Tales of the Unknown South (1984)

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Tales of the Unknown South (1984) Poster

Trilogy of films about race and culture in the Deep South from the end of World War I to the civil rights protests of the 1960's. All three stories deal with fear and isolation, and the ... See full summary »

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21 April 2006 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
'Half-Pint Flask' is eerie, well done.
The two Carolinas -- North and South -- have long been far ahead of the other 48 states (possibly excepting California) in encouraging film crews to shoot in their locations, offering tax breaks and other perks. Since both Carolinas have some very beautiful scenery, it's no wonder that many low-budget film makers have taken advantage of this scheme, with splendid results.

'Tales of the Unknown South', supposedly an anthology series, is actually three unrelated low-budget films, all shot in South Carolina, featuring remarkable exteriors, local actors and story lines relating to the history and culture of the Carolinas. All three episodes are suitable for mature teens. Novelist James Dickey provides prologues for each.

'Ashes', by Julia Peterkin, is the tale of a woman from the backwoods (Rosanna Carter) whose impoverished but stable existence is threatened when a developer purchases the land neighbouring hers, intending to develop it.

The third episode, 'Neighbors', by Diane Oliver, is inspired by an incident in 1957 when a black girl was the first Negro student to enrol at a previously all-white high school. This sort of story hasn't got the impact it used to have, and maybe that shows how far we've come.

The best instalment of this series is the middle episode, 'The Half-Pint Flask', adapted from the classic horror story by Du Bose Heyward. Best known for 'Porgy and Bess', Heyward lived among the Gullah people of the Sea Islands off the Carolina coast, and was intimately familiar with their culture. Here, we witness the consequences when a white man disturbs a Gullah grave in order to take a Civil War flask to complete his collection. He fails to reckon that something in the grave wants to complete its own collection...

The first and third episodes are well done on a small budget, but 'The Half-Pint Flask' is deeply impressive, with a powerful climax during a storm. Recommended.

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