Having just been disappointed by the Nigel Kneale-scripted THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989), I was glad to get to this vintage TV series which finds him treading more familiar territory at least, judging by this first episode; even so, some eerie touches here such as a cradle and, later, a chair rocking of their own accord wouldn't be out-of-place in a traditional ghost story!
As in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (a 1958 TV series that was eventually successfully adapted for the cinema nine years later), which remains Kneale's best offering, it all begins with the discovery (during excavation work in a country-house) of the body of a mysterious animal; as it happens, the proprietor is a young vet (Simon MacCorkindale) and, naturally, he would like to analyze it with the help of a conceited and patronizing elder colleague (T.P. McKenna). However, his pregnant wife (Jane Wymark) has apprehensions about the thing which seems to have been buried, and preserved all these years, in an unborn state especially after the workers mention a strange case of animal sterility in the region!
Though a bit talky particularly with the introduction of McKenna's eccentric wife (Shelagh Fraser) and the low-budget shows in some obviously faked cat meowing(!), as with most of Kneale's writing, it's both intelligent and gripping, managing a subtle aura of unease throughout. Most notable in this respect are the shot of the forest suddenly getting overcast (recalling the conjured storm in NIGHT OF THE DEMON ) and, of course, the weird subliminal look of the creature itself (I was actually reminded here of the similarly bizarre yet subtle monster-in-the-bedroom scene towards the end of THE SHINING ).
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