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110 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 70's M R James ghost story dvd
M R James classic ghost story Casting The Runes was made in the late 1970's by Yorkshire television. The story has a 70's feel about it and some of the changes from location to studio look rather obvious but that just adds to the charm. This is a pritty scary programme for its time (helped by the earie music score) and has an excellent cast including Jan Francis, David...
Published on 12 Sep 2007 by David

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly poor
If you're looking for a good ghost story, you could certainly do better than the limp 1978 ITV adaptation of M.R. James' Casting the Runes, which bears as little relation to the plot as the excellent Night of the Demon and is even further from the spirit. Even if Jacques Tourneur's movie weren't so very good, this is too weak to stand on its own merits. The good: updating...
Published on 14 Oct 2009 by Trevor Willsmer


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly poor, 14 Oct 2009
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
If you're looking for a good ghost story, you could certainly do better than the limp 1978 ITV adaptation of M.R. James' Casting the Runes, which bears as little relation to the plot as the excellent Night of the Demon and is even further from the spirit. Even if Jacques Tourneur's movie weren't so very good, this is too weak to stand on its own merits. The good: updating the trigger for the from an academic report to a TV documentary is a neat idea, with a warning neatly appearing in the credits of the finished show-within-the-show, while when the runes finally are passed on at the end it results in the death - offscreen, naturally - of a lot of innocent people. The minuses are plentiful. Despite having helmed the BBC's excellent Ghost Story for Christmas adaptations of Dickens' The Signalman and James' The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, Lawrence Gordon Clark's direction is pedestrian and unengaging, with the snow covered locations the only thing to linger in the memory in an otherwise painfully flat and unimaginative approach. The script is generally weak, squandering the running time and failing to build up any atmosphere or dread. Worse still, the diabolist Karswell is relegated to a few minutes of screentime at the end that are as shaky as Iain Cuthbertson's American accent. There's none of the wit or intelligence that marked out the film, nor is Karswell ever allowed to articulate a point of view or philosophy to put into focus the original story's view of the conflict between the rational and the fear of forgotten powers. Not that James is an easy writer to adapt: his short stories are short on plot and shorter on visual elements - his ghosts or unknown, often putrefying entities are rarely seen, clearly or otherwise, but more often touched and felt, something that's particularly difficult to do onscreen. Not that having the rubber legs of a supposedly giant spider poking out from under Jan Francis' blankets like a jumbo size toy face hugger is making much of an effort... Some things it is better not to see.

Network's DVD also includes a 20-minute adaptation of James' Mr Humphries and His Inheritance which is more faithful but similarly underwhelming. Produced for a Schools' programme about the effectiveness of music to create mood in drama, naturally the monothematic score is the weakest thing about it, though even with better scoring it wouldn't linger in the memory for long. Rather better is the 48-minute ITV documentary about James on the disc, A Pleasant Terror. Although contractual edits have removed a section on Jonathan Miller's BBC adaptation of Oh Whistle and I'll Come to Thee and presenter Bill Wallis overdoes the solemn looks to the far distance in a laughable attempt to create some atmosphere, it does at least throw some light on to James and his work.
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110 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 70's M R James ghost story dvd, 12 Sep 2007
By 
David (SPECTRE Island) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
M R James classic ghost story Casting The Runes was made in the late 1970's by Yorkshire television. The story has a 70's feel about it and some of the changes from location to studio look rather obvious but that just adds to the charm. This is a pritty scary programme for its time (helped by the earie music score) and has an excellent cast including Jan Francis, David Calder (Star Cops) and Edward Petherbridge (Strong Poison). I won't ruin the polt for you by giving a detailed synopsis but if your a fan of M R James you know what a treat you have in store. Casting The Runes is very similar to the BBC Ghost Story For Christmas adaptions which were also made in the 70's and also adapted several M R James stories (when are we going to get more of them released on dvd).

Also included in the dvd are two further M R James programmes. First up is Mr Humphreys And His Inheritance which was shown in 1976 as part of the ITV schools programme on music in drama. This is a real bonus as it is a very rare piece of tv history and again has some jumpy bits in it. Finally we are treated to A Pleasant Terror which is a facinating biopic on the life of M R James presented by Bill Wallis. A Pleasent Terror has been edited as some of the clips are copyrighted material (I seem to remember that alot of the clips were from the various Ghost Story For Christmas adaptions).

So once again Network have pulled out all the stops and released another piece of tv heaven at a very reasonable price too. The prints may be a little grainy in places but for their age look pritty good. If, like me, you love the old 70's ghost stories what were made for tv then this dvd is for you
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time has not been kind to this story, 6 Jun 2008
By 
Dhekelia (Bedfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I first saw this back in '79 and possibly because I was a lot younger then, I thought it was great. Having watched it again, it does come across as rather weak, particularly when comparing it to the old black and white classic "Night of the Demon". In the next paragraph there are going to be a couple of spoilers, so for those of you who haven't seen it and wish to, please skip the next paragraph.

For one thing, I couldn't understand why Carswell had to be 'American'. In the original film he certainly wasn't and I've heard various stories that his character was based on Aleister Crowley, who, strangely enough was ..... English!!!! Iain Cuthbertson is a great actor but why he was forced to put on an American accent is beyond me. The other thing I found quite ridiculous was the huge spider in the 'victim's' bed. Again, referring back to the old black and white film, the experiences that the victim had were more 'suggestive' rather than obvious. The final thing that I found a total contradiction - when Carswell goes to the desk at the airport terminal he has no idea that his victim takes the place of one of the other assistants. He knew well in advance about her coming to his house (as his housekeeper announced "Mr Carswell has been expecting you", but had no idea she would be at the airport. Surely an inconsistency here?

I think the whole plot, and again I apologise for making constant comparisons between this version and the original "Night of the Demon" film, was weak and didn't keep you gripped in suspense. There's a lot to be said for these old black and white classics - if I had to make a choice between seeing this version again and "NOTD", I know which one I'd opt for! Good old Dana Andrews - you show 'em how it should be done!!!
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66 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab YTV release of a forgotten classic, 31 July 2007
By 
Mr. C. J. Iredale "juxtapose" (London Town) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I have had this on nth generation VHS for years, and, despite a somewhat obvious ending, this is a real classic. Filmed in the winter of 1978 by Yorkshire TV (and therefore presumably in the Yorkshire region), it stars a gorgeous Jan Francis and post-Budgie Iain Cuthberson, and eerie music (de rigeur at that time period). Only a short item, this is a steal at the price and will probably be best enjoyed during winter months with a cheeky glass of red wine.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Applaud Network dvd, 30 Oct 2007
By 
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
Whilst not reaching the heights of his BBC James adaptations, Lawrence Gordon Clark's late 70s ITV excursion is a very worthy piece of unnerving tv. Cuthbertson plays the Aleister Crowley inspired figure in this contemporary take on James' tale. The cheesy, "Tales Of The Unexected" like ending notwithstanding, this Nigel Kneale-like offering is a must for fans of the superb BBC MR James adaptations.

Also included is a made for schools adaptation. This short, low budget film was apparently made solely to demonstrate how music is used to accompany drama on tv (or film) & was aired on a schools music programme. Introduced by a young, floppy haired professor of music, whose musings on the nature of music for televised drama would be hard for an intelligent adult to grasp, let alone a school child, this generally unexceptional adaptation of an MR James story has a climax that, considering its purpose (music education!), the audience it was intended for (school children!) & time of broadcast (morning/early afternoon!), is brilliantly & terrifyingly done, a real surprise!...in fact, in terms of "MR James-ness", it's superior to "Casting the Runes".

Strangely, the figure on the dvd cover is reminiscent of the "Salem's Lot" vampire figure...there is one moment in "Mr Humphreys..." that is amazingly similar to a moment in "Salem's Lot".

Network dvd do a great service for fans of archive tv, buy this release & support their work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Casting the Runes, 2 Jan 2014
By 
B. Cooke (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this as a more modern version of The Night of the Demon, but it was a total disappointment for me.
Night of the Demon is an absolute classic horror film which build up the tension beautifully. I would recommend Night of the Demon over Casting the Runes any day.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why change it?, 30 Jan 2011
By 
Mike Heron (Truro, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
If there is anyone out there about to adapt, interpret, bring up-to-date or otherwise mutilate, a classic of fiction please think twice. What makes you think that your changes to the original will enhance it? Casting the Runes is one of M.R. James great ghost stories. He was not only a master of the genre, he practically invented it. Subsequent imitations pale by comparison. Setting the story in the world of the television studio brings it up to date all right but robs the story of the wonderful dark and shadowy atmosphere of the original. The scene with the spider, or whatever the silly thing was supposed to be, was simply ludicrous.

Transferring a story from the written page to the screen (television or cinema) inevitably means making some changes and compromises. James' stories are quite short and, therefore a degree of filling out is necessary. But any changes should seek to preserve the essential character of the original piece. To those who say this is impractical I recommend you watch two versions of William Golding's Lord of the Flies: the original b+w British version and the later American travesty. The former stays close to the script even preserving the dialogue of the book and is by far the better film.

Surely there must be some writer / director / screenwriter out there who can recognise the real quality of M.R. James' stories and is prepared to make a faithful cinema version. If not, then I suggest you leave well alone and keep James where he lives best - on the printed page.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor update of a classic M R James story, 1 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
As a piece of throw away tv for the late seventies this version of the Classic MR James story is fair enough, but it fails in production values and suspense. However, the saving grace of this package is an documentary on M R James giving an insight into the great man's life and work
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 4 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
They don't make them like this any more. No matter how often I watch it or the other film on dvd, I relish them as if they were being watched the first time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars horror, 30 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
this is a tv version of night of the demon a good tv film not as good as the original
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Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD]
Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] by Edward Petherbridge (DVD - 2007)
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