John Hurt's 10 Most Underrated Performances

3. The Storyteller - The Storyteller (1988)

John Hurt The Storyteller Jim Henson's legacy in film and TV is in no doubt, with The Muppets on both the big and small screen, the continuing success of Sesame Street, and cult classics like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. But just before his tragic death in 1990, Henson created another wonderful series which praised the art of storytelling and the value of folk and fairy tales, The Storyteller. The Storyteller consists of nine episodes, each one dedicated to a faithful retelling of a lesser-known folk tale, such as 'Sapsorrow' (starring Alison Doody from Indiana Jones), 'The Heartless Giant', 'The Three Ravens' (featuring Miranda Richardson) and 'The Soldier And Death'. In each case the material was played straight, with Henson employing puppets and animatronics to recreate the many dark, gruesome and grotesque creatures that inhabit the stories and challenge our heroes. Hurt serves as an anchor and frame for the stories, bickering about their meaning with a puppet dog voiced by Henson's son Brian, who later directed The Muppet Christmas Carol. The voice and make-up are brilliant, and he gets a beautiful balance between embracing the more ridiculous elements of the stories and giving weight to their often unusual morals. The entire series is a wonderful achievement, but 'The Soldier and Death' is particularly enjoyable, both for the story and for Hurt's rendering of it.

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast ( and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter ( Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.