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4.5 out of 5 stars21
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 24 March 2013
i liked this , not because it made me jump out my skin but simply because it's an atmospheric little piece which is well acted and watchable. what ever happened to the lead actor mark farmer ?
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Given a single screening on UK TV on New Year's Eve 1987 and promptly interred in the vaults without ever being repeated, Danny Huston made his directorial debut with a rather decent 54-minute adaptation of Leon Garfield's Mister Corbett's Ghost. Mark Farmer's apprentice is the constant victim of Paul Scofield's cold-hearted apothecary's pettiness, never more so than on New Year's Eve when his demands that an endless succession of petty tasks be "willingly done" with heart and soul keep him from his family. They also drive him to strike a deal with John Huston's very different kind of apothecary, who also wants to be sure those who seek his services do so with all their heart and soul as he trades deaths for a quarter - he always deals in quarters - of the customer's earnings for the rest of his life. But with Mr. Corbett suddenly dead, it looks increasingly likely that everyone will assume Farmer did it, especially when he's unable to hide the body as even the grotesque parade of murdering footpads disposing of their night`s catch turn against him. But Huston's next offer only makes matters even worse...

Garfield's atmospheric and oft-adapted for TV children's novels set in the 18th century are well worth reading with their strong sense of place, character (particularly those of low repute) and colourful Dickensian dialogue, and while it's not the most visually ambitious effort, Huston's film manages to capture a lot of that distinctive flavour and deliver a pleasingly cosy but somewhat morally ambiguous ghost story. It's the sort of thing that once used to be a fixture in the Christmas television schedules, albeit with a more impressive cast than most with Paul Scofield in the title role and, in his last screen role and clearly having a ball as the collector of souls, a scene-stealing John Huston.

Unfortunately, despite being shot on 35mm film, the UK DVD has been mastered from what looks like an old video source, and there's a lack of detail which is particularly noticeable with so much of the film taking place outdoors at night. It's not as bad as a Public Domain copy of an old movie, but its poor quality is thrown into sharper relief by the newly shot 15 minute featurette with Huston, producer Barry Navidi and Huston's mother Zoe Sallis (who was instrumental in persuading John Paul Getty to finance the film when some of the original backers fell out, selling the combination of father and son collaborating as movie history repeating itself after John and Walter Huston worked together).
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on 7 May 2013
Paul Schofield as always is excellent and this film is worth watching, but don't expect to be challenged or terrified! Its a nice comfortable rainy afternoon on the sofa type film
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on 8 January 2013
Like always I recommend you try to read the book first, but this TV version stays true and has the right atmosphere for a cold New Year Eve. It's well acted and, in my opinion, is just the right length. I can watch it again .. and again.
0Comment|10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
When you come to make a film it is always handy to have a father who is a giant in the business, and who unsurprisingly had a lot of contacts. Danny Huston's father John Huston was of course one of the true film directing greats. He got his directorial start with "The Maltese Falcon", in which his own father, the great actor Walter Huston played an uncredited role. No surprise then that he wanted to do likewise for his son Danny on his directorial debut. That acting great Paul Scofield jumped at the opportunity to work with Huston snr who also talked his long time friend, the great American stage actor Burgess Meredith to make a brief but memorable cameo. Danny's mother Zoe Sallis then managed to get financing for this TV movie from no less a figure than Paul Getty who was not short of a bob or two. Then hey presto you have a movie.

I was interested to see the movie mainly because it was John Huston's last appearance. He sadly died not long after shooting was completed. The film turned out to be a surprisingly sympathetic adaption of Leon Garfield's Dickensian style book of the same name. It manages to pick up the dark flavour of Garfield's distinctive period work. Set in a small town in 1767 on New Years Eve, it tells the story of a young apothecaries apprentice who wishes his Scroogelike master dead. Be careful what you wish for! Things get rather awkward for our young man and those old old themes of good and bad are explored once again, and to good effect.

The film is worth watching for the heavyweight actors alone. Scofield was never less than brilliant, Meredith illuminated proceedings all too briefly and John Huston showed what a talent he was in front of the camera as well as behind it. Alexei Sayle and Jools Holland also appeared to give it some modern street cred. It is well scripted using the colourful vernacular of the time. The film uses a strong moral theme and has a satisfying conclusion. There are obvious similarities to "A Christmas Carol", but it is an entertaining and refreshing take on that. Not a bad note for Huston playing the 'Collector of souls' to end on. Danny commented that it was a perfect piece of typecasting for him! Thanks kiddo! The making of featurette is also well worth viewing. It provides a good insight into the perils of financing a film. The film is short at just under one hour, but is highly entertaining for that running time. Danny Huston spends more time acting these days which is a pity given the promise he showed in this film. A chip off the old block!
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on 18 November 2013
I have already commented on another's review.

It's been over 15 years since I've seen this. I remember it being rather reminiscent of Dickens but strange in it's cast as there are American's, stage actors and any old UK comedian available at the time.

It's still well worth a view, it's not very long, not much longer than an hour IIRC.
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on 2 May 2015
A spooky story but, with a definite twist. The film commences on New Year's Eve, where the Apothecary and, his Apprentice are finishing up for the night. The Apothecary keeps finding extra work for the young Apprentice to do and, the boy just wants to go home. Enter a man with his prescription. This is duly made up for him and then, the Apothecary tells the boy to deliver the medicine. Thais means he has to go though a wood that has ruffians & thieves there . Naturally he is very unhappy at the journey and, wishes his master dead. Little does he realise what the results will be; as the man to whom he delivers the medicine is the Collector of Souls. Without giving too much more away and ruining the story, what follows is mayhem but, in a gentle way. This is a film you may have to watch & listen to ,more than once. But it is a film you will not be disappointed with - unless you like blood & gore. The acting is superb and I was so pleased that I bought it.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
When you come to make a film it is always handy to have a father who is a giant in the business, and who unsurprisingly had a lot of contacts. Danny Huston's father John Huston was of course one of the true film directing greats. He got his directorial start with "The Maltese Falcon", in which his own father, the great actor Walter Huston played an uncredited role. No surprise then that he wanted to do likewise for his son Danny on his directorial debut. That acting great Paul Scofield jumped at the opportunity to work with Huston snr who also talked his long time friend, the great American stage actor Burgess Meredith to make a brief but memorable cameo. Danny's mother Zoe Sallis then managed to get financing for this TV movie from no less a figure than Paul Getty who was not short of a bob or two. Then hey presto you have a movie.

I was interested to see the movie mainly because it was John Huston's last appearance. He sadly died not long after shooting was completed. The film turned out to be a surprisingly sympathetic adaption of Leon Garfield's Dickensian style book of the same name. It manages to pick up the dark flavour of Garfield's distinctive period work. Set in a small town in 1767 on New Years Eve, it tells the story of a young apothecaries apprentice who wishes his Scroogelike master dead. Be careful what you wish for! Things get rather awkward for our young man and those old old themes of good and bad are explored once again, and to good effect.

The film is worth watching for the heavyweight actors alone. Scofield was never less than brilliant, Meredith illuminated proceedings all too briefly and John Huston showed what a talent he was in front of the camera as well as behind it. Alexei Sayle and Jools Holland also appeared to give it some modern street cred. It is well scripted using the colourful vernacular of the time. The film uses a strong moral theme and has a satisfying conclusion. There are obvious similarities to "A Christmas Carol", but it is an entertaining and refreshing take on that. Not a bad note for Huston playing the 'Collector of souls' to end on. Danny commented that it was a perfect piece of typecasting for him! Thanks kiddo! The making of featurette is also well worth viewing. It provides a good insight into the perils of financing a film. The film is short at just under one hour, but is highly entertaining for that running time. Danny Huston spends more time acting these days which is a pity given the promise he showed in this film. A chip off the old block!
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on 31 December 2015
Can't remember this, even-though it is well within my age group. Its a cautionary tale that comes over very well.
DVD quality isn't great and the performances are a bit wooden, but as a ghost story, linked with something we all probably feel at one time in our lives, this is a hugely enjoyable tale and wouldn't go amiss being screened over the Christmas period.
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on 1 January 2015
Loved it. Saw it originally in the late 80's on TV and it stuck with me. Hadn't seen it since, so was a bit wary if I was remembering it through rose tinted specs. Having just watched it again, I still love it, it's not a shocker, but very atmospheric, something lacking in many modern films.
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