First transmitted 22/12/1976 on BBC 1
The 1970’s was a decade of grim austerity for the British film industry, and although the cinemas were bereft of successful home grown product, television screens up and down the land were lit up by some of the most through provoking, intelligent and literate programming Britain has ever witnessed. Fortunately this was a decade of tele-visual innovation and experimentation, and a time when anthology serials reached a position of prominence. One of the most impressive and consistent was the BBC’s annual Ghost Story at Christmas. These chilling and nuanced short films offered a sobering riposte to the merriment of the season, a delicate feeling of unease amongst the decorations and festivities. The series ran from 1971-78 (and was briefly resurrected in 2005 and 2006) and five of the eight tales were based on short stories by M. R. James. These included The Stalls of Barchester (1971), A Warning to the Curious (1972), Lost Hearts (1973), The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974) and The Ash Tree (1975). For whatever reason 1976 marked a departure from the world of James with the adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ short story The Signalman. This would continue for the final two episodes - Stigma (1977) and The Ice House (1978), which were based on stories by Clive Exton and John Bowen respectively.
© Shaun Anderson 2010