Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected
|Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected|
Title card with text "Tales of the Unexpected". A card with the text "Quinn Martin's" immediately preceded it during the opening credits.
|Starring||William Conrad (host and narrator)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8|
|Executive producer(s)||Quinn Martin|
William Robert Yates
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Quinn Martin Productions|
|Original run||February 2, 1977– August 24, 1977|
Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected is a 1977 United States horror and science fiction anthology television series hosted and narrated by William Conrad. It aired from February 2 to August 24, 1977.
The stories told in Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected are of the horror and science fiction genres. Each episode consists of a single macabre story of the psychological or the occult that explores the vicissitudes of human nature. As its title suggests, each story has an unexpected "twist" or ""sting" to maintain the suspense until the very end of the episode and demonstrate to the viewer that one's life is full of twists and turns that cannot be anticipated, and can be horrible.
Each episode begins with everyday images from various episodes of the show, suggesting that the unexpected can be found anywhere, including in the most familiar and common of places. After the opening credits and episode title, Conrad in a voice-over discusses a general topic and then relates it to the central character in the episode. The story involving the character then unfolds, with the character facing a horrific situation that ends with an unexpected twist. At the conclusion of the episode, Conrad returns with another voice-over in which he explains the episode's "sting" or twist, and then applies the story to the general subject first broached after the opening credits.
Quinn Martin was the executive producer for Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, and John Wilder and William Robert Yates were its producers. Wilder, Carol Sarenco, James Schermer, Arnold Somkin, Kevin Trevey, Earl W. Wallace, and Robert Malcolm Young wrote the episodes.
In his 1981 non-fiction study of the horror genre, Danse Macabre, the horror fiction novelist Stephen King mentioned Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, writing that it was "interesting" and citing an episode in which a murderer sees his victims return to life on his television set as particularly frightening. Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, however, drew negative responses from critics. American television standards of the 1970s required limitations on the amount of violence that could be depicted, with too much emotional intensity defined as a form of excessive and unnecessary violence. The show thus had to limit its emotional intensity while filling an hour-long format, leading to what critics described as sluggishly paced stories that lacked many frightening or eerie moments.
The show also was criticized for its lack of originality, because it tended to reuse already-familiar horror story ideas, some of them considered old as long as several decades earlier. This made it telegraph the twists that were coming at the end of each episode – which NBC promoted heavily when advertising the show – and made them expected rather than unexpected, robbing them of their intended shock valuee. Two episodes were unacknowledged but obvious remakes; "The Force of Evil" copied the plot of the 1962 film Cape Fear almost exactly, while "The Nomads" reworked the plot of "Beachhead," the pilot for the 1967-1968 television series The Invaders. The "A Hand For Sonny Blue" episode drew particularly harsh reviews not only for recycling a plot that had been used frequently before – a transplanted limb having an evil character of its own – but also for ending with the unsatisfying "twist" that the entire episode had been merely a dream, followed by a confusing closing narration by Conrad that appeared to decry human transplantation surgery arbitrarily and then draw general conclusions from the episode that seemed unrelated to either the story it told or to transplantation surgery.
Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected premiered on February 2, 1977, and aired on NBC on Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. until March 9, 1977. Competing in its time slot with ABC's hit shows Charlie's Angels and Baretta and criticized for its sluggish pacing, derivative story lines, insufficient number of scary moments, and reliance on "stock" genre elements that made its supposed "twists" too predictable, the show drew exceptionally low ratings. Its next episode – "Force of Evil," its only two-hour installment – was broadcast on Sunday, March 13, 1977, but the change of day did not help the ratings, and Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected went into hiatus for five months. Returning on August 17, 1977, the show ran for two more episodes in its original time slot – Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. – before leaving the schedule for good after the broadcast of August 24, 1977.
On November 29, 1978, NBC aired a two-hour television movie entitled Someone's Watching Me! (also known as High Rise), produced by John Carpenter and starring Lauren Hutton, David Birney, and Adrienne Barbeau. Although NBC promoted it as a "Tales of the Unexpected special," the movie was not produced by Quinn Martin and was unrelated to Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected.
|Season #||Episode #||Title||Plot/Notes||Original air date|
|1||1||"The Final Chapter"||To be able to write accurately about the psychological effects of capital punishment, a crusading but stubborn newspaper journalist named Frank Harris has himself placed on death row, where he masquerades as a convict under an assumed identity. Suddenly his outside contacts disappear, and his real identity and innocence of any capital crime are forgotten. Unable to convince prison officials of his actual identity, he is scheduled to be executed. He is strapped into the electric chair while one of his jailers, an old enemy who knows his real identity, merely watches and smiles. The episode is based on a short story by Richard O. Lewis and stars Roy Thinnes, Tim O'Connor, Ramon Bieri, Ned Beatty, and Brendan Dillon.||February 2, 1977|
|1||2||"The Mask of Adonis"||A 52-year-old movie producer named Alexander Rush who is obsessed with youth and good looks discovers that a coldhearted and sinister doctor named Viviana Kadar, who works at an isolated clinic, has discovered a mysterious rejuvenation process that can allow him to achieve and maintain the appearance of a man in his 30s. When Rush sees another of Dr. Kadar's patients age rapidly, however, he realizes that the price of eternal rejuvenation may be more than he's willing to pay. Robert Foxworth, Marlyn Mason, and Linda Kelsey star.||February 9, 1977|
|1||3||"Devil Pack"||A pack of vicious wild dogs under the influence of a satanic leader terrorizes an isolated foothill community. After the dogs kill several people, farmer Jerry Colby begins to fight back. When his own dogs turn against him, Colby discovers that the howls of the wild dogs prompt domesticated dogs to attack their human companions. Ronny Cox, Van Williams, Christine Belford, and Russell Thorson star.||February 16, 1977|
|1||4||"The Nomads"||A Vietnam War veteran with a history of hallucinations witnesses the nighttime landing of an unidentified flying object and discovers a colony of aliens who are planning to conquer the Earth. His psychological history makes it hard for him to get anyone to believe that he "saw a flying saucer," and he finds that those closest to him are not who they seemed to be. The episode is a reworking of "Beachhead," the 1967 pilot for the 1967-1968 television series The Invaders, and stars David Birney, Eugene Roche, David Huddleston, and Katherine Justice.||February 23, 1977|
|1||5||"A Hand For Sonny Blue"||Just after signing a million-dollar contract, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sonny Blue has his right hand mangled in a car accident. Doctors try to save his career by transplanting the hand of deceased murderer who robbed a liquor store onto his arm. After the operation, the hand heals quickly, but Blue discovers to his horror that it has a criminal will of its own. Eventually, however, Blue awakens to discover that the entire episode had been merely a dream. Originally titled "A Hand For Sonny Gray" and based on the short story "The Hand That Wouldn't Behave" by Emile C. Schurmacher, the episode stars Rick Nelson, Janice Lynde, Carl Weathers, Alfred Ryder, and Paul Cavonis.||March 9, 1977|
|1||6||"The Force of Evil"||A rapist and murderer named Teddy Jakes – the crematorium operator at a hospital prior to his conviction – is paroled after seven years in jail and returns to a small community to take revenge against a physician at the hospital named Dr. Carrington, whose testimony sent Jakes to prison rather than providing him with an alibi. Jakes kills the family's pet horse and begins a campaign of terror against Carrington and his family. Unable to get help from the authorities, Carrington and his wife take the defense of their family into their own hands and think they have killed Jakes. Jakes reappears, however, to befriend the physician's daughter Cindy, and he escalates his activities against the Carrington family. The Carringtons begin to believe that Jakes might be some type of undead, unkillable specter, although eventually a fight between Jakes and Carrington aboard a houseboat results in Jakes falling overboard and drowning. Originally conceived as a two-part episode, it instead aired on one evening as a single two-hour episode; it was the series' only two-hour episode and the only one to air on a Sunday. Essentially a remake of the 1962 movie Cape Fear with an additional supernatural aspect, the episode starred Lloyd Bridges, William Watson, Patricia Crowley, Kirby Cullen, John Anderson, and Eve Plumb.||March 13, 1977|
|1||7||"You're Not Alone"||A beautiful businesswoman moves into a high-rise apartment and begins to receive messages and gifts from a secret admirer. She soon finds her privacy invaded and her lifestyle shattered when the secret admirer turns out to be a voyeur with sophisticated equipment. His gifts and anonymous telephone calls to her drive her to the brink of madness until she turns the tables on him – with horrifying results. Joanna Pettet, Herbert Edelman, Jenny O'Hara, Patricia Smith, Gary Collins, and Patricia Mattick star.||August 17, 1977|
|1||8||"No Way Out"||United States Navy officer John Kelty is too busy with his career and his hobby – recreational boating – to pay attention to his wife and young son. On June 3, 1952, he unwittingly pilots his boat through a time warp during a severe storm in the Bermuda Triangle and finds himself transported 25 years into the future to 1977. He discovers that his wife is happily remarried – to a man who obviously cherishes her – and that his son has become a successful cardiologist who is making the same mistake he did by ignoring his own family, a mistake Kelty now believes ruined his own life. Not letting his son know his real identity, Kelty befriends him and urges him to spend more time with his own wife and children. Eventually, the elder Kelty goes back to sea to try to return to 1952 and correct his mistake by paying more attention to his wife and son, but his body is found washed ashore in 1977 after he drowns in the attempt – symbolizing that it is impossible to make up for past mistakes and that one must take advantage of the present. Bill Bixby, Dean Stockwell, Robert Pine, Hal England, Robert J. Hogan, Davey Davison, and Sheila Larken star.||August 24, 1977|
- McNeil, Alex, Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming From 1948 to the Present, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 816.
- Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime-Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, Sixth Edition, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39736-3, p. 1015.
- Classic TV Archive: Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected
- John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV: CULT TV FLASHBACK # 54: Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (1977)
- Muir, John Kenneth, Terror Television: American Series 1970-1999, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001. ISBN 978-0-7864-3884-6. Not paginated.
- IMDb: Tales of the Unexpected Episode List