Tales From The Darkside: The Complete Series

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit…a DARKSIDE.

Those are the words spoken in a foreboding voice-over by Paul Sparer, at the beginning of each episode of the anthology television series, “Tales from the Darkside,” which sprang to life from the mind of director, screenwriter, editor, and sometimes actor, George A. Romero, who gave movie-goers the iconic horror film, “Night of the Living Dead.” Romero wrote the narration that appears at the start of the show as well as the ending narration; I can write with absolute certainty that when I was a child both stuck with me, from the time the show was over at night, until the sun came up the following morning. Why did mere words have such an effect on my psyche even as a young boy? Words are, after all, just that…merely thoughts written out to express oneself, and due to all of the real life horror one can usually find on the news, the words, by themselves, don’t offer much in the way of chill inducing fright, but they are not just spoken words. No, those words, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as a child, are accompanied by the eerily haunting composition co-created by Donald Rubinstein and Erica Lindsay, and performed for the show by Rubinstein.

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In the spirit of shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Outer Limits,” and “Amazing Stories,” “Tales from the Darkside” originally aired in syndication from 1983 to 1988, and each episode was a stand-alone story that would end with a plot twist. The series’ episodes spanned the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and sometimes the show would dabble in some dark humor. On occasion, when I would reflect on this show over the years, I would always think that the episodes had a terrifying effect on me. I set out to determine whether the show would have the same effect on me as it did when I was a boy. Sadly, most of the shows did not; that’s not to say they aren’t good…some are downright excellent, but things that frightened me as a child are vastly different from the things that cause my mind to be disturbed these days. I am in no way attempting to speak for anyone but myself. What may not frighten me anymore might perhaps scare the wits out of some of you.

Fans of best selling author Stephen King will be treated to two episodes penned by the master, “Word Processor of the Gods,” and “Sorry, Right Number.” In addition, works of other fine writers are showcased such as that of Michael Bishop (Would it Kill You to Smile), Robert Bloch (Psycho), Fredric Brown (The Fabulous Clipjoint), John Cheever (The Enormous Radio), Harlan Ellison (I, Robot), and Fredrick Pohl (Jem). Clive Barker creator of the “Hellraiser” movie franchise based on his novel “The Hellbound Heart,” also makes a contribution to the series. In addition, the episodes featured well known actors from both film and television. Among those making appearances were: Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), Justine Bateman (Family Ties), Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives), Victor Garber (Argo), Sean Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Christian Slater (Heathers), and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Even though it doesn’t have the same effect on me that it used to, I can still appreciate “Tales from the Darkside” for the following reasons. Firstly, the gore content is kept to a bare minimum. The viewer will be able to concentrate more on the plot of the show instead of, depending on what sensibilities one has, being put off by gruesome scenes of extreme carnage the likes of which can be found, for example, in the films of the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchises. Secondly, the acting is, for the most part good, and done in a way that doesn’t convey ‘hokiness’. Lastly, even though the budget was small, and the special effects would be considered not even second, but third rate by today’s standards, I feel the shows’ producers did their best with what they had to work with, and I can never fault anyone for that.

The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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13 Responses to Tales From The Darkside: The Complete Series

  1. le0pard13 says:

    A terrific (and sometimes terrifying) series, alright. Didn’t catch every episode during the 80s, but those I did were a blast to watch. Fine post, Jonathan.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I agree 100% with your assessment of the series. I enjoyed watching them again.

      Thank you as always for taking the time to read and comment. I greatly appreciate the support you consistently give my blog.

  2. One of my alltime favorite series! I agree with you some episodes aren’t scary now but they did scare me when I was a kid. Some weren’t too scary then either but just weird enough to fit the show(like Justine Bateman’s episode). I started rewatching the whole series sometimes around 2006 and really enjoyed it despite the lack of frights-I guess I like it anyway. It’s the perfect mixture of erie & mysterious if not scary and it’s hard to find good quality shows like that now-a-days that don’t use other tricks or too much gore(that distracts like you pointed out). They took the show seriously and it was well written. I wish I had the DVD box set! What do you think of the news of the reboot for the CW?

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Firstly, thank you for reading and providing the commentary that you did.

      I agree with you, there are a handful of episodes that certainly still give me the creeps, but for the most part, unlike when I was a child on the edge of my seat, I can sit back and just enjoy them for the story that is being shown.

      Interesting that you point out the Justine Bateman episode, because not only was she in it, but also Tippi Hedren, most famous for her roles in the Hitchcock films “The Birds” and “Marnie,” was in that episode.

      Thank you for letting me know that there is going to be a reboot of the show on the CW. I had absolutely no idea that was going to happen. I am going to be looking into it now.

      • I don’t know what to think of the remake…The CW seems to do well with their supernatural type shows but they’re also aimed at teenage audiences. I think the reboot could be worthwhile if they have fresh episodes rather than remakes but I’ll just have to wait and see. Unfortunately I can’t recall many of the episode titles but one of my favorites was the episode with the little girl who foresees her death at the beach and one you mentioned in your post Sorry Right Number(or something like that).
        I love the Tales format and Twilight Zone likeness there’s really nothing similar on TV today that I’m aware of.

  3. I love this! I was one of those kids that for some unknown reason, liked to scare the crap out of myself & would sit up and watch these by myself. I even remember a few of the exact episodes like what happened etc. because they still haunt me. But I still love it and I still do it to myself.. ha!

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you my friend. Your continued support of my blog means a great deal to me.

      I was that type of child as well. I was always watching those kinds of films and television shows, when I had the opportunity to get away with it. Lol. That’s cool that you still like to give yourself a good scare now and then.

  4. Thanks for posting about this show. As a fan of the horror genre, I will check it out 🙂

    B2B.

  5. Summit10 says:

    Nice read! This series gave me sleepless nights…

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