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SHADOWS - THE COMPLETE SECOND SERIES
DVD region 2. Network.

Shadows series 2These days, the idea of a supernatural series aimed at kids would probably cause outrage amongst our moral guardians, but in the 1970s, ITV teatime series Shadows had some success with it’s mix of chills and morality tales, usually involving kids who were in some way outsiders. Seen now, the shows are a little dated, but head and shoulders above current British children’s TV.

Series 2, broadcast in 1976, features six stories that at their best offer some genuine spookiness – and at their worst are pointless exercises in nothingness. The opening story, The Dark Streets of Kimballs Green, sits somewhere between the two extremes, telling the story of a young girl who finds herself living with the foster mother from Hell, who refuses to let the girl read and generally treats her like dirt, while her yobbish teenage son threatens to kill the girl’s cat and rampages through the streets with his gang of delinquent mates. Joan Aiken’s story doesn’t really go anywhere and has an unlikely ending that fails to satisfy.

Time Out of Mind is a rather pointless episode with a young girl fantasising about being a maid in a Victorian house while she looks at a doll’s house. There are no thrills or surprise here, and the story seems decidedly out of place.

The Inheritance is much better, as a teenage boy and his grandfather bond over their love of the country, while the boy’s mother tries to force him into an insurance career. When the boy sees a ghostly dance in the woods, his fate is sealed. It’s a slight tale with few supernatural elements, but at least it has some genuine substance to it.

The best story is Dark Encounter, and this is the only one that is (mostly) presented from an adult viewpoint. A man returns to his childhood village and finds himself reliving – alongside his younger self (this is set up as a surprise, but you’ll get it right away) – a battle against dark forces in the form of a possessed tree. Less silly than it sounds, this is a genuinely creepy story.

Unfortunately, the best is followed by the worst, as Peronik is a tedious story about a teenage boy and his connections to ancient legends. It goes nowhere, has tiresome dialogue and, again, features no scary elements whatsoever. It’s stories like this that put your truly off the show as a kid.

Series closer The Eye is much darker, though in the end it goes nowhere – however, it does have some atmosphere and spooky thrills along the way, marred only by rather terrible special effects. The story itself is fairly incoherent, but it works as a series of unsettling images that probably gave a few younger viewers nightmares.

With creepy animated opening titles that are not dissimilar to Thames TV’s earlier, adult series Shadows of Fear, Shadows is in many ways very much of its time – but that’s no bad thing, given how condescendingly awful kids TV is today. Naturally, it doesn’t compete with the adult horror series of the era – there is no room here for the shock ending, and the reliance on juvenile leads means that the performances are rather patchy. But as a way of introducing kids to horror movies, it works well. Nostalgic TV genre buffs will find this a worthwhile purchase..

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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