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on 1 November 2013
I wanted to wait until Christmas to watch this but I just couldn't resist! Halloween seemed like a good excuse to listen to some ghost stories anyway.

I've been a fan of M.R. James for some time so I'll always be a little biased but these stories should please anyone looking for a winter 'chiller'. They bring something a little different to the table especially when compared to a fully dramatised story because there's just the teller in his study with only a few small parts of each story brought to life visually.

The Christopher Lee Ghost Stories for Christmas which are on the BFI Ghost Stories Definitive Collection box set are fairly similar to this and just as good.
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on 3 November 2013
The hugely under-rated Robert Powell gives five tremendous readings of classic M R James tales. The best is probably The Mezzotint, a spooky story about a haunted picture. The picture itself is beautifully visualized and lends an extra layer of creepiness to Powell's supreme delivery.

Spine Chillers isn't bad as a special feature, Michael Bryant does a fine job himself, although the slightly shorter running time of his three episodes restricts the build-up of tension somewhat.

This DVD is somewhat brilliant, but I am docking a star for the continued absence of the missing Christopher Lee episode (The Ash Tree), inexplicably omitted from last year's otherwise wonderful Ghost Stories For Christmas box set. "Classic Ghost Stories" has been included in the expanded edition of that set, so there really is no excuse...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 January 2014
Seated in his comfortable library on a dark winter night, a robed `Varsity don (Robert Powell) unfolds a macabre tale. `The Mezzotint' is a most effective opening story for this collection, illustrated in a way which matches M.R. James' written description so perfectly that I had the uncanny feeling I had seen it before ...

Each of this collection of five readings is wonderfully performed by Powell in an inviting library set. Faithfully abridged from the original texts, they showcase the wide range of James' ghostly imagination - and sense of humour, a quality of his stories that may surprise viewers who have yet to enjoy reading them.

A welcome `extra', worth equal billing with the main feature, is the set of three further readings. Michael Bryant performs them in evening dress, with the air of a learned Edwardian gentleman recounting remarkable incidents to a friend in the hours after dinner. His factual style is compelling and makes the remarkable, believable.

These three tales were originally broadcast in the late afternoon for older children, but the standards are just as high. Even the subtle parting compliment of an incomplete Shakespearean quotation is present; the author allows us to take pleasure in completing it for ourselves.

This is a very enjoyable DVD which brings us close to the experience of attending some of M.R. James' legendary Christmas readings in person. It is also available in a box set with the classic TV adaptations, but if you have those already, this single DVD makes an essential addition to your collection. 5*
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on 7 January 2017
I like this version of the M.R.James stories. The selection read by Robert Powell contains such classics as 'The Mezzotint' and 'Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My lad'. Not as ambitious as the fully dramatised adaptations in the 'A Ghost Story for Christmas' series, they are similar to the later Christopher Lee readings and do include some dramatic effects. The 'Spine Chillers' are a bonus. These are unadorned versions read by Michael Bryant and are equally effective. Three of his very best stories are included: another reading of 'The Mezzotint', 'A School Story' (a favourite of mine) and 'The Diary of Mr.Poynter'.

The only downside for me is that the accompanying booklet was missing.
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Although not set at Christmas, James’ short ghost stories are synonymous with wintry nights in the gloom by the fireside, and the BBC’s presentation of six of his best-loved tales in this dramatic reading production over the Christmas of 1986 perfectly captures the spirit of James’ spine-tingling tales. The writer’s obsession with antiquarian artefacts, and his apparent desire to move away from the more excessive writing tropes of predecessors such as Dickens, Hardy and Collins, means that the stories as written can sometimes come across as a little pedestrian, and they often end quite abruptly, leaving the reader a little dissatisfied. However, it is ironically these perceived inadequacies that make the stories so suitable for this televised format, leaving the listening wanting more and asking questions – surely every writer’s aim!
Robert Powell is excellent as the storyteller, and the tales selected are almost all well-chosen; perhaps the opening story ‘The Mezzotint’ is a little unsatisfying, but ‘Wailing Well’ is truly disquieting, and ‘The Ash Tree’ is almost the perfect horror story by numbers.
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on 15 February 2018
Absolutely excellent value. Good to see these stories of old from M R James on the screen.
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on 12 January 2016
Bought as a gift for my Dad, he loved it. Robert Powell's telling of M R James' ghostly stories is atmospheric and captivating. I fully recommend buying to watch on a cold winters night as we did.
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on 31 March 2014
I have been waiting years for these short stories to appear on DVD, the picture quality is fair for it age & stands being enlarged in its 4:3
ratio on a modern 40 inch screen.
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on 14 December 2015
Horror tales and powell executes the telling of them well
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on 8 November 2013
I am a huge fan of M R James which started from watching these wonderful stories as a child thanks to the BBC adapting them for their annual run of A Ghost Story For Christmas back in the 70s. I had many a restless night back then as a result but at the same time I was completely hooked. Christmas and the dark of winter is made all the more special for me when the lights are low save a solitary candle and glass or two of Port is poured as I sit down to watch or listen to these wonderful stories, So I am delighted the BFI have decided at long last to bring these stories from a most magical time into the present onto DVD, I am also eagerly awaiting the remake of the M R James story The Tractate Middoth by the brilliant Mark Gatiss this Christmas 2013 on BBC2. I hope the BBC will now keep adapting all of the great work of M R James for the BFI to bring out on DVD or better still Blu Ray, I like many thousands of people will gladly buy them.
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