Adapted from the M.R. James short story ‘Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad’ and made for the BBC as a winter ghost story, the success of this film spawned a yearly traditional ghost story. A fusty and slightly cranky professor travels to the Norfolk coast for a winter break. Whilst walking he discovers a graveyard and from one of the crumbling graves he plucks what looks like a bone whistle. Later that evening in his hotel room he plays the whistle. And then the dreams start.
This is quite a phenomenal piece of television, it’s so studied and calm – modern audiences might find it a bit too slow but that’s part of the charm. There’s an economy to the camera movement that borders on Hitchcockian, and I can pay no higher compliment. From the point that the whistle is found there is a steady incremental growth in the foreboding, starting with the exquisite shot of a shadowy figure in the distance on the beach until the extraordinarily disturbing dream sequence where fear is encapsulated in a series of bleak vistas. I loved this adaptation and I’d urge anyone to seek it out.