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The Stone Tape


‘…it may have a lo-fi production, but plenty of big ideas have made The Stone Tape a deserved cult classic…’

Nigel Kneale’s status as one of the great thinkers of the sci-fi and horror genre is largely based on his highly-influential Quatermass quadrilogy, which was a sensation when first broadcast, but there’s a number of other notable entries in his canon. 1972’s The Stone Tape is a typically thoughtful supernatural drama, which rewards patience as it dodges most of the potential clichés and comes up with some original stuf in the sci-fi/horror genre.

Directed by horror specialist Peter Sasdy, The Stone Tape is the story of a scientist Peter Brock (Michael Bryant) who has an eye on creating a recording format to replace tape. He and his ex Jill (Jane Asher) get involved in the renovation of a country house which dates back to Saxon times, where they discover some unusual modifications.

The hidden room that Peter and Jill discover was used as a US army storeroom in WWII, and is rumoured to harbour a ghost; the researchers decide to sit in and wait to see if enything emerges. With neither jump scares or dream sequences to pad out the action, the focus is very much on Kneale’s brand of artful pseudo-science, which is always persuasive.

The idea of ancient stone as a recording format which captures the energy of past events and plays them on a loop to those sensitive enough to pick the message up is a novel one, and there’s a great, wildly prescient sequence where Jill starts to believe that their computer in Chicago has been possessed by malevolent spirits. Sure, it may have a lo-fi production, but plenty of big ideas have made The Stone Tape a deserved cult classic.


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  1. Television was very much the medium for intelligent horror. This works very well and the idea of harnessing the ancient through modern technology goes down a treat. Jane Asher, of course, is a bonus.

    • I’m a big fan of Cuthbertson from Sutherland’s Law, but my memories of Children of the Stones are hazy to say the least. Will investigate, great tip!

    • I think this might be suitable for you, kind of Dr Who without the Dr, but very BBC cutting edge sci-fi values…

  2. A truth in ghost phenomena tale, ah yes. And Jane Asher and company wandering the home that was once occupied by Ada Lovelace, early computer guru. Flash forward to terabit size data storage on thumb drives and smaller items…vs the megalithic sized reel to reels of the early 70s. I think Colin Wilson once wrote that screenplay was in part based on T C Lethbridge’s intelligent theory that most objects, especially those exposed to damp or water sources retain data imprints. He was a pioneer with his gyrating pendulum and sonic theories; his dabbling might have hastened his death. The theory is not absurd, and extends to artifacts of every type. The key is in understanding how lasting vs shorter term memories embed, under what conditions and happenstances.
    Only issue I had was Jane cut her long red locks and her partner was quite disconcerting. I envy your ability to visit nearby monoliths to try out the stone tape and Lethbridge’s theories. Although, we still have a few interesting mounds in the states…and perhaps some undiscovered or disguised monoliths. The gov’t has destroyed so many sites. Thanks for keeping the tales alive via stellar critiques. Stone on…

    • In Scotland, we’ve got monoliths coming out of both ends. Thanks as always for such great supporting intel. Even if a computer meant reel to reel tape in the 7O’s, the era of ‘the cloud’ was clearly in Kneale’s radar. So this goes further than just bad places, latent psychic energy and ley lines, and posits a world in which are actions are not wiped clean or forgotten, but recorded and remembered by the environment around us as data imprints. On a different note, I’m now keen to find it if this info pertains the 70’s Dr Who since that’s the only other instance I can think of regarding the name Lethbridge in the last 59 years…as always, game changing intel from yourself!

    • Yes but there are interesting theories that when old energy/data is stored and then contemp people in droves touch the stones, info gets overwritten…corrupted, deleted…

      • Have you seen the size it? There’s enough stone in it to hold 3000 yrs of data I should think. Though it was fenced off to the public in 1977 so the history would end there. A good ending though, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Clapton, Bowie, those were the days!

      • This is boggling my mind, but my gut instinct is that it relates to; do you ever have a day when you go back to bed because all electric devices are not playing ball? I usually come to the conclusion that it’s not them that’s the malfunction in the system, it’s me…

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