Scorpion Tales on DVD

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 09:13

A series of six individual plays, each linked by the scorpion-like twist in its conclusion, Scorpion Tales features some of Britain’s most talented and renowned actors – including Trevor Howard, Geoffrey Palmer, Jack Shepherd, Don Henderson and Tony Britton. This was ATV’s attempt to muscle in on Tales of the Unexpected territory, with fairly studio-bound stories filmed at their Elstree facilities.

A free hand was given to a team of distinguished writers that include Ian Kennedy-Martin (The Sweeney), Jeremy Burnham (The Avengers), and Bob Baker and Dave Martin (Doctor Who). The screenplays range from an engagingly devious account of a man’s attempt to outwit a computer, to a tough drama about a jaded policeman who becomes the object of a homosexual vendetta.

Scorpion Tales comes to DVDThere’s also a chilling tale about a secret training course, and a supernatural story of a boy’s attempt to gain his father’s attention by invoking supernatural powers.

Directors on the project include include Shaun O’Riordan (Sapphire and Steel) and BAFTA award winner Don Leaver (Prime Suspect, A Touch of Frost). The vast majority live up to their billing of having that genuinely unexpected scorpion sting in the tale, and show the sense of theatre that television used to be able to do to perfection.

Producer David Reid directs a trio of the episodes.  Having made his name with The Power Game, he would go on to be Executive Producer of Sapphire and Steel, Hammer House of Horror, Vice Versa, and On The Line. He was Producer of Clayhanger and The Strauss Family, Directed on such series as Catweazle, and was writer of Mortimer’s Law.

Scorpion Tales – The Complete Series is available now from Network as a double disc set.  It has a running time of 300 minutes approx, a ‘15’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99 or less, exclusively from the Network Shop.



Producer: David Reid

Title Sequence: Alastair McMunro

Title Music: Cyril Ornadel


01.  Easterman” (06 in Production Order)

Detective Inspector Mavor is tough and uncompromising, but he faces an insidious death threat.  Cummings, his senior colleague on a neighbouring force takes an interest, following Mavor being breathalysed on his patch. A young police clerk is beaten, and a note left by the perp, ‘Easterman’, signals that Mavor is next.  But first, there’s one of Mavor’s informers to be dealt with...

Starring: Trevor Howard (Mavor), Patrick Allen (Cummings), Don Henderson (Easterman), Paul Arlington (Purcell), Alan Rowe (Dr English), Maryann Turner (Alice Mavor), Will Knightley (Randwell), Patrick Godfrey (Russell), Andrew Andreas (Demetrius), David Foxxe (Constable Hallam)

Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin

Director: David Reid

Original ITV Transmission: 29 April 1978


02. “Killing” (04 in Production Order)

Martha Fredricks is a young systems analyst assigned to investigate suspicious meddling in a firm’s state-of-the-art computer. The board are assessing the potential of installing a new system, but the patriarch of the installed machine, Mark Hawkins, feels is an inevitability but not necessary.  Mark becomes very obstructive to Martha’s analysis, and her policeman husband believes Mark may already have charges to answer.

Starring: Jack Shepherd (Mark Hawkins), Angela Down (Martha Fredricks), Michael O’Hagan (Ross Fredricks), James Lister (Ken Hassell), Clifford Kershaw (Jack), Vera Jakob (Mrs Judd), Jeanette Wild (Air Stewardess).

Writers: Bob Baker and Dave Martin

Director: Don Leaver

Original ITV Transmission: 6 May 1978


03. “The Great Albert” (03 in Production Order)

Matthew Ward is a young boy with a less-than-healthy interest in the supernatural via a book of spells by a 16th Century mystic, called ‘The Great Albert’. He sees the marriage between his parents Virginia and bookseller Peter disintegrating. The process is given greater speed by the arrival of Oliver Benthall, who may well be Lucifer in disguise, summoned up by Matthew himself.

Starring: Lynn Farleigh (Virginia Ward), Max Harris (Matthew Ward), Gwen Nelson (Mrs Withers), Paul Freeman (Oliver Benthall), Kenneth Gilbert (Peter Ward), Diana Rayworth (Jane Blake), Heffie Moraes (Tony), Frank Moorey (Policeman), Geoffrey Leesley (Gym Master), Angela Galbraith (Marian Greenwell), Peter Dennis (Jack Greenwell), Pamela Salem (Ursula), Antony Higginson (Victor).

Writer: John Peacock

Director: David Reid

Original ITV Transmission: 13 May 1978


04. “The Ghost in the Pale Blue Dress” (01 in Production Order)

Sir Wilfred Grafton is Chairman of his own merchant bank, but his son Toby reckons it’s time for the reigns to be handed over to him.  His fiancé, Karen is keen to assist in this hostile takeover, helped by her striking resemblance to Sir Wilfred’s deceased wife. But can Clem Laidlaw, the family accountant, be an asset or a hindrance in their scheme?

Starring: Tony Britton (Sir Wilfred Grafton), Brian Stirner (Toby Grafton), Sandra Payne (Karen Oldfield), Basil Dignam (Clem Laidlaw), Geoffrey Palmer (Arnold Sparrow), Michael Cashman (Philip Jessop), John Cogan, Michael De Wilde, Peter Sutherland (Poker Players).

Writer: Jeremy Burnham

Director: David Reid

Original ITV Transmission: 20 May 1978


05. “Crimes of Persuasion” (02 in Production Order)

Politician Sir Robert Haines has a long standing mistress of ten years in the shape of Jean Newman. She is not happy that their relationship has gone nowhere in that time, and has decided to rent out her apartment. Young Samantha Robinson shows an interest in taking the lease, and money seems to be no object. Meanwhile, Sir Robert is wheeler-dealing with an ex-Arab Prime Minister, and his promises to him may be an unwise move.

Starring: Anthony Bate (Sir Robert), Susan Engel (Jean Newman), Christopher Benjamin (Arab), Raad Rawi (Young Arab), Chloe Salaman (Samatha Robinson), Brett Usher (Jeremy Hope), Saul Reichlin (Terrorist).

Writer: Nicholas Palmer

Director: Shaun O’Riordan

Original ITV Transmission: 27 May 1978


06. “Truth or Consequence” (05 in Production Order)

Lieutenant James White is a jet pilot in the Fleet Air Army who volunteers for a secret training course which has unexpected results.  It’s all designed to build up his resistance to interrogation, but at what point did the training actually begin?  His wife, Penny, finds herself wrapped up in the game, and is Commodore Jacobs exactly what he seems?

Starring: David Robb (Lieutenant James White), Stephen Murray (Commodore Jacobs), Norman Jones (Major Chadwick), Rosie Kerslake (Penny), Graham Ashley (Captain Sutton), Eric Mason (Warrant Officer Watson), John Grillo (Ministry Official), Al Lampert (Mechanic), Cornelius Garrett (Young Officer), John Dawson (Waiter), Lewis Wilson (Train Passenger), David Arlen (Leading Rating).

Writer: Brian Phelan (Based on an idea by David Simpson)

Director: John Bruce

Original ITV Transmission: 12 August 1978

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