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What’s it About?

A university professor, confident that everything which occurs in life has a rational explanation, finds his beliefs severely challenged.

“Whistle and I’ll Come to You”

Directed by Jonathan Miller

8 out of 10

By Vic

Part of BBC’s “Omnibus” series, “Whistle and I’ll Come to You” is based on the gothic novel by M.R. James named “O Whistle and I’ll come to you, My Lad.”  This gothic short is superbly directed by Jonathan Miller (Beyond The Fringe) and shot impeccably by Dick Bush who brought us the great cinematography of “Tommy – The Movie” For a film of such a brief running length it is  jam packed with mood, terror and incredible timelessness. Not to mention it is a brilliant example of how to film a tight movie of “Implied Terror” much in the vein of “The Haunting” (1963) and even more recently “The Others.”

Micheal Hordern (Ghandi, BBC’s The Lord of the Rings Radio Broadcast) plays Prof. Parkin, a very eccentric and stuffy Cambridge Teacher and academic who is vacationing on the Eastern English Coast. During one of his walks through the countryside he happens upon a unkempt graveyard that belongs to The Knights Templar. While moving about the headstones he spots a Bone Whistle and proceeds to keep it. At this point we start to see in very gothic fashion a strange figure way out on the shore looking in Parkins’ direction. Creepy stuff that is strange and very moody.

The beach sequences are shot with menace and realism but you immediately get a sense of other-wordly happenings. Once back at the Inn he examines the Whistle and notices an engraving in Latin which reads:  “Quis est iste qui venit” (“Who is this who is coming?”). He never the less blows the whistle sealing the outcome. Pretty scary. I love a mystery. Later that evening in his room he hears strange noises that keep him awake.

Hordern’s Parkins is a strange old bird.  He mutters constantly to himself. Bobs his head up and down as if he hears voices and is very methodical and stiff. At breakfast he and another man staying at the Inn get involved in a heated discussion (well, heated for 2 old British guys) about the afterlife, ghosts and spirits. Parkins shrugs off the theories about the hereafter and  dismisses it as mumbo jumbo and superstition.

An awesome quote from Parkins completely sums up his personality and trappings: “There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth.” Parkins still suffers from nightmares of some ghostly figure following him around the seashore. In a pretty creepy scene the Maids tell Parkins that all 3 of the beds in his room have been slept in despite being the only one occupying the room. He relents but investigates the phenomenon with the help of a book. What ensues is a confrontation between reality and superstition.

I highly recommend this adaptation of the M.R. James novel. It is in chilling black and white. It is economical, uncompromising and ethereal. It is also odd and eccentric.There aren’t any special effects or a blaring soundtrack that bombards your ears as a cue to jump and be scared. It is bone dry and stuffy but it works in that regard because the movie is about a man entrenched in his beliefs and is forced very quickly into accepting the supernatural.

It is beautiful to look at, has a great locale and the pace and direction by Miller and his crew crew is spot on. Check this one out gang.  It may give you the heebie jeebies. Remade with John Hurt in 2010.