• Tales Of The Uncanny (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: January 26th, 2021.
    Director: David Gregory
    Cast: Ashim Ahluwalia, Chris Alexander, Joko Anwar, Mariano Baino, Simon Barrett, Douglas Buck
    Year: 2020
    Purchase From Amazon

    Tales Of The Uncanny – Movie Review:

    This feature length documentary covering the history and importance of the horror anthology picture actually started out as a bonus feature intended to have been included with the Blu-ray release of The Theatre Bizarre but various Covid-19 lockdowns put into place around the world changed all of that. Soon enough, a series of Zoom-recorded interviews and discussions conducted for that featurette took on a life of their own, and director David Gregory found himself with enough material to put together a lengthier, more expansive piece than he originally intended.

    The finished product covers a lot of ground, digging pretty deeply into the history of the horror anthology picture by going over its literary roots and the influence of puppet shows and theater before then going on to talk about early entries in the genre and then talking up some of the more popular and influential horror pictures that have been made in the style.

    Gregory co-hosts along with author Kier-La Janisse, but there are a lot more participants here than just these two. As the movie plays out, we hear from filmmakers like Richard Stanley, Joe Dante, Eli Roth, Roger Corman, David DeCoteau, Mariano Baino, Douglas Buck, Luigi Cozzi, Mick Garries, Tom Savini, Brian Yuzna, Gary Sherman, Peter Strickland, Ernest Dickerson, Joko Anwar, Michael Felsher, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Jovanka Vuckovic, Ted Geoghegan, Buddy Giovinazzo, Karim Hussain, Mark Savage, Larry Fessenden and others as well as critics, writers and scholars such as Kim Newman, David Del Valle, Rebekah McKendry, Art Ettinger, Ramsey Campbell, Mike Gingold, Chris Alexander, Amanda Reyes and others. There’s a LOT of people involved in this, and they’ve all got something interesting to say about the format and the films that use it.

    The production values are what they are – again, this was shot using video conferencing software during Covid lockdowns, and so it isn’t going to look as pretty or as polished as something that was professionally shot under optimum conditions – but despite some warbly audio and less than pristine video quality from time to time, it’s all very watchable and somehow manages to give the material a fairly personal feel, almost as if the viewer is involved in the conversion too.

    The movie covers all the classics like the Amicus pictures, Creepshow, Dead Of Night, The Monster Club and Trilogy Of Terror but it also spends some time talking about the influence of TV anthology genre fare like The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Darkside and Night Gallery. A good chunk of the piece covers films made after 1980, where a boom of anthology horror pictures seemed to emerge, but it gives a lot of background information on how we got there, with the influence of Poe and Corman’s work playing a big part in that. Along the way, interviewees rank their favorites and talk about why they are favorites in the first place, offering up plenty of historical facts and trivia along the way.

    Tales Of The Uncanny – Blu-ray Review:

    Tales Of The Uncanny arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films on a 50GB region free disc with the feature taking up 26GBs of space on the disc and framed at 1.77.1 widescreen. Given the nature of many of the interviews conducted for this piece, that footage is only ever going to look so good but the footage not shot via conferencing software looks nice and clean. Even the footage that was shot under less than perfect conditions looks perfectly watchable enough. This isn’t the type of movie you go into for the visual experience, though the graphics and clips used throughout the movie look very nice. Given the project’s origins, it’s tough to take issue with any of this.

    Audio for the feature is handled by an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track, with optional subtitles offered in English only. Again, some of the audio sounds a little rough due to the conditions under which the project was made, but the levels are generally balanced properly and most of the time the dialogue is pretty easy to understand.

    Extras on the first disc start off with the inclusion of 1919’s Eerie Tales, a silent film sourced from a broadcast tape master. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation is framed at 1.33.1 and the score is presented in DTS-HD 2.0.

    Known as Unheimliche Geschichten in its native Germany, this is a pretty interesting picture that was directed by Richard Oswald. It takes place after hours and an old book shop where portraits of a Harlot (Anita Berber), Death (Conrad Veidt) and the Devil (Reinhold Schünzel) himself manage to somehow take on physical forms. Once they do, they entertain themselves for the night by reading stories about their own exploits that have taken place over the years. All three actors appear in each of the five stories. The first story, The Apparation, sees Veidt meet up with Berber at a park, she's escaping her abusive husband played by Schunzel. In The Hand, we see a love triangle between the three wind up in bloody murder. The Black Cat, based on Poe's story, sees Shunzel cast as the drunk who kills his wife, Berber, to then go on and pretty faithfully adapt the source. The Suicide Club adapts Robert Louis Stevenson's story where Veidt plays as the president of a fancy club whose members keep dying off. The final story, The Specter, sees Veidt get revenge against Schunzel for playing around with his wife, Berber, behind his back.

    The storytelling is uneven to be sure, but the film’s expressionist style makes it very watchable as it’s quite impressive on a visual level. Additionally, the performances are interesting to watch, Veidt’s work in particular is quite solid.

    The disc also includes 1949’s Unusual Tales, taken from a new 2k scan from only known 16mm print from the Brussels Film Archive. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation is framed at 1.33.1 and the audio is presented in DTS-HD 2.0. The film is presented in French with optional English subtitles.

    Directed by Jean Faurez, the film, known as Histoires Extraordinaires in its homeland, adapts a few Poe stories and throws in two non-Poe tales for good measure. The story that bridges the four parts involves some Parisian police officers telling scary stories to a new recruit. The first story is set in a girl’s school where a killer decides to start stalking some of the students. In the second story, we're treated to Faurez's adaptation of The Tell Tale Heart. Story number three tells the story of The Cask Of Amontillado. The fourth and final story tells a story of murder most foul involving a fancy wine case.

    Again, the picture is uneven, but the two Poe adaptations are pretty well done and quite interesting to see. The acting is a bit all over the place but there’s a reasonable amount of style on display and some nice cinematography to admire.

    The Black Friday exclusive, available only from Severin direct, includes a limited second disc with 1965’s Master Of Horror, scanned in 2k from Jack H. Harris’ dupe negative. The black and white image is framed at 1.33.1 and the hour long feature takes up 17.4GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Audio is handled by way of an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track and optional subtitles are offered in English only.

    Another Poe anthology, this one opens with a maid finding a creepy old book in the creepy old home where she works. As she starts to read the stories, all penned by Poe of course, we see them acted out on the screen. The two stories that make up the bulk of the film's running time are The Case Of M Valdemar and The Cask Of Amontillado.

    Directed by Enrique Carreras, this is pretty well done. The movie has some nice atmosphere and some strong visuals working in its favor, with a lot of great shadowy cinematography keeping things interesting to look at. It would have been ideal to get the original version here, but even if that didn’t happen this is a pretty interesting obscurity that Poe fans should appreciate seeing in a decent enough presentation.

    This second disc includes a trailer for the feature as well as menus and chapter selection.

    Tales Of The Uncanny – The Final Word:

    Tales Of The Uncanny is interesting stuff, a well put together documentary that covers a lot of ground and which includes a lot of interesting voices. Even seasoned fans of anthology horror are almost certainly to walk away from a viewing better informed, and likely quite entertained as well. The inclusion of the rare bonus movies in the limited edition set is also a nice touch. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Tales Of The Uncanny Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I would have loved to have a stand alone purchase option just for Master of Horror, as I really like this film.
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      I don't think I can handle any more Zoom interviews.
    1. Lorne Marshall's Avatar
      Lorne Marshall -
      The documentary is now available on Tubi. I enjoyed it immensely. I was especially happy to see huge deference given to the "Bobby" segment from Dan Curtis's DEAD OF NIGHT.

      It was a pretty thorough examination of the history of "portmanteau" horror films. I think I detected only a few significant omissions: the Mexican 100 CRIES OF TERROR, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (mainly considered science fiction, but I think it's dark enough to qualify as horror, too), THE STRANGE WORLD OF COFFIN JOE, GALLERY OF HORRORS (I know, it's a really lousy flick, but I bet everyone growing up in the 70's saw it on TV!) and a picture I used to think was one of the Amicus offerings called TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (someone may have referred to it at the very beginning). There were a few minor ones missing as well: HOUSE OF THE DEAD (1978), BODY BAGS, CHILLERS, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT, THE WILLIES. Oh, and what about TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE, huh?! Plus there are quite a few from this century not covered, but those are too numerous to list.
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I agree with Lorne that quite a few of the films he listed were overlooked, with too much emphasis given to Creepshow. All in all it was a worthwhile purchase and had me revisiting some films.