The presentation within the framework of Sitges festival of the new versions of four of the most outstanding chapters of the unrepeatable series of TVE ‘Stories to not sleep’ provides an unbeatable pretext to return to the original episodes, a feast of gruesome resources and literary and cinematic references served by a Narciso Ibáñez Serrador in a state of grace, turned into an impossible mix of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling and Roger Corman. That creaking door that terrorized Spanish viewers between 1966 and 1968 (and, after a long hiatus, also in 1982) is now reopening to reveal new horrors. From among the ancientsavailable on RTVE Play and Amazon Prime Video), these are some of the most memorable.
(Season 1, Episode 1) In the introduction to the first episode of ‘Stories to not sleep’, Ibáñez Serrador appealed to the audience’s indulgence and highlighted the few means that he had available to shoot this adaptation of a gruesome short story by Fredric Brown (‘Nightmare in Yellow’). False modesty of yours, because what comes next is a display of visual talent, narrative efficiency and very black humor to explain the story of a gray bank clerk (magnificent Rafael Navarro) who fantasizes about robbing the safe at work, liquidating his wife and starting a new life. In just 12 minutes.
(Season 1, Episode 7) Victorian mansions, governesses and bad vibes. As if he were a cathodic ‘mad doctor’, Chicho Ibáñez Serrador takes the premise and setting of Henry James’ classic ghost novel ‘Another twist’ and grafts a terrifying tale by Robert Bloch about a girl with disturbing abilities (‘Sweets to the sweet’) to compose one of the series’ most disturbing episodes. Part of the credit goes to the music of Waldo de los Ríos and the interpretation of Teresa Hurtado in the role of a bloody teenager. The ending is spooky.
(Season 1, Episode 13) Here the series departs from classic horror into post-apocalyptic science fiction. A very young Emilio Gutiérrez Caba and an imposing Tota Alba star in this adaptation of a short story by Ray Bradbury which has many points in common with ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (also with ‘The Chrysalis’, by John Wyndham). Chicho gives a staging lesson and what seems to point to a medieval witchcraft story drifts, through the characters’ dialogue, towards something very different and much more desolate.
(Season 1, Episode 15) “That man is sinking!” Based on a story by Carlos Buiza, this little classic on Spanish television draws a vitriolic portrait of a society and an Administration whose indifference to the suffering of others reaches terrifying proportions. The sets created by Antonio Mingote and the resources of the children’s program help to reinforce the atmosphere of an expressionist nightmare with Kafkaesque borders. Narciso Ibáñez Mint embroider the role of a pathetic passerby swallowed up by the pavement. Or because of the system, which is the same.
(Season 2, Episode 2) The most chilling installment of the second season is part of a well-known story by WW Jacobs, ‘The Monkey Paw’, which revolves around a macabre amulet with the power to grant three wishes to its owner. The director orchestrates the drama with a master’s hand, creating an atmosphere of increasing anguish until reaching a climax of terror that is resolved with very effective use of the off-field (and a superb composition by Irene Gutiérrez Caba). All this preceded by a very incorrect introduction in which Ibáñez Serrador takes his most hooligan out for a walk.
(Season 2, Episode 4) A Tale of the Popular Parapsychologist Fernando Jiménez del Oso about a couple of ruffians who decide to hasten the death of their uncle after learning that he plans to leave them out of his will serves as the basis for this story of Family conspiracies, ghostly apparitions and revenge from beyond the grave that takes place in the light of the chandeliers and between storm noises and that presents the ‘gimmick’ of the wheelchair walking alone 13 years before Peter Medak did the same in the classic ‘At the end of the stairs’. Jose Orjas he shines in the role of the old necromancer.
(Season 2, Episode 6) Narciso Ibáñez Serrador took many liberties when it came to adapt the story ‘The Premature Burial’, by Edgar Allan Poe, the story of an undertaker (distressing Luis Peña) who tyrannizes his niece and who what most terrifies him in the world is the possibility of being buried alive. The crescendo of bad vibes leads to a shocking denouement that a simple sound effect turns into something very scary.
(Special Episode) A stand-alone episode, set between the second and third seasons, in which an overwhelming Ibáñez Menta plays a hard-working bank clerk (Chicho’s fixation on bank clerks is worth studying) that, in a plot twist that Rod Serling himself would have envied, see how his life is going down the drain after acquiring a color television. A lucid and forceful denunciation of the alienating power of television that has become … television history.
(Season 3, Episode 1) With its 105 minutes, the opening episode of the third season is a full-length feature film (a telefilm, which was said at the time) in which Ibáñez Serrador uses a wicked ventriloquist dummy to compose a very personal approach to the ‘giallo’, with its parapolitical plot, its chromatic range dominated by red, its distressing scenographies, its generous use of knives and its audacious touches of eroticism, which for something the Franco regime had been left behind.
‘The case of Mr. Valdemar’
(Season 3, Episode 2) In a somewhat surprising decision, Chicho returns to a story by Poe that he had already adapted in one of the chapters of the first season (‘The pact’) and he does it with the same planning and the same protagonists as then. The play goes well, because this new color reading of the story of the ‘mad doctor’ who tries to magnetize his sick disciple to allow him to escape death under hypnosis manages to create an even more ominous climate than that of its predecessor, with a zombified Manuel Galiana hard to forget.