With winter setting in, what better way to spend a chilly November night than rugged up beside a roaring fire listening to tales of ghosts and ghoulies and of things that go bump in the night. Well, out of the BFI archives, come a host of British-made chillers that are certain to send a shiver down your spine – with three making their home entertainment debut this week.
SCHALCKEN, THE PAINTER (BBC1, 1979, 70min)
Adapted from a tale by J Sheridan Le Fanu, and narrated by the legendary Charles Gray, this atmospheric A Ghost Story for Christmas tale from Omnibus director Leslie Megahey fuses a creepy ghost story about a painter who forsakes love for ambition with the canvases of real-life 17-century Dutch painter, Godfried Schalcken. Exquisitely shot, and highly reminiscent of the work of both Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, this is intelligent arthouse horror that deserves revisiting. The dual format Flipside release also includes two experimental shorts that are a must-see: the expressionist-inspired The Pit (1961) and the folk horror The Pledge (1981), which features an early score by Michael Nyman.
SUPERNATURAL (BBC1, 1977, 400min)
Rarely seen since its original broadcast, this eight-part series about the elite Club of the Damned, where membership is granted only through the telling of the most frightening tales, is British TV gothic horror at its best, and features a wealth of acting talent, including Billie Whitelaw, Jeremy Brent, Robert Hardy, Gordon Jackson, Sinead Cusack, Denholm Elliott and Ian Hendry. Ghosts, werewolves, vampires and spooky marionettes all feature on the two-disc DVD release.
GASLIGHT (Thorold Dickinson, 1940, 85min)
In this nerve-shredding 1940 British adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s celebrated stage play, Anton Walbrook stars as the villainous husband who drives his fragile wife (Diana Wynyard) to the brink of madness in Edwardian London. When MGM remade the film in 1944, the studio tried to destroy the negatives of this one. Luckily they were unsuccessful and now, following a BFI digital restoration, the original suspense thriller is must-see for all fans of classic British cinema. The dual format release also includes a number of vintage educational shorts from director Thorold Dickinson.
For more on the BFI’s collection of sought-after BBC TV horror, check out the trailer. Also available is the rediscovered Play for Today chiller Robin Redbreast. Read our full review (here