Ripping Yarns (1976–1979 Britain)

Ripping Yarns is Michael Palin at his best, delivering a one–man tour de force. This is even better than the Monty Python series, which has dated horribly and contains more misses than hits. But Ripping Yarns is still a spiffing good piece of television, even in this 21st century of ours. My personal favourite is Murder At Moorstones Manor, an Agatha Christie–like plot in an English country manor setting that gradually whittles down its cast at the point of a gun. The brilliant shambles of an ending denies the curious viewer the answer to whodunnit.
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Crooked House (2008 UK)

A BBC Christmas revival of the format that had lain dormant since 1980s US revivals “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Darkside”. Written by actor and writer Mark Gatiss – no slouch when it comes to knowledge of the macabre side of the silver screen as his “History of Horror” documentaries proved – here are 3 tales involving the history of foreboding Geap Manor, relayed by a sinister museum curator (Gatiss) to a schoolteacher (Lee Ingleby). [Read more…]

Dr Who – Planet Of Evil (1975 UK)

This adventure is the start of moving the series onward from the Earth based, UNIT adventures into new territory. UNIT had an excellent story Terror of the Zygons, prior to this, with the Brigadier and Benton on top form. But to expand the series scope back out to space was a good move even if it meant sadly phasing out UNIT. But Planet Of Evil is not regarded as a classic story by most Who fans. It rips off 1956’s Forbidden Planet along with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. So it does get rather formulaic in places, but director David Maloney played up Louis Marks script to its main strength: atmosphere. Plus there’s a jungle to get lost in… [Read more…]

The Venture Bros (USA 2003 – )

Some adult cartoons like modern Family Guy just try to disgust their audience to show how “edgy” they are. True, we get into some pretty dark territory with the Venture Bros every now and then, but it never really goes too far. It portrays the characters realistically and never has them try to gross out the viewers. We really do see character development and more of a story go on. Every character has their own quirks, and it’s too hard for me to pick a favourite one. [Read more…]

Man In A Suitcase (1967/68 United Kingdom)

No, its not the Police song from their 1980 album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. Man in a Suitcase is one of those ITC colour series filmed in and around Pinewood Studios and on location in London during 1966/7. (Locals at the time must have been constantly interrupted by cameras, cast and crews preventing them getting from A to B). Its a rough, tough adventure series which, thanks to the strength, charisma, and capability of the leading player: a surly Texan method actor Richard Bradford, still continues to enthrall and entertain folk who lap up this nostalgia for swinging London, dollybirds in mini-skirts, green Hillman Imps etc.
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A View From A Hill (2005 United Kingdom)

In the 1970s the BBC used to include a ghost story, usually by Dickens or M.R. James, in their Christmas schedules. They dropped the habit later on, but this millennium saw them reboot the series again from time to time. Here is one of the better examples. Directed by Luke Watson, this goes back to the series’ roots; the period setting instantly lends itself a quality and timeless feel, meaning it’s very hard to pin point and define exactly when it was made. [Read more…]

The Spanish Moss Murders (Kolchak The Night Stalker episode December 6, 1974)

“Pepe?” inquires Kolchak of a street hustler. “Pepe Schmepe, my real name’s Maurice Shapiro…” comes the reply in a deadpan Bronx accent. Its that kind of earthy banter and bullshit that keeps me returning to this classic TV series. Kolchak bites off quite a wad with this bogeyman covered with Spainish Moss. The X FILES would get inspiration from this episode years later. Here, the Cajun Bogeyman is created by a University of Chicago student who is doing a sleep study to free his mind from childhood nightmares. Once again, Kolchak is trying to figure out the unthinkable. How do you kill the product of someone’s dreams? [Read more…]

The Woman In Black (1989 United Kingdom)

A truly memorable piece of work, once seen never forgotten. Unlike American made horror, the Brits know how to do subtle, relying on the potency of a story full of suggestion and anticipation. And when the great Nigel Kneale is involved with a script the result is usually quality and this is quality. Plus the special effects are few which lulls the viewer into thinking that this film is set in the real world, thus making us a bit more uneasy. No monsters, no blood or violence, no cliches, just terror. You’re constantly thinking: Is she there? Isn’t she? Where is she? What’s that sound? What’s upstairs? Everything’s fine…or is it? Aaah! [Read more…]

Night Gallery (1969–1973 USA)

night-gallery-season-2-billboard-rod-serling-600x300After “Twilight Zone” was canceled Rod Serling’s “The Night Gallery” appeared some years later. It was hosted by Rod Serling himself, a bit older than he looked when he hosted “Twilight Zone” as he walked us through an art gallery replete with strange, demonic, often very intimidating artwork. Each work of art told a story which was the focus of each half-hour episode. The series did very well and it was a more intense follow-up to “Twilight Zone”, which suffered from a rather static and preachy talkiness and far more censorship. Because it was the early 70’s, the episodes of Night Gallery were a tad more uncensored and graphic. [Read more…]

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1968 Canada/USA)

First broadcast on Canadian TV, this is a very strong production, and given that it’s shot on videotape with a period setting mounted on fog-bound studio sets, it all comes off very well indeed thanks to Trevor Williams’ excellent art direction. Horror great Dan Curtis produces here and also shares directing duties with Charles Jarrott. Composer Robert Colbert’s music is properly spooky too, alive with jabs of tense foreboding. But obviously, we’re all here for the mean and mighty Jack Palance, and he is very good as both Jekyll and Hyde. [Read more…]

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