Gosh fab news
Many thanks Mrs P.
The BFI is to make the complete series of the BBC's classic Ghost Stories for Christmas
finally available on DVD this year.
These much-loved tales terrified BBC TV audiences at Christmas throughout the 1970s. Most of the instalments were directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark and based on M.R. James's celebrated supernatural stories. With only three of the twelve BBC Ghost Stories previously released on DVD (by the BFI in 2002), the films in this brilliant series have been high on many film and TV fans' 'most wanted' DVD lists.
The films are a key influence on recent British ghost and horror films, including The Woman in Black, and have inspired many screenwriters and filmmakers including Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock).
The first two volumes will be released in August 2012 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of M.R. James's birth.
Two more volumes will follow in September, while the fifth and final volumes, as well as the complete
BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas - DVD box set, will follow in October, including Charles Dickens' classic The Signalman.
Volume One includes two versions of the chilling Whistle And I'll Come To You: Jonathan Miller's 1968 adaptation, starring Michael Hordern, and the 2010 re-imagining, starring John Hurt.
Volume Two includes The Stalls of Barchester (1971), starring Robert Hardy, and A Warning to the Curious (1972), starring Peter Vaughan ... plus Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas (2000).
Titles include ... Whistle and I'll Come To You (1968 and 2010 versions), A Warning to the Curious, The Stalls of Barchester, Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, The Ash Tree, The Signalman,
A View From A Hill, Stigma, The Ice House, Number 13 and Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas.
I have the Australian DVD box-set MR James complete set of ghost stories ... and this BFI news of a Region 2 release of the complete set of BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas is absolutely splendid
Last edited by mrs_emma_peel; 26-04-12 at 07:15 PM.
Will buy the boxset in October-I already have the Australian one but look forward to the upgrades of 'Stigma' and 'The Ice House'-I hope the release includes ALL FOUR of the Christopher Lee narrations as opposed to the three on the aussy one!
Great News.........thanks for the info Emma...
I especially look forward to seeing "The Signalman" again.
I have all these as bootlegs but will be nice to see clean copies (she says in hope).
My pleasure everyone
The Signalman is a particular favourite of mine too.
I see Amazon have one new BFI DVD of The Signalman for an astonishing £120!
BFI information on the adaptation and filming of The Signalman ...
The following year saw the most famous episode of the series, The Signalman. This was the first film not to be derived from an M.R. James story, its source instead being a short story by Dickens first published in Christmas 1866. “What happened was that I started planning that year’s film, and was all set to do another M.R. James story.
We were intending to do Number Thirteen. And I just didn’t think it was going to work. I reckoned you needed to shoot it in Scandinavia, you needed those forests and that environment. So we went back to the drawing board and chose The Signalman, which I have very vivid memories of. Andrew Davies of course wasn’t famous then like he is now – in fact this was one of the first adaptations he did – but his script was absolutely wonderful.”
The film is essentially a two-hander, and is the most intense acting piece of the series. Thankfully Clark’s casting was impeccable, the role of the signalman going to Denholm Elliott, at this time reaching his peak as one of the best character actors of his generation. As the other man with no name, the personable traveller, Clark cast Bernard Lloyd.
“Weren’t they both magnificent?” exclaims Clark. “Denholm in that, to me, was like a tightly coiled spring. You could actually see the tension in the character’s face every second. The signalman was clearly only ever a short step away from cracking up and going over the edge into insanity. And Bernard was perfect, a lovely, lovely performance, and the two of them together just gelled.”
Filming took place in October 1976 on a stretch of the Severn Valley Railway just outside Kidderminster which itself is rumoured to have a few ghost stories attached to it. The signalbox interiors were shot at the signalbox at Highley Station, while the “unnatural valley” can be found at Bircham Coppice Cutting, a stretch of line into a tunnel that borders the aptly named ‘Devil’s Spittleful’. Clark has vivid memories of the shoot:
“Believe it or not, where we shot The Signalman we were in a valley which was slap bang beside a school and a housing estate. So there we were trying to get this shot in what was pretty terrible weather for much of the time, and Denholm and Bernard had quite a hard time of it, children throwing things and disrupting the shoot. Looking at it you’d think it was shot in the middle of nowhere though. Also The Signalman was the one time we didn’t get everything finished on time. We had very heavy fog that did for us, and I had to ask for more time.”
The Signalman is probably the most successful of the whole series, its intimate and intense narrative the core of what is an immensely atmospheric and unpretentious piece of drama. The performances are pitch perfect, the ghost is startling and fleeting, and Clark and camerman David Whitson give us the most foreboding glimpses of haunted England of the whole series. The valley where the story unfolds is excellently dim and gloomy, daylight scuttling away the closer we move towards the endless blackness of the tunnel mouth. The traveller’s brisk night-time walks back to his lodgings are even more impressive, silvery blue fog daubing the moor as the inn sign creaks like a witch hanging from a gallows ...
I remember reading that director Lawrence Gordon Clark thought that screen-writer Andrew Davies, actors Denholm Elliott and Bernard Lloyd and cameraman David Whitson had achieved the impossible ... improved upon Dickens' original ghost story.
Last edited by mrs_emma_peel; 27-04-12 at 05:00 AM.
Remember if you only want The Signalman and can play multi-region discs it is an extra on the US Charles Dickens Collection.
The Treasure Of Abbot Thomas was changed quite a bit from the original and (with the possible exception of the climax) I think it improved on the James story.
Brilliant news! Although I have most of these, it will be wonderful to have an "official" release.
Even more wonderful if the lost episodes from the 1960's MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION series ever turned up - although they appear to be lost forever. I still recall the utter terror generated by THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH (a still from which can be found on the cover of the Fontana paperback tie-in with the series) and - good though the 1970's version of LOST HEARTS was, the 60's version of it was even better. CASTING THE RUNES was also superb, and the small remaining fragment that can be found on the Network DVD release is a tantalizing but frustrating reminder of what has been lost.
Not sure if anyone has referenced the Robert Powell narrated M.R. James stories that I managed to tape when they were first shown on television - but, good though they are, I wished (as I did with the Christopher Lee episodes) that they'd been properly dramatized rather than delivered in dialogue. I'm not decrying the intent to deliver them as 'ghost stories told by a ghost story teller' - but I'd loved them to have been dramatizations (even with a voice-over).
Not sure at all about the John Hurt remake of OH WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU. Apart from a couple of creepy scenes, it re-imagined the story to such an extent that I wondered why they'd bothered source referencing M.R. James at all by 'remaking it'. Even Jonathan Miller's excellent 1960's version drops the ball a little in the final act. If he'd stuck to what happens in the story at the climax, where the horrible blind thing 'made of crumpled linen' blindly hunts for its terrified victim in the bedroom - it would have made for an utterly terrifying screen moment. For anyone who hasn't read the story, and has only seen the TV adaptations - I'd thoroughly recommend it (particularly for those last, terrifying moments).
I don't normally pre-order on Amazon but The Complete set has just dropped to £26, which seems like a good deal compared to the individual prices.
Still no sign of Schalken the Painter, though.
I was thrilled to spot some of the individual releases in the BFI shop at the weekend. I managed to record some oft hese from BBC4 a couple of years back, but haven't got a full set and they're only in "slightly tired" condition. Just ordered the boxset from Zavvi for £29.95.
I received the box set last week.
Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas (2000) only contains 3 of the 4 episodes (the same as the Australian DVD release). I queried this with the BFI and they said they didn't have licensing for the missing episode ('The Ash Tree').
Just watched the 2010 Whistle and I'll Come to You. One of the most depressing and boring things I've seen in a long while.