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106 of 118 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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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time has not been kind to this story
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,...
Published on 6 Jun 2008 by Dhekelia


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern MR James Retelling, 9 Jan 2012
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
The 70s was a very special time for British television, the audience still being open enough to appreciate slow, tenseful plotlines with little or no gore. MR James was a particular favourite for televising back then, his Ghost Stories for Christmas are still a seasonal tradition in our household; a ghost story seems to marry well with otherwise cheerful celebrations.
Here we have another sombre entry to the MR James canon, a modern retelling of Casting the Runes. MR James's stories are always interwoven with a little bit of metaphor, a little bit of warning about the human condition and more than a pinch of dark humour. Often this is missed in the more literal TV adaptations and Casting the Runes is no different. However, as a spooky little cautionary tale, it is mostly successful. Iain Cutherbertson is underused but as always sinister (see Children of the Stones) as occultist Julian Karswell and Jan Francis is charming as ace reporter Prudence Dunning, hot on his heels to save her own life. The ending is a nice little twist, a little predictable but enjoyable nonetheless. If nothing else, Casting the Runes is a reminder of the days when television was well made and didn't rely on lots of explosions, sex and profanity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An OK adaption of an old classic, 8 Sep 2011
By 
Colin Smith "keep on running" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
Any adaption or reworking of M.R. James' classic horror story will always have to face the inevitable comparisons to the actual story or Jacques Tourneur's superbly atmospheric 1950's movie version, so I will try to judge this 50-minute offering on it's own merits.

For a start the performances are OK, with Jan Francis reprising the famous Dana Andrews role, in this adaption playing TV producer Prudence Dunning, who incurs the wrath of Satanist Julian Karswell, which prompts a curse in the form of a slip of paper scribed with runic writing which foretells the time of death of the recipient, which is secretly handed to the unsuspecting Ms Dunning. The slip of paper must be handed back to Karswell by the terrified Recipient in the same manner in order to redirect the curse. The famous night-time train ending in the earlier movie is replaced by another form of transport.
Iain Cuthbertson puts in a good performance as Karswell, a menacing and unsettling presence. The most atmospheric moments are possibly the scenes shared by Francis and Cuthbertson.

I bought this ITV Playhouse production hoping to receive something similiar to those excellent BBC "Ghost stories for Christmas", broadcast back in the 1960's/70's, a collection of classic M.R. James short stories, which were usually shot on grainy film rather than videotape, which for me imbued the productions with extra atmosphere. But here with its contemporary setting, and the fact that this 1978 production was shot on videotape, IMO this somehow reduces the overall atmosphere and impact of the story (although the snowy setting and effective incidental music does help).
For those who love the original story or the "Night of the Demon" movie, my advice would be: try not to make comparisons to either, don't expect a classic and you just might enjoy yourself.

The special features are a 20 minute schools adaption from 1976 - "Mr Humphreys And His Inheritance", and "A Pleasant Terror" - a 48 minute drama documentary from 1995 on the life of M.R. James (an excellent addition).
Picture and sound quality are generally OK, there are no subtitles.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb package, 17 Aug 2011
By 
downkiddie "downkiddie" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
This adaptation of the M.R. James classic ghost story dates from 1979 and was made as a contemporary drama rather than a period one like the earlier BBC M.R. James adaptations. Made by Yorkshire Television in 1978, they used a TV station as the setting for their drama, allowing YTV to use their own studios as the location, along with a number of other locations around a very wintry Leeds. Presumably the weather conditions were just a fluke, but the snowy inner ring road motorway in central Leeds as the setting for scenes where Prudence realises the grim reality of the situation she's in work wonderfully well and give it a suitably gothic feel. The central character of Prudence Dunning (Jan Francis) is based on Edward Dunning in the original story. Many of the scenes are close to those in the book with a more modern setting (TV station instead of academic society, airport instead of railway station). Some of the dialogue from the book is even used almost verbatim. The programme does seem dated now, but the acting is great, the music eerie and direction fast paced enough to keep the momentum going. There are of course some changes, but as a modern adaptation of a classic this story does well.

The bonus features on this disc make it a superb package. Presumably the producers at Network DVD raided the ITV archives for all things M.R. James and came up with another Yorkshire TV production, a short film of "Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance", produced as part of a schools programme. Short and a little flat, it's nevertheless a charming bit of rare TV. The slightly hammy documentary "A Pleasant Terror" completes the set.

All in all some great bits of vintage TV, well worth a look.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A particularly Excellent terminal extra, 3 May 2010
By 
Ken Raus "David O'Brien" (Lugdunum) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I can understand the scathing and milder critism of this dvd but for me the relatively lengthy extra,the final documentary piece A Pleasant Terror,justifies it if you are a James fan...The 50 minute main programme is more of a nostalgic curio and yes,not a brilliant version but is at least acceptable,Whereas the first extra is a quite interessant if rather brief dramatisation of another very creepy short story,Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance,which I though atmospheric and quite good...Again,the documentary was the seller for me with the first extra a close second and the main feature,of which I have no original memory,last and least so that the substantial frame of this product is perhaps somewhat more attractive than the pedestrian picture much as courtiers who upstage a monarch but worthy for all that-However, personally,I could watch the young Jan Francis in an incontinence avertissement but then she's also a fine actress as Cuthbertson is a fine actor as Monty James is a great ghost tale writer and they are all here both as dramatis personae and the latter himself in and as the theory behind the fictional worlds spun herein...No,It is not the great monochrome Casting the Runes but oddly enough Iain looks more like the alleged real subject of the story,Crowley,than the great McGinnis did but that is likely coincidence...On balance a reasonable version and a documentary extra that engages,plus the other good extra,the Humphreys tale Curse of the Demon + Night of the Demon (Ws) [1958] (REGION 1) (NTSC) [DVD] [US Import]A Warning To The Curious (BBC Ghost Story For Christmas) [1972] [DVD]
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Out!, 28 Mar 2008
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a superb DVD. The main story, Casting The Runes, is an adaptation of the (same name) story by M.R. James, adapted by Yorkshire Television in 1979, I believe. An earlier version of the tale was made for the big screen in B&W in 1957: Night of the Demon, later cut by 13 mins and retitled Curse of the Demon for the American market. The 1979 version is shot in the (then, prior to global warming lol!) snowbound winter landscapes of Northern England and keeps the attention throughout what is a quite Spartan or sparse production. Stylish.

This DVD also contains two other items, both interesting: Mr. Humphreys And His Inheritance comes first and was, apparently, made to teach schoolchildren about the use of music in filmed drama, though it is my bet that few would remember to listen out while watching this well-scripted, tight little gem from about 1972.

The last item was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be: a biography, made in 1995 and lasting about an hour, about M.R. James: a Cambridge don who became Provost of Eton College after WW1 and who wrote ghost stories and tales of the occult ostensibly to amuse friends, but (it is averred) really because he believed in the supernatural but was unwilling to publicly acknowledge that belief. Really gripping in its treatment and in its detective work. A biography of this quality would (probably could) not be made by the kind of TV companies and personnel around today, as standards continue to slide, or is that too cynical?

Buy this.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor adaptation, 2 Dec 2008
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a very poor TV adaptation of a James story. Arguably there have been no good ones, suffice to say that this stands out easily as the worst. If you are a fan of M.R. James' ghost stories there is nothing for you in this DVD.
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18 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Look Elsewhere If You Want To Be Scared, 29 Dec 2007
By 
Jeanno43 "Jeannette" (Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I have racked my brains to come up with words to fit this DVD. I can only come up with one word - dire! There is no tension, no suspense, no atmosphere, no terror, the acting is extremely wooden and the interior sets look like an am dram production. At no time does the "heroine" appear to be truly upset, terrified and frantic about the situation she finds herself in.

I know it was made in the 1970's by Yorkshire Television so some allowance must be made for the passing of years. However, this is not an excuse for turning a tale of terror into something you could show a five year old. I only enjoyed the scenes in the snow because it is such a rarity nowadays to see snow in the South East of England.

Take my advice, do not waste your money. If you want to see Casting The Runes at its very best, then get Night Of The Demon starring Dana Andrews. It is the same story but told how it should be told. In fact it is a movie classic. Filmed in black and white, full of atmosphere, full of suspense as to whether the hero can save himself before time runs out. The villain, Carswell in this version is very sinister indeed and the runes are cast to a man, Dana Andrews and not a woman. It is edge of your seat stuff. A superb production.

I knew how the story ended and to be honest I was so bored with waiting for any excitement or tension to commence that I turned it off before the end. There is no way I could or would recommend this t.v. production to anyone.

Like I said above, do yourself a real favour and purchase Night Of The Demon instead.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars casting the runes/night of the demon, 11 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
"night of the demon" was much better in every way,same basic plot but a much better production.cannot get a copy of this in uk.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average, but still worth purchasing for the extra feature, 9 Jun 2013
By 
Paul Mountford (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a rather average 1970s update of a classic MR James ghost story. I enjoyed it when it was first broadcast but it hasn't really stood the test of time. Still, if you are into collecting 1970s BBC ghost stories, as I am, then you need to add this one to your collection. The best thing on the DVD is an extra feature which is a well presented biography of MR James.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting adaptation, 29 April 2012
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This review is from: Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I am a sucker for the MR James Ghost Stories that the BBC did with such exemplary skill in the seventies so approached this with some trepidation.

However, I have to say, this is a really really interesting adaptation of "Casting the Runes" and works rather well with a decent cast and an interesting way of telling the story.

I watched it again recently, having seen it on first purchase, and liked it more the second time.

The DVD is dirt cheap and has some excellent extras. On that basis it is a worthy buy.
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Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD]
Casting the Runes [1979] [DVD] by Edward Petherbridge (DVD - 2007)
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