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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master's triumphant return
The master of the ghost story, M.R. James, found a new home in the mid-noughties on BBC4. In addition to repeating classic 70s adaptations at Christmas, BBC4 also commissioned new adapatations in 2005 and 2006; "A View From A Hill" and "Number 13" respectively. These period adaptations were somewhat lower key than the originals, thanks to their BBC4 home (rather than...
Published on 17 July 2012 by downkiddie

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing adaption
To anyone unfamiliar with M.R.James' wonderful ghost stories, these television presentations are reasonably enjoyable. However, to anyone who has known (and been chilled by) the James' version of these two stories, the result is deeply disappointing. All the highlights of the two stories, which made them so terrifyingly memorable, have disappeared; the hideous howling...
Published 24 months ago by J. Bulman


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master's triumphant return, 17 July 2012
By 
downkiddie "downkiddie" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
The master of the ghost story, M.R. James, found a new home in the mid-noughties on BBC4. In addition to repeating classic 70s adaptations at Christmas, BBC4 also commissioned new adapatations in 2005 and 2006; "A View From A Hill" and "Number 13" respectively. These period adaptations were somewhat lower key than the originals, thanks to their BBC4 home (rather than BBC1). One of the best decisions made by the BBC was to resurrect these classic stories, and for me the new adaptations sit up there with the greats, although they might not please everyone.

"A View From A Hill" was the BBC's first try. It was clearly shot on a small budget, and its quick editing clearly roots it in the 2000s as a modern production. I found it to be a masterful telling of M.R. James story. In fact, this one is even more Jamesian than the book, if that's possible. The protagonist is changed from an ageing academic on holiday to an younger, rather uptight academic cataloguing some antiquities. That's really rather Jamesian. The small cast give it a slightly claustrophobic feel, as does the location filming in the rather gloomy house. The special effects (the titular view from the hill) are simple but work brilliantly. The ending is rewritten for the story making it much more dramatic than the original story, which fizzles away slightly. This is a worthy successor to the earlier 1970s episodes, with a superb scary feel and a tightly scripted and well acted story.

The following year the BBC clearly threw some more money at the series in the adaptation of "Number 13". Moving the location from Denmark as in the book to an English cathedral city, the beautiful filming around the city and in the cathedral library echoes the earlier greats from the 70s such as "The Stalls of Barchester" and "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas". Hiring Greg Wise as the protagonist, a few non-Jamesian subplots were introduced which marred the simplicity of the original story. However, the whole episodes does rather capture the feel of the 1970s episodes, more so than "View from a Hill" which felt more modern. For me, this is one of M.R. James's best stories, and one that is probably hard to dramatise really well. Knowing the story probably helps to enjoy this episode, since some elements can be subtle in this episode.

It's a shame BBC4 left it with these two, however they did produce an original Mark Gatiss ghost story a few years later, Crooked House, another atmospheric Christmas ghostly tale.

From the bonus features, it's good to see Christopher Lee return with one of his films from the "Ghost Stories for Christmas" series from 2000. Returning the setting to Viborg in Denmark, this reading/partial dramatisation of "Number 13" is as good as the main feature. These productions were superb too; glimpses of the Christmas tree, beautiful rooms, antiquarian books and glasses of port - fabulously atmospheric.

One of the better things to come out of the BBC in the 2000s, these stories were a welcome return for M.R. James and are a fitting close for the "Ghost Story for Christmas" series. They may not have that warm vintage feel of the 70s episodes, but they are still outstanding TV films in their own right, evoking the terror and claustrophobia of the original stories, and reminding us of the 70s greats at the same time. Another superb release, an essential for fans of the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A View From Number 13, 4 Dec 2014
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Number13 (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
How good it was in 2005 to see the revival of the annual BBC `Ghost Story for Christmas', though sadly, for two years only. These two adaptations are worthy successors to the classics from the 1970s, but I'd now recommend you buy the complete 6-disc set, currently (December 2014) cheaper than buying just two of the single discs. Ghost Stories for Christmas (Expanded 6-Disc Collection Box Set) [DVD]

M. R. James returned to our screens in style with these two stories, unsettling tales of too-curious academics stumbling upon old - but not forgotten - deeds. The styles of the two productions are quite different but each works well in its own way. A booklet introduces the productions.

Worthy of equal billing with the main features, far more than just a DVD `extra', is the dramatised reading of `Number 13' by Christopher Lee.
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`A View From A Hill' is a pared-down work of art, proving that you do not need a large cast or a huge budget to produce a great ghost story. James' text is altered in a few ways which improve the drama and the shock value; the chummy, wealthy squire and his visiting friend become a rather acerbic man with a run-down house and one remaining servant, and the young antiquary who has come to value the squire's father's collection for sale. But that collection includes the papers of the definitely late Mr. Baxter ("he wasn't liked") and a curiously heavy pair of binoculars, drawing the visitor into very strange events.

The convincing locations, clever camerawork and filming in beautiful autumnal countryside, subtle music and three perfect performances all combine to make this a modern classic. Less may be more, and what is not seen can be more frightening - that's certainly the case here as confusion turns to discovery, to delight and then to panic and terror. For me, this adaptation is comparable with the very best of the original series of ghost stories.
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`Number 13' is a far more glossy production, successful in its own way and very enjoyable, but it moves further from James' text and introduces new elements and sub-plots that sometimes seem out of place. However, they are hinted at by parts of the original story - what if the respectable hotel in which you are staying was not always quite so respectable? As Dr. Anderson ferrets around in the cathedral archives, he starts to uncover clues to a far from reputable past. But how can that matter in the present, to a scholar who simply wants to work at his books by day and get a good night's sleep - in room number twelve?

With its Victorian setting and somewhat more lavish production, this feels like a classic BBC costume drama. The location filming is again excellent, giving an almost `Christmas card' feeling at times, but also the feeling that around this particular cathedral city there may also be celebrations of older and very different `religious' festivals. Greg Wise plays a typical Jamesian `hero', rather arrogant and self-confident and clearly heading for a fall. This works well in the context of the story but is quite different from the original character, also the ending is more definite, leaving none of the sense of doubt that haunts the original story. However, it works well as a television ghost story and we have the benefit of Christopher Lee's performance of the original for comparison, so do enjoy your visit to `Number 13' ...
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`Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee' provides a dramatised reading (30 min) of `Number 13'. Far more than a `DVD extra', like all this quartet of readings it is superb, raising the spirit of the legendary Christmas Eve gatherings where James would perform his latest ghost story to academic colleagues and undergraduates, late at night in the Provost's Lodge.

By candlelight and firelight, the audience assembles and glasses of port are passed round, then something reminds the host of an uncanny experience. The tale begins, not merely read but performed by Christopher Lee with a lifetime's skill.

The story is abridged but James' original text is faithfully followed, illustrated only by a few simple vignettes, scenes such as the listeners might imagine, and their reactions of interest gradually turning to chilled horror as the narrative unfolds. The television adaptation did expand on and alter the story in many ways, so this wonderful reading is not only fine entertainment but gives the viewer a chance to experience the original in an `authentic' setting; perfect viewing for a winter's night.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, 29 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
What is better on a wet, dull afternoon than a BBC ghost story? I'm betting not much! I picked up this DVD on a whim; a lover of paranormal occurrences and a fan of both David Burke and his son, Tom, this seemed like the perfect combination and overall, the BBC have delivered two tales that can be enjoyed whenever, not just as traditional Christmastime viewing. Slightly spooky without making you jump, with a hint of Sherlockian London about them, the stories are a nice change to daytime TV with some handsome and talented men to feast your eyes upon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top notch, 28 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
View from a Hill is a masterly treatment of an intriguing short story by M. R. James which augments some of the author's ideas through further illustration on screen. One example is how the main protagonist first catches sight of the people who inhabit the past that he is spying upon through his field glasses. Less impressed by the second adaptation, Number 13, which was not quite as I imagined it. The story here is longer and the embellishments seem unnecessary or at odds with the author's words. However suspend prior knowledge of the story and this stands well on its own as an atmospheric piece of drama.
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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: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
A reel classic old fashioned ghost story.The english ghost stories is the best.I have not
regreat this purchase.Reel good.From Anders.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, 22 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
This was a lovely modernisation of an 1970s tradition of MR James ghost story adaptations at Christmas. Essential winter viewing.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, 21 Sep 2012
This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
A View From a Hill was a welcome return to the Ghost Story for Christmas series by the BBC, and this adaptation really did it justice. All the qualities of the 1970's films are here - the slow build up, the dread atmosphere, a couple of genuinely creepy moments, and solid, well concieved characters. The chills are fleeting and understated, relying on good old-fashioned camera work, with modern technology put to great use for the haunted binoculars sequences. Well worthy of a place alongside Lawrence Gordon Clarke's classics.

By contrast, Number 13 has little of the above. Gone is the protagonist's amiable scholarly eccentricity in favour of aggressive arrogance, evoking, in me at least, little sympathy. Very few chills, and the final reveal is curiously unimpressive. Possibly not one of James' best either, but while all the preceding films added to the stories, this one never seems to get to grips with it's source.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fab stuff!, 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
Both of these scary tales are truly classic adaptations of the MR James short stories. The BBC really excels at this, so if you don't want to go and buy the lot this is an excellent taster. Can I also recommend 'A Warning to the Curious' on another disc, that's my favourite!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost stories, 29 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
Really enjoyed this DVD found both stories really good. Shame the BBC dont still make a Ghost story for Christmas. It was always part of the tradition!
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5.0 out of 5 stars ghost stories., 21 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD) (DVD)
have already watched this and will be watching it in the near future with relish. also good stories from the BBC
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Ghost Stories from the BBC: A View From a Hill / Number 13 (DVD)
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