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on 2 January 2008
Based on a short story by the maestro of horror M.R.James, this is television at its best. Right from the outset a sense of building dread looms in this terrifically atmospheric chiller. It has become a family favourite for Christmas eve viewing in my household; after a long, frosty walk, and as of yet has never failed to frighten.
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on 18 September 2012
While this is a scary horror film in its own right, with a disturbing atmosphere, I consider it to be one of the less successful adaptations of the MR James ghost story classics. The narrative framework is dispensed with in this adaptation, which is ok to do in an adaption, so long as the director uses other techniques to compensate. However, in this adaption, all that side of the story is completely ignored, which distances us from the characters and setting.

The biggest problem for me was the fact that somehow it just didn't come across to me as a plausible period Ghost Story. The acting from most of the lesser known actors was terrible and they all looked too modern, too 1970ish, Peter Vaughan included. Vaughan seemed miscast as Paxton, and his wardrobe wrong. 1970s BBC production values didn't help.

Finally, some important subtleties were overlooked. For example, the "breathless, lungless laugh" mentioned in the original text, which always struck me as a scary sound, is performed as a wheezing laugh in this adaptation to lesser effect; while the sensational and graphical portrayal of the brutal murder at the end of the movie seems more befitting of scene from a 1970s Hammer Horror film. In contrast James's stories always ended by tastefully avoiding such confrontations, opting to describe only the circumstances of discovery of the body, leaving the rest to the readers' imagination.
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on 4 December 2009
Saw this film on the tele in 1972 and was entranced. I remember the columnist Alan Brien describing it as a film both 'haunting & haunted'. Watching it again now I see what a well made film it is. Top notch directing and acting. And a 'reality' to the scenes that gives an authenticity to it which creates another level of appreciation (of countryside and naturalness) which adds a dimension to this ghost story. And yes, it will scare you. British film making to rival any country.
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on 6 October 2011
For me, Christmas just would not be Christmas without a viewing (or several) of this classic tale. It is a fairly simple supernatural tale based on the short story of the same name by M.R James, where an amateur archaeologist visits the fictitious Norfolk resort of Seaburg (based on Aldeburgh, and filmed in Wells Next to the Sea) to locate a medieval crown buried in the sand to protect the land against invasion. Mr Paxton does not reckon with the Crown's guardian however...
Along with the other titles in the BBC's 'A Ghost Story for Christmas', of which sadly only the Charles Dickens short story 'The Signalman' has been released on DVD these short films are excellent. The horror comes from the atmosphere evoked, coupled with the direction of Mr Gordon Clark and some very effective incidental music. Personally, no matter how many times I see this particular film, I never fail to be chilled by the brief glimpses of William Ager...the other films are equally as worth seeing - and now and again are repeated over the festive period by BBC4 - its just a shame they haven't all been released on DVD.
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on 24 March 2016
Know it well from video in past and rate it as one of the best adaptations of an M R James story - excellent !
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on 16 September 2010
As the title says. Great stuff. I love this tv movie...love it, still has great understated creepy effect. Even after 40 years, its horror effect is still strong.
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on 7 January 2017
Saw this at christmas ten years ago and had to purchase this. The late Peter Vaughan is superb.
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on 24 January 2006
I bought this to complement The Signalman dvd that I bought before Christmas. It quite effective for a 1972 Christmas story. The distant watching shots of the guardian shade are very good. Towards the end you see the lead character being chased across the beach and countryside by it. They must have done a good ten miles running, yet the old man wasn't much out of puff when he stopped. It's an eerie story
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on 6 August 2011
One of the best known of the BBC's M. R. James adaptations, this film brilliantly uses the Norfolk settings so beloved by the great author himself. The production style, and the fact that it is filmed entirely on location mean it has not dated particularly and holds up today brilliantly well. Peter Vaughn plays the central character very well, as his eager anticipation of finding buried treasure gives way to unease and finally terror, something found in so many stories by M. R. James. Well worth viewing, we need all the adaptations on DVD as soon as possible!
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on 20 January 2016
Showing it age slightly, but worth more than 3 stars.
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