There is something rather wonderful about this collection of M. R. James stories, read face-to-camera by actor Robert Powell. If anyone is a keen audiobook listener like me, they will know what joy can come from having a story read to you by an established actor. Here, we have some images to go with it. As well as Powell moving around an old, cosy study or sitting by a fireplace, we have some occasional dramatic recreations of the stories he is narrating.
These classic ghost stories were originally broadcast over Christmas on the BBC in 1986. Some of the special effects used haven’t aged well, though one particular story (involving large, scary creatures of the eight-legged variety) contains a very unsettling scene that I have to admit rather unnerved me.
Although some may find the dated TV look of the series of short films a little off-putting, for connoisseurs of the gothic this is a delicious treat. Powell is a perfect narrator; calm, collected, well-spoken and never condescending.
A note on the disc: Though the BFI are usually committed to high definition presentations, on this release their hands are tied. As they explain in their booklet that goes with the DVD, the nature of the 1-inch video source materials result in a picture of occasional low quality and unsuitable for HD transfer to a Blu-ray disc. The colours are occasionally uneven and the video-noise quite often fuzzy. However, these transfers are representative of the source materials, which are themselves products of the time, so it would be unfair to complain about the release for this reason.
Classic Ghost Stories is released on DVD in the UK by the BFI from 28 October.