Ghost STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS | HITCHCOCK TRAILER
GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS
After years of anticipation, the BFI are finally releasing the celebrated GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS series fully - as a 5-disc DVD box set. This BBC produced series spanned from 1968-1978 and was made up of MR James ghost story adaptations (with the exception of Dickens' THE SIGNALMAN (1976) & some of the modern ones such as THE ICE HOUSE (1978) ). Included also, are the brief revivals of this film tradition that were made recently: A VIEW FROM A HILL (2005), NUMBER 13 (2006) & WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU (2010).
This DVD set is incredibly overdue in terms of interest and demand, with the previously released films: A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS (1972), WHISTLE & I'LL COME TO YOU (1968) & THE SIGNALMAN (1976) all racking up extortionate prices in the past few years, becoming increasingly rare on DVD (even garnering interest in similarly rare VHS versions), the popularity of the films has been very evident. Another issue with the previous DVD versions was that they were released singularly, rather than a set; at 50 minutes max running time for each film it made for pretty inefficient use of disc space and lousy value for money. Speaking as one of the fans hunting for these TV gems, it was frustrating but now ultimately worth it, as it clearly demonstrated a decent market for the series exists to the BFI and all that searching/streaming of these lost films must have contributed to the new release.
The great writing, smart pacing and believable acting adds credibility to the films, that clearly follow a typical but highly enjoyable ghost story formula. Obvious set-ups, plots and devices feel recognisable but fresh, they've simply never been implemented as well as this; a testament to the quality of the works. Let's not ignore that's it's the familiarity of situations in horror/mystery films that often allows an audience in, to enjoy and relate, then the subsequent subversion of that. Without going off on a tangent... it's a fitting metaphor to compare a roller-coaster to films like these; you can see what's ahead of you but it seldom doesn't give you a surprise during the ride. We know what it's going to do and we have good foresight of how it'll try to do "IT" - to scare us. A roller-coaster will be enjoyed whilst riding, like watching a film, the satisfaction comes with understanding the ride but being unaware of the path - the then and now within the moment that gives satisfaction. After the film or roller-coaster is finished, how does it linger in the mind? Is that the true test?
If you like your subtler terrors and a more vintage style of scaring an audience, I highly recommend this set. Actually, if you have a DVD player, I recommend it.
The set features the three aforementioned titles and nine other films never-before on DVD. With Halloween close and the road to Christmas upon us, these sought-after eerie films have been shrewdly scheduled for a seasonal sale - of which I've totally bought into and pre-ordered. To read more about GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS, there is a brief but informative article in Sight & Sound (September 2012 issue) and the full synopsis/context from the BFI can be viewed HERE. The films can also be purchased as individual sets with 2-4 of the films on each (as pictured above).
The trailer for HITCHCOCK has hit and it seems really promising. Rather than being a full life-long biographical film that I'm sure would struggle capturing such a prolific figure, the filmmakers have wisely focussed on a specific period of Hitch's life; that being when the director was trying to get PSYCHO (1960) off the ground and into production. With the hindsight we have as an audience for the film's success and knowing how regarded Psycho (1960) will become, the premise is really interesting. From the trailer, this appears to create some great drama and humour we've been unaware of associated with the film. We can see from the dramatisation of the real events, that it appears it was far from easy to get the classic made and this should make for a great film. Plus, performers such as Scarlett Johansson have pretty much transformed into the older actors they'll portray from Hitchcock's films, it's quite astonishing. Take a look...