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I would so much prefer you not to finish this story, sir - Myth Happens

Sovay
Date: 2013-10-06 02:55
Subject: I would so much prefer you not to finish this story, sir
Security: Public
Music:Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia"

Looking last night for Valentine Dyall in Appointment with Fear, derspatchel and I turned up a fascinating curiosity from the BBC: David Thomson's A Child's Voice (1978). The quality is fuzzy—notably, the audio is just slightly out of synch—but seeing how much the story has to do with the power of a voice speaking alone in the dark, so long as you can hear what's going on, you're all right. Or not, as the case may be. That voice in the dark is sometimes the last thing you want to hear.

It's a homage to the golden age of radio. The chilling kind especially, when audiences stayed breathlessly awake in order to go to bed too scared to sleep. Dyall narrates, lending his velvet sepulchre of a voice to the story of Ainsley Rupert Macreadie (T.P. McKenna), a fictitious radio host in much the same tradition as Dyall himself, whose silky tones and disquieting tales have earned him his reputation as "the disturbing gentleman of the wireless." This is the model of horror host Rob calls the Gentle Sadist, the menace of whose nature is always in direct proportion to the smoothness of their manners (think of Paul Frees' insinuating Ghost Host, apologizing with dripping sincerity: "Oh, I didn't mean to frighten you prematurely"), and indeed we are told that Macreadie's "frightening stories" are "the last thing broadcast. After him came silence, and darkness, in which he walked slowly home, enjoying the deserted, trembling city." Small wonder, then, if he should find himself suddenly on the receiving end of the kind of haunting twist with which he has troubled the minds of so many listeners; the only shame is that the writer himself doesn't seem to understand how the story must end.

It is not a surprising story; the pleasure is in seeing how classically it plays out, following the ambiguities and inevitabilities of its genre, and in the recursive, metafictional quality imparted by its presentation. I think the greatest compliment I can pay this television play about radio is that it doesn't need to be watched—it certainly helps to be able to see Macreadie carefully taking his phone off the hook and leaving it on the table so that no one can bother him with unsettling, after-hours calls, but the soundtrack is meticulously attentive to the snap-shut of the book from which Macreadie has been practicing his diction exercises, the heavy click of Bakelite on polished wood and the footsteps moving off, the static of the empty line and suddenly the high, sweet, echoing voice, singing, its plaintive child's rhyme more blood-freezing than any threat. There are a few loose threads I wish had been explored more completely; it's all right for the two sound engineers to exist as barely shadows to Macreadie, because this disturbing little interlude is appropriately a one-man show, but at one point the shaken Macreadie is gripped by the awful conviction that his night's performance was going out to dead air and this is clearly more frightening to him than any ghostly prank calls, the idea that he was talking and talking and no one is listening. If anyone decides to torture a luckless radio host again for thirty minutes of my listening pleasure, that's a fear I wouldn't mind seeing played on. This one ends with a sufficient chill, however, and I hope it's some kind of glitch in IMDb that A Child's Voice appears to be its writer's only produced script. (It's certainly not up to date on the director.)

It is late and I must get up early tomorrow, because I want to see Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! (1923) at the Somerville, for something completely different. I seem to be collecting a small genre of stories about the horror of sound—Berberian Sound Studio (2012), "Experiment IV" (1985). I don't know yet what I can do with it. It's a particularly contagious medium, I suppose. Now I've given it to you.

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nineweaving
User: nineweaving
Date: 2013-10-06 07:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"...when audiences stayed breathlessly awake in order to go to bed too scared to sleep..."

I do love your reviews.

Nine

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-07 04:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

I do love your reviews.

Thank you.

It interests me also that radio nostalgia was already a thing in the '70's, when I think of it as a much more recent revival; I suspect that is a combination of personal experience and the fact that old-time radio is undergoing a renaissance, but that doesn't mean nobody cared about it before.

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asakiyume: black crow on a red ground
User: asakiyume
Date: 2013-10-06 12:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:black crow on a red ground

but at one point the shaken Macreadie is gripped by the awful conviction that his night's performance was going out to dead air and this is clearly more frightening to him than any ghostly prank calls, the idea that he was talking and talking and no one is listening. If anyone decides to torture a luckless radio host again for thirty minutes of my listening pleasure, that's a fear I wouldn't mind seeing played on.

I got shivers when I read that first sentence--that is *terrifying*. And so yes, I completely agree with you.

I hope it's some kind of glitch in IMDb that A Child's Voice appears to be its writer's only produced script.

AAAAAHHHHH ARE YOU MAKING THIS UP?? That is even MORE terrifying, the final metafictional (nonfictional?) piece of horror. That turns it into something handful_ofdust would write. Or is writing. (STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE GEMMA.)

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Sovay: Morell: quizzical
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-07 05:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Morell: quizzical

AAAAAHHHHH ARE YOU MAKING THIS UP??

I'm afraid not! I thought for a moment it was the same David Thomson who wrote The People of the Sea (1954), but it doesn't seem to be!

I have received no mysterious late-night phone calls, at least . . .

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User: filthycreations
Date: 2015-05-26 21:40 (UTC)
Subject: Mea Culpa

Just for the record, Sovay (and anyone else interested), I stuck that video of A Child's Voice on YouTube).

One of T P McKenna's relatives contacted me and, after thanking me, commented that the sound was slightly unsynchronized. He added that one of his family could correct the sound. I said that if he wanted to download it, correct it and upload it to his own YT account, that would be great - but I added that I'd watched my 'original' video again and any lack of synchronization appeared to be in the original recording.

They didn't try correcting it.

I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of viewers that that little film has attracted. Same can be said of another I uploaded, Alan Garner's To Kill a King.

Somewhere I'm convinced that I have a short BBC ghost story for children, based on a story about some kids who find a ruined village in a forest, a medieval village abandoned in a time of plague, now occupied only by ghosts. Wish I could remember the author - a very popular writer. Wish even more that I could locate the tape... but possibly it was wiped. Ugh!

Edited at 2015-05-26 09:42 pm (UTC)

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2015-05-27 05:24 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mea Culpa
Keyword:Rotwang

Just for the record, Sovay (and anyone else interested), I stuck that video of A Child's Voice on YouTube).

Thank you very much for putting it up! As you may be able to tell from this post, I enjoyed it greatly.

Alan Garner's To Kill a King.

I'll have to check that out. I didn't know Garner had written anything for television beyond the 1969 adaptation of The Owl Service.

Somewhere I'm convinced that I have a short BBC ghost story for children, based on a story about some kids who find a ruined village in a forest, a medieval village abandoned in a time of plague, now occupied only by ghosts.

That sounds a little like Lucy Boston's The Children of Green Knowe (1954), but there's no abandoned village there and the plague-ghosts are friendly children. Otherwise it reminds me of Nigel Kneale, but I don't think he ever wrote a ghost story as straightforward as that. Let me know if you find it, though!

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Erik Amundsen: Countferatu
User: cucumberseed
Date: 2013-10-07 14:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Countferatu

Wow. I think I shall see this when I get the opportunity.

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Sovay: PJ Harvey: crow
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-07 16:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:PJ Harvey: crow

I think I shall see this when I get the opportunity.

It rewards watching. I'd never heard of it.

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