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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Suspense > Horror > Anthology > Christopher Lee – Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tales Of Mystery & Imagination” (TV Series)

Christopher Lee – Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tales Of Mystery & Imagination” (TV Series)


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



Many do not realize that Edgar Allen Poe remains the most successful American writer ever.  Sure, his work has been around for a while, but the consistent reading, celebration and adaptation of his work is one of the most enduring legacies in all of art and literature.  So many films have been made, and even The Alan Parsons’ Project did an album called Tales Of Mystery & Imagination (their first) that offered remarkable interpretations of their work.  That happens to be the name of a 1995 TV series hosted by no less than Christopher Lee.


Not broadcast much (if at all in many cases) for legal and other reasons best left to another essay, the show offered the following adaptations:


  1. The Fall Of The House Of Usher
  2. The Oval Portrait
  3. Berenice
  4. The Black Cat (Guest stars Susan George)
  5. Ligeia
  6. The Cask Of Amontillado (Guest stars Freddie Jones & Catherine Schell)
  7. Mr. Valdemar
  8. The Tell-Tale Heart
  9. Morella
  10. The Pit & The Pendulum (Guest stars Danny Keogh & Alan Granville)
  11. The Masque Of The Red Death, Parts One & Two
  12.  Biographical Portrait (with James Ryan as Poe)



Lee even stars in the two-part show.  Adapted mainly by Hugh Whysall, each show runs about a half-hour, which means it gets to the point and remarkably so.  At a time in the genres of Horror, Mystery and Suspense when everything is a joke, it is nice to see a serious ambitious series in the tradition of the great Horror TV of the 1960s and 1970s that could sometimes compete with feature films.  Lee is in his glory, doing a great job of hosting as he has for several documentaries and featurettes over the years.  The shows are up to the reputation of his name and it is a fine match.  I especially like how it makes the stories feel like they are happening in the now, no matter when they are set.  It understands how great an anthology series can be.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on in professional analog videotape, stylized like Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected (several volumes reviewed elsewhere on this site) and some lack of fidelity is really attributable to that factor.  However, this is not shot as clearly in its stylization, but is still effective.  As you keep watching, you realize more and more than not only is that the case, but that the show has a unique look among all such productions.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is simple and not bad for its age, with the combination effective.  Cheers to for the Terry Dempsey/Doug Campbell score.  Dempsey is also a producer on the show.


There are no extras except that the final episode of the series is on Poe, but the set is overall loaded with these remarkable adaptations that do not trivialize the books or do comic takeoffs.  The latter can work, but this is a one-of-a-kind version long overdue for recognition and all the actors are well cast and effective.  It may also be the last of an era of videotaped analog productions of high quality we have yet to see happen in the High Definition age.  This version of Tales Of Mystery & Imagination is a gem that might be the most underrated TV series of the 1990s.  Don’t miss it!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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