Whistle Lad…


202. Whistle and I’ll Come to You (Jonathan Miller, 1968)

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.

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