Whistle and I'll Come To You

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Mr_Wolf
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Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Mr_Wolf »

I've just re-watched this and have not revised my previous opinion that it's a load of mumbling cobblers. I really don't understand its reputation - what am I missing?
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marsey
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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by marsey »

For me it's the tension; largely nothing happens, but it's a ghost story and you're always anticipating that something uncanny will suddenly occur.

I think the fear of waking in the middle of the night and seeing an apparition trying to 'get you' is something that we've all probably felt at one time or another, and the way that this is done in the b&w version is simply superb.

Now The Signalman is an altogether different kettle of fish; that is one that leaves me wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Mr_Wolf »

Now I quite enjoy The Signalman, though my favourite is The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.
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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Simon36 »

Mr_Wolf wrote:I've just re-watched this and have not revised my previous opinion that it's a load of mumbling cobblers. I really don't understand its reputation - what am I missing?
Are you talking about the Miller one? I think that's magnificent. A wonderful character study first and foremost, an exercise in manners, a study of a certain type of Englishness, and also the challenges to rationalism that seem to come as much from within him and without.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by ctraynor »

That's right. Whistle's reputation seems to have developed very much through word-of-mouth. When a friend showed it to me on videotape 16 years ago all he said was it was left-field and to see what I thought of it. I thought it was brilliant for the first several times I saw it. So did several friends when I showed it to them and they were very much not into vintage TV. One said it was about the scariest thing he'd seen, and another actually had a nightmare about it.
(Apparently) not much happening for the first half, then it's got you, but possibly not, if you've heard about it from everyone else first. And it's quite funny too, with the disconnectedness of the professor being the source of the humour. The dream chase along the beach was incredibly tense and suspenseful to me with the slowing heartbeat followed by those roars. Very disturbing.

I'll give the Signalman another go some time, but found it disappointing, especially compared to Whistle.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by marsey »

Mr_Wolf wrote:Now I quite enjoy The Signalman, though my favourite is The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.

I enjoy The Signalman, but do not find it at all scary. As it fails at what it is inded to do (and be) it can only be seen as a failure (for me anyway).

And yes I agree that Abbot Thomas is definately the best of all the ghost stories.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Ross »

Mr_Wolf wrote:I've just re-watched this and have not revised my previous opinion that it's a load of mumbling cobblers. I really don't understand its reputation - what am I missing?
Nothing. It's shit.

I bought the box set purely for the Seventies MR James ghost stories. A View From A Hill and Number 13 were pleasant surprises; Stigma and the Sixties O Whistle were at the other end of the spectrum.

(I have yet to see the modern O Whistle, Signalman and The Ice House. I'll watch the latter tonight and the other two tomorrow)

My favourite is also Abbot Thomas, with its wonderful 16mm location shooting in cathedral closes and old libraries, its wonderful music, its terrific two leads, its amusing seance scene and the fabulously horrible monster.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by GarethR »

Dissing B&W BBC ghost stories just before Christmas on an archive TV forum? That'll make the little baby Jesus cry.

On the subject of vastly overinflated reputations, The Stone Tape. I watched that under the impression that it was the most amazing thing ever, and was left saying "Is that it?" to an empty room (the missus had long since got bored and gone to bed). You can see the ending coming several miles off. While we're at it, The Nightmare Man is shit too.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Cole »

Mr_Wolf wrote:I've just re-watched this and have not revised my previous opinion that it's a load of mumbling cobblers. I really don't understand its reputation - what am I missing?
Glad it's not just me.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Ross »

GarethR wrote:On the subject of vastly overinflated reputations, The Stone Tape. The Nightmare Man is shit too.
Agreed and strongly agreed.

Oh, and I watched The Ice House last night. The BFI booklet makes out that it's a neglected classic. I just thought it was arch and rather pointless.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Mr_Wolf »

Loved The Nightmare Man. Used to watch it at my friend's house then had to walk home in the dark - an interesting experience to say the least!
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Post by ctraynor »

Yes, loved Whistle... for reasons I mentioned above, liked the Nightmare Man except for the weak finale on the golf course in blazing daylight, disappointed with the Stone Tape when I saw it 12 years ago (possibly because a) it was overacted and b) I'd been reading about it for 20 years or so in things like Starburst and Time Screen), liked Lost Hearts, disappointed with The Ice House (saw it for the first time at the Quad in Derby the other week. Glad to tick it off the list and it was sort of ok to watch but it was a watered down Hammer House of Horror really). Didn't find Rentaghost at all scary. Don't know why people go on about that one.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Robin Davies »

Ross wrote:Oh, and I watched The Ice House last night. The BFI booklet makes out that it's a neglected classic. I just thought it was arch and rather pointless.
Where does it call it a "neglected classic"? It's certainly neglected but in my booklet it's described as "not among the best" and "an interesting curio". To my taste that is vastly underselling it and I do indeed think it is a neglected classic. There is some detailed discussion about it on the old forum here:
http://www.mausoleumclubforum.org.uk/xm ... 424&page=1

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Robin Davies »

marsey wrote:I enjoy The Signalman, but do not find it at all scary. As it fails at what it is inded to do (and be) it can only be seen as a failure (for me anyway).
None of the ghost stories are truly "scary" but to judge them solely by that standard is a bit harsh (though I know Lawrence Gordon Clark says he wanted them to be scary). For me their greatest quality is their eerie atmosphere which combines bleak beauty, nostalgia and the haunting sense that there is something more than meets the eye. It's those qualities that make for longevity because yesteryear's "scary" (like the old Universal horror movies) is this year's mid-afternoon family entertainment.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by marsey »

Robin Davies wrote:
marsey wrote:I enjoy The Signalman, but do not find it at all scary. As it fails at what it is inded to do (and be) it can only be seen as a failure (for me anyway).
None of the ghost stories are truly "scary" but to judge them solely by that standard is a bit harsh (though I know Lawrence Gordon Clark says he wanted them to be scary). For me their greatest quality is their eerie atmosphere which combines bleak beauty, nostalgia and the haunting sense that there is something more than meets the eye. It's those qualities that make for longevity because yesteryear's "scary" (like the old Universal horror movies) is this year's mid-afternoon family entertainment.

I understand what you are saying , and agree that they are quite atmospheric. But like watching a comedy that I don't find funny, watching a programme that is meant to be scary but isn't (I wouldn't exactly say horror as that is something else) seems a bit - pointless.

The thing is that they have such a high standard to meet, as I'm judging them based on the best in the series: Abbot Thomas, O Whistle , Stalls of Barchester and Warning to the Curious. Any of these watched on a cold winter''s night sends shivers down my spine, in particular Warning and Whistle. Whereas Hearts, AshTree, View From a Hill and Signalman don't scare me at all.

But it's all a matter of opinion; we all have things that scare us in the same way that we all laugh at different things. Personally I have always enjoyed Whistle because there are things in it that are unnerving and scare me; if others cannot feel a similar uneasiness then I appreciate why they wouldn't get any entertainment from watching.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Simon36 »

Ross wrote:
GarethR wrote:On the subject of vastly overinflated reputations, The Stone Tape. The Nightmare Man is shit too.
Agreed and strongly agreed.

Oh, and I watched The Ice House last night. The BFI booklet makes out that it's a neglected classic. I just thought it was arch and rather pointless.
I have to agree on this point. I've always thought the Stone Tape was very overrated.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by marsey »

I think that some of these programmes are products of their time; that their renown has developed because of how well received they were at the time. For instance, The Stone Tapes does nothing for me; however I watched it for the first time more than 3 decades after it was made. Who knows how I would have felt about it if I'd have watched it in 1972; and would my view have dimished over time?

In perhaps the same way that I think that modern Dr.Who is not a patch on the Baker era (because he was the Who in my youth), or Robin of Sherwwod is far superior to the more recent Robin Hood series, I am sure that many who have seen modern Who or Hood first may strongly disagree with me. And fair play to them.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Simon Harries »

I'm glad someone mentioned "The Stalls of Barchester" and "A Warning to the Curious" - I think these are among the best in the bunch, along with "Abbot Thomas". When you're watching the likes of Vaughan, Hardy and Bryant really selling the dread and the horror, that makes for classy spine-chilling viewing. Curiously Bryant is less effective in "The Stone Tape" which is, sadly, not all it's cracked up to be.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Mike S »

MR James' finger-wagging 'Don't mess with things you don't understand' tone has always pissed me off, so I'm not his biggest fan. But I always think ghost stories start to fall apart whenever you get to the 'explanation' part (particularly The Woman In Black, the recent film version of which is essentially Ghost Family Trees with its tiresome rostrum-ing across death certificates), so I've always enjoyed Whistle's ambiguity. It's about a scary something-or-other chasing Michael Horden and nothing else. You can project what you like onto it, but there's no clunky backstory. Well, there is in the 2010 'Blimey the wife' version, but that's rubbish anyway.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Simon36 »

I've never thought MR James was the brilliant writer many think he is. There is a snobbishness about ghost stories and many people who wouldn't give them houseroom only concede to the odd MR because he was a cloistered academic in my opinion. I think the BBC adaptations are marvellous because so often they take his strengths and then build on them.

As for The Stone Tape, I think the first fifteen minutes or so are pretty dire and although I quite like the very of their time "ugly" performances and brutal tone, I dfont think its very well staged at all. ( I would say "directed" but I specifically mean in terms of the visual depictions. The climax of Jane Asher being stalked in particular I think is sodding dire.

It has some great ideas but I do think it's also grating and pompous.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by RobinCarmody »

Quite a few point-missing posts in this thread (Abbot Thomas the best one? Really?).

I've gone over this often enough already, but basically the further they get from their original author's cloistered insularity and fear, the more I like them. So Lost Hearts, The Ash Tree and the Miller Whistle yes to infinity (and Stigma and The Ice House possibly even more so), Stalls of Barchester and Abbot Thomas much less so, because they don't exist or have any meaning outside their own private universe, and for me that's not enough. I know a lot of people on here like anorak comfort viewing that doesn't have anything to do with the actual 1970s, but I can't go there.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Nick Cooper 625 »

I have to say that I'm rather surprised at the thrashing The Stone Tape is getting, as I've always rated it very highly. As has been said, it may not work with people seeing it for the first time "recently," as a few of the ideas Kneale plays with are very much of their time, particularly the undermining of the "glamorous/powerful/promiscuous executive" theme so popular in 1960s & 70s TV. As an actual ghost story it works for me precisely the first half feigns undermining the very concept of ghost, and ultimately it piles a big heap of ambiguity on Jill's fate at the end. It's also very much of a slow-burner, yet while I have heard people decry it as being "too long," it's hard to identify any significant part of it that doesn't contribute to the whole.

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Schalcken the Painter yet....
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Post by Juswuh »

You don't see much mention of the 2000 series with Christopher Lee as James reading his tales to an audience of undergraduates, with This Life-style camerawork. Yes, it was utterly stupid and unwatchable.

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Post by brigham »

I didn't rate The Stone Tape very highly at the time. I somehow got the impression that the author had lost the plot half way through. Instead of trying to research the phenomenon for commercial use, the protagonists seemed to have fallen into the old 'exorcise this evil' mode. I was left thinking that the 'seventies looked like being shit, after the great time we'd had in the previous decade.

It was only on the first DVD release that I came to appreciate the story. It now ranks among my all-time favourites.

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Post by ctraynor »

Nick Cooper 625 wrote: I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Schalcken the Painter yet....
I saw it for the first time, again at the Derby Quad, the other week. Quite eerie.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by GarethR »

Nick Cooper 625 wrote:I have to say that I'm rather surprised at the thrashing The Stone Tape is getting, as I've always rated it very highly. As has been said, it may not work with people seeing it for the first time "recently," as a few of the ideas Kneale plays with are very much of their time
My reasons for being decidedly underwhelmed by it when I first saw it about 15 years ago were nothing to do with of-their-time ideas and everything to do with its banality and predictability. There's no memorable dialogue, tension is virtually non-existent, and you can see the ending coming several miles off.

There's one good thing about it that I can remember - the low-angle tracking shot as people run down a corridor towards the Scary Room. That's an unusually kinetic camera move for the BBC of the time. But it's only a few seconds out of 90 minutes of general tedium. Perhaps it would have worked better as a 50- or 60-minute production.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Mike S »

Dead of Night: The Exorcism is worse than all of them, though. It teases you into thinking 'Ooh, this looks quite good', and then makes you sit through the most tedious, expositision-tastic monologue in the entire history of television.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by Cole »

Mike S wrote:Dead of Night: The Exorcism is worse than all of them, though. It teases you into thinking 'Ooh, this looks quite good', and then makes you sit through the most tedious, expositision-tastic monologue in the entire history of television.
A work colleague of the GF is going to be appearing in an am-dram version of The Excorcism in the new year. Being a big fan of the stage version of The Woman in Black, I was quite interested when the GF told me that he was doing a ghost story. My heart sank a bit when I heard it was The Excorcism, for the same reason given above. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt as they did a good version of Abigail's Party in 2011. Plus, the cast's reference has been my off-air copy; none of the cast had seen it!

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Post by Between Channels »

The Exorcism is pretty gruelling though - Anna Cropper gives a great performance. I don't get the same cosy feeling of enjoyment that I get from the M.R. James / Lawrence Gordon Clark films. Return Flight is better - little exposition, yet every scene cracks a particular nut that keeps the story going. Would love to see an am-dram of 'A Woman Sobbing'.

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Re: Whistle and I'll Come To You

Post by fatcat »

Simon36 wrote: As for The Stone Tape, I think the first fifteen minutes or so are pretty dire and although I quite like the very of their time "ugly" performances and brutal tone, I dfont think its very well staged at all. ( I would say "directed" but I specifically mean in terms of the visual depictions. The climax of Jane Asher being stalked in particular I think is sodding dire.

It has some great ideas but I do think it's also grating and pompous.
Never understood what that car parking sequence with Jane was all about, looked a total mess stage wise.

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