Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 24, 2020


Let's get a couple of things over with at the beginning:  this film is slow moving, there's too much talking and too much exposition about spiritualism, and the copy of the film linked below is not in pristine condition.

Now, let's talk about the Benson boys, three brothers -- all writers -- whose father served as the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The elder of the three was Arthur Christopher (A. C.) Benson, a distinguished academic and author of some 60 books -- he wrote the words to the British patriotic song "The Land of Hope and Glory," and was a well-regarded poet, essayist, and diarist, as well as the author of some of the most effective ghost stories written.  His brother Edward Frederic (E. F.) Benson was also no slouch at writing ghost stories, producing a number of novels and enough short stories to fill five volumes of collected ghost stories.  Fred Benson was also well-known for his satiric writings about British society, especially the Mapp and Lucia novels, and his Dodo stories.  And then there was Robert Hugh (R. H.) Benson, an Anglican Priest who was later ordained in the Catholic Church, eventually rising to Chancellor for Pope Pius X and gaining the title of Monsignor.  Much of his writing involved apologetics and devotional works, but he also produced historicals, children's stories, plays, contemporary fiction, as well as horror and science fiction.  Aficionados of horror stories would do well to check out the works of all three brothers.

One novel by R. H. Benson was The Necromancers (1909), a rather scathing novel that set out to expose the dangers of spiritualism -- a movement that the Catholic Church decried.  One reviewer said, I can think of no other book that reaches so high a pitch of horror."  It was this book that was the basis of Ghost Story/The Spell of Amy Nugent/Spellbound/Passing Clouds (take your pick), a Brish flick directed by John Harlow, who also directed one Sexton Blake movie and two Old mother Riley comedies.

The underlying plot is simple:  When his young fiance dies, a man gets involved with spiritualists in an effort to contact her.  The film stars Derek Farr, Vera Lindsay, and Hay Petrie.

Despite its plodding, over-talky nature, this is a movie that can rewarding for those who stick with it.

Take a look and see if you agree.

1 comment:

  1. I have read some of the short fiction of all three Bensons, and the first Mapp & Lucia novel (haven't seen the tv adaptations yet), but haven't ever seen any a/v adaptations of any of their horror work yet, I think--the ghost of a memory of an adaptation of "Caterpillars" on film or radio?--thanks for the pointer!