Monday, 27 December 2010
A tuneless whistle.
I have said many times that I would love to see a return of the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas strand. But they do say that you should be careful what you wish for. . .
Not only did the BBC show a ghost story on Christmas Eve, they showed an adaptation of M R James - Whistle and I'll Come to You. Starring the wonderful John Hurt! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, sadly, many things. First and foremost they decided to 'improve' on the original. There is absolutely nothing wrong with freely adapting a story - Lawrence Gordon Clark was hardly pedantic in his 1970s adaptations - but if you are going to change it, you had better make sure that those changes are worthwhile.
This film was very poor and an absolute waste of the undoubted talents of John Hurt. It had no sense of place - it seemed to have been shot in several contradictory locations. The East Anglian setting of the original had been swapped - for no apparent reason - for the south coast. The sky would be blue one moment and overcast the next. Wind whistled in our ears but did not move a hair on John Hurt's head or trouble the millpond ocean. And the title was made meaningless by an absence of a whistle (replaced - again with dizzying randomness - with a ring).
We were asked to believe that a huge hotel had only one occupant and only one member of staff (did the budget not run to more extras?). And nothing in the film compared with either Lawrence Gordon Clark's A Warning to the Curious (whose beach chase scene was appropriated to far less effect) or to Jonathan Miller's 1960s adaptation with its nightmarish vision on the shingle strand and the thing made of sheets that torments Michael Hordern at the end.
And why was the thoroughly decent John Hurt being tormented anyway? I know that there is not always a watertight logic to ghost stories, but I could not see why he was haunted. He did not seem to be in any state of denial about his wife's condition.
A major disappointment.