Short-lived genre anthology series Tales of Unease predates both Thriller (1973-76) and Tales of the Unexpected (1979-88) by several years but displays many of those shows’ dramatic motifs. Adapted for the small-screen from a set of popular horror anthologies compiled by John Burke, this single run of seven episodes was made for London Weekend TV and broadcast across the ITV network in 1970.
Mixing moments of mild peril with supernatural scares, the series offers a confident mix of contemporary, near-future and historical tales, all of which dramatise unnerving (rather than nerve-jangling) thirty-minute stories. The scripts by an eight-strong writing team are well crafted, and familiar faces from 1970s' TV drama populate every story, including Talfryn Thomas, James Hazeldine, Susan George and Neil McCarthy. Like most anthologies, it is an uneven collection. The standout episodes include ‘It’s Too Late Now’, a salutary tale about the consequences of neglecting a long-suffering partner, and ‘Calculated Nightmare’, a darkly prescient speculation about the dangers of office automation. There’s some mischievous wit in ‘The Old Banger’, as a troublesome car refuses to be abandoned, while ‘Bad Bad Jo Jo’, in which an obnoxious film producer gets his comeuppance, is the collection’s only painfully dated stinker.
These diverse stories all come with bleak and downbeat endings, but can’t always claim to fully deliver the promised sense of disquiet. There's a lack of Thriller style shocks, and few of the twists guaranteed in Tales of the Unexpected. While enthusiasts for classic-era British TV drama will find more than enough going on, uncertainty about the show’s identity perhaps explains why not enough viewers tuned-in in 1970 to win Tales of Unease a recommission.
TALES OF UNEASE is available on DVD from Network on OCTOBER 17th