A little bit later than it should have been (sorry), it’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in December. And judging by the schedule, the BFI knows its my birthday since not only is there a Ghostwatch showing and reunion, there’s not one but two Nigel Kneale showings (The Woman in Black and The Stone Tape, complete with Q&A) and two ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ sessions (who wants a bet they might have something good and shiny in that?). Add on some classic ghost stories, some eleventh Doctor Doctor Who, and previews of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's Inside No 9 and an adaptation of The Thirteenth Tale and you have a month to top all months. Merry Christmas everyone and happy birthday to me!
Thu 5 Dec 18:20 NfT2
Mystery & Imagination: The Fall of the House of Usher
ABC 1966. Dir Kim Mills. With David Buck, Susannah York, Denholm Elliott, Mary Miller. 52min
Assheton Gorton’s studio designs contributed enormously to the success of this tremendously atmospheric production. Susannah York is magnificent as the tormented Madeline of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story; equally impressive is Denholm Elliott as her twin brother, haunted by the knowledge of family insanity induced by narcolepsy (a condition that obsessed Poe as the victim appeared to be dead, thus risking the ultimate horror of being buried alive).
+ Edgar Allan Poe – The Imp of the Perverse
BBC 1975. Dir James Ormerod. With Michael Kitchen, Philip Stone, Lalla Ward, Milton Johns. 30min
Edgar Allan Poe’s tale asks the question can we be haunted by our own thoughts? Skilfully dramatised by Andrew Davies, this highly original work follows the fortunes of a student (Kitchen), driven constantly to commit self-destructive and evil acts by his very own imp of the perverse – the voice in his head goading him on, even to murder.
Fri 6 Dec 18:15 NfT1
Ghostwatch (Screen One Special) + panel discussion
BBC 1992. Dir Lesley Manning. With Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith, Craig Charles. 91min
Transmitted on Halloween, this incredibly original production was the Blair Witch Project of its day, using some of the BBC’s leading personalities to convey the illusion of a ‘live’ report from a haunted house. Employing the devices of reality television, Ghostwatch treats its terrifying story as seemingly live events – a tradition of hoax broadcasting that stretches back to Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds radio stunt of 1937. Now more than 20 years later, Ghostwatch has achieved cult TV status and we are delighted to be able to reunite the original Ghostwatch team discuss its amazing conception and impact. – MP Followed by panel and Q&A with Sir Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith, Craig Charles, writer Stephen Volk and director Lesley Manning, work permitting
Sun 8 Dec 15:45 NFT1
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour
BBC 2010. Dir Adam Smith. With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan. 65min
A new Doctor, new hands at the helm and an intoxicating new companion – a feisty no-nonsense redhead with quick wits and a spirit of adventure. The Amy Pond story starts here and takes us into areas we could barely imagine.AlsoonhandisRory;atfirst he’s a seemingly throwaway character but he will become embedded in the mainframe of the series and (with a fine performance by Arthur Darvill) develop into a firm fan favourite.
+ Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor
BBC 2013. Dir Saul Metzstein. With Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman. 45min
A key episode in terms of the Doctor’s history which pleasingly remains shrouded in some mystery despite the many clues given en route. Old friends are reunited and the Doctor makes a dangerous visit to the location of his own grave – despite the best efforts by the TARDIS to prevent him. An episode with a palpable sense of menace and a humdinger of an ending!
Wed 11 Dec 18:10 NfT1
TV Preview: The Thirteenth Tale + Q&A
BBC Television/Dayday Films/Heyday Films/NFH Films 2013. Dir James Kent. With Vanessa Redgrave, Olivia Colman, Alexandra Roach, Robert Pugh. 90min
The BFI is delighted to present a preview of this haunting psychological mystery, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman. When biographer Margaret Lea (Colman) reluctantly agrees to interview the legendary yet reclusive writer Vida Winter (Redgrave), she uncovers disturbing secrets of Vida’s strange childhood that have lain hidden for decades within the walls of Angelfield, her ancestral home. Adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons) from Diane Setterfield’s best-selling novel, this single film for BBC2 is directed by James Kent (Inside Men, The White Queen) and produced by David Heyman (Harry Potter, Gravity) and Norma Heyman (Mrs Henderson Presents, Dangerous Liaisons).
Followed by a panel and Q&A with screenwriter Christopher Hampton, director James Kent and cast members. See BFI website for final panel confirmation
Thu 12 Dec 20:40 NfT3
The Woman in Black
Central TV 1989. Dir Herbert Wise. With Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, David Daker, Clare Holman. 100min
Adapted from Susan Hill’s book by that master of suspense Nigel Kneale, this television version relies on suggestion rather than the special effects of the later film adaptation. This production appeared just two years after the successful UK stage-play (which is still running in the West End); it is especially impressive for its unblinking treatment of the novel’s bleak conclusion, evoking a strong sense of grief and the inescapable power of evil. Gripping and not for the faint-hearted!
Sat 14 Dec 16:00 NfT1
The Stone Tape + Q&A
BBC 1972. Dir Peter Sasdy. With Michael Bryant, Jane Asher, Iain Cuthbertson. 89min
This production mixes science fiction with the traditional ghost story in a way that could only have originated from the pen of Nigel Kneale. When a group of scientists are moved to an old mansion to research cutting-edge technologies, one room remains unfinished where the builders will no longer tread. The sensitive Collinson (Asher) begins to hear voices from the site, and soon things are spiralling dangerously out of control. – MP Followed by discussion with director Peter Sasdy about this unique production and his time at Hammer Film
Mon 16 Dec 18:20 NfT2
Haunted: The Poor Girl
Granada TV 1974. Dir Michael Apted. With Lynne Miller, Stuart Wilson, Angela Thorne, Matthew Pollock. 52min
Boasting a fantastic pedigree in director Michael Apted, script associate Charles Sturridge and producer Derek Granger (the latter two of Brideshead Revisited fame), this adaptation of Elizabeth Taylor’s short story achieves scenes of sexual claustrophobia reminiscent of The Go-Between. The tale of a precocious boy’s infatuation with his new governess reminds us of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. As the governess is increasingly troubled by visions of a couple from the future, her grasp on reality begins to slip and her own sexual infatuations begin to take over.
Granada TV 1974. Dir John Irvin. With Jeremy Brett, Natasha Parry, Geoffrey Chater, Lesley Dunlop. 52min
Directed by John Irvin and adapted by Julian Bond from a story by Kingsley Amis, this episode in Granada’s classy ghost anthology series does not disappoint. Jeremy Brett is magnetic as an author who becomes trapped in the fictional world he has created for his recently published ghost story. As coincidences pile up, he becomes increasingly terrified, knowing only too well how the story will end. Many elements of classic Gothic, including the appearance of a ghostly ferryman, are here, but carried off with a wonderful 1970s sense of style. A haunting tale with a chilling twist.
Wed 18 Dec 18:10 NfT3
Shades of Darkness: Feet Foremost
Granada 1983. Dir Gordon Flemyng. With Jeremy Kemp, Peter Machin, Carol Royle. 52min
Dramatised by Alan Plater from a story by LP Hartley, this enigmatic ghost story has all the traditional elements, including the slighted female figure from the past who has come back to take revenge. In the hands of Hartley and Plater, it becomes something much more interesting and nuanced – and a clever take on the notion of possession.
+ The Gothic Anthology Series Panel and Q&A With actor Reece Shearsmith, author Helen Wheatley, and chair Matthew Sweet
Television has long drawn on the Gothic short story as a literary source, with broadcasters grouping together different tales in single anthology series. ITV established the trend with series such as Mystery & Imagination in the early 1960s, while Anglia had a huge international success with Tales of the Unexpected and the Orson Welles Mysteries. Using illustrations as examples, our panel, some of whom continue to create Gothic television, ask whether we are about to enter a new golden age for the Gothic anthology on TV.
Thu 19 Dec 20:20 NfT1
TV Preview: Inside No 9
BBC 2013. Dir David Kerr. With Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton. 2 x 30min
From the minds of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville) comes a new anthology of darkly comic tales. These two films are part of a series in which viewers will be invited to six very different No 9s each week where the ordinary and mundane rub shoulders with the extraordinary and macabre. From a grand country house where a game of ‘sardines’ leads to some shocking revelations to a family home carefully kept at a particularly chilling -2oC to a theatre dressing room where a production of Macbeth provides a backdrop for bloody ambition, these unpredictable tales feature high comedy and claustrophobic horror by turns.
We are delighted to welcome Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and producer Adam Tandy to take part in a Q&A following the screening.
Sat 21 Dec 15.30 NFT1
Missing Believed Wiped
20th Anniversary special session one: the native Hue of Resolution: 20 Years of Missing Believed Wiped
UK 2013. Dir Rory Clark. 90min
In 1993 the BFI launched their initiative to find TV programmes missing from the official archives. Twenty years on much progress has been made, though thousands of programmes remain missing, believed wiped. This new documentary (made by Farcical Films/Kaleidoscope especially for this screening at BFI Southbank) traces the real reasons why programmes were destroyed and charts the worldwide hunt for Britain’s television past.
Narrated by Peter Purves, it features contributions from, among others: Alan Bennett, Barry Cryer, Jasper Carrott, Peter Firmin, Paul Fox, Galton and Simpson, Hartley Hare, Terry Jones, Sue Malden, David Nobbs, Pete Murray and Pan’s People. Produced by Kaleidoscope’s Chris Perry, the film also features extensive footage found during production of the documentary, from programmes previously thought lost.
Joint ticket available £15, concs £11.50 (Members pay £1.50 less)
MBW 20th Anniversary special: session two
All titles TBC. 100min
We begin with a panel discussion looking at some of the issues raised by the preceding documentary before revealing an exciting package of the latest finds from the world of missing British television. We are unable to verify any titles at the time of going to press but please check the BFI website for announcements of an array of gems from what is shaping up to be a hugely significant year in the ongoing search – particularly pertinent for this 20th anniversary presentation.
Champions' priority booking: 11.30am November 4
Members' priority booking opens: 11.30am November 5
£7.00 (member concs)
£8.50 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00.
All shows are £6 on Tuesdays. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.
- July 21, 2015: Kneale Before Nigel: Quatermass/The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)
A review of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass