Saturday, 25 December 2010

Ghost story at Christmas

Note to those at the BBC who made' Whistle and I'll come to you', starring John Hurt and shown last night on Christmas Eve. If you're basing a drama on a very well-known short story ('Oh whistle and I'll come to you my lad') by one of the masters of the genre M R James, it's probably best to use the most effective elements of that tale: namely the relentless pursuit over the groynes of the beach by a mysterious figure and the final terrifying manifestation inside the bedsheets. If the film bears very little relation to the story you might have considered giving it an alternative title and then made a decent version of the original. Given that the ancient whistle found on the site of a Templar preceptory plays a major part in the story (and the title) it might have been a good idea to include it, especially as it apparently helps to 'whistle up' the wind and the apparition.

As a modern day story about the relationship of an elderly couple and the perils of Alzheimer's and loneliness it was pretty standard ghostly fare, but it could have been so much more - changing his profession from an academic to an astronomer added nothing apart from a joke about that old confusion with astrology and detracted considerably from the antiquarian bent of James's best stories. When he was booked into a double bed I pretty much gave up hope of even a vaguely faithful retelling of one of my favourite ghost stories. Despite some atmospheric moments (taken from the film The Haunting), a great disappointment. I never thought I would say this, but I much preferred the Jonathan Miller black and white interpretation with Michael Hordern.

Addendum 30 December: see also 'Who is this who is coming?' on the feuilleton blog from the list opposite

Tonight on Yesterday they are showing an entire evening of Nazi Collaborators, including a documentary on someone who ran an extermination camp in Lithuania - Merry Christmas.

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