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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whistling in the Dark
These two productions inspired by one of M.R. James' most famous stories are very different; one a black and white classic, the other a definitely modern creation.

Both `versions' move some way from the original story, but the Jonathan Miller film from 1968 creates a classic in the process, and would be well worth buying if it was the only programme on the...
Published 7 months ago by Number13

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47 of 54 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whistling in the Dark, 3 Dec. 2014
By 
Number13 (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
These two productions inspired by one of M.R. James' most famous stories are very different; one a black and white classic, the other a definitely modern creation.

Both `versions' move some way from the original story, but the Jonathan Miller film from 1968 creates a classic in the process, and would be well worth buying if it was the only programme on the DVD.

`Oh Whistle, and I'll Come to You' (40 min) is a simple story, at least on the surface. A holidaying professor discovers an ancient whistle with a Latin inscription, and blows it. I'm giving away nothing by saying that his whistle does not go unanswered ...

From this premise, Jonathan Miller created a film about loneliness, fear and the crumbling of a neurotic, arrogant personality in the face of the unknown. There have been doubts expressed about whether this is (as the narrator tells us) "a tale of the supernatural" at all, or a psychological study. Without revealing too many details, there certainly is an old whistle, there are physical phenomena and there is definitely something stirring, so for me this is a genuine ghost story and a very great one - however it might sometimes be interpreted.

Michael Hordern is, as always, excellent as Professor Parkin. With no modern special effects to work with, this film relies on his superb central performance and brilliant filming along the wild Norfolk coastline with low winter sun, crunching shingle and wide, sweeping and not quite deserted beaches.

It's safe to say that by the end of his holiday, the professor is rather less certain about some things than previously. However, I'm quite certain - after almost half a century, this remains a classic ghost story and the disc is worth five stars because of it.
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47 of 54 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Adaptation, 19 Sept. 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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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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11 of 14 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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The raw head and bloody bones (at long last!), 28 May 2012
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968 + 2010) [DVD] (DVD)
These initial comments apply to Volumes 1, 2 and 3. Three gripes on this series:
-Why has it not been marketed, in line with the Australian release, as a box set?
-What happened to Number 13 and View from a Hill?
-Why have these releases taken so long (about as long as both "official" versions of the Beach Boys' "Smile")? That said, hooray. (A warning to the credulous: get your advance orders in NOW before "they" withdraw the series from the market after only a brief outing.)

Volume 1 gives us both versions of "Whistle", the only James story which the BBC have adapted twice. The first Amazon review described this as "one great film and one turkey" . I can see where he's coming from, as Jonathan Miller's 1968 classic - the first of this long-running "occasional series" - is much closer to James than the 2010 version, which is best described as a variation based on the original story. However, the newer version does preserve some of the suspense. Apart from Miller's atmospheric production, the star feature of the b/w 1968 version is the performance of Michael Hordern, from the days when the UK bred character actors. Here he employs his extraordinary range of facial and vocal expressions to build a picture of an eccentric academic, whose self-satisfaction is about to come a fearful cropper at the hands of the supernatural. The character portrayed by John Hurt in the 2010 production is very different, preoccupied more with his wife's sad decline into senility than with the supernatural in general.

Stop press 1 Aug 2012 - belated release of a fifth disc, with the two remaining MRJ stories, but also all five discs as a box set.
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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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