Being a fan of quality television and having an intense dislike for most of the reality rubbish that is on these days, I’ve taken to watching old episodes of Tales Of The Unexpected – the show which features dancing silhouettes emerging from flames in its opening credits along with a freakish yet seductive theme tune which has something of a carousel vibe! It was very popular in the 1980s although I didn’t get to see many episodes due to it being on way past my bedtime!
But I’m making up for lost time now and really enjoying the episodes. As usual every episode ends with an unexpected twist – and I spend the last ten minutes of every episode trying to suss out the twist. I’m happy to say that I’m usually wrong as I like the element of surprise.
However one episode which left me more than just a little surprised is the notorious The Flypaper written by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor!) I have yet to watch every episode of Tales of The Unexpected but I’m sure when I do I won’t find any that is as chilling and disturbing as The Flypaper. It was so creepy it was all I could think about for days.
The story centres around recently orphaned Sylvia Wilkinson who lives with her cold and uncaring old battle-axe of a grandmother. At this particular time, there is a child killer on the loose and Sylvia becomes anxious as she catches glimpses of a middle-aged man who she thinks might be following her. He manages to board her bus one day just as she thinks she has escaped him and starts to harass the timid schoolgirl. Thankfully for Sylvia, a kind and motherly lady witnesses the man’s behaviour and comes to Sylvia’s rescue… but far from being safe, Sylvia’s nightmare has just begun. The viewer can definitely empathise with Sylvia and sense her acute fear; her feelings of powerlessness and the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia.
The underlying message of the tale is that you can’t trust anyone and really brings home the issue of ‘stranger danger.’ What made the episode even more dark and macabre is that despite it having been made more than 30 years ago, with today’s dangers of stalking, abuse, abduction and child disappearances, it is probably more relevant today than it was back then.
It is such an effective piece of drama that I actually think it might be an idea to show it in schools in order to explain to schoolchildren why they should be careful of people they don’t know. Even though The Flypaper probably didn’t intend to be, it’s quite an educational episode. The only problem is that there’d be a lot of irate mums and dads who’d have to put up with their kids taking refuge in their rooms (just like I used to!)
One of the good things about this episode is that it has introduced me to the work of Elizabeth Taylor (the non-Oscar winner!) and I’m interested in reading her novels and short stories. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the episodes… although I know that none of them will be anything like The Flypaper…