Blogs and Ends – The Nigel Kneale EditionThe Dark Herald
Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape was broadcast in 1972.
This bit of science fiction horror holds up surprisingly well. This is that rarity, a thinking man’s horror movie.
One of his favorite themes was
Science vs the supernatural. It is quite effective when done right. We live in a world where technology has become all-pervading, it has entered every aspect of our lives. It has become a comforting bulwark against the things that most frightened our ancestors. The things beyond the light of the fire. This is why it is especially horrifying when science fails in the face of the uncanny.
This story is interesting in other ways. It may have introduced the concept of residual haunting for the first time.
Sapphire and Steel
“All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned…”
Sapphire and Steel was basically Doctor Who for grownups. Except better. The series wasn’t written by Nigel Kneale but may as well have been. This English science fiction horror series was something quite special. Sure it was cheap but think about it, how many times have you been scared by an expensive horror movie? There is an intimacy to the low-budget production that makes the scares almost tactile.
Sapphire and Steel were aliens operatives from a dimension outside of time. Their job was to patrol time and deal with the things that broke through weak spots in the fabric of the continuum.
The most shocking thing for a modern viewer in this episode was the overt Christian themes that sure as hell wouldn’t be allowed on a Doctor Who serial. And this is a serial, all the episodes have been strung together into a three-hour-plus movie. So don’t start in on this unless you have plenty of time on your hands.
What makes this show exceptional is the strength of the writing. Normally, I’d say “give it ten minutes and you’ll know if you like it.” But in this case, I will have to go with “only give it ten minutes if you have three hours kill right now.”
If this get’s nuked it’s available on Tubi but you’ll be putting up with commercials.
Now, Murrain (1975) on the other hand was written by Kneale. It’s a short self-contained story about a Veterinarian who is sent to investigate livestock deaths in a northern village. The villagers think it’s a local widow woman who has poisoned the land. He views the locals with condescension He honestly shouldn’t have.
It’s a genuinely disturbing vignette.
and finally the palette cleanser.