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Veil, The

Image // Unrated // September 11, 2001
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 7, 2001 | E-mail the Author
"Good evening. Tonight I'm going to tell you another strange and unusual story of the unexplainable which lies behind the Veil."

The Veil is about as obscure as television series come. Ten episodes of the anthology series, based around purportedly true cases of the paranormal, were filmed in 1958 and 1959 by the prolific Hal Roach Studios. Each episode was not only hosted by the inimitable Boris Karloff, but featured him in some capacity as well, ranging from little more than cameos to starring roles. Despite the fervent interest in horror and suspense in the late '50s, not to mention Karloff's marquee value, The Veil was never broadcast and wasn't widely seen in its original form for four decades. That's not to say that the material went unseen until Something Weird Video's VHS release in 1998. Episodes of The Veil were compiled into TV movies a decade after filming began. Two of the three, Jack the Ripper and Destination Nightmare, are even available individually on DVD. There's no point in buying one of those messy compilations now, though, since Something Weird has brought The Veil in its entirety to DVD in this excellent 2-disc set.

A microscopic budget and an attempt to ground The Veil at least loosely in reality keep the series from approaching the brilliance of its contemporary, The Twilight Zone, or even the The Outer Limits, which followed a few years later. Special effects are non-existent, and nearly all of the supernatural elements of the series can be lumped into "voices from the grave" or "precognition". That's not to say that The Veil is bad, of course; it's just creepy in a more subtle way than better known anthology series that enjoyed the benefits of having more cash at their disposal. There aren't any clunkers in the lot, though there are clearly some stand-out episodes, particularly "Destination Nightmare" and "Food on the Table", the latter starring Karloff as a sea-weary captain who slowly poisons his wife after an embarassing display at a Mariner's Club. Also of note is a fairly prominent role by then-rising star George Hamilton's in the reincarnation tale "The Return of Madame Veroy".

Video: I was fully expecting a battered, speckle-riddled presentation, since an unaired television series of this vintage couldn't possibly have been preserved in any passable sort of condition. To my very pleasant surprise, all ten episodes (the recycled but brief title sequence aside) are in extraordinarily good shape. Print wear and assorted spots are present but at an infinitisemal fraction of what I had resigned myself to beforehand. The very light grain isn't distracting in the slightest, and the black and white full-frame image is rather sharp and crisp, sporting fairly strong blacks and solid contrast. There's also an infrequent slight pulsing of brightness, but it's not terribly distracting. Very nicely done.

Audio: The Veil is presented in Dolby Digital mono, and the results are positive as well, especially after factoring in the age, total obscurity, and near-zero budget of The Veil. Some of the music used throughout occasionally sounds a little harsh, likely as it would've if the series had aired on television, but dialogue is generally clear and in very respectable shape. Thankfully, there aren't any intrusive crackles, pops, or hissing to be found. Anyone certifiably insane enough to anticipate reference quality audio from this DVD release of The Veil will likely be disappointed, but the more reasonable should have their expectations met in full.

Supplements: The most remarkable extra in this set isn't mentioned on the packaging. Tom Weaver, whose name should ring a bell to fans of the Universal Classic Monsters DVDs, contributes several pages of background information on The Veil and its curious history before delving in depth into each of its ten episodes. Weaver is, as most of you are well aware, a gifted writer, and his notes and research genuinely gave me a greater appreciation of the series than I would've if I'd just watched it cold.

Two episodes of another unaired anthology series, 13 Demon Street, are also included on this set. While The Veil geared its supernatural elements more towards general creepiness, 13 Demon Street offers more fantastic tales. Hosted by a nearly unrecognizable Lon Chaney Jr., the two episodes presented here are "The Vine Of Death" and "The Black Hand". The former features a museum curator murdered by his unfaithful wife's lover, though the bulbs of the Mirada death vine he carried in his pocket do...well, precisely what you'd expect a plant called a "death vine" to do. The second episode is an homage to the classic The Hands of Orlac, starring a surgeon who believes his newly transplanted hands are responsible for a series of murders. These episodes don't look nearly as nice as those of The Veil, and the jittery image, burned-in Swedish subtitles, and the mysterious presence of the letters "SWM" throughout make 13 Demon Street considerably less enjoyable to watch, but their inclusion is still more than welcome and an excellent complement to the other ten episodes on this set.

Conclusion: The Veil isn't the sort of vintage exploitation material on which Something Weird has built its reputation and fan base, but they've still given this continually overlooked television series a very respectable presentation on DVD. This set, widely available in the $25 range, offers more than five hours of material, and the episodes are reasonably consistent in quality. This seires might not appeal to those who associate the word 'anthology' with little else than the superior The Twilight Zone, but fans of Boris Karloff or the more supernatural-tinged episodes of the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents will find it difficult to resist the temptation to look behind The Veil. Recommended.

Related Links: Something Weird Video
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