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Vintage radio adaptations of M.R. James ghost stories

Friday 10/23/20

A tidy little assembly of the above here.


"Casting the Runes" is, along with "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and "A Warning to the Curious," one of the three best M.R. James stories. It became the basis for the 1957 Jacques Tourneur film, Curse of the Demon--Night of the Demon in England--which came up recently on Downtown when we were talking about how Orson Welles would have been well-suited for the role of Karswell, based on Black Magic, which is like a bootleg Curse of the Demon. Some people will try to tell you that James based Karswell on Aleister Crowley, but this is inaccurate--the timelines don't match up. This is an adaptation of the story--a quite solid one, well-acted--from the program Escape, broadcast 11/19/47.



I published a piece a few years back on the radio program Black Mass, which was centered around works of literature, and was also notable in that it ran in the 1960s. The way these things usually went was that as TV came along, the radio drama receded. The two big decades were the 1930s and 1940s. This is an October 31, 1964 episode based on James's "An Evening's Entertainment," an uneven story.



More of James on Black Mass, this time with "The Ash Tree," on December 18, 1963. Better episode.



And the best for last--an adaptation of "Oh, Whistle," from the BBC, on Christmas Eve 1963, with Michael Hordern, who also gave a number of readings of James works, and would star in the 1968 TV version of this same story. Hordern was also Jacob Marley in 1951's Scrooge, and was Gandalf in the 1981 BBC Lord of the Rings radio series.