From 1986 and first seen on HBO, "Really Weird Tales" was an attempt at an anthology series from several "SCTV" alumni including John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Joe Flaherty which spoofed shows such as "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits". One would think that would have a lot of potential, but the series only lasted for three episodes and while they were briefly released on VHS afterwards and have since been sought after by fans, this DVD release shows some reasons why the series might not have lasted longer than it did. Joe Flaherty steps into the Rod Serling role here, introducing each story and acting as our guide through them much like Serling did in "The Twilight Zone" and even does a convincing intro segment saying that everyone has an area in their brain that comes up with strange ideas that end up in these sort of stories. I've had many dreams that were more weird and entertaining than the stories presented here however. Let's take a look at them:
Kino Lorber's DVD presents these in a different order than they were on the HBO Video tape release back in the 80s. The first story is called "Cursed With Charisma" and takes place in Fitchville, "Flyswatter Capital of the World." At a town meeting, citizens are discussing their concerns about the sagging economy, hoping for rich foreign investors to come in and save the flyswatter manufacturing facility that was once the city's backbone. Slick-talking Howard Jensen (John Candy) then walks in, just passing through town, and says he has the answer to all their problems: no-money-down real estate, selling the townsfolk on the idea with motivational phrases like "anyone can do it!" Soon everyone is buying each other's property and re-selling it on the concept that doing so multiplies its original value. Howard takes a kid named Jimmy under his wing and gets his parents mad after Jimmy buys his own house, but they're relieved a bit when Howard says he bought it back from him just a few hours later leaving a handsome profit. The townspeople start going after him though after they end up owing obscene amounts of money in taxes and going into foreclosure, but then there's a twist which the back cover of this DVD spoils but I won't reveal it here other than saying that it left me asking "what was the point of that?" The familiar faces including Don Lake playing na´ve small-town folk in the style of a 1950s TV show is a bit amusing, but nothing to write home about. I figured the remaining two segments should be better.
Well, maybe not. The 2nd Really Weird Tale is "I'll Die Loving," starring Catherine O'Hara as a woman with "unusual powers"- specifically that she can cause anyone she feels any sort of affection for to explode. She had made her mother explode early in life, and her father then dropped her off at a convent where the nuns were mean to her so that the same thing wouldn't happen. Eventually they send her off into the world telling her to never love anyone, but she then seeks the help of a professor (Paul Soles) who says her "projected affection blow-up syndrome" can be cured if she falls in love with someone who is repugnant, leading her to set up a dinner date and seduction with an ugly and annoying co-worker (John Hemphill). This one didn't do much for me either, as I didn't find the concept weird or funny enough though it at least works in a brief spoof of Cabbage Patch dolls.
Third time's the charm, in this case "All's Well That Ends Strange", featuring Martin Short as lounge singer Shucky who performs at a get-together hosted by magazine publisher Wade Jeffries (Donald Harron), an obvious stand-in for Hugh Hefner. Lots of women are present of course, and Shucky takes a liking to Tippy (Olivia d'Abo). Although Flaherty introduces this promising that the night will turn into "a nightmare of epic proportions," the real nightmare is suffering through several minutes of Short in a hot tub acting like a lunatic for several minutes, where I had to ask myself "Did ANYONE find this funny when they were shooting this?" Something a bit weird happens by the time this one's over, but again it's not really weird.
Apparently quite a few people really liked this series, at least after it hit VHS. I don't know why it didn't last longer than three episodes on HBO; with the talent involved they likely would have gotten it right eventually but these just didn't do a whole lot for me. I've enjoyed "SCTV" and other things its alumnus have done, but "Really Weird Tales" just plays like something that would have come from a pile of rejected ideas. Others remember this as being hilarious so maybe this was a rare time when I just didn't get the humor- I'll have to give it another viewing later, but for now just color me unimpressed.
All three episodes were shot on film but post-produced on video, and this DVD uses analog video masters that are just a bit below the quality expected from something of this age. There's a bit of video noise particularly in the reds which I usually see only in material much older than this, along with some faint snow in the background.Sound:
Encoded in 2-channel Dolby Digital, the mono sound mixes on all three episodes have a muffled quality to them which makes some dialogue hard to hear. Again, it's below average for material produced in the latter half of the 1980s.Extras:
Under the main menu option "Also available from KL Studio Classics" is just one trailer for the 1991 movie Delirious starring John Candy, in 16x9 format. I had rented that on VHS shortly after it came out and remember enjoying it more than "Really Weird Tales", although I didn't find it particularly exceptional either.
Overall I expected "Really Weird Tales" to be right up my alley, but it turned out to be a misfire and certainly didn't live up to its name. Again, there were plenty of people who liked it back in the 80s and will be glad to see it come out on DVD, so maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind when watching it- I certainly won't try to ruin their enjoyment of it. Fans should just consider that the technical quality of this disc isn't perfect and might not be much of an upgrade from the VHS tape if they have that already. Those who haven't seen this before but are fans of the cast and writers are advised to proceed with caution.