BBC Ghost Stories: The Stalls of Barchester / A Warning to the Curious DVD
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Directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark
Produced in 1971-72
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
The previously unavailable The Stalls of Barchester (starring Robert Hardy) joins A Warning to the Curious (starring Peter Vaughan) - authentic old-fashioned horror, writes Michael Brooke.
As the sixties segued into the seventies, big-screen horror underwent a fundamental sea-change. Thanks to a relaxation of censorship on both sides of the Atlantic, the shivery yet subtle chills of The Innocents (1961) and The Haunting (1963) were abandoned in favour of as much graphic gore as special effects would permit.
But there was one regular producer of authentically old-fashioned horror during this period, offering scenes where the protagonist can’t quite identify the only other living thing on an otherwise deserted beach, where there’s unmistakable evidence that he hasn’t spent the night alone despite his hotel bedroom being firmly locked, or where he expects to touch stone but gets warm fur instead.
From 1971 to 1978, and again in 2005-2006, the BBC produced an annual ‘Ghost Story for Christmas’, all ten of which have now been anthologised in a new five volume DVD series. These are bookended by the 1968 and 2010 adaptations of MR James’s classic chiller ‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ that comprise volume 1. The first was adapted by Jonathan Miller, and remains one of the greatest small-screen horror films ever made, with Michael Hordern’s fusty, mumbling academic uncovering a long-buried flute and making the mistake of blowing it to see what happens. The remake casts John Hurt in the same role, adds colour and widescreen and also a new subplot about his senile wife.
MR James also fuels the two stories of volume 2, both featuring Clive Swift as the researcher Dr Black. In the previously unavailable The Stalls of Barchester, he pieces together the tale of the Cathedral’s Archdeacon (Robert Hardy), and works out how he met his untimely death, while in A Warning to the Curious, he meets a clearly terrified archaeologist (Peter Vaughan) and learns of his discovery. With three further volumes coming out before Halloween, lovers of spine-chilling tales have plenty to celebrate.
Michael Brooke on 18th July 2012
Author of 153 reviews
Volume 2 of the BFI's BBC Ghost Stories collection includes the DVD premiere release The Stalls of Barchester (1971), starring Robert Hardy, and A Warning to the Curious (1972) (previously released on DVD by the BFI), starring Peter Vaughan.
As a Christmas treat in the late 1960s and 1970s, the BBC produced adaptations of ghost stories based on the works of MR James, the Cambridge academic and author of some of the most spine-tingling tales in the English language, which were broadcast to terrified viewers in the dead of winter. This was a tradition that was briefly revived by the BBC between 2007 and 2010.
These adaptations, which have a subtlety and style all of their own, have been a major influence on many contemporary British horror filmmakers and have come to be some of the most sought after British TV titles of all time by their legions of eager fans.
Length: 95 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 20th August 2012
Cat No: BFIVD960
- Introduction to The Stalls of Barchester by Lawrence Gordon Clark (2012)
- Introduction to A Warning to the Curious by Lawrence Gordon Clark (2012)
- Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas: The Stalls of Barchester (Eleanor Yule, 2000) - Christopher Lee recreates MR James' famous soirees, at which the antiquary would read his tales of the supernatural to eager undergraduates
- Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee – ‘A Warning to the Curious by MR James’ (Eleanor Yule, 2000) - Christopher Lee plays MR James in this dramatic reconstruction of one of the author’s famous Christmas readings.
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