Thursday, August 09, 2012

casting the runes

Article first published as DVD Review: Casting the Runes on Blogcritics.

Based on author M.R. James's classic ghost story of the same name, Casting the Runes is a British television production from 1979. Television producer Prudence Dunning (Jan Francis) is drawn into a mystical world of alchemy, curses, and evil. She is pitted against occultist Julian Karswell (Iain Cuthbertson) who has "given" her a runic scroll — a scroll that contains a curse, and unless she can find a way to counteract it, possessing the scroll will result in her death.

Prudence is at first skeptical, but is more convinced of Karswell's evil power as strange things keep happening to her. She is aided in her quest to break the curse by her friend Derek (Bernard Gallagher).

The feature runs 47 minutes, but is accompanied by some great extras. A 20-minute film, Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance, also from a story by James, and a 51-minute documentary on the author, A Pleasant Terror: The Life & Ghosts of M.R. James. Fans of James will learn many fascinating facts about the author — it's a real treat. All three films are available with SDH subtitles.

Horror movie fans may recognize the story of Casting the Runes. It had been filmed before as Curse of the Demon (or Night of the Demon, as it was known in England) in 1957, starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, and Niall MacGinnis as a chilling Karswell.

Casting the Runes is an entertaining, spooky story. If this is the viewer's first encounter with the work of M.R. James, they will be sure to want to check out the author's classic ghost stories as well.

Addendum: the truly superior offering, and one of my all-time favorite classic horror films is Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon, directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie):

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