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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic and the pretender
This volume brings two adaptations of M.R.James' tale "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad", seperated by some 42 years. Johnathan Miller's black-and-white version is more of a psychological take on the story, but retains all the classic elements of the original - the disturbance of an ancient artefact, in this case a whistle, triggering a supernatural experience...
Published 21 months ago by Roobarb

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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One great film and one turkey
Writer/director Jonathan Miller's adaptation of MR James' Whistle and I'll Come to You is one of the great ghost stories and one of the great TV dramas. It's dark, deeply atmospheric and sharply characterised. Miller takes some liberties with James' original, but his choice to imply rather than show is a lesson that should be learned by many contemporary filmmakers. Some...
Published on 23 May 2012 by Henry Turner


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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One great film and one turkey, 23 May 2012
By 
Henry Turner (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
Writer/director Jonathan Miller's adaptation of MR James' Whistle and I'll Come to You is one of the great ghost stories and one of the great TV dramas. It's dark, deeply atmospheric and sharply characterised. Miller takes some liberties with James' original, but his choice to imply rather than show is a lesson that should be learned by many contemporary filmmakers. Some people might find Miller's style too subtle and the pacing a little slow, but this is among my favourite 42 mins of television.

In contrast, the 2010 adaptation was a complete misfire. It's hard to know what attracted the writer and director to James' original as they seem to have thrown almost everything out and both plot and character are radically changed. Dumbed down and unsubtle, it's redeemed only by strong performances from John Hurt and Gemma Jones and good location photography.

Why the BFI has paired these 2 adaptations of the same short story is anyone's guess. It would have been far better to have given us a totally different ghost story (and a good one) as the second half of this double bill. Then it might have felt like value for money.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic and the pretender, 19 Oct 2012
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
This volume brings two adaptations of M.R.James' tale "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad", seperated by some 42 years. Johnathan Miller's black-and-white version is more of a psychological take on the story, but retains all the classic elements of the original - the disturbance of an ancient artefact, in this case a whistle, triggering a supernatural experience. Aside from the crisp camera work and excellent location shots, the film is memorable for Michael Horden's superb portrayal of the eccentric academic, along with one of the best on-screen representations of a ghost, and sound effects which still have shock value even after repeated viewings.

The second film is a less effective 2010 version, well acted, beautifully shot, but perhaps too contemporary for the material, and owing much to the recent Japanese horror cinema imagery. On it's own, it is a decent film with plenty of atmosphere and an interesting take on the nature of the haunting, though the artefact in question is now a ring, but unfortunately it will for ever be doomed to comparison with the first version.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You My Lad, 21 Aug 2012
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
The 1968 Jonathan Miller and Michael Horden adaptation of MR James' most celebrated story is one of the greatest supernatural films ever made. Everything about it is perfect, from Horden's portrayal of a man tragically incapable of seeing beyond the realms of reason, to the awful tension of the pursuing figure on the beach, to the final gut-wrenchingly terrifying manifestation of the spirit. A faultless, understated masterpiece of pace, atmosphere and dread that refuses to fade after you turn the lights back on.
This would have got 5 stars were it not for the 2010 adaptation that accompanies the original. More of a nod to the 1968 version, than a remake, it should not have failed with John Hurt's excellent performance. And yet somehow it does. Whilst it has moments of genuine fear it is ultimately disappointing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic horror at an affordable price finally!, 21 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
I'm guessing most people buying these DVDs of the BBC series, "Ghost stories for Christmas", are M R James fans and have been seeking good quality versions of the adaptations. The Miller version of the tale is why we are all going to buy this; and after having watched substandard copies on Youtube I can say the DVD is worth the cost just for this film. Sadly the more recent adaptation has little or no resemblance to the M R James story and is frankly awful; this despite the presence of one of the greatest character actors of all time, John Hurt. The extras are a mixed bag, a three minute "interview with Miller and Frayling is far too short and scarcely worth including. The Ramsey Campbell introduction is poorly filmed with terrible sound quality, as is his reading of one of his own stories (you may wonder as I did why this was included). There is an audio reading of "Oh Whistle..., but it is not the brilliant version done by Michael Hordern which it so clearly should have been! It would surely have been better to include one of the Christopher Lee readings. So in short 5/5 for Miller's film, the image is as good as you are likely to get, 2/5 for the rest of the dvd. There is a nice little booklet with essays and biographies in relation to the stories and films which is the best of the extras.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Adaptation, 19 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
I would say that this is a superior screen adaption of M.R. James's best ghost story.

It captures the essence of the original story while tastefully avoiding the temptation to update the plot by sensationalising it or overdoing the supernatural events that take place. Nor does it suffer from the BBC dramatization syndrome of the 60s and 70s. One of the problems with those early television adaptations is that the makers of these productions thought that "dramatising" meant simply adding pictures to text. They assumed that if you were faithful to the events and dialog, and dressed people up in period costume, then it would be a good adaptation. However, the result was often a soulness, mechanical performance that failed to capture the essence of the original.

In contrast, Miller's adaptation of the M.R. James classic "Oh Whistle and I'll come to you my lad" does not do any of those things. It's filmed on location and is refreshingly cinematic in appeal. Instead of trying to follow the story's dialogue word for word, it focuses instead on conveying the soul of the story. There is no music added to accompany the drama. Silence permeates the film, heightened by the sparse dialogue and attention to sounds such as the clinking of cutlery and chairs being moved. Amidst this we hear the rambling thoughts and muttering of the main character - Professor Parkins played by Michael Horden. The silence somehow conveys the existential loniness of Parkins and the infinite and undefinable world he is lost in, symbolised by the stark black and white photography of a remote region of the Norfolk coast. Hordern does an excellent job of bringing the fidgety, crusty college professor character to life, and is a sheer delight to watch as he mumbles and reflects his way through the long scenes.

One of the reasons the adaptation works so well because the original story was very visual, often describing the images appearing in the imagination of the professor. Miller has recreated these visuals exactly as I had imagined them when I first read the story as a boy. But the main reason this is so good is because all the right ingredients are there. A great story, good cast, and good direction.

No fancy special effects needed!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this film, 4 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
This current release is a snip at 12 and for all those out there who love the original "The Haunting" or "The Innocents", then I think you will appreciate this too. The film is not rushed, and takes you along at an old-fashioned pace. It is quiet and somewhat hum-drum, but before you know it, you are being drawn in to the feeling of foreboding and waiting..waiting... A classic, and one for my ghost story DVD collection.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The curate's egg...., 23 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
I agree that the original "Whistle" is much superior to the later version. However I know not all M R James fans agree; some feel Miller was a bit too "smart" in his psychoanalysis of James' portrayal of the pompous academic, and I never liked the final scene where Horden sucks his thumb....

However the production values and the extras in the DVD are excellent, especially the booklets with profiles of Miller, James and Horden.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good value, 12 Feb 2014
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M. Wilkinson "wilko50" (england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
very good value, not so long ago this was an expensive item to purchase due to it being a rare film. lots of extras as well
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Stories from the BBC Whistle and I'll come to You, 15 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
Bought this for my son who really loved the BBC adaption with John Hurt and had been going on about getting a copy of the DVD so I thought it would be a good present especially as the earlier version with Michael Hordern (voice of Paddiington Bear) as included.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing direction, 17 Jan 2013
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
I was brought up with M. R. James' wonderful stories - as well as others in the same genre such as the collections of Lady Cynthia Asquith. The "psychological" approach of Miller worked extremely well in his version of Alice in Wonderland. It goes much too far in the present case - far too much focus on the neurotic nature of the professor and too little on the actual story content. James' stories were not psychological studies. They were about tangible horrors - and "Whistle and I'll come to you" is no exception. WHY did the film not set the scenario where it actually begins in the story - at Cambridge with a request that the professor look for the Templar preceptory? WHY did Parkins appear to retrieve the whistle as if he knew exactly where it was - without any attempt to search or poke about? WHY did the pursuing figure appear only in a dream - and not (as in the story) in actuality during his walk? WHY did the film spend so long on maids making beds, running baths, and the totally gratuitous conversation between Parkins and Colonel Wilson? Not to mention the fact that -in the story - Parkins DOES play golf with the colonel, and gets on well with him. WHY was the other Latin inscription on the whistle not mentioned ("Fla fur flebis" - 'blow, thief,and you'll weep')? WHY (at the finale) did the spectre not have the professor half out of the window as per story and the colonel play a more robust role in rescuing him? Michael Hordern of course saves this adaptation with his usual superb acting, but no thanks on this occasion to J. Miller. Well, just my opinion. It's still a piece of vintage BBC and well worth watching - unless you've read the story that is.
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