Tales of the Unexpected

ITV (ended 1988)
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  • Episode Guide
  • S 9 : Ep 10

    Mr Know-All

    Aired 5/13/88

  • S 9 : Ep 9

    A Time to Die

    Aired 5/6/88

  • S 9 : Ep 8

    The Finger of Suspicion

    Aired 4/29/88

  • S 9 : Ep 7

    The Dead Don't Steal

    Aired 4/22/88

  • S 9 : Ep 6

    Wink Three Times

    Aired 4/15/88

  • Cast & Crew
  • John Houseman

    Presenter (1980-1984)

  • Roald Dahl

    Presenter (1979-1980)

  • Karen Standley

    Dancer (title sequence)

  • Ed Begley Jr.

    George Princey

  • Robert Loggia

    Harry Elton

  • show Description
  • Welcome to the TV.com guide to Tales of the Unexpected. This collection of twist-in-the-tail stories of suspense, horror and black comedy (in the early seasons, all by Roald Dahl) was filmed by Anglia Television, a regional production company in the East of England. Each episode stands alone and has its own cast, and for two seasons each was introduced by Dahl himself from a fireside arm-chair. He took a back seat when most of the stories coming forward were based on the work of other writers. Tales of the Unexpected was an instant hit. It ran for nearly ten years, clocking up a total of 112 episodes, and in the UK it is still being repeated. Anglia sold the series to more than eighty other countries, and all episodes are now available on DVD as well as VHS.moreless

  • Top Contributor
  • EctorTvtome

    User Score: 953


  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (31)

    • Roald Dahl: I ought to warn you, if you haven't read any of my stories, that you may be a little disturbed by some of the things that happen in them. When I'm writing a short story, I am haunted by the thought that I've got to hold the readers attention for literally every second, otherwise, I'm dead. The one you're going to see now is the first of a series based on stories that have taken me thirty-five years to write. I find them difficult to do well, so I work slowly, about two a year. This one was filmed in it's real setting, Jamaica. I hope you like it.

    • Roald Dahl: This is a play about a very expensive mink coat. The original story's quite short, but I'm such a ridiculously slow writer that it took me something like five months to get the thing finished. Which is more than six hundred working hours. That probably sounds a bit silly to you, but then trying to work the plot out properly too took so many wrong turnings, and went up so many blind alleys, I went nearly crazy. Don't forget, a short story writer's working in miniature and he can't afford to splash his paint all over the canvas. He has to be extremely precise. I find it very difficult, anyway see what you think of it.

    • Roald Dahl: This is basically a very nasty tale. If I've managed to learn one thing in my thirty-five years of story writing, it is this, nastiness and horror must be handled with great circumspection, because if left on their own, they will always taste bitter in the end. But if humour is added to the mixture, than the tension is relieved by laughter, and the bitterness is banished. In this story we have an actress who knows a tremendous lot about the importance of humour, so I don't think you need worry.

    • Mary Pearl: Isn't he sweet? Isn't he darling? I just can't wait to get him home.

    • Mary Pearl: Don't look so cross, William. It isn't any good now looking cross. Not any more it isn't. Because from now on, my pet, you're going to do just exactly what Mary tells you.

    • Roald Dahl: My friend, the late Ian Fleming, the James Bond man, is really responsible for the story you're going to see now. We were staying the week-end at the house in Vermont. And at dinner the roast leg of lamb was so dry and tough that Ian looked across the room and whispered, "This ruddy thing must have been in deep freeze for ten years, you ought to be shot". "No, I said, I..I..I think there must be a more interesting punishment than that". That's how the idea for this story began.

    • Click here to read Roald Dahl's original story.

    • Roald Dahl: I personally think this story is funny, but if your sense of humour doesn't happen to be the same as mine, than I'm afraid you're going to be a bit disturbed by what goes on. And by the way, if any of you is tempted to think it's all pretty far fetched, then you should stop and think and ask yourself seriously whether such a thing as this could really happen. The answer is Yes, of course it could, even to you.

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    Notes (72)

    • This story had previously been adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with Peter Lorre as the mystery man and Steve McQueen as the young American. When Alfred Hitchcock Presents was revived in the mid-1980s, this story was part of the pilot episode, with John Huston and Steven Bauer taking the roles.

    • This episode is based on Roald Dahl's story Man from the South, which was first published (under the title Collector's Item) in the magazine Colliers on 4th September 1948. The story has also been published under a third title - The Smoker.

    • Man From the South was shot on location at a hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

    • Click here to read Roald Dahl's story.

    • This episode is based on Roald Dahl's story Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat, first published in the magazine Nugget in December 1959.

    • 'The Lonely Londoner' writes - This story appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents before Tales of the Unexpected. The question is, is this version better than Hitchcock's?

    • This episode is based on Roald Dahl's short story William and Mary.

    • thegalaxybeing writes: This tale, written by Roald Dahl, was also telecast as the first episode back in March, 1961, of the short lived, very creepy series Way Out - a show also hosted by Roald Dahl. The Way Out version of the story starred Henry Jones, Mildred Dunnock, Fritz Weaver and Barnard Hughes.

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    Trivia (9)

    • Pamela Stephenson is an Australian actress who went on to star in Not the Nine O'Clock News.

    • The late Michael Hordern was one of the most prolific English actors and worked on well into his eighties. He is also remembered as the voice of the BBC's Paddington Bear stories.

    • According to Jeremy Treglown's biography of Roald Dahl, he researched the science behind William and Mary to make the story as credible as possible.

    • The feline Liszt was played by a male British Cream called Lulu. Unfortunately, Lulu swiftly attached himself to Joseph Cotten, showing little or no interest in wanting to know Wendy Hiller.

    • The late Sir John Mills was one of the biggest British movie stars of his generation and worked on into his nineties. He received an Oscar for his role as the idiot in Ryan's Daughter (1970).

    • The story by Roald Dahl was published under the title of Nunc Dimittis, the first two words of a well-known canticle in the original Latin. The traditional English version of the first line is "Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace." This seems to be an example of television's "dumbing down" habit.

    • The 2002 season summary for this episode on the Granada Plus web site reads "Two men are locked in a room together and one is hot but there's no sign of a gun."

    • Roald Dahl gives a short voice-over introduction.

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    Allusions (11)

    • Dahl's story Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat was first televised as Episode 192 of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on September 27, 1960.

    • Dahl also gave the names William and Mary to the two white mice in his children's book The Witches.

    • William and Mary has an austere protestant ring to it, suggesting the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This drove the last catholic monarch, James II, from the English throne and replaced him with William of Orange and Mary Stuart.

    • The title is an allusion to the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 53 - "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb..."

    • This story echoes a theme in another Dahl story, called Mr Botibol - Louisa imagines herself as a concert pianist, while Botibol fantasizes about being a great conductor.

    • In the Buddhist and Hindu religions, the souls of higher animals are expected to return to earth as other animals or (eventually) as people, and it is also thought to be possible for a human soul to come back as a cat.

    • The main characters in two Dahl stories, A Dip in the Pool and Mr Botibol, are both called William Botibol, but there is nothing else to connect them.

    • The title is an allusion to a song by Guster from the album Lost and Gone Forever called All the way up to Heaven. The lyrics are by Ryan Miller:

      "He said to only look up
      He said to never look down
      Down is where we came from
      He said to hope for the best
      And take a load off my chest
      Soon I could be happy
      And go all the way
      Up to heaven
      And go all the way
      Back home."

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  • Fan Reviews (2)
  • hitchcock presents a rip off

    By Grumpyclown, Feb 16, 2013

  • Tales of the Unexpected looks old-fashioned now, but that is part of its charm. After twenty years or more, it's still around on channels in many parts of the world: a tribute to Roald Dahl and the other writers and producers of this major show of suspens

    By EctorTvtome, Dec 21, 2005

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