WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU
Professor Parkins -
Written by -
Directed by -
Whistle And I'll Come To You (2010)
OTHER GHOST STORIES
Review - First transmitted 24th December 2010
Professor Parkins is a very clever man, but he has very few social graces. In fact, he finds it almost impossible to deal with people on an ordinary level. He is taking a seaside holiday when he happens upon a grave that has been opened up by cliff erosion, revealing an old whistle with an inscription on it. Following this he sees figures on the beach, hears strange noises at night, learns that both beds in the room have been slept in and has a ghostly visitation.
This adaptation of the ghost story by MR James is justly famous for its slow, precise building up of terror. Its determinedly low key, matter of fact approach makes it all the more unnerving as things unseen and barely seen slowly combine before the devastating finale.
Admittedly, by modern standards that finale is far from devastating, but for the TV standards of the time it would have been much more effective than it is now. What remain effective even today are the performance by Michael Hordern and the direction by Jonathan Miller.
Hordern's performance makes the drama work. The script is very sparse and so a lot of the character has to come out through how he carries out mundane ordinary tasks. His inability to relate to people is conveyed at the dining table when a lady smiles in his direction and he rehearses conversational gambits but fails to be use any of them. When asked about a belief in ghosts, he launches into an academic treatise that completely fails to answer the question or engages the questioner. He is, in effect, talking to himself. His professor is utterly believable from start to finish.
The other character in the piece is the coastal scenery. The black and white photography brilliantly captures the stark beauty and bleakness of the English seaside out of season. This increases the sense of isolation and inner barrenness of the lone figure inhabiting the landscape.
But the real test of a ghost story is whether or not it's scary. WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU is spooky and atmospheric and full of creeping dread, but it passes through its chills so matter of factly that it fails in the vital delivery of the scares. The final apparition is such an obvious special effect that it is laughably obvious and undermines what has gone before, including Hordern's final moments as the Professor whose whole belief system, and perhaps sanity, has been stripped away.
WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU is a masterpiece of scene setting and the building up of atmosphere and tension, but it fluffs the punchline.Top
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