The BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas selection box has plenty of goodies to offer; Jonathan Miller’s Whistle and I’ll Come to Thee is an iconic classic. Lawrence Gordon Clark took up the mantle from Miller, directing seven of the following BBC ghost stories, following The Stalls at Barchester and A Warning to the Curious with Lost Hearts, probably the least typical of the four stories contained in this new blu-ray package, but arguably the most effective by today’s standards.
Published in 1895, this MR James story has a simple mechanism; a young boy (Simon Gipps-Kent as Stephen) is sent to stay with his eccentric and elderly cousin Mr Abney (Joseph O’Conor, narrator of The Dark Crystal). Stephen hears a great deal about two children who previously came to the house, a girl and boy who also seem to be haunting him. Who is Mr Abney, what does he want with Stephen, and do the ghosts of the two children represent a threat or a much-needed potential friend?
Whatever they are, these heartless mites are something of a fright for any casual viewer; with their long fingernails, blue skin, strange movements and oragns bloodily ripped from their bodies, this is as close as the celebrated Ghost Stories specials ever got to visceral horror. The hurdy gurdy music that accompanies their appearance is also quietly confoundingly creepy; some critics have compared this sequence to the vampire kids floating at the window in the tv adaptation of Salem’s Lot, and it’s easy to make that particular connection.
Mr Abney himself is also worth unpacking. While the modern terms we might use for him were unused back in 1895, Mr Abney seems to have a certain interest in the occult, and also an unhealthy view of the role children might play in his obsession. Played with hypnotic zeal by O’Conor, Mr Abney is a worthy adversary, and the narrative gives him exactly what he deserves; Lost Hearts compares to this year’s The Black Phone in the way it sets the scene for a battle beyond the grave between good and evil, with the deciding decisive assist coming from the afterlife
So while you might think you already know the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas collection, Lost Hearts jumps out as 1) the one you’ve probably not heard of or seen and 2) the most unpredictable, visceral and surprisingly modern in content. With some startling Gothic compositions and just the right light but sinister touch, Lost Hearts is an ideal late night tonic over a festive season that rarely seemed as dark as it does right now in 2022.
GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS VOLUME 1
3-disc Limited Edition Blu-ray box set containing 4 episodes, out on 5 December 2022 alongside the BFI horror season In Dreams are Monsters
- Newly remastered by the BFI
- Newly recorded audio commentaries for Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968) and A Warning to the Curious by TV historian Jon Dear
- Newly recorded audio commentaries for The Stalls of Barchester and Lost Hearts by Kim Newman and Sean Hogan
- Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010, 52 mins): John Hurt stars in this 2010 interpretation of M R James’s chilling tale
- Jonathan Miller and Christopher Frayling interview (2012, 3 mins)
- Neil Brand reads M R James’s original story (2001, 42 mins, audio only)
- Ramsey Campbell on MR James (2001, 16 mins)
- Ramsey Campbell reads The Guide (2001, 27 mins)
- Introductions by Lawrence Gordon Clark (2012, 33 mins total): the director of seven of the BBC’s classic A Ghost Story For Christmas episodes discusses his part in the first three instalments he directed
- Ghost Stories For Christmas With Christopher Lee (2000, 60 mins total): BBC Scotland’s ‘talking-head horror’ series starring the iconic actor as an M R James-like raconteur of fireside Christmas ghost stories. Included on this release are The Stalls of Barchester and A Warning to the Curious
- ***First pressing only*** Illustrated booklet with essays by Reggie Oliver, Jon Dear, Jonathan Rigby, Adam Easterbrook and Ramsey Campbell; credits and notes on the special features
RRP: £29.99 / Cat. no. BFIB1476/ 12
UK / 1968-1973 / black and white, colour / 172 minutes (+ extras) / English language, with optional subtitles for the Deaf and partial hearing / original aspect ratio 1.33:1 // 2 x BD50, 1 x BD25: 1080p/50i, 25fps, mono audio (48kHz/24-bit)
WHERE TO BUY
Order from the BFI Shop