Stratosfear

22 Nov

Shadows is usually admirably spooky (when it doesn’t get sidetracked into the realm of twee fantasy), but Ewart Alexander’s The Eye, directed by Neville Green, is the only episode that’s genuinely scary, even for an adult viewer (well this adult viewer, anyway).  With its genuinely weird atmosphere and its unfathomable story (seemingly) involving something gone wrong with time it feels more than anything like a Sapphire and Steel story a few years early.  But there are no clever trans-dimensional agents to help out the kids caught up in this nightmare (and the feeling of being caught up in a nightmare is exactly what The Eye evokes).

In a rain-lashed house in Wales (decorated with several varieties of truly startling 70s wallpaper), nervous teenager Steve is frantically trying to tidy up before his dad’s return home.  Meanwhile his creepy sister George sits in the dark, staring at the pictures of historical figures pinned to her bedroom wall, and murmuring about time.

Steve’s made uneasy by the strange atmosphere given off by a Greek urn in the hall commemorating the mythical blind wanderer Stratos.  George is almost as obsessed with this as with her pictures from the past, and has taken up smashing crockery to make a huge mosaic of Stratos in the garage.  As she seems to drift further into her own little world, Steve is increasingly terrified by strange sounds and images that fill the house, centred (for a reason that’s never explained) on an over-boiling saucepan on the stove.

Eventually Dad arrives home – or does he? The figure that enters the house is wearing his bike gear, but is silent (apart from some scary heavy breathing) and apparently unable to see.  And it seems to be searching for something…

What’s going on in The Eye might be anyone’s guess, but thanks to its weird, almost subliminal spectral images, a memorably  frightening monster and John Sanderson’s convincingly terror-stricken performance as Steve it becomes a classic of TV horror.

 

 

 

Deer Grandad

21 Nov

The opening titles of Shadows bring the supernatural into the modern (for 1976) age of the high-rise.  They’re especially appropriate for The Inheritance, an episode written by Josephine Poole that contrasts that world unfavourably with the mysterious old ways of the countryside.

For many years Eli (John Barrett) has been a harbourer, or deer keeper, and is a countryman through and through.  He feels a deeper connection with his deer than with any human being.  But now he has a terminal illness, and goes to stay with his daughter Margaret (Priscilla Morgan) in the city for what he knows will be his final days.  In contrast to the slow, quiet Eli Margaret symbolises all that’s inane about the urban world, with her endless chatter and fascination with her television and electric blanket.  She’s proud to have secured a job in an insurance firm for her school leaver son Martin (Dougal Rose), but Martin’s only interest is nature, and it becomes clear that he and his grandfather are kindred spirits.

Eli tells Martin all about the ways of deer, and about the legendary horn dance, performed by antlered men, which he has always wanted to take part in.  Later, on a visit to the local park, Martin sees ghostly figures performing the dance – but there are only five, where there should be six.

You’ve probably guessed the ending already – Eli dies during the night, while Martin dreams about the dance again: this time all the dancers are present, and when it ends the sixth dancer is revealed as Eli.  Later Martin finds Eli’s cottage and livelihood as harbourer has been left to him, and he takes it up, grateful to have escaped from a lifetime of insurance.

It’s a slight story, but a quietly affecting one, and an example of how frequently themes of paganism, folk rituals and paeans to rural life turn up in 70s children’s TV – see Children of the StonesSkyRaven, The Changes, etc. etc.    The negative dream-images of the horn dance are especially haunting and make The Inheritance more than worth watching in themselves.

Brutalist nightmare

21 Nov

Hello.  Here are some images from the wonderfully strange and creepy opening titles to the second series of Thames’ fantasy and supernatural show for kids, Shadows, first broadcast in 1976 – in which a crow turns into a block of flats and then various other disturbing things happen.

Psychedelia & Sleaze from ’69

13 Nov

Hello.

I’ve had a couple of new reviews published at Attack from Planet B, for two distinctly odd British horrors from 1969, both with rather repetitive titles: Gordon Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again and Lindsay Shonteff’s Night, After Night, After Night.  You can find them here:

http://www.attackfromplanetb.com/index.php/2012/10/scream-and-scream-again-1969/

http://www.attackfromplanetb.com/index.php/2012/11/night-night-night-1969/

Here’s some photos from Night, After Night, After Night to give you some idea of just what a load of loony old sleaze it is.

Psycho Puppet

27 Sep

Hello.  Have you seen The Sorcerers, the utterly wonderful Michael Reeves film from 1967? If you haven’t I’m shocked and appalled and recommend you do so almost instantly.  First I’ll allow you to read my review of it here, explaining why it’s so brilliant: http://www.attackfromplanetb.com/index.php/2012/09/the-sorcerers-1967/

Oh, and here’s a rather splendid trailer for it:

Musical interlude

26 Sep

Hello.  How are you? It’s been a while.  My review of Michael Reeves’ magnificent The Sorcerers will shortly be available to read at http://www.attackfromplanetb.com/ but in the meantime here’s a tune that  unexpectedly features on the soundtrack.  If you ask me it’s Sir Cliff’s best song ever by a very long shot:

Manhandling (1962)

12 Sep

Another one of the odder shorts produced by British Transport Films.  This one’s a guide to safe lifting techniques for rail employees.  Which all sounds very dull, but it’s livened up by the appearance of TV strongwoman Joan Rhodes.  Yes, TV strongwoman.  I think those two words sum up how far the entertainment industry’s gone downhill since 1962.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers