Review for Ghost in the Water
The BBC had a halcyon period of producing top-notch Children’s drama which stretched from the mid-1970’s through to the mid-1980’s. Not only were kids entranced (and often half-scared to death) with video-filmed dramas like ‘The Box of Delights’, ‘Five Children and It’ and the unforgettable Narnia series, there were countless sci-fi (Chocky anyone?), mystery and ghost stories too.
Video filming made such endeavours more affordable than ever, especially when it became possible to use video, rather than film, outdoors. As a result, relatively scant budgets were stretched further than ever, also enhanced by video effects. Their popularity encouraged ITV to produce some equally excellent series too.
One such ‘film’ (it was a 50-minute New Year’s Eve one-off after all) was ‘Ghost in the Water’ which aired late December 1982. Whilst it had all the usual hallmarks of such a series, it was somewhat unusual in that it was set in the black country and featured a modest, working-class cast with thick accents – a welcome antidote to the BBC’s propensity to over represent the middle-classes at the time. Whilst such inclusivity is the norm today, in the late 1970’s working class accents were generally only used for heavy characterisation, whereas here that is certainly not the case. It’s fantastic that Simply Media are releasing this for the first time ever since its airing thirty five years ago.
Directed by Renny Rye, celebrated for his acclaimed supernatural thrillers, including Box of Delights, and adapted by BAFTA-winner Geoffrey Case (The Accountant) from Edward Chitham’s novel of the same name. It’s spooky, atmospheric setting was almost entirely filmed in the Black Country.
Teenager Tess is possessed by another soul, and she begins to experience memories that are not her own but those of a woman who died over a century before, in 1890. She and her classmate David decide to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death, determined to find out what really happened to her.
At a meeting of the school history society, Tess happens to mention that she has a framed embroidery signed by Abigail Parkes, and David immediately recalls it as a name they saw on one of the gravestones in a local cemetery, where he and Tess had been doing some research.
Intrigued, the pair are determined to find how why she dies so young. Tess discovers that she is actually a distant relation to Abigail and before long she seems to have a strange affinity to the dead girl – almost as if she is channeling her thoughts through her.
It’s a sad tale and the pair discover that poor Abigail fell in love with a lowly miner, who she was banned from seeing by her father. She believes him to have dies in a mining accident and swears she will forever wear the ring he gave her, which is accidentally dropped into a local canal. She tries to retrieve it but without success … leading to her horrible fate. The local coroner at the time declares it a suicide which, in those times, was seen as a sin. Maybe that’s why she is reaching out beyond the grave to Tess so that the mystery can be solved and her soul properly laid to rest at last – and free Tess from her nightmares.
Alongside the young actors Judith Allchurch and Ian Stevens in the lead roles as Tess and David, the film also stars well-known faces Jane Freeman (Last of the Summer Wine), Paul Copley (Downton Abbey), Ralph Lawton (Z Cars) and Hilary Mason from supernatural thriller Don’t Look Now.
This DVD release also contains a special feature from Blue Peter in 1982 which publicised the film – quite common at the time on both Blue Peter and Swap Shop.
Image and audio quality are pretty decent for a film of this vintage and filmed on video for the most part, and I for one am delighted that it has been released. If you remember it, or shows like it, and fancy a healthy dose of nostalgia, then do the decent thing and pick it up. That way, Simply Media may be encouraged to release more treasures from the archives.