DVD Review: Tales from the Darkside - Season 2

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Review: Tales from the Darkside – Season 2 (15) / Directed by: Armand Mastroianni, Tom Savini, Various / Written by: George A. Romero, Michael McDowell, Various / Starring: Chuck McCann, Jerry Stiller, Seth Green, Darren McGavin, Marcia Cross, John Heard, Lisa Bonet / Release Date: February 20th

I remember seeing some episodes of Tales from the Darkside when it aired on late night ITV in the late 80s, and now with the on-going DVD releases there is a chance to catch up with the ones I missed, or have forgotten. Not to be confused with the bigger budget HBO series Tales from the Crypt which had the Crypt Keeper and big star names and came after the Darkside had finished its run. Darkside was much more of a whimsical Twilight Zone type show, and like that classic series, had its fair share of sub-standard episodes. Fortunately, Season 2 has more hits than it does misses. Sure, some are better than others, but the good outweigh the poor.

The season opener, The Impressionist, is a gentle little tale of a comedian (legendary voice actor Chuck McCann) who is forced by the government into helping communicate with an alien with a head like a scrotum. There then follows a mix of bizarre and sometimes disturbing tales. Halloween Candy has a mean old coot terrorised for not giving out treats. Directed by Tom Savini, this one is not for anyone with a cockroach phobia! The Trouble with Mary Jane sees Lawrence Tierney and Phyllis Diller as a pair of wannabe psychics who attempt an exorcism on a possessed child and is a lot of fun and Monsters in My Room has a very young Seth Green finding his step-father unbearable.

A couple of episodes stood out for me, Distant Signals, in which a mysterious stranger, Mr Smith (Lenny von Dohlen) insists a Hollywood studio revive a failed TV show, Max Paradise – complete with its original star, the now alcoholic Van Conway (Darren McGavin). Watching this one, I instantly thought of the Futurama episode When Aliens Attack where they had to finish the Single Female Lawyer programme. Coincidence of influence? In Comet Watch Anthony Heald sports tweed and a bow tie in a decidedly timey - wimey story.

Series co-producer George Romero only wrote one story in this season, and The Devil's Advocate is a real stand out. It stars Jerry Stiller as an obnoxious radio talk show host and is directed by Romero DP Micheal Gornick (who coincidentally provided the voice on the radio in Martin - 1976). It is this episode that gives us our only 'extra' in the set, with Romero talking over clips for just under five minutes.

There are plenty of famous faces popping up, including a pre-Lisa Simpson Yeardley Smith and Desperate Housewives’ Marcia Cross as a vampire. The season ends with a gory bang with a tale of a curse that causes a beautiful woman to kill.

Definitely a lot of fun, but may be a little too light for those weaned on later TV horror shows.

Extras: On Air with George A. Romero featurette.

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