Friday, 7 April 2017

The Frighteners - The Complete Series (1972)


“Grim. Grotty. Great.”
 
         Please bear in mind when reading the above that there’s not much I love more than British TV horror shows from the 1970s. BEASTS, GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS, and others than have yet to see the light of day (TALES OF UNEASE, LEAP IN THE DARK, etc). Well now we can add another to the list of series that have finally made it to disc. Or rather, two discs, as THE FRIGHTENERS’ thirteen 30-minute tales of ‘malice and manipulation, vengeance and mounting terror’ (from the press release) gets a release courtesy of Network.
          So what do we get? Well, examples include ‘The Minder’, a brisk tale of double-crossing Northern gangsters set in a grim tower block. The script isn’t terribly clever, but the acting (from Tom Bell, Brian Glover, Warren Clarke and Kenneth J Warren) and locations will please anyone who fancies a story set in GET CARTER! land.
          Andrea Newman contributes ‘Night of the Stag’, in which mad Jennie Linden is determined to ruin the forthcoming wedding of her former lover by stalking her ex, following him back home and eyeing the knife drawer in a worrying way.
          In ‘Old Comrades’ former court-martialled soldiers John Thaw and George Innes catch up with the old army colonel (Robert Urquart) who was responsible for them being unfairly convicted and decide to do a little target practice with him.
          In ‘Miss Mouse’ an unhappy husband gets more than he bargained for from his babysitter and her mother when he inadvertently kills his wife.
          The picture used for the box art is from the final episode “Have a Nice Day at the Zoo, Darling” which rounds the series off on a suitably grim, dreary and depressing note.
          As you can probably tell by now, THE FRIGHTENERS is less HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR and a lot more like a reputable version of some of the non-supernatural stories from Herbert van Thal’s Pan Book of Horror Stories. That’s probably unsurprising seeing as the script editor is John Burke, whose own Tales of Unease collections for Pan contained stories of a similar style.
          The quality of the production is pretty standard for 1972 UK TV - shot on 16mm with one or two sets or locations, and some great British actors to carry it all through. The prints themselves are all a bit scratchy, to the point where sometimes you expect a gentleman with a large moustache to turn up and offer to ‘fix the plumbing’. Some of the episodes are in black and white. I loved it but then I would, and if the above sounds appealing, you will too. An important release from Network of a series that has been neglected for far too long. Now can we please have TALES OF UNEASE?
 

The Frighteners - The Complete Series is out on DVD from Network on Monday 10th April 2017

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