Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The ghost story returns

The BBC gave many of us a wonderful Christmas present this year in bringing back to life - if that's quite the right expression - the much loved Ghost Story for Christmas.

I have blogged about these programmes from the 1970s many times before, stating what an influence they were on me - and many others, I'm sure.  I have also been lucky enough to meet Lawrence Gordon Clark, the man who brought those stories to our screens, at the Halifax Ghost Story Festival.

Mark Gatiss was at the helm this time and I'm sure that it is his personal enthusiasm for the project that has resulted in these programmes being revived.  He deserves a medal.  Or some sort of dusty amulet.

Having said all that, I was little bit underwhelmed by THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH - his choice for the film.  As with most of the Lawrence Gordon Clark adaptations, it was an M R James story.  Unfortunately, I don't think it is M R James' strongest.  It relies on a coincidence of such unbelievable proportions it undermines the whole tale.

It is a mistake to think that because a ghost story is inherently fantastical, you do not need to follow the normal rules of logic outside of that part of the story.  The more believable the details of the story are, the more the reader (or viewer) will be pulled in.  I think Gatiss should have shown a bit less respect to the story and given it a tweak.  He did after all move it forward in time a few decades.

But I can't be too hard on it, because I am so pleased to have the Ghost Story strand back.  I just wonder whether its time - as Gordon Clark did with Dickens' THE SIGNALMAN - to leave M R James in peace and go elsewhere for stories.  A version of W W Jacobs THE MONKEY'S PAW perhaps....?

Or...ahem...some other, more recent, purveyor of creepy fiction....

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