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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for The Signalman alone ...
In Hitch-Hiker terms, I suppose this is the fourth DVD of the James trilogy. The selection makes sense, as this volume gives you the three non M R James stories of the long occasional Christmas series. I can't comment on The Ice House or Stigma, as I can't remember whether I saw them on TV (I will have to wait until this volumeis actually released) , and my automatic...
Published on 29 May 2012 by Bob Sherunkle

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Time past
Its dated as far as ghost stories go, however the Signalman still holds sway. I might have remembered it as better, still will look for further dvds on this line
Published 5 months ago by Ronald P. Hayes


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for The Signalman alone ..., 29 May 2012
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
In Hitch-Hiker terms, I suppose this is the fourth DVD of the James trilogy. The selection makes sense, as this volume gives you the three non M R James stories of the long occasional Christmas series. I can't comment on The Ice House or Stigma, as I can't remember whether I saw them on TV (I will have to wait until this volumeis actually released) , and my automatic preference would be the missing MR James productions, i.e. Number 13 and View from a Hill, but no matter - this DVD gets five stars purely for The Signalman. (Copies of the old release of this production are advertised at obscene prices.) Denholm Elliott excels in Dickens' story of the custodian of a lonely signalbox obsessed by - he knows not what, except that it strains to the utmost his professional conscience. Lest you find the premise fanciful, you can take this as a commentary upon the new, dreadful demands of work in the Industrial Revolution; it is also worth considering that Branwell Bronte suffered malaise through his short stint working at a station which was, similarly, deserted and at the foot of a deep cutting. (Admittedly he had a few other issues - drink, drugs, inherent instability ...) Like the performance of Michael Hordern in Whistle and I'll Come to You, we are treated to an old-fashioned British "character actor" at the very top of his form; this may be a revelation to somewhat younger viewers who have seen Elliott only as the cynical butler in Trading Places. The producer is Andrew Davies; this may be his only significant horror production, but his ability to depict human nature and emphasise angst is an additional factor in the success of The Signalman.

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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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still not yet finished..., 12 Jun 2012
By 
downkiddie "downkiddie" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
This is a very exciting release as some of the lesser entries into the seminal "Ghost Story For Christmas" series get a DVD outing.

The first one could not be called lesser of course. Charles Dickens' "The Signalman" still stands up as a masterpiece of television. For the first time the producers chose to leave behind the masterful ghost stories of M.R. James and try something different. There were plenty of James stories they could have adapated, nevertheless this classic was an inspired choice.

"The Signalman" is the tale of the titular character, stationed on a lonely railway cutting guarding the tunnel portal. On dark and misty nights a figure appears along the tracks, and death always follows... Mostly a two-hander, the original story was quite different in style to James' work, as is this adaptation. It really is the perfect Victorian ghost story for Christmas: atmospheric, chilling and the shock at the end. Superb cast and well dramatised by Mr Andrew Davies.

The other two stories were radical departures: original screenplays in contemporary settings. They were less well received than the period pieces but actually hold up rather well. Their modern day setting (late 70s anyway) actually brings out the terror all the more, giving them a chilling and claustrophobic feel.

"Stigma" is a cautionary tale; if you have neolithic standing stones in your garden, don't try to move them. If English Heritage don't get you then some malevolent prehistoric force will. It actually uses a few Jamesian elements in its story as terror builds within a country home, and the ending is suitably gothic. Well acted, featuring Peter Bowles among others, this is a worthy successor to the brilliant episodes in the series that went before.

The series ended with 1978's "The Ice House", set in a country house health club where one of the guests in particular seems very favoured, and the others are eerily quiet. This episode was an unhappy ending to the series for some. This ghost story is certainly so subtle it verges on being baffling. It's a world away from the classic TV of "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" and "The Stalls of Barchester" from earlier in the decade, and compared like for like it was a sad end to the series. Considering it on its own merits however it's a well made and actually rather spooky episode. This too has a growing dread so meets the criteria for the series. Probably the worst of them all, but considering the overall quality that's not too damning an assessment.

For me, this series was all about M.R. James and he's entirely absent from this collection. That said, this is still a must have for fans of the genre and for anyone who enjoys the M.R. James episodes.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One complete classic and two oddities, 20 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
As has been mentioned in an earlier review, this DVD is worth the price for The Signalman alone. Speaking as a massive M R James fan, I still think The Signalman is the most accomplished, most frightening and best produced of all the Ghost Stories For Christmas. The performances are truly spellbinding, Denholm Elliott is incredible as the signalman. Watching this, he must be the most underrated actor of his generation. If you like ghost stories, you really do need to see The Signalman.
Stigma is OK, not on a par with the others in the series, but as the standard is generally so high, that's not necessarily damning with faint praise. Worth watching.
The Ice house is downright weird. I've only seen it once so far, I think it may need three or four goes to get to the bottom of it. I guess you could say it is "interesting", the peculiar dialogue made me think it was supposed to be set in a 1970s-style future, where people all speak very properly, with no contractions or apostrophes, but it would appear that's not the case. Something to get your head around, albeit not as satisfying as the other two.
Anyway, buy this for The Signalman, if nothing else, and do yourself a massive favour.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shivers down the spine, 20 Jan 2013
By 
GillianEliza (East Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
The Signalman is a well-known Dickens story brought to life - the railway cutting, the signal-box and the ghost by the tunnel are all just as I imagined them, the acting is superb, and the atmosphere creepy. It is the best of the three films by a long way.
Stigma is also creepy but in a totally different way. There is a lot of blood, some nudity, and a lot of unanswered questions such as "Why didn't she get a doctor sooner?"! But the story links ancient misdemeanours with modern consequences, which is a fairly common them in these stories - in other words, the past comes back to bite the person who dares to uncover it.
The Ice House looks terribly dated to me, and I have to say the acting is not as good as it could be. Again a good story, but I don't like the camera work in places, and there are a lot of gaps in the plot and action where you have to fill in with your own imagination, if you can.
Overall I am glad the BBC has re-released these three on DVD, and I think the set is worth the money - just. I would probably pay that for the Signalman on its own, to justify the cost.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and curious mix!, 19 Oct 2012
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
Given the age of these examples of rare and classic BBC programming they stand up surprisingly well despite the obvious limitations inherent in the sound and image. Moving away from the classic tales of MRJames, LeFanu and Dickens was not a good decision as it reduced the audience for this annual event and probably resulted in it's demise. "Stigma" and "The Ice House" are far removed from the style and content of the other films but are still of interest. "The Signalman" of course is very fine but "Stigma" would probably been more at home in the Hammer House of Horrors TV series as its tale of witchcraft in 1970's Avebury is decidedly out of keeping with the rest of the series - though very effective and enjoyable. It's "The Ice House" however which is the true anomaly. This very "theatrical" piece with clear overtones of Pinter is totally misplaced here and led to considerable disappointment with fans when it was originally screened. That said, and dated though it is, it is a fascinating and unsettling piece whose ambiguity, allegorical sub-text,visions of a decidedly worrying after-life and images of dead folk, incestuous siblings and truly fearful garden plants (sic) linger well after the episode is over. Hell really does seem to be "other people" in this enigmatic, very formal and deliberately mannered, self-conscious romp.
So all in all, this triple bill is essential viewing for connoisseurs and lovers of ghost stories alike.
But DON'T view the "introductions" until you have seen the episodes - they give far too much away!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 7 Mar 2013
By 
Ruth (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
I love the singnalman story!. This was the cheapest way to buy it, as its so expensive on its own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I like this movie., 3 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
Hi.I have been reading the signal man by Charles dickens in swedish.And i must say
that the novel and movie is the same in every detail.A reel old-fashion ghost story.
And Denholm Elliot as the signal man is excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN GHOST STORIES., 10 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
Buy this dvd for THE SIGNALMAN alone, if your a steam train buff like me you must not miss this, its superb it may be dated
but this is a ghost story no one should miss they don"t make films with great actors like this anymore. and this line is still running
Steam Trains today, scary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final three original BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas - and the first is a cracker!, 9 Dec 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
The original BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas came to an end with this trio of tales that saw a shift in tone from the previous M.R. James adaptations. With a planned adaptation of James' Count Magnus proving too expensive for the BBC's modest means at the time, the Ghost Story for Christmas series cast its net wider in 1977 with an adaptation of one of Charles Dickens' short stories, with exceptional results. The Signalman is one of the highlights of the series thanks to excellent performances by Denholm Elliott and Bernard Lloyd, a great use of his striking location by director Lawrence Gordon Clark and a splendid adaptation by Andrew Davies that retains much of Dickens' very distinctive dialogue. The latter gives an air of what could be described as formal unease to its fireside tale of a traveller and a signalman who meet in a tunnel in a strange valley. The traveller thinks he has found a contented man, but it's all too obvious that he has instead found a very troubled one, and one not just troubled by the pressure of responsibility with so little to do but so much depending on it and the long periods of inactivity while the telegraph wires sing ominously as the wind turns them into a wild harp. Elliott is especially good as the rational man haunted by a harbinger of doom who has predicted two disasters on his stretch of rail and he believes is predicting another in a beautifully atmospheric production that's driven as much by helplessness and confusion as it is by dread and unavoidable fate.

It's just a shame that the BBC didn't go back to the original 16mm negatives for a higher resolution scan than they provided the BFI with here - for most of the time it's a very solid transfer that's certainly as good as the TV broadcasts, but the spectre's appearance in the shadows of the tunnel are too dark until its countenance is revealed. Thankfully it's not enough to mar what is, despite its simplicity, one of the finest adaptations the BBC has ever produced. The DVD also includes a lengthy and particularly good introduction by Clark, dealing both with the practicalities of the shoot - the signal box and gorge were near a rough area and schoolchildren would throw rocks at the crew! - as well as the background to the story, from Dickens' inspiration coming from a real fatal train crash he survived in 1865 and the way the Industrial Revolution had become a monster that left many powerless victims. Unfortunately, unlike their earlier standalone DVD edition, John Nettleton's reading of the original story has not been carried over. The DVD does, however, include the two remaining stories from the 70s incarnation of the series.

With Stigma the series took a different turn, moving away from the more expensive period adaptations to cheaper modern day originals, albeit with similar elements in the case of this tale by Clive Exton of the perils of landscape gardening if you live near pagan standing stones and burial mounds. Kate Binchy's housewife is on the receiving end this time, finding herself mysteriously bleeding to death despite having no wounds after attempts are made to remove a giant stone that ruins the lawn, something you know isn't going to end well. Lawrence Gordon Clark made his exit from the series with this one, less comfortable with the modern setting and, as he admits in his introduction on the DVD, rather uncertain just what the nature of the malignant force was. That the characters are unaware of it themselves is one of the more effective aspects of a decent but not great entry. This also rings in the changes with the addition of a lot of gratuitous nudity that's, naturally, essential to the plot in that way that only ever seems to apply when female nudity is involved. Funny, that.

John Bowen's The Ice House is an intriguing little number set in an isolated spa where the guests go from relaxed to increasingly unnerved as they get `a touch of the cools' which may or may not be related to the old ice house in the grounds and the twin vines whose flowers give off a seductive scent. Although set in the 70s the language is very formal and archaic, guest John Stride's delivery gradually becoming as artificially precise and mannered as the somewhat otherworldly brother and sister who run the place and only want what is best for their guests, creating an unnerving atmosphere even though little actually happens. Largely played out in sunlight rather than shadows, it's a surprisingly effective little story best appreciated as an ambiguous mood piece rather than a ghost story.

Available separately or as part of Ghost Stories for Christmas - The Definitive Collection (5-DVD set), the DVD also includes a booklet with essays on all three stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recall Christmas past, 7 Dec 2012
By 
J. George (Ipswich, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House (DVD) (DVD)
Christmas Eve during my teenage years included watching these delights. Along with the earlier adaptation of Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You My Lad, The Signalman is one of the most scariest pieces of television I have ever experienced. So, buy this and the others in the series and wait for Christmas. Get out the mince pies, open a bottle and turn off the lights. And try not to be alone …
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