DVD Review: The Signalman

Smoke from the tunnel

On June 9, 1865, the boat train from Folkestone to London derailed. Among the passengers on that train were the famous novelist, Charles Dickens, accompanying his mistress, actress Ellen Ternan, and her mother. None of them were badly injured in the crash, but Dickens aided and helped tend to other injured passengers, some of whom died. The accident left him shaken and understandably reluctant to travel by train.

This train crash and the Clayton Tunnel disaster of 1861 are attributed as the inspiration for Dickens’s ghost story, The Signal Man.

It’s surprising that the BBC’s Ghost Story for …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 42

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

She’d seen very little of her father since she’d returned from the Redlands. Though Dafythe appeared at public ceremonies, such as Wednesday’s Mass, and held audience in the small reception hall in his apartments, he had withdrawn from the court. When he wasn’t summoned by his duties, he shut himself in his private chambers.

When Mara ventured to the Duke’s apartments, she found Martleanne occupied with petitions Dafythe had received from various court factions while the little herald Andemyon played chess with his lord. The Prince sat down without speaking. She already felt …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 6

The Quatermass II rocket takes off.  Is that a shadow or a stick next to the model?

Episode 6: The Destroyers

At the end of Part 5, Captain John Dillon, missing since the second episode, returned under the aliens’ influence. He and a group of zombified soldiers have taken over Quatermass’s rocket base to stop the rocket from being launched.

Quatermass wants his daughter to leave the Rocket Group offices right away, but Paula refuses to go and abandon him. They’re too late in any case, since Dillon comes up from the base just then. He shows them his written orders to take over–“from the very top,” which shows how high the alien influence has reached up …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 5

Villagers storming the factory.

Professor Quatermass stands stunned by the ammonia-breathing alien he saw at the very end of Part 4, when one of the guards finally notices him and demands to know why he opened the “investigation window.” When he doesn’t answer immediately, other guards with guns drawn converge upon him… but before they surround the professor and shoot him down on the spot, they are abruptly called away. There’s an emergency situation at the entrance gate.

Remember the men from the pub in the pre-fab village, who were at last convinced that they’d been duped into assisting the aliens? Well, they’re out there …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 4

BBC Logo

Before this episode begins, the BBC warns us that what we’re about to see may not be “suitable for children or those of you with a nervous disposition.”

So brace yourselves!

Episode 4: The Coming

The story picks up where it left off at the end of Part 3, with Dr. Leo Pugh locating the asteroid in its hidden orbit; it’s coming closer to Earth and will be at its nearest point in about 3 hours. Everybody expects that more of those fake meteorites containing ammonia-breathing entities will be launched then.

Quatermass expounds further on his theories about the “colonial minds” …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 3

The marked man

Episode 3: The Food

At the end of Part 2, one of the men on the Winnerden Flats synthetic food project committee was revealed to have been marked by exposure the so-called “meteorites” that have been falling in the vicinity of the top-secret factory. It’s assumed by Quatermass and the viewer that the other committee members are also under the influence of whatever’s inside those objects, even though the marks on them aren’t in such obviously visible places.

Member of Parliament Vincent Broadhead, who’s called this committee meeting, mentions the objects and calls them “missiles.” He’s afraid that these things …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 2

Remember: Secrets means Sealed Lips

Episode 2: The Mark

At the end of Part 1, Quatermass’s prospective son-in-law Capt. John Dillon got a face full of whatever’s inside those meteorites. Quatermass said there was something on Dillon’s face, but as this episode begins, it’s already disappearing.

Examining his companion’s face, Quatermass observes that’s there still some discoloration near the hairline, but Dillon is behaving weirdly. Like the old farmer, he’s woozy and disoriented, and he’s hostile to Quatermass touching him.

Guards from the super-secret research facility arrive then and take Dillon away. They tell Quatermass that he must leave—now. Dillon will be looked after. They speak …read more

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DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 1

A Farmer out sitting in his field

This is the second of the three Quatermass stories that aired on the BBC. After the great success of the The Quatermass Experiment in 1953, this sequel followed the further adventures of Professor Bernard Quatermass and his Experimental Rocket Group in 6 episodes in the autumn of 1955.

Part 1: The Bolts

Before we catch up with the professor’s activities, the first episode opens at a military radar station somewhere out in the English countryside. They are picking up a weak signal–something too small, too low, and too slow-moving to be an airplane.

“Another one of them,” says the sergeant …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 39

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.




“Peter, I think I am accursed.”

Peter Scholar, the court magician, looked up at Mara in the doorway of his private chambers, startled by her presence as much as by this strange announcement. “You, My Prince? You’ve never been more victorious.”

“But that’s exactly why. I think the Spanish have put a curse upon me in revenge.”

Since her return to Pendaunzel two months ago, she had been plagued by dreams. Night after night, the Sonnedragon wove its way through her sleep, manipulating the circumstances of her triumph: its serpentine length slithered soundlessly between the …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 38

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

Three days later, the Spanish advance troops rode into the foothills and Mara charged down to meet them, freshly painted shield before her and five thousand soldiers at her back. The first battle was won with astonishing swiftness. In the next fortnight, the armies of the Northlands and Marches drove back wave upon wave of Spanish reinforcements as they pressed southward and cut deeply into Terrojos. They spread through the hills, knocking out strongholds as if they were wasps’ nests and suffering barely a sting.

Though she was always at the fore of …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 33

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

She woke to great pain. Her fingertips throbbed with her heartbeat. Her chest ached when she drew deep breath. The wound in her shoulder had grown to a blazing mountain. Impossible to get around, impossible to ignore, it loomed over her consciousness. She turned restlessly beneath it. Yet she must have slept; each time she opened her eyes the scene was changed. She lay on a stretcher in an open field, then on a cot in a wardroom; later, it was a strange, large bed with a feather mattress and netted curtains. …read more

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Dark Shadows: Ends of Old Plots

Alexandra Moltke has gone, but Victoria Winters hangs around for awhile in one form or another while her story and some other long-running plots are wound up.

Adam didn’t kill her when he stormed over to Collinwood after he saw that Eve was irretrievable lost, but instead kidnapped her from her bedroom to take her back to the lab. Since he also struck Carolyn and knocked her down to the floor when she tried to defend her friend from him, I assume that romance is at an end.

Strapping Vicky down on the gurney next to the skeleton wearing a red-headed …read more

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DVD Review: Number 13

The Golden Lion inn

This is the last of the M.R. James-based Ghost Stories for Christmas; it aired on the BBC in 2006.

It’s the story of a haunted inn. During the day, rooms Number 12 and 14 sit next to each other, spacious with 3 windows overlooking the street. At night, in the dark, the rooms appear somewhat smaller and it takes the occupant a little time to observe that one of their windows is missing. If he happens to go down the corridor during the night, he may also notice that there is a door marked 13 halfway between 12 and 14, …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 36

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

In August, news reached Spainfort that Arnauld’s armies on the coast had successfully engaged the reinforcements from Spain, but another transport ship had landed further south, beyond their reach. More troops now marched inland. Mara’s shoulder had healed completely, and Kat officially relinquished her command and returned to Dennefort. The common soldiers whispered that grief for her beloved had unsettled the Irish Prince’s mind, but Mara and her Shieldmaids were privileged to the truth. The truth had been suspected for some time before Kat’s departure.

“She didn’t look well at this morning’s review,” …read more

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DVD Review: Ghostwatch

Mike Smith at the Ghostwatch phones

On Halloween night in 1992, the BBC aired this program as a live, reality show (although it was actually neither). Banks of telephones were at the ready to receive calls from the general public to hear about their own brushes with the supernatural and the viewer was promised an evening in the most haunted house in England–not some ancient gothic-style edifice with towers and secret passages and a long history of beheadings and nuns walled up when the place was an abbey, but an ordinary looking council house in a post-war suburban development in a place called Fox Hill in …read more

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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 35

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.


During her recovery, Mara sat with Alyx, also in bandages, on the terrace below her apartment. Together, they observed the restoration of the fallen curtain wall. From the morning after their triumph, soldiers had been laboring to restore it as swiftly as possible.

“I pray they’ll have it in place before the first Spanish reinforcements try to recapture Spainfort from us,” said Mara. “Is there any news of Spanish movements? Do we know where they are?”

“We’ve no better news than we had yesterday, Prince Mara,” Alyx reported. “Our scouts haven’t sighted them yet. …read more

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Dark Shadows: Goodbye Vicky

In my recent viewing of Dark Shadows, I can see a major shift of plots coming up. The Eve story is winding up. The tale of Nicholas Blair as evil mastermind is also drawing to a close. New characters are being introduced. And worst of all, one of the episodes on the last disk I watched began with a voiceover announcement: “The part of Victoria Winters will be played by [someone else].”

Noooo! I knew that Alexandra Moltke wasn’t going to be around much longer and have half-decided that I’d stop watching and reviewing this old show when she left …read more

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Dark Shadows: The End of Eve

Former witch/current vampire Angelique has disappeared from Nicholas Blair’s house and is in hiding to avoid being staked by him for going behind his back to get at Barnabas Collins just one too many times. The evening after abandoning her old coffin, she emerges from her new hiding place to form an alliance with another woman whom Nicholas has tried to keep under his control, with about the same amount of success: Adam’s basement-built and unwilling bride, Eve.

Angelique tries to get Eve on her side by offering her what Nicholas had refused to do–send her back in time to …read more

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DVD Review: Classic Ghost Stories

The Mezzotint in its final phase.

This was an extra DVD in the M.R. James Ghost Stories set. I’d mentioned that a couple of the other disks had an extra short feature in which Christopher Lee took the role of M.R. James, presenting one of his stories to a group of enthralled students. These are similar short features, done in 1986. Each is about 10 minutes long.

The actor telling the stories is Robert Powell, wearing spectacles and a pinstriped suit with a high Edwardian shirt collar and the black robe of a Cambridge don. The setting for the room he is in likewise suggests that …read more

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Dark Shadows: Vampire Follies

And other plots to catch up on.

The last time we saw Elizabeth Collins Stoddart, she’d been declared dead after collapsing in the cemetery, but it turned out she wasn’t dead after all. At least, this cataleptic episode has convinced Dr. Hoffman and Vicky that Elizabeth’s fears of being buried alive aren’t entirely unfounded. We don’t get her brother Roger’s reaction. Vicky and the doctor discuss what will happen if Elizabeth has another attack of catalepsy. How can they be sure she isn’t really dead? It seems to me the wisest thing to do is keep her around in some cool …read more

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