Omnibus (1967–2003)
38 user 11 critic

Whistle and I'll Come to You 

Classic BBC adaptation of an equally classic ghost story about a skeptical professor on vacation in Norfolk who finds a cursed whistle. Unlike most other episodes of this documentary series about music, this one is live action folk horror.


Jonathan Miller


M.R. James (story "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad"), M.R. James | 1 more credit »




Episode complete credited cast:
Michael Hordern ... Professor Parkins
Ambrose Coghill Ambrose Coghill ... Colonel
George Woodbridge ... Hotel Proprietor
Nora Gordon Nora Gordon ... Proprietress
Freda Dowie ... Maid


A university professor, confident that everything which occurs in life has a rational explanation, finds his beliefs severely challenged when, during a vacation to a remote coastal village in Norfolk, he blows through an ancient whistle discovered on a beach, awakening horrors beyond human understanding. Written by Anonymous

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

7 May 1968 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


'Omnibus' was an arts programme that usually consisted of documentary material. This is one of the comparatively rare occasions when the entire programme was devoted to a single dramatisation, although there is a brief introductory voiceover describing the career and interests of M R James, on whose story the production is based. See more »


A boom mic can be seen bobbing behind the trees immediately before the breakfast scene where the Colonel asks Professor Parkins whether or not he believes in ghosts. See more »


Professor Parkins: 'Rumpled'.
See more »


Referenced in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

Truly Classic Old School Horror Expertly Realised
22 December 2009 | by MuldwychSee all my reviews

A university professor, arrogantly believing he holds all the answers to life, the universe and everything, faces the ultimate horror during a vacation at a quiet coastal village in Norfolk when he encounters something beyond all rational explanation.

'Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad' was my introduction to the world of M.R James through the medium of this wonderful t.v adaptation. It encapsulates perfectly the James mode of storytelling, and through the excellent directorship of Jonathan Miller, expertly brings to life the chilling short story written decades earlier.

Miller seems to grasp the author's approach to drama effortlessly. James belongs to the old school of literary macabre, where, like Lovecraft, the horror derives from what is unseen save for a few tantalising details. Much of the drama is down to the buildup of suspense and atmosphere and the audience is largely left to draw their own conclusions in the theatre of the mind. This is precisely what we get in the teleplay, shot on location in Norfolk, where the scenery and incidental sounds do much of the work. This is especially important given that the lead character, self-assured and largely solitary, does not engage in a great deal of dialogue. The less-is-more approach is wonderfully effective: much of the tension comes from nightmarish dreamscapes and strange objects tantalisingly kept in the distance, and the lack of continuing verbal commentary allows for wonder and suspense to build to great effect. And indeed the true horror is psychological: that which cannot be qualified, a true terror to one who thinks they have reality fully understood. The monochromatic nature of the film lends to the bleak and cold surroundings of the Norfolk coastline, although as viewers were to find in the BBC's next James adaptation, 'A Warning To The Curious', full colour is by no means more comforting.

Headlining the cast is the legendary Michael Hordern, a good deal older than the Professor Parkins of the text, which unfortunately loses the idea of arrogance in one so young, but Hordern is such perfect casting and fits the character so well that you can forgive the change. The other principal lead of the Colonel, played with great understatement by Ambrose Coghill, also finds his part reduced in the teleplay, although his chief role as the person who suggests to Perkins that the realm of knowledge may be greater than he thinks, is crucially intact. Indeed, I may just be nitpicking - Miller's assured hand preserves the essentials of the storyline and ensures that things move at a consistent pace, realising the ambiguous supernatural elements with skill to a satisfying conclusion.

Any fan of classic horror would be doing themselves a disservice to pass on this marvellous visual retelling of one of M.R James's most celebrated ghost stories. Inevitably, it will be remade someday, but I will be very surprised if anyone can top Jonathan Miller's wonderful monochrome masterpiece.

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