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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tales of the Unexpected, Set 4
Tales of the Unexpected, Set 4
Acorn Media // Unrated // March 28, 2006
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Roald Dahl wasn't just the author of children's books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: he was also a writer of macabre short stories for adult readers. Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected is a television anthology that features exactly that kind of story, from Dahl and many others. While the series had a long run in Britain, with a total of nine seasons, it was shown less consistently in the US, and for many viewers these may be brand-new episodes.

Rather oddly, Set 4 does not follow in the pattern of Set 1, Set 2, and Set 3 in presenting the episodes in their original order. Instead, Set 4 includes a selection of 20 episodes from Season 6 through Season 9. Although I don't know for certain, it looks to me that this is a "best of" compilation to wrap things up... which is not such a bad idea. Many of the episodes are clever, but in the earlier sets there were plenty of weaker episodes mixed in. For everyone except the most die-hard fans, it's probably a better idea to provide a solid and watchable selection that omits the duds.

I found these 26-minute episodes to be mostly quite on the mark. They're odd and quite different from each other, so that the "unexpected" part of the title actually rings true. While some of the stories tend toward the dark or the macabre, others have their twist in different ways, so that it's more difficult to guess what's going to happen. Some of the episodes don't even need a twist to be worthwhile. "The Luncheon," for instance, will strike a nerve for anybody who's ever had to watch expenses, as a struggling young writer is put in the position of having to pay for an expensive lunch; the episode just keeps turning the screw on the poor fellow (and on us, as a sympathetic audience). The episodes are generally fairly well produced and acted, so that even though they have a slightly dated feel to them, it's easy to overlook.

Set 4 contains the following episodes:

The Wrong 'Un
The Luncheon
The Tribute
Hit and Run
The Best Chess Player in the World
Have a Nice Death
The Last of the Midnight Gardeners
Accidental Death
The Reconciliation
The Mugger
Skeleton in the Cupboard
The Colonel's Lady
The Surgeon
The Verger
The Facts of Life
Wink Three Times
The Dead Don't Steal
The Finger of Suspicion
A Time to Die
Mr. Know-All

The DVD

Tales of the Unexpected: Set 4 is a three-DVD set. Each disc is in an ultra-slim plastic case, inside a glossy paperboard slipcover.

Video

The episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and look fine, considering their 1980s date. The image is rather soft and lacking in detail, and low-light scenes tend to look too dark. Overall, it's watchable, though.

Audio

The mono soundtrack gets the job done, for the most part. The dialogue is sometimes a bit flat, but otherwise it's OK.

Extras

Disc 1 has a section on "Authors of the Unexpected," providing text blurbs about each of the writers of the episodes here. Each disc also includes cast filmographies for the main actors in the episodes on that disc.

Final thoughts

If you've enjoyed any of the other Tales of the Unexpected sets, this one will also fit the bill nicely. I found the assortment of episodes to be nicely varied and generally fairly well done, providing a reasonably entertaining experience. The short running time of each episode helps to keep things moving along: there's no time for much padding. I'll give the set a mild "recommended" rating.

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