If you can get over watching George's dad in a serious role, it is one wickedly awesome half an hour of television. The episode was written by George Romero, and first aired on November 12th, 1985.
The biggest thing I've taken away from my experiences watching this show over the last two days, is something Schnaars blogged about 4 months ago... that when it comes to horror anthologies, shorter is better. With a scant 22 minutes to get your point across, episodes of "Tales" focus solely on story. With a show like "Fear Itself", the awkward running time of 44 minutes leaves filmmakers in a bind, with not enough time for adequate character development, but too much to not put at least a half assed attempt in.
Watching episodes of this show, it becomes abundantly clear how embarrassingly awful "Fear Itself" was this summer. No atmosphere, no laughs, no scares... just boring, antiseptic crap. And all this coming from some of the "best" horror filmmakers of our era. I know it's cliche but, they really don't make 'em like they used to.
So check out "The Devil's Advocate" (in three parts below), and let me know what you think.