Orson Welles is an iconic figure and the perfect choice for hosting an anthology series telling tales of suspense and terror. Appearing in shadowy silhouette as the brilliant John Barry theme plays over the titles every episode of Orson Welles Great Mysteries begins with his rich deep voice introducing another instalment of intrigue.
Now on DVD for the first time Orson Welles Great Mysteries was made by Anglia Television and broadcast on Britain’s ITV in the early 70’s where Welles weekly appearance in his black hat and coat puffing on a huge cigar, always heralded another sinister story for its enthralled home audience.
Mostly made up of macabre dramas different directors weaved terrible tales, some original some ancient such as The Monkey’s Paw and others adapted from classic stories written by a variety of authors including Wilkie Collins, W.W. Jacobs and Honoré de Balzac.
With Welles wonderful narration opening and closing all of the thirteen episodes, which ran around 20 to 30 minutes each with a break, the cast accumulated was outstanding with Eli Wallach, Michael Kitchen, Patrick Magee, Donald Pleasence, Michael Gambon, Julie Dawn Cole, Kenneth Haigh, Harry Andrews, Dinsdale Landen and more all delivering terrific turns.
Standout episodes in the series include A Terribly Strange Bed staring Edward Albert as an American gambler on a night out with his friend, played by Dr Who himself Colin Baker, in the sleazy suburbs of Paris.
Having won a vast amount on roulette by betting on number 13 he celebrates a tad too hard and ends up staying the night in the run down casinos guest room. Little does he know a sinister plot is afoot to separate him from his loot and his life.
Also set in France La Grande Breteche is the name of a house owned by a count played by the magnificent Peter Cushing whose younger wife, Superman’s Susannah York, is seeing a Spanish solider behind his back.
Suspicious of the countess’s betrayal the master of the house sneaks back to catch the lovers in flagrante. Confronting his cheating wife he enacts a cruel and nasty revenge, psychologically and morally molesting her and physically torturing the Spaniard with a twisted twit on a tale many may have heard before.
Adapted from a story by C.A. Collins and Charles Dickens the excellent Ian Holm plays the decidedly average Charles Stubbs a man whose life is about to be invaded by the supernatural in Trial for Murder.
Visited by ghostly visions Stubbs wonders if he is losing his mind however when he is called for Jury Service in a murder trial the haunting finally makes sense. Little does he know the accused has seen a spectre as well in his cell, the spectre of Stubbs threatening him with the hangman’s noose.
My personal favourite episode entitled The Leather Funnel revolves around a young man who has intentions on proposing to his girlfriend, played by Jane Seymour, but must first ask her uncle for his approval. Played by Christopher Lee the uncle asks the suitor if he believes in the power of dreams and proceeds to drug him plunging him into a past life where a shocking and disturbing secret is revealed.
Adapted from a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle it is a simple but scary short with a wicked and warped sting at the end perfectly reflecting the ethos and ingredients of many of the other episodes in the entertaining series.
An excellent collection for anyone into classic TV terror and tales of suspense packed with great actors and chilling moments all elevated by the main man himself Orson Welles Great Mysteries sits equally alongside such shows as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock presents and Hammer House of Horror for those that like their horror short and not so sweet.