Wednesday, 19 July 2017

740 Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

First  viewed  :  Winter  1986

This  one  brings  back  a  few  memories. Living  back  at  home  that  term  threw  up  some  challenges. Towards  the  end  of  the  previous  year,  I  had  been  elected, at  the  third  attempt ,  to  serve  on  the  Student  Union  Council  which  met  fortnightly  on  a  Monday. To  ensure  Councillors  took  their  responsibilities  seriously,  there  was  a  three  strikes  you're  off   attendance  policy  unless  the  Council  accepted  your  request / explanation  for  absence. I  was  already  a  strike  down  for  missing  a  meeting  to  attend  an  FA  Cup  replay  where  Dale  beat  Scunthorpe  to  earn  a  Third  Round  meeting  with  Manchester  United. Apparently  the  vote  was  close  and  divided  roughly  on  gender  lines.

With  something  like  30  people  at the  meetings,  they  tended  to  drag  on  for  hours   and  it  was  always  a  bit  hairy  whether  they'd  finish  in  time  for  me  to  catch  the  last  train  to  Littleborough  at  10.30 pm. With  some  avowed  political  foes  in  the  room,  I  didn't  like  asking  to  leave  early  too  often. By  means  of  some  desperate  sprinting  on  occasion ,  I  did  manage  to  retain  my  place  on  the  Council  without  being  stranded .

I  began  to  notice   a  young  man  who  also  got  off   that  train  at  Littleborough  although  I'm  not  sure  where  he  got  on. He  looked  like  one  of  the  Farreys  a  family  I  knew  from  school  although  he  wasn't  the  one  I  knew  best. On  one  occasion  he  was  clearly  drunk  and  involved  in  a  physical  altercation  with  a  guard. I  mention  it  because  a  few months later,  I  caught an  item  on  local  news  where  police  were  appealing  for  information  about  the  death  of  a Carl  Farrey  who  had  fallen  from  a  Leeds -Manchester  train. Putting  two  and  two  together,  I   went into  the  police  station  and  told  them  about the  incident  I'd  seen  but  it  didn't  seem  to  be   relevant. I  can't  give  any  closure  to  the  story; it's  just  one  of  those  strange,  sad  coincidences.

Anyhow,  after  he'd  melted  into  the  night,  I'd  usually  have  time  to  pop  into  Lords'  chip  shop  just  before  they  closed  and  get  a  late  supper. When  I  got  in,  this  would  usually  be  on.

The  series  was  a  follow-up  to  1980's  Hammer  House  of  Horror  with  a  similar  number  of  spooky  one-off  dramas  filmed  in  1984.  This  time  round,  it was  partly  funded  by  20th  Century  Fox  which  meant  that  nearly  all  of  them  had  an  American  lead  ( e.g. Dirk  Benedict, Mary  Crosby, Christina  Raines ). Unlike  the  earlier  series  it  was  not  nationally  networked  by  ITV  with  different  regions  showing  it  at  different times. I'm  guessing  this  might  have  been  because  the  films  were  70  minutes  long, an  inconvenient  length  for  British  television. I  don't  know  whether  Granada  had  broadcast  it  before  this  appropriately graveyard  slot  on  a  Monday  night.

  I  remember  three  of  them  reasonably  clearly, none  of  them  having  a  happy ending. In  Last  Video   and  Testament  ,  David  Langton  from  Upstairs  Downstairs   fakes  his  own  death  then  leads  his  wife  and  her  lover  into  a death  trap  before  fulfilling  his  pledge  to  dance  on  her  grave. In  Black  Carrion  , an  ageing  rocker  holds  a  village  in  his  thrall  after  they  mistakenly lynch  his  brother . In  Czech  Mate  Susan  George  finds  herself  trapped  behind  the  Iron  Curtain  after  a  defector  steals  her  identity  to  make  her  escape.

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