Ghost Stories for Christmas: Volume 1
We at 60MW Towers are already, being of oldish age and a penchant for the ghostly, fans of the BBC’s Christmas Ghost stories.
Every year I place the old DVD box set in front of Mr 60MW, and wearing a long Victorian gown I found in the attic (no, it doesn’t fasten), I wail and cry… ‘Ohhh Daveeeee, Daveeeeeeeee let us watch the most horrid MR James’ stories’.
I suppose this might not have such an impact on ‘new’ viewers, by that I mean a younger audience, born in the 90’s and thinking ‘horror’ is Freddy Kruger or even (gasp) Twilight.
We don’t really see any gore (though Lost Hearts involves children having their hearts ripped out) and these pre-digital films do look ‘dated’ (not crisp! Not UHD, not in dolby surround!), but ohhhhh – watch late at night with no lights on, and a flimsy… is it material in the wind? Is it …. Evil spectral thingy? chasing Michael Horden in black and white across a beach is pretty horrible. In Lost Hearts the long fingernails of the children (way before Salems Lot) scritchy scratching made me reach for a cushion to hug.
I remember watching The Signalman (which isn’t included in this boxset but will be in part 2 next Christmas) when I was a kid, and it scared the living daylights out of me. I think if you caught any of these ghost stories at the time, you too would be scared, and this is the beauty of this BFI box set. You remember, not all of it, but the fact that on Christmas Eve, sitting with your dad, just around 11.30pm on BBC 2, you would be watching something scary and unsettling.
This horror is turn of the century, MR James, intelligent, yet unexplained, and so insidious it creeps into your bones. If you saw it as a child, a rewatch will remind you that yes, less IS more.
- Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968)
- The Stalls of Barchester (1971)
- A Warning to the Curious (1972)
- Lost Hearts (1973)
- Newly remastered by the BFI and presented in High Definition (Limited Edition)
- Newly recorded audio commentaries for Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968) and A Warning to the Curious by TV historian Jon Dear
- Newly recorded audio commentaries for The Stalls of Barchester and Lost Heartsby Kim Newman and Sean Hogan
- Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010, 52 mins): John Hurt stars in this 2010 interpretation of MR James’s chilling tale
- Jonathan Miller and Christopher Frayling interview (2012, 3 mins)
- Neil Brand reads MR James’s original story (2001, 42 mins, audio only)
- Ramsey Campbell on MR James (2001, 16 mins)
- Ramsey Campbell reads The Guide (2001, 27 mins)
- Introductions by Lawrence Gordon Clark (2012, 33 mins total): the director of seven of the BBC’s classic A Ghost Story For Christmas episodes discusses his part in the first three instalments he directed
- Ghost Stories For Christmas with Christopher Lee (2000, 60 mins total): BBC Scotland’s ‘talking-head horror’ series starring the iconic actor as an MR James-like raconteur of fireside Christmas ghost stories. Included on this release are The Stalls of Barchester and A Warning to the Curious
Review by Tina from discs kindly supplied by the BFI.