Saturday 31 December 2011

Little Mouse

Apart from being inherently brilliant, this video (from the comedy series Look Around You) was obviously shot at Aldeburgh. The scene is in fact that of the grisly demise of Mr Paxton in 'A Warning to the Curious' - note the Martello Tower.

A few years ago I walked to the tower along with other members of A Ghostly Company. We ignored louring skies, only to discover on the way back that it really can rain in East Anglia. Never were so many ghost story enthusiasts soaked to the skin so quickly. I dried off in the White Lion (which features as The Globe in 'Oh Whistle...') and had some lovely soup. Rambling a bit now...

Monday 26 December 2011

Sunday 25 December 2011


Supernatural horror story from the classic early Seventies series created by Brian (He Also Did The Avengers) Clemens. Among the star-studded cast we find Patrick Troughton, who starred in Doctor Who (1966-9) and later played Father Brennan in The Omen. Then there's Ed Bishop, with his natural hair, who was famously fair-headed as Ed Straker in UFO. Cec Linder, a Canadian playing the US diplomat here, whose first big UK role was as the heroic Dr Roney in the classic TV serial Quatermass and the Pit (1960). Last but not least, the evil nursey is played by Diana Dors, famous as a blonde bombshell in her youth but here showing real talent for insidious menace. Oo-er. Merry Christmas, one and all.

And, if you were wondering why so many American characters feature in this vert British show, it was simply because it was always intended for the US network market.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christopher Lee IS (or was) M. R. James

While he bears little resemblance to the author, I hope nobody can fault Mr Lee's reading. This is an abridged version of Monty James' darkest tale, and the only 'classic' he wrote after the Great War. The fate of Mr Paxton seems wildly disproportionate to his supposed offence - indeed, if you follow the story it seems as if he is lured to his doom. But that's part of the appeal of MRJ's stories; their refusal to quite make sense, the triumph of imagery and incident over plot logic. Well, that's what I think.

Friday 23 December 2011

The Phantom Coach : A ghost story for Christmas

A good short film based on the Victorian tale by Amelia B. Edwards, who was an Egyptologist of renown as well as a professional author and journalist. Almost forgotten today, she was one of those lady novelists of the 19th century who enjoyed tremendous success. It's remarkable, to say the least, that she pursued a second and equally notaqble career in archaeology.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Carmilla (Surrender into the Roses) - Kate Bush

A little musical oddity, but still a spooky tale of sorts. This is an early demo by Ms Bush. Some people think she's singing 'Coming Up!', but she isn't. Before she did 'Wuthering Heights' the shy songstress was inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's prototypical tale of posh-girls-in-nighties vampirism.


This song was deemed too controversial for broadcast on British TV tomorrow night (23rd Dec), even though it's very mild stuff. Not that I'd watch Jonathan Ross if you paid me, but I like Tim Minchin.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Saturday 17 December 2011

Stigma 1977 BBC Xmas Ghost Story

This one passed me by at the time, I think. I certainly don't recall it. I do recognise the writer's name - Clive Exton did a lot of sterling work for both BBC and ITV. Among his credits were two episodes of the Terry Nation post-apocalypse series Survivors, plus a slew of Jeeves and Wooster and a ton o' Poirot. He also worked on the script of The Awakening, the rather sluggish 1980 adaptation of Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars. I suspect Exton was one of those professional, reliable and highly creative TV writers who flourished in a very different production climate.

The imdb has the following bio:

Took his professional surname from Shakespeare's "Richard II".
Former English teacher at a comprehensive school in Cannock, Staffs.

Sadly, most of Exton's early work (single plays for the BBC) is now lost because the tapes were routinely wiped. It's not just Doctor Who fans who get frustrated by this BBC policy, rational though it may have seemed at the time. They wiped stuff, apparently, because they only paid for the music rights etc for two showings i.e. one repeat. Nobody anticipated a home video market that would reap millions for TV companies.

Monday 5 December 2011

Glorious Nemesis

A beautifully-produced book thudded onto my doormat earlier today. I'm now halfway through it and finding it fascinating, mysterious and at times a tad alarming.

Glorious Nemesis is a novella by Ladislav Klima, a Czech author of whom Vaclav Havel, no less, wrote:

Ladislav Klíma has been an important "voice calling in the wilderness." His antimetaphysical view of the world was not unique at his time, as Europe was full of followers of Friedrich Nietzsche, both good and bad. Yet Klíma's mix of philosophical essay, fiction, poetry, and drama was unique. Often he was too fervent in proclaiming that the only security lies in the awareness of one's will and of one's absolute freedom. In this way he eliminated the border between truth and fiction, between waking and dreaming, and even between life and death. If the world, from Klíma's perspective, was to be some phantasm or phantom, we would need a new way of articulating it, of creating it anew. At the same time, the main purpose of the world would be inherent in the free and unlimited will, life a game for the free individual. The non-conformist work of Ladislav Klíma has almost always shocked, has often incited scandal, but has hardly ever left us indifferent. One need not accept his view of the world to experience it and enjoy it in all its ambiguity, just as one does the stage.

Having read a bit of Nietzsche in my youth (doesn't everybody?) I can see that Klima (whose dates are 1878-1928) was profoundly influenced by the much-misunderstood prophet of the Superman. Klima's protagonist, Sidar, is arguably 'beyond good and evil', but not beyond love and fear. As the story developed the paradox of unlimited free will also becomes apparent, as the greatest happiness, or at least the greatest sense of being alive, comes with obsession and a conviction that fate cannot be avoided.

Indeed, as I made my way through the first chapters of Glorious Nemesis (which can be ordered from Amazon) I was reminded somewhat of Klima's contemporart Algernon Blackwood, especially 'The Glamour of the Snow'. Here we have the same lonely protagonist (Sidar seems to be utterly alone in the world, devoid of family or friends) and the same love of outdoor pursuits, especially walking and climbing. Klima doesn't seem to embrace Blackwood's pantheism, however. Instead Sidar, on visiting the Alpine resort of Cortona, enters a realm that is neither wholly wakeful nor entirely dream-like when he falls in love with a mysterious young woman who seems likely to lure him to destruction.

As I haven't finished this short novel I can't say whether it qualifies as a ghost story or not. I suspect that, as in HG Wells' The Croquet Player, the author's intention goes beyond those of the conventional ghost story, but the ingredients he is using are familiar. What is unusual is the intensity of Klima's focus on one man and his obsessive vision of a nameless woman who may be a ghost, a demon or something even stranger. It is always difficult to judge a translation, but I think Marek Tomin has conveyed much of Klima's strange power. It is also, as I mentioned above, a beautiful book in its own right, with a superb cover and illustrations by Pavel Rut. It is published by Twisted Spoon Press in Prague.

Glorious Nemesis

Supernatural Tales 56 - contents

The next issue - due out in the autumn - will see a mixture of familiar names and some newbies. I hope, as always, that the stories find fav...