ITV Playhouse: Season 11, Episode 9

Casting the Runes (24 Apr. 1979)

TV Episode  -  Comedy | Drama
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 73 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 2 critic

Like NIGHT OF THE DEMON, this adaptation is based only very loosely based on the original ghost story by M.R. James. However, it does feature eerie scenic views and is directed by Lawrence "Ghost Story For Christmas" Gordon Clark

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Title: Casting the Runes (24 Apr 1979)

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
Iain Cuthbertson ...
Jan Francis ...
Bernard Gallagher ...
Joanna Dunham ...
Edward Petherbridge ...
Henry Harrington
Christopher Good ...
John Harrington
Patricia Shakesby ...
Elise Marriott
...
John Marriott
Jane Lowe ...
Joanna
Alan Downer ...
Peter
Clifford Parrish ...
Wiggin
Christine Buckley ...
Housekeeper
Abdul Ali ...
Doctor
Simon Prebble ...
Newscaster
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Like NIGHT OF THE DEMON, this adaptation is based only very loosely based on the original ghost story by M.R. James. However, it does feature eerie scenic views and is directed by Lawrence "Ghost Story For Christmas" Gordon Clark

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horror movie remake

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Comedy | Drama

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24 April 1979 (UK)  »

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Version of Mystery and Imagination: Casting the Runes (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

 
ITV PLAYHOUSE: CASTING THE RUNES (TV) (Lawrence Gordon Clark, 1979) ***
23 January 2010 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957), Jacques Tourneur's near-perfect adaptation of M.R. James' classic short story "Casting The Runes", has become not just one of my favorite horror efforts but also one of my all-time Top 20 films. Consequently, I have always been interested in the two 'alternate' versions that were subsequently made of this fascinating tale (which I have read for myself and enjoyed – though I obviously prefer the cinematic counterpart above all). The British-TV rendition from 1968 seems fairly untraceable now but a later adaptation – the title under review – has luckily been released on R2 DVD via the renowned Network label and, as a result, is much easier to get hold of; even so, like the previous TV-movies inspired by James' work (most from the same director) that I watched earlier this month, I acquired it from 'other sources')! Anyway, I love it when a film I adore gets an effective reworking by a comparably gifted director – and this is certainly the case here…even if, as in similar cases from master (and personal favorite film-makers) such as Luis Bunuel, Jean Renoir and Josef von Sternberg, the plot line differs considerably one from the other! In fact, instead of the skeptical male hero (as previously played by Dana Andrews), we have a woman protagonist here (a very good, and quite lovely, Jan Francis: she would go on to play Mina in the maligned 1979 version of Dracula); instead of an elderly first victim like Maurice Denham, we have a young man of 31; given that this later version is literally half as long as Tourneur's film, there are no séances, no Mrs. Karswell (though we do get a zombie/ghostly housekeeper!), no investigation of the farming family, nor – perhaps the most missed – the children's Halloween garden party. The result is still quite chilling, and the updating works remarkably well – highlighted by a strikingly economical first murder (with the demon barely glimpsed, where in Tourneur's film it was somewhat over-exposed), the ingeniously subliminal dedication/warning mysteriously inserted at the conclusion of a documentary professing to debunk the subject of demonology (recalling a similar incident in HOUSE OF MYSTERY [1961], also viewed during this Halloween challenge) and a similarly subtle (thus overcoming potential hilarity) but creepy 'fake' giant spider attack. It is nonetheless marred by the ending, in which Francis resorts to role-playing in order to return the runic symbols to Karswell: it seems improbable that the airport authorities would let her impersonate one of their employees; Karswell's reaction is disappointingly placid, where MacGinnis was understandably alarmed; not to mention the fact that they had no qualms about sacrificing the other passengers; and, in any case, a shot of the flying demon would not have been amiss. Iain Cuthbertson makes for an imposing enough Karswell, though we don't really get to know him; consequently, he tends towards overstatement (especially in his one real confrontation with Francis at his house) – whereas MacGinnis underacted superbly (his is possibly my favorite villain in all of cinema!); from the rest of the small cast, Bernard Gallagher is especially notable as Francis' boss (whose wife had first-hand experience of Karswell's occult powers).


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