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3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 October 2012
This welcome release of two made-for-TV supernatural short films features well written and expertly directed adaptations of short stories by Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Taylor. 'The Ferryman' (1974), Amis's tale, very reminiscent of his supernatural novel "The Green Man", stars the talented Jeremy Brett as a youngish writer, who has some decidedly unpleasant "literary" adventures as he goes to a country house hotel for a break and finds it very reminiscent of the location of his latest hit novel. This beautifully constructed 50 mt film which revells in the follies of the publishing world so central to Amis's own life, has some excellent atmosphere and very solid performances from the fine supporting cast. 'Poor Girl' (1974), based on the Elizabeth Taylor's story, tells of an Edwardian governess, played by Lynne Miller, who has some equally unpleasant visions in another "old dark house". Even more ambitious than The Ferryman its period detail and location coupled with an extraordinarily daring psycho-sexual plot reminiscent of Henry James's The Turn of The Screw ensure this is certainly not a traditional ghost story but rather a decidedly perverse and memorable tale in its own right. Although both pieces are clearly dated, and with very variable and unrestored picture quality, ( Poor Girl is by far the better print) these atmospheric adaptations, originally released over the Christmas period, are rare little gems and equally appropriate viewing for the dark autumn night's leading up to Halloween! They demonstrate just how imaginative British television once was and what you could achieve on limited budgets, and without CGI, if your script, direction and actors were all first rate!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 October 2012
These well-crafted films made by Granada Television were shown on ITV over Christmas 1974, the same Christmas the BBC broadcast their dramatisation "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas" by M.R. James. These films are quite different in style but no less entertaining.

Kingsley Amis's "The Ferryman" stars Jeremy Brett as an author whose novel seems to be unfolding in real life in front of his eyes. Atmospherically shot in a country inn, it has a creepy feel and the growing sense of unease as life imitates art.

The second story is a period piece, Elizabeth Taylor's "Poor Girl". The Edwardian governess with precocious and just slightly sinister child recalls Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw", with slightly unsettling scenes and a real sense of unease, though many of the terrors here are more earthly. A more subtle ghost story than the first one, but both make use of pyschological drama rather than overt shock elements.

Both have a cinematic feel and are well acted and produced. A very welcome release on DVD, these are highly enjoyable tales and whilst not quite having the magic of some of the 70s ghost story films are certainly chilling in all the right places and very interesting. The film is a little battered here and there though picture quality is good, though there are no subtitles nor bonus features on the DVD.
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on 13 April 2013
Fully entretaining ghost and mistery story with fascinating atmosphere providing ( yet ) another great performance by our fondly missed Jeremy Brett. Absolute must-have for any of his numerous fans and anyone who generally appreciates good genuine british acting.
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on 4 November 2012
I can vaguely remember these two plays from my childhood and it's great to see them again.If you like your ghost stories then this is a good addition to your collection but there are many better "The Green Man","Stone Tapes" "Casting The Runes" but if,like me,you love anything ghostly from t.v. gone by then this is a must.
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on 22 January 2013
This DVD is comprised of two separate television plays which were broadcast around Christmas time 1974 - and that's all. There are no extras, no special features and no booklet. This is as perplexing as it is disappointing because, unlike similar releases there is very little information about these plays available elsewhere. It is also a surprising omission on the part of Network as they did such a good job with providing supplementary material for Mystery and Imagination (booklet and special features), Beasts (booklet and special features) and Casting the Runes (special features).

It seems (and I could be wrong in thinking this) that these two plays were some kind of short lived revival of the 1967 - 8 television serial "Haunted". That series was comprised of eight episodes featuring an academic who investigated supernatural goings on. Unfortunately this series no longer survives. Apart from the title and the supernatural theme the 1974 plays seem to have little in common with the earlier series. I would guess that the 1974 Haunted plays were commissioned by ITV as a rival to the hugely successful BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas. The two Haunted plays look and feel very different from the early M.R. James adaptations of the BBC series, however. A closer comparison would be with the later, contemporary Ghost Stories for Christmas dramas Stigma (1977) and The Ice House (1978).

The two Haunted plays are separate stand -alone dramas. The first is "The Ferryman" which is credited as being adapted from a story by Kingsley Amis. The story in question is "Who or what was it?" (1972). Amis's story was written in the style of a "true account" of his stay in a pub/hotel that uncanny resembled the location of his 1969 novel "The Green Man". In the story Amis and his wife come to discover that the similarities are a little too close for comfort! Amis's story proved to be overly successful in that many readers where convinced that they were reading fact rather than fiction. (For those interested Amis's story can be found in The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories edited by Peter Haining). in "The Ferryman" all of the names have been changed, but the story is otherwise essentially the same. Jeremy Brett puts in a good performance in the lead role and the location fits the story well. The picture quality is poor (little if any restoration work seems to have been made), but otherwise this is great play and worth the price of the DVD alone.

The second play "Poor Girl" is from a story by Elizabeth Taylor. Set during Edwardian times it owes more than a little to "The turn of the screw", featuring a governess who is subject to strange goings on whilst looking after her young charge. The drama explores some rather perverse sexual desires and is novel in that the story's "ghosts" are from the future rather than the past. Although the picture quality is better than "The Ferryman" this play is otherwise less satisfying, and fails to be in the least bit scary.

If you enjoyed the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas release then you ought to check out this DVD, for further (more obscure) seasonal chills. It is a pity that "Haunted" was not continued by ITV, as it had the potential to give its BBC rival a real run for its money.
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on 21 December 2015
I saw "Poor Girl" which is the second story on this dvd back in 1974 and found it memorable if somewhat incomprehensible. I would now venture the opinion that the character of the governess becomes intoxicated by the wealth and grandeur of her employers and her subconscious goes into overdrive with schemes to get her hands on it- or something. Lynne Miller (a stalwart of "The Bill" in later years) copes admirably with this challenging role. I recall meeting Fidelma O'Dowda, who plays the housemaid, at a party about the time the programme was broadcast which is maybe why it stuck in my mind. Visually, the production is a real treat and the atmosphere and period detail are spot on.

I had never seen "The Ferryman" which is the first story on the dvd. It's always a pleasure seeing Jeremy Brett playing...well, Jeremy Brett really. This one seems to have been shot on rather grainy film stock so it shows its age.

Some extras eg a booklet would have been welcome.
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on 9 May 2016
Have been unable to purchase these films in the U.S.
Have enjoyed these Region 2 DVDs so much I now have a DVD player dedicated to Region 2 only.
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on 23 May 2016
two episodes probably not to everyones taste, slow burners which just make the ok category with the skin of their teeth.
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on 9 February 2013
worth having ifyou collect tv ghost dramas its not great by any means prob. just averidge but they are quite rare now
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on 30 December 2012
Just great! Jeremy Brett is the consumate actor. A very atmospheric film and the perfect ghost story for Christmas! I would recommend it!
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