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4.0 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 26 April 2017
Great to go back in time to the 1970's and watch the brilliant well known British actors amongst others Peter Barkworth and the excellent Anna Massey.
However, although the actors did their absolute best I feel that their talents were somewhat wasted as (in my opinion) I have watched much better written plays.
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on 23 December 2013
We both enjoyed this dvd and it's a pity there are only three stories but as has been explained, only these three have been recovered. They are all suited to winter viewing, especially round Christmas. It is fascinating to watch a normal Christmas dinner with all sorts of food on the table in a lovely country cottage, turn into absolute horror! Perfection in hauntings. All three stories have an underlying sense of desolation and sadness because of humans' attitude towards each other whether it is a failure to understand each other, whether it's greed, whatever the cause, we are promised ghosts and we get them, the acting is tops by all protagonists and so is atmosphere. Favourite is the Exorcism. If you have not got this dvd and love ghost stories, don't hesitate get it.
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on 18 September 2017
Unfortunately I fully agree with the other bad reviews here. First of all I have to make clear that I love vintage British television. I have the feeling that I found a true treasure in the DVDs and BluRays produced by the BFI from old BBC stuff, especially from directors like Alan Clarke or Dennis Potter who both pushed boundaries for the single drama (and made television superior to cinema for a short period). After I found that the excellent SF anthology series "Out of the Unknown" was out on DVD, I also bought "Dead of Night" in the same purchase. Unfortunately, these three episodes are not really outstanding. I understand that a series made in 1972 cannot be compared to 2017 cinematic horror. But what we get here is really subpar. I feel that all this is not very shocking and suspenseful and that everything is filmed in rather cheap looking TV sets anno 1972. Ok it was even made before the first "Exorcist". But what I really dislike is - first of all - the acting. It is stiff, theatrical and totally unconvincing. All the actors behave like they play in a small theatre piece in a local amateur stage play: loud, overarticulate and blatant. Moreover, the writing (which is the true epitome of British TV drama - see the TV plays by the two directors above) is rather embarrassing. There is suspense established, but killed in the next second, there are scenes repeating and repeating the same ad libitum. Morality is lurking behind every (not so) dark corner. And the ending is basically the same in every episode (even if it is never developed in that way). The DVD is very expensive and the booklet is fine - but I felt sorry for the lost time watching this. I think it is simply not worth watching nowadays - and there is much better genre TV stuff made by the BBC as well. I've bought and seen some 50+ DVDs and BluRays from British TV's past, and this was the least watchable. And sorry for some awkward English - I am not a native speaker.
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on 22 March 2014
I bought this DVD just for the play The Exorcism which I saw on BBC many years ago. I remembered it very vividly and was not disappointed. The impact was still as chilling. There is a memorable moment where one of the characters during the dinner party setting, looks out of the window and cannot see anything - no shadows, just total blackness. A black void. ......just look out of your window tonight, I bet you can see something. This DVD is highly recommended. Haven`t seen the other two plays yet, but have watched The Exorcism 3 times up to now!!!! It is a very Seventies production and there is a socio-political thread in there. Wonderful stuff.
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on 29 October 2013
This is a hugely enjoyable and perfectly chilling DVD of classic television. A relatively late casualty of the BBC's junking policy it now sadly consists of just 3 episodes. Everyone knows about "Dr Who" missing episodes, but these are so expertly crafted it's criminal the full series doesn't exist. The three we have left however are very good though.

Whilst all the episodes are ghost stories to some degree, there's more to them also. They all have some other intertwined theme; "The Exorcism" a middle left commentary on greed and capitalism, whilst the others explore various psychological issues. Whether this appeals or not, they are also very good and genuinely chilling ghost stories. All have a modern day (70s) setting, in modern homes full of the latest technology (every shot has a hifi or food mixer in it), all enhancing the unsettling commonplace ghost story feel.

The stand out episode for me is "The Exorcism", starring Edward Petherbrige and Clive Swift, this is a perfect claustrophobic ghostly thriller. A festive Christmas gathering begins to turn sour as odd things happen and the four friends become trapped in the house. Although we know it's only a set at the BBC (BBC Glasgow according to the PDF paperwork on the disc, not Television Centre), and today's equivalents would have more atmospheric lighting and tighter direction, the tension and terror is so well realised it still manages to chill us so expertly. The terror and claustrophobia is very reminscent of Associated Television's later "During Barty's Party" by Nigel Kneale (part of the "Beasts" series), however this one with its Christmas country cottage setting is better entertainment for a winter's night. The pacing varies, with innocuous chit chat, real terror and a very memorable performance from Anna Cropper, but it all works. The exorcism itself is pretty devastating, but at least Kenneth Kendall turns up to return us to normality. Wonderful Kenneth.

The equally wonderful Peter Barkworth stars in "Return Flight". Another well produced ghostly tale this one is quite different in approach and atmosphere. The setting of Luton airport and a Boeing 707 cockpit is not an obvious ghost story setting. Nevertheless, it's very enjoyable, and the producers deserve credit however for putting a ghost story in a more modern setting. A mixture of psychological thriller and slowly paced disaster movie, this is probably the weakest story on here but still affecting television.

"A Woman Sobbing" starring Anna Massey raises the game once again. Another country house ghost story, and again with much more to it than a simple haunting. Once again the pyschological health of Jane (Massey's character) is explored rather than a simple ghost story. Recalling Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw", but this time around only Jane is aware of the haunting.

The package is completed with a well written booklet which also provides info on what we're missing with the lost episodes. 1972 was a good year for the ghost story, as following the transmission of this series in the run up to Christmas, the BBC followed up with the classic adaptation of the M.R. James story "A Warning to the Curious" and the seminal "The Stone Tape" by Nigel Kneale, which itself was originally intended to be an episode in the "Dead of Night" series. It ended up as a standalone film but was produced by the same team. Fortunately Christmas 1972's other treats still exist in the archive. Picture and sound quality is OK throughout; it appears this is a straight transfer from a decent quality master so there has been little obvious restoration.

This legendary series is well regarded but little seen, this BFI DVD release puts that right. The latest in increasingly long line of classic supernatural TV releases, this is essential viewing. We can only hope that like "Dr Who", the missing episodes turn up somewhere.
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on 13 February 2014
Having seen 'the Exorcism' as a boy in the UK In 1970's, I was eager to revisit a programme which I had found wonderfully scary at the time; I was not disappointed. Don Taylor's script whilst plainly making a political point about the evils of poverty and capitalism, continues to thrill with its famous and disturbing images. The dialogue, fashions, and special effects all show their age but equally the play is a reminder of how television used to be able to produce such cerebral and stylish thrillers with conviction and regularity.
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Sharing a title with Ealing’s classic horror anthology – much to Michael Balcon’s displeasure – the BBC’s 1972 series Dead of Night is a very different kettle of fish, opting for an anthology of modern day stories of the supernatural with a distinctly socialist and feminist slant and more concerned with middle-class guilt and social mores than with the gothic horrors that had been the meat and potatoes of previous horror shows. Only three of the seven episodes survived the BBC’s regular purges of their archives (scripts for the lost episodes are included as a PDF file on the BFI’s UK DVD along with stills from three of them) and the survivors are a very mixed bag.

The best known is the misleadingly titled The Exorcism (there’s no exorcism in it) sees a Christmas with a quartet of upwardly mobile friends in an expensively converted remote country cottage turn into the housewarming dinner party from Hell as the power cuts out, the Burgundy tastes like blood and the turkey burns the throat – not necessarily an unusual experience for the season, but things quickly get even worse…

There are some genuinely chilling moments – you’ll certainly feel a shiver when someone says “There’s no such thing as absolute darkness” – and some interesting ideas about the way the mind can be all too easily tricked as rational explanations offered and found wanting. Unfortunately it’s one of those stories where the questions are more interesting than the answer, which is revealed in a long and overly eloquent monologue leading to a final scene of tit-for-tat social justice across the centuries that really doesn’t make that much sense, seeming too much of a forced twist ending because that’s what these kind of stories are supposed to have.

Return Flight is by far the weakest, a Twilight Zoneish shaggy dog story stretched way beyond its natural length to 50 minutes without strong enough writing for it not to matter that it’s not until the last ten minutes or so that the supernatural element takes over. Although the hook is that Peter Barkworth’s pilot is haunted by the appearance of a World War Two bomber, there’s not much of a frisson, opting more for a character study of a man trying to hide his disappointments that have eaten him up for years. He clearly has a resentment towards the pilots who flew in the war, both those who survived and now run the airline industry and have control over his fate and those who died like the first husband his recently deceased wife’s first husband. Yet while you expect there to be a tangible connection when his plane loses most of its power and old wartime intercom signals seem to be drawing him to a disused airfield, it remains studiously oblique. For the most part the most interesting thing about it is the way Barkworth’s clipped delivery sounds so very like Patrick McGoohan.

A Woman Sobbing is a massive improvement and the best by far. It’s not just that the – possibly - supernatural element is there from the beginning but because it has much stronger character writing that is given equal weight. And the exact nature of the sobbing woman in the attack that only Anna Massey’s frustrated wife can hear is the crux of the matter. Is it really a supernatural entity, is it a side effect of the medication she’s on – even she doesn’t think it can be real at first or is it her own despair given voice? There are allusions to classical melodramas and ghost stories, with the spectre of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight raised at first half-jokingly and later more seriously while elements of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and its repressed sexuality (both Massey and her husband briefly have images of a partner for infidelity triggered by a passing phrase) and desperation (Massey tears away the wallpaper in one scene just like Gilman’s maddened heroine). But at heart it’s a compelling and convincing portrait of a marriage that’s approaching stagnation via frustration and isolation, with Massey increasingly resentful of the demands her children make and trapped with no outlet beyond the apparently ideal but isolated country home and haunted by demons that medicine can’t suppress and religion doesn’t believe in. Anchored by an exceptionally good performance by Massey and an excellent script by John Bowen, it’s worth the price of the DVD on its own.
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on 24 March 2015
I've been trying to track this down after hearing two women at work talking about The Exorcism way back in 1972 so imagine my delight when I realised I could buy this on Amazon. The Exorcism certainly didn't disappoint me, even though I had a good idea of the outcome I was still on the edge of my seat.
The second story, about the pilot, didn't quite do it for me, for a personal reason. On seeing 'Lancaster Bomber' I was hoping for an insight into the mind of somebody who'd been involved in the attacks on the civilians in German cities, maybe showing the ghosts of some of the victims and their side of the story. This didn't quite go the way I'd wanted but then my view is a little biased, being a pacifist myself.
The real disappointment was The Sobbing Woman. No clues about the previous woman, just Jane's story, which held no surprises. In the hands of a writer like Robert Aickman this could have been brilliant but I was totally unmoved throughout. Jane's sullen expression didn't endear me to her either.
So why am I giving this the full five stars? The Exorcism is worth the price of the whold DVD.
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on 20 November 2013
Dead of Night DVD
British Film Institute

Way back in 1972 the BBC made a supernatural TV series called Dead of Night. This title is not to be confused with a more recent American DVD of the same name or an older Michael Redgrave movie from the 1940s. The BBC series ran from 5 November until 17 December 1972 with seven episodes each of 50 minutes duration. It appears that only three episodes seem to be surviving but as a part of their Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film programme, the British Film Institute people have put them on a DVD for general release in October this year.

I do recall seeing one of these episodes back in 1972 when I was a young student plodding away at chemistry but with an avid interest in all matters relating to Science Fiction and associated literature, that episode being Return Flight, and I do recall thinking it was pretty good. Since then, however, I don't think this series has appeared on TV again so it's really one up for the BFI and their media archaeology for bringing it back to the viewing public once more.

The surviving episodes on the DVD are:

The Exorcism by Don Taylor. A middle-class couple have invited another couple round for Christmas dinner at their country cottage. Everything has been modernised to the latest standard but what they forget is that the cottage has a long history with previous occupants, some going back to the early 19th century when there was a famine and public unrest. Things start to go wrong in the house such as a power cut and doors that are unable to open. There is also something upstairs. Tension builds as evening progresses and they find what is behind the mystery of the house. Four excellent actors in Clive Swift (later appearing in Keeping up Appearances) Shakespearean actor Edward Pletherbridge (The Guardians) with Anna Cropper and Sylvia Kay.

Return Flight by Rodney Bennett. An airline pilot played by Peter Barkworth is on a routine flight from Hamburg when he sees another plane enter his fight path only to disappear quickly. This prompts an investigation but what he saw more resembled a Lancaster bomber from the war. The pilot is a lonely man, a recent widower, and his wife was once married to a bomber pilot lost in the war. Despite being encouraged by a friend, our pilot seems to sink into a depression which was precipitating a journey he was compelled to take.

A Sobbing Woman by Paul Ciappessoni. Anna Massey plays a relatively affluent housewife with a husband and a couple of children but she isn't really happy. Life seems to have passed by. In their new house things do not get any better when she hears a woman sobbing in one of the upstairs rooms. She is the only one to hear this. The husband employs a Dutch girl as an au pair which further isolates her. The sobbing does not stop and she is sent for psychiatric evaluation but would she improve? A really good supernatural drama, you begin to wonder if this is all in her mind or is there a psychic presence in the house?

Everything is presented in the original. 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the colour rendition is not bad at all especially considering that this was made only a few years after colour television started in the UK. In all of the 150 minutes of drama, you will not find irritating background music to jangle your nerves. This is a straight acting performance without any frills. Many people will like this, others not, so it's up to the individual. Personally I found it rather pleasing.

Extras are included on the disc, which include pictures from the missing episodes and downloadable items, PDF files of missing scripts and an interesting booklet of biographies and essays. While the recommended price is a bit steep at almost £20 you will undoubtedly find this cheaper elsewhere on the Internet, such as Amazon, for under £14.

There is a strange dichotomy here in that, despite being old, this is something new. It will certainly be new to a lot of younger people out there who may find the style and presentation a little strange when compared to modern media but they may also find it refreshingly novel. When all is said and done, the DVD is worth a wholehearted recommendation. For further information, it would be best to consult the BFI website.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2014
Three fascinating period dramas that should certainly appeal to those interested in classic television of years past - but will have limited appeal I fear to other viewers. I found the pieces fascinating. "The Exorcism" is of course the most famous episode - and deservedly so - having been produced on radio and initially in Prague I believe - its checkered history includes the death of its leading lady when it was performed on the West End stage! It still wears well and maintains a perfect balance between implicit "political" critique and nicely orchestrated chills! So highly recommended for folks like me...
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