Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Tape Of Stone

Finally have watched quality television! By which I mean British television from the 1970s. More specifically, The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale.

The basic concept is that scientists, moving into an old building for research space, encounter a ghost. Unlike your typical ghost story, they don't run screaming from the place, nor does the ghost possess anyone or go on a killing spree. What? Originality? Can't be having that. Instead they start investigating the haunting scientifically, although don't end up with results that would get them published.

There are many interesting points here, one of which is the character interaction that overwhelms the rational scientific study. Peter Brock, the leader, is a very domineering type, and this drives him and the team on past when most people woutl quit. This is contrasted with the more emotional Jane Asher who is able to tune in to the ghostly sensations more easily (because women are clearly more sensitive people), although it is noteworthy that even she turns to the computer to back up her intuition rather than running purely on imaginations. Roy Colinson, a manager rather than scientist, tries to keep everything running smoothly, hard to do as feelings interfere with interpreting results. [Fantastic acting by all concerned, this is an excellent production on all aspects.]

Then there is the actual haunting. As it is 1972, we are not talking bleeding edge special effects, but it doesn't matter. It's more about atmosphere than what we see, and The Stone Tape piles it on (did Nigel Kneale and P. J. Hammond ever collaborate on anything?). When they are in the room, it was getting to the point of me wanting the spookiness to happen, but also not wanting it at the same time. It's amazing just how effectively evocative this is.

It was released on DVD at one point, but good luck getting it now (or, at least, at a reasonable price). Definitely should be seen if you ever have the chance.



Morgan said...

ooh! I'd love to see that! where'd you track it down?

Peter A said...

Great review Jamas - I was most impressed by it too after having heard about it for years.

Morgue - I tracked a copy down for hire from Aro Video about five or six years ago. Hopefully they still have one upstairs!

Foo said...

Hey Jamas - what Quatermass have you seen? A few months ago I watched the final story - The Quatermass Conclusion and both Sha and I loved it. Very chilling.

Part Doctor Who, part Blake's 7 (sans spaceships) and part something else all set on Earth with a serious case of the blues. What fun :-)

Jamas Enright said...

I have all the Quatermass DVDs, and think I've watched them. Have and seen so much stuff can't recall specifics at the moment.