HAUNTED: TWO TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL: THE FERRYMAN BY KINGSLEY AMIS (1974) AND POOR GIRL BY ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1974).
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Both dramas reviewed here originally aired over the Christmas period of 1974, each fulfilling quite nicely the role of ‘a ghost story for Christmas.’ Both are beautifully shot and acted, with an ethereal, otherworldly look about them that lends itself rather marvellously to the supernatural themes.
THE FERRYMAN stars a ridiculously young-looking and handsome Jeremy Brett, probably best known for playing Sherlock Holmes alongside Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson in the brilliant ’80s television adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. Remember the great theme tune and the opening credits sequence?I certainly do.
He plays Sheridan Owen, an egotistical and narcissistic horror author whose book THE FERRYMAN has become an unexpected bestselling hit. After doing the rounds of the launch parties and the bookshops for often tedious book-signing sessions, he escapes for a weekend to the countryside with his attractive wife Alex, hoping to get away from all the hullaballoo.
It looks like all Owen’s succeeded in doing, however, is in bringing the dratted book with him even as far as The Ferryman’s Rest, the coincidentally-named guest-house in which he and Alex seek shelter during a dreadful downpour.
Owen quickly notices more strange coincidences. The maitre’d at the guest-house has the same surname as the maitre’d in Owen’s novel, but not the same Christian name. The barman has the same Christian name as Owen’s fictional barman, but not the same surname. Everything is just a little bit unsettling and off-kilter, in this out-of-the-way guest-house with no other visitors barring Sheridan Owen and his wife…
When the owner of the hotel turns out to have both the same name as Owen’s novel’s murderer, and also a beautiful young acting student daughter called Jill who is exactly how Owen imagined his lovely heroine to look, Owen starts to wonder exactly how far life is planning to go on imitating art. Knowing how his book ends, Owen, who has never before believed in ghosts even though he’s penned a supernatural bestselling book, decides to stay up when night-time falls and keep a solitary watch…
The scenes at the guest-house are bathed in a shimmery, iridescent colour that gives everything an unreal or ghostly look. Acclaimed actress Lesley Dunlop looks absolutely stunning as the gorgeous daughter Jill; what a beauty she was in her day! She could even have been a Hammer girl, she was so easy on the eye. I love posh-voiced Geoffrey Chater as her dad, the coincidentally named Miles Attingham, and the tale of terror ends with a decidedly delicious ghostly twist…
POOR GIRL, set in Edwardian times, sees an attractive young woman called Florence Chasty enter the rich Wilson household in the countryside as governess to the nine-year-old son of the house, Hilary.
He’s a precocious little spoiled brat who is, technically speaking, already too old for a governess. To see her attempting to teach him equations, extremely hard sums which it requires a male mind to properly understand and inculcate, is a pitiful sight indeed.
Why is this little master not by now enduring his baptism of fire on the playing-fields of Eton, might one enquire, fagging for a prefect who blisters his rear end enthusiastically with a length of bamboo whilst enjoying a spot of buggery over the hot buttered toast in front of the fire of a wintry evening?
I’m not saying I approve of this barbaric and horrifically abusive system, mind, which traumatised children for life, but we all know what these English public schools were like, leaving their poor troubled graduates in need of a Cynthia Payne type to fulfil the sadomasochistic fantasies instilled in them in school!
Hilary straightaway falls in love, of course, with Miss Chasty, whose heavy brown coil of hair at the nape of her delicate neck looks too heavy for her little head to support. Oliver Wilson, the handsome, still young master of the house, Hilary’s father, can’t keep his eyes off Florence, either. She could have her pick of father and son, uncomfortable as that sounds, were it not for the mistress of the house…
Angela Thorne is superb as the coldly genteel, restrained Mrs. Louise Wilson, who dismisses Florence as the ‘common shopgirl’ type almost from the beginning. It’s quite unpleasant to see how far above the peasant class Mrs. Wilson holds herself, simply because she has a few shillings more than most people.
Florence is quite a respectable young lady, with a loving father still living at home, and not at all the orphaned and utterly penniless Jane Eyre type of governess, but to the snobbish and horribly prejudiced Mrs. Wilson, she’s in quite ‘the wrong class’ altogether.
The haunting in POOR GIRL is very subtle, consisting of a few flash-forwards experienced by Florence of a man, who turns out to be the grown-up Hilary, and a woman, living in the house in the 1920s, wearing strange clothes and sporting strange hairstyles and behaving in an alien manner to the reserved, Edwardian-era Florence.
Florence very subtly changes, too, as she becomes less respectful and eager-to-please towards Mrs. Wilson, and begins to act more like her rival in love rather than an obsequious underling. Florence is straying into dangerous territory. I daresay she’s not the first young woman who thought she could usurp another woman’s place by virtue of her firm white body and lush, obliging lips.
Mrs. Wilson is on the ball, however, and very watchful of her husband who, as she is very well aware, has strayed with pretty young servants and employees before. It won’t be long at all, therefore, before Mrs. Wilson thinks to look in the summerhouse window…
These two ‘plays,’ as the blurb on the DVD box describes them, were made by and for Granada Television. They must have been compulsive viewing when they were first aired over the festive season of 1974. I love that some of the really brilliant television dramas and serials from that era are now available on DVD. I never thought I’d be saying this, dreadful technophobe that I am, but three cheers for the age of technology…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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