1 9 6 1 – 1 9 6 3 (UK)
29 x 30 minute episodes
In March 1961, Associated-Rediffusion announced the debut of their Wednesday night suspense anthology based on the stories of dark-minded spook writer Algernon Blackwood – who was known as “The Ghost Man” until he passed away in 1951.
The series was introduced by Scottish actor John Laurie in the guise of Blackwood, in the hammy doom-voiced style he would later take to Dad’s Army as Private Fraser.
Laurie made an impressive job of hosting Tales of Mystery, flashing his eyes and rubbing his hands suggestively as he announced the ghoulish pleasures to follow.
Actors who appeared in the 29 stories included Dinsdale Landen, Leonard Sachs, Derek Francis, Michael Bates, Harry H Corbett, Finlay Currie, Patrick Cargill, John Standing, John Woodnutt, Charles Lloyd Pack and Angela Barrie.
The series had a mixed reception from the press and public, however. Maurice Wiggin of the Sunday Times was generally enthusiastic, commenting; “veteran viewers who remember the old man [Algernon Blackwood] telling his stories on BBC television and radio have a ready-made standard of reference.”
Denis Thomas of the Daily Mail, on the other hand, shared the misgivings reviewers of the time often expressed about putting the supernatural on the screen; “Television being a strictly literal medium,” he wrote, “can add nothing to a cosy tale of death and diabolism without overdoing it. One way to cope with this difficulty might be to show less and suggest more”.
Such comments notwithstanding, the adaptation of The Terror of the Twins, about a man who swears a terrible doom on one of his twin sons from beyond the grave, was atmospherically produced and offered Malcolm Russell in the lead role “the chance to roll his eyes in a fine frenzy and to expire with a convincing death rattle,” according to the Daily Mail.
Those who remember watching the ‘Wednesday night creepie’ may well have memories of Russell’s performance.