Thursday, 28 February 2008
I had too much to dream last night
Whistle and I'll come to you. 1968.
This, the first of the BBC's adaptations of M.R. James' stories was aired as part of the Omnibus series and directed by Jonathan Miller.
An old whistle has emerged in the displaced soil of a grave, and a bumbling academic holidaying nearby, played by Michael Horden, discovers this and cleans it up. The artefact is adorned with a latin inscription which he translates to be; 'Who is this who is coming?' A blow through the instrument is seen to unleash a psychic disturbance. The room Horden is staying in contains two single beds, and he experiences a disturbed sleep due to the sounds of someone twisting and turning in the other bed, which facilitates a dream that he is being pursued on a desolate beach by an unseen figure. In an extraordinary moment we see what appears to be a bed sheet rearing up on the sands, moving towards him. The following morning the maid asks him which of the beds he has slept in, as both are disturbed. Horden converses with another guest in the boarding house, giving the viewer the opportunity to discover that the professor doesn't believe in the supernatural, finding a rational explanation for any suggestion of ghostly presences.
But later that night, there are further disturbances in his room, and turning to the empty bed, Horden sees the knotted sheet rising up. The sight of the terrified professor's thumb finding its way into his mouth, as he starts blubbering, is chilling.