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Category:    Home > Reviews > Anthology > Mystery > Suspense > Supernatural > Thriller > TV > Darkroom – The Complete Series (1981 – 1982/Region 4 PAL Import/Universal/Madman DVD Set/Australia)

Darkroom – The Complete Series (1981 – 1982/Region 4 PAL Import/Universal/Madman DVD Set/Australia)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B-

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: This DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Four/4 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Madman Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.  Cover image © Universal Studios.

 

 

Of all the anthology series made since the 1950s, the Horror/Thriller type has been the most successful, from The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Boris Karloff’s Thriller, to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Brian Clemens’ Thriller and Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected.  However, not all attempts worked out and one of the most interesting to not catch on was Darkroom.  Made in the early 1980s by Universal TV and first aired by ABC-TV in the U.S. (The American Broadcasting Company), James Coburn hosted the show, yet it only lasted seven hour-long episodes.  Now, The Complete Series is finally making its DVD debut, but actually from the underrated Australian home video company Madman.

 

Each episode has two or three tales within each hour and it pretty much plays like a continuation of Night Gallery, but in a good way.  By replacing paintings with photochemical pictures, the show found a new approach to setting up the terrifying tales and some of the top talent in the business was involved in the show.  The stories featured (with guest stars) include:

 

1)     Closed Circuit (Richard Anderson, Mary Frann, John Randolph)

2)     Stay Tuned, We’ll Be Right Back (Shane Butterworth, Bert Freed)

3)     The Boogieman Will Get You (Helen Hunt, Quinn Cummings, Randy Powell, Gloria DeHaven, R.G., Armstrong; written by Robert Bloch)

4)     Uncle George (Claude Akins, June Lockhart, Dick Whittingham)

5)     Needlepoint (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Esther Rolle)

6)     Siege Of 31 August (Ronny Cox, Hank Brandt, Pat Corley, Gail Strickland)

7)     A Quiet Funeral (Eugene Roche, Robert F. Lyons, Misty Rowe, John Medici, Carmine Caridi; written by Robert Bloch and Brian Clemens)

8)     Make-Up (Billy Crystal, Brian Dennehy, Sian Barbara Allen, Elvia Allman)

9)     The Partnership (David Carradine, Pat Buttram, Carole Cook, John Tuell; written by Christopher Crowe, based on the story by William F. Nolan)

10)  Daisies (Rue McClanahan, Lloyd Bochner, Elizabeth Halliday; written by Peter S. Fischer from the story by Fredric Brown)

11)  Catnip (Michael V. Gazzo, Jocelyn Brando, Cyril O’Reilly, Lynn Carlin, Karin Argoud; written by Robert Bloch)

12)  Lost In Translation (Andrew Prine, Whit Bissell, Cyndy Garvey, Michael Zand)

13)  Guillotine (Michael Constantine, Dick Balduzzi, Frank M. Benard, Patti D’Arbanville, Logan Ramsey, Robert Feero; adapted by Peter Allen Fields from a story by Cornell Woolrich)

14)  Exit Line (Jack Carter, Samantha Eggar, Anne Lockhart, Stan Shaw written by Peter S. Fischer from the story by William Link & Richard Levinson)

15)  Who’s There? (Grant Goodeve, Michael Lembeck, Dianne Kay: written by Brian Clemens)

16)  The Rarest Of Wines (Henry Polic II, Judith Chapman)

 

 

9 – 11 and 14 – 16 are the only hour-long shows with three tales.  These are often creepy and certainly politically incorrect at times, but that is why they work more often than not.  Some are predictable and others darkly telegraph their possibilities until their twisted resolutions.  Many of the classic such shows were in syndication at the time and Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected was actually still in production, but the failure of Darkroom to catch on (besides ABC starting to loose its #1 position) was simply that such series had peaked.

 

Even anthology feature films like Twilight Zone – The Movie, Creepshow and TV’s Tales From The Darkside showed how the anthology format was in decline.  Still, Universal TV was in its late prime and director like Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II) and Curtis Harrington (Ruby) handled these shows well enough.  It just needed to be more than just an upgraded Night Gallery and soon, the lights were out for good.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image comes from analog masters that can be soft and show some wear, but this was all shot in 35mm film and color can look good, overcoming said flaws.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono shows its age somewhat, but is not bad for its age.  These copies are on par with the copies last shown on U.S. TV (The Sci-Fi Channel showed the whole series in its early days) and only new HD transfer on Blu-ray are going to be any better.  Extras include trailers for other Universal TV on DVD from Madman and a nice booklet inside the DVD case that includes a reprint of an early press release (including some stories they never filmed), stills and opening essay by Grant Taylor.

 

Four segments were considered too graphic at the time to broadcast and were edited together into the little-seen anthology theatrical film release Nightmares (1983) not included here.  Hopefully, that will get its own DVD soon.

 

 

As noted above, you can order this PAL DVD set import exclusively from Madman at:

 

https://www.madman.com.au/actions/channel.do?method=view

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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