I watched quite a bit of anthology horror television growing up. This does not include the countless portmanteau features from Creepshow to Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. I’m talking about Twilight Zone (old and new), Outer Limits (old only), Night Gallery, Amazing Stories and Tales from the Darkside. That last one being the most relevant to the current collected series under scrutiny. Monsters came to us courtesy of Tales from the Darkside producer, Richard P. Rubinstein. Where Tales from the Darkside was a terrifying look into true horror and truly could be considered the successor to the Creepshow franchise. Monsters was an attempt to lighten the mood and create a larger audience by offering less spooky tales from the Weird Fantasy and 50’s era re-imagined into modern day settings with a catch introduction that at least on the surface appeared to be “family friendly”. The result of this more accessible approach lead to a watered down, low budget program that featured the occasional B list celebrity as well as a few genre favorites and some cheeseball effects work that should be laughed at to be appreciated it. Sure Dick Smith was the consultant and the effects team managed to envision some original fantastical characters, but the overall quality of production could not touch Tales from the Darkside. Ultimately the series lasted three seasons before hitting the end of its run, but has retained a cult following.
Today we take a look at the three season box set as released by CBS Video. That’s 72 Episodes. 9 discs. Over 25 Hours of 4x3 1.33:1 Full Frame from the decline of 80’s horror fiction. It’s a welcome addition to my collection of horror anthology programming though not my favorite release. Soon to follow we saw Tales from the Crypt and the Keeper rear his head. You might think of Monsters as the segue between Darkside and Crypt that provided a necessary reeling in of the serious horror to end the 80’s with a laugh.
The promise of this Monsters box set is that you will have the entire series from start to finish in your hands when you buy it. While that is realized with some excellent cover art featuring a restored logo from the series proper and multi colored disc cases, the Monsters box lacks any sort of history behind the production. No extras on the discs. No booklet. It’s the box and the disc, organized nicely with a handsome package. Compared to even the Tales from the Darkside complete season you’re looking at something that can keep up (though maybe not as illustrated or padded as the Tales from the Crypt DVD set). Each set features a complete episode list on the reverse cover. Very handy for easy reference. You don’t just get paper slip sleeves in a case. These are swing door style DVD cases. Very fancy and perfect for protecting your investment.
The episodes themselves vary greatly and to discuss all 72 might not be possible in this review though it might make a nice project for an aspiring blogger who wants to talk about each 22 minute story. While the series didn’t age well, the stories falling off as each season progressed and the production value didn’t necessarily increase, each season has at least one solid episode. The Feverman in season one is a great way to start the whole shebang off. “An unusual healer is a man’s last hope for his ailing daughter”. Fight a monster to save a little girl’s life that IS the ailment from which she might die? Classic. Very horrific, Gothic and enjoyable. That was a great way to start things off for this writer who had not previously had the pleasure of enjoying Monsters when it actually aired. Portrait of the Artist may be my favorite episode. “A man is in for a surprise while looking for his missing daughter at an artist’s studio”. This one’s filled with strange imagery and surprises that feel very Zone but have a level of camp fun that keeps them perfectly entertaining even on a modest budget. Great performances. Murray’s Monster, New York Honey, Holly’s House…all entertaining.
The only thing that could make this box set more perfect sans some bonus feature would be to include a commercial real during the natural breaks, still preserved in each episode. I hope someone can get on that and provide a reel we might use from 1988 and beyond. Ultimately this is a good value product. CBS Video gives you exactly what you need, not necessarily flowery or what one might considered a pristine collector’s edition, but getting the entire series run is good enough for this horror fan. Make sure to pay attention for the stars embedded in some of the episodes; the back of the box includes a list that can be used as an “I Spy” game. Notables include Meat Loaf, Adrienne Barbeau, Pam Grier, Deborah Harry, John Saxon and Steve Buscemi. These episodes are what that are in terms of visual quality. There hasn’t been any painstaking care taken to restore them, but I would imagine that’s because there’s not much to work with for a somewhat obscure program.
You can order Monsters now. We’d love to know your favorite episodes. Drop us a comment in the section below and let us know.
Also, make sure to share your love for this series by following the Monsters Facebook group. Content will be updated regularly and conversation and nostalgia are welcome (as well as fan art). I contributed a few banners to help “the cause”