M. R. James

maximus otter

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Oh, please let it be good!

“The picture lay face upwards on the table where the last man who looked at it had put it, and it caught his eye as he turned the lamp down. What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor, and he declares now that if he had been left in the dark at that moment he would have had a fit. But, as that did not happen, he was able to put down the light on the table and take a good look at the picture. It was indubitable—rankly impossible, no doubt, but absolutely certain. In the middle of the lawn in front of the unknown house there was a figure where no figure had been at five o'clock that afternoon. It was crawling on all-fours towards the house, and it was muffled in a strange black garment with a white cross on the back...”

https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Ghost_Stories_of_an_Antiquary/The_Mezzotint

:p

maximus otter
 

escargot

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It strikes me as one of his least adaptable - a haunted picture with the spook confined to the image and to the past.
There'll be a bumbling old Professor of Classics or somesuch who will explain an imaginary backstory with a mysterious flitting spirit and a curse.
 

escargot

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Isn't that every James story?


Heh, yup! That's the aspect of the adaptations that I detest, when it's all about posh old bachelors. If I don't care about people like that in my everyday life I'm not going to be engaged with TV stories about them.

As I have mentioned, I enjoy the Librivox readings by Peter Yearsley because he does the voices and accents so beautifully. Recommended.
 

Ogdred Weary

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Heh, yup! That's the aspect of the adaptations that I detest, when it's all about posh old bachelors. If I don't care about people like that in my everyday life I'm not going to be engaged with TV stories about them.

As I have mentioned, I enjoy the Librivox readings by Peter Yearsley because he does the voices and accents so beautifully. Recommended.

Aren't most of the stories, there's maybe one or two exceptions, about posh old bachelors though? There are women and working class characters in supporting roles as it were, the latter are often comic relief.
 

Stormkhan

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The point is they were written by a posh old bachelor and had stories involving posh old bachelors. They are stories of their time. The lack of notable women has been questioned considering James' own possible sexuality, and working class people were clichés because of James' own experience. He wasn't writing gritty reality.
Complaining about the stories being about posh old bachelors is like complaining about an old horror story not involving a mobile 'phone. Only to be expected, surely? James' output is what it is - we can't retrofit them. We can base new takes on them, of course. But then the discussion is how close does the production stick with the original source material, not the actual plot.
 

escargot

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Aren't most of the stories, there's maybe one or two exceptions, about posh old bachelors though? There are women and working class characters in supporting roles as it were, the latter are often comic relief.

True. The attraction for me is the nature of the horrific predator and the hope that this time it will work harder to catch dear old Prof Posherbottom.
 

escargot

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The point is they were written by a posh old bachelor and had stories involving posh old bachelors. They are stories of their time. The lack of notable women has been questioned considering James' own possible sexuality, and working class people were clichés because of James' own experience. He wasn't writing gritty reality.
Complaining about the stories being about posh old bachelors is like complaining about an old horror story not involving a mobile 'phone. Only to be expected, surely? James' output is what it is - we can't retrofit them. We can base new takes on them, of course. But then the discussion is how close does the production stick with the original source material, not the actual plot.

Not at all. There is plenty of retrofitting going on. The stories are always being adapted to fit modern times, as is ever the case with a good yarn.

In any case the characters are not the main interest and are hardly developed; James repeatedly used stereotypes like elderly academics and well-off antiquarians. The occult plot device/gimmick in each one is what gives it the interest.

In Casting the Runes, for example, the suspense is provided by the realisation that, first, the curse is real, and second, that it can be dealt with if you're brave enough.
(The train carriage scene is a masterpiece of suspense and was reproduced so faithfully in Tourneur's 1957 The Night of the Demon because it couldn't have been written better. It would still work today.)

James also used contemporary technology to set his scenes, like electric trams, trains, telegrams gas lighting and various advertising techniques like posters and printed handbills.
This made the stories feel up-to-date and so more scary at the time, which was James' full intention.

So yeah, there are so many intriguing aspects of James' work to choose from. Bumbling old professors are the least interesting. :chuckle:

The example that sticks in my mind is of Michael Hordern in Jonathan Miller's Oh Whistle, where he walks along talking to himself. What WAS Miller thinking?
 

escargot

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Currently enjoying the old BBC seasonal ghost stories. :)

Today's is James' Lost hearts.

The excellent child actor who plays Stephen, Simon Gipps Kent, was born a few weeks after I was.
Sadly, Gipps Kent died at the tragically young age of 28 in 1987 of a misadventure with morphine.

Just now I was reading about him and came across a claim that a medium had contacted his spirit.

It's on the Supernatural Magazine website with which I'm not familiar, but it seems safe.

My Spirit Communication with the late Simon Gipps-Kent

For a period of months back in 2012 I was being visited by him. This man was in distress, what we call a crisis spirit. He spoke to me in dreams and he was present along with a late friend of mine during readings for my clients. During the course of our communications, I was told, or as we Clairvoyants and Psychics say, given the impression by Simon himself, the following information.

He told me he did not take his own life, and he was never suicidal. He also told me that the “drugs” that he was supposedly taking was Morphine, a pain killer for his back. I was shown an image of a young slim man with brown curly hair, wearing a brown leather jacket and blue jeans, leaning over him injecting him with a powerful drug.
The man waited in the lounge room of Simon’s flat until Simon expired. Simon also informed me that this man is also in spirit with him. To me the man seemed to be around the age of 28. Some one that Simon knew and trusted. I could see the Ambulance out in the street and the Ambulance men entering the flat. One was a man in his 50’s He just shook his head as if to say, huh, another junky.

Just a spot of tenuously-related MR James weirdness.
 

catseye

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That reminds me, I saw this on telly the other night and it's on Youtube. MR James gets a mention and I'm now trying out Algernon Blackwood thanks to this prog.
Having become a recent convert to YouTube, I shall look this up directly!
 

escargot

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That reminds me, I saw this on telly the other night and it's on Youtube. MR James gets a mention and I'm now trying out Algernon Blackwood thanks to this prog.
The famous 1944 anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural is the go-to collection.

My father had a copy which my brother and I as kids would each surreptitiously borrow to scare ourselves with and discreetly replace before, we believed, it was missed.
We managed this so well that neither of us knew the other was doing it until about ten years ago. :chuckle:

I now think the adults knew we were reading it but hey, it kept us quiet.

There are enough dramatisable yarns there to keep producers in seasonal ghost stories for a hundred years, with barely a whiff of the elderly Cambridge antiquarians or minor city cathedral politics we see paraded by the BBC.

Many have of course already been adapted. I spotted some as Tales of the Unexpected back in the '80s, suitably updated as to locations, occupations etc but driven by the same desires and gruesome motives. People don't change all that much.

Bits of some crop up, usually unattributed, in fillums and TV productions. When I see this done I'll nod knowingly; it's an homage to the giants of the genre.

Some stories have become the subject of songs. Quotes from some have become famous in their own right as metaphors or innuendos. Some stories are humorous and some are just beautiful.

I was an insatiable reader and must have taken it all in dozens of times.

Used copies are available online. Gatiss and co. might dust off their copy and give us something different. :cool:
 

escargot

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Here's the contents list of Great Tales from the trustworthy Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

While it's not as in the printed book where the stories are separated into Terror/Supernatural themes it looks like everything's there.
(I'm sure I've posted this before. :chuckle: )

I naturally looked at each item to see if I remember the plot and to my delight I may need to brush up. :)
A pleasing terror, indeed.
 

escargot

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Y'know, I've looked so hard at the above contents list that I'm getting Gothic flashbacks of corpses fighting off carrion hunters and men whispering of barely speakable sexual practices in the ears of horrified male acquaintances.

I'm fully expecting a loathsome semi transparent amoeba-like being to drift silently through the wall at any minute. :omg:

Most weirdly, I seem to have accidentally hit the Bold button. :dunno:
 

Ogdred Weary

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Here's the contents list of Great Tales from the trustworthy Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

While it's not as in the printed book where the stories are separated into Terror/Supernatural themes it looks like everything's there.
(I'm sure I've posted this before. :chuckle: )

I naturally looked at each item to see if I remember the plot and to my delight I may need to brush up. :)
A pleasing terror, indeed.

Many thanks for posting this, was about to look up the contents as soon as you mentioned it.

I loved The Monkey's Paw and The Toll House by Jacobs, wasn't sure if he had done any other spooky tales, I think he mostly wrote comic stuff.
 

escargot

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Well worth investing if you can pick it up cheaply.

I paid less than a tenner for my current copy and can see it on the bookcase, tempting me. :cool:
 

sherbetbizarre

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The BFI are transferring the Ghost Stories For Christmas to Blu-Ray one volume at a time - let's hope they are worth the upgrades!

Details

Broadcast in the dying hours of Christmas Eve, the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas series was a fixture of the seasonal schedules throughout the 1970s and spawned a long tradition of chilling tales, which terrified yuletide viewers for decades to come.

This much-requested release gives four landmarks of the series their Blu-ray debut, having been newly remastered by the BFI from original film materials. All based on classic short stories by acclaimed writer MR James, his atmospheric settings and creeping unease are eerily realised in these seminal dramas that unleash evil spirits that will haunt and unnerve.


The Films:

Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968)
The Stalls of Barchester (1971)
A Warning to the Curious (1972)
Lost Hearts (1973)

https://shop.bfi.org.uk/ghost-stories-for-christmas-volume-one-blu-ray.html

ghost_stories_for_christmas_vol_1_bd.jpg
 

Stormkhan

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Many thanks for posting this, was about to look up the contents as soon as you mentioned it.

I loved The Monkey's Paw and The Toll House by Jacobs, wasn't sure if he had done any other spooky tales, I think he mostly wrote comic stuff.
Heh. I was once in a school production of The Monkey's Paw. I was the "Company Man", come to pay-off the old couple.
 
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