Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 16/11/2020



There was a time when short films would play with main features at cinemas up and down the country. This latest release - no 41 in the BFI Flipside series - unearths nine shorts spanning four decades that have been rarely seen since their release.

The films included are a mixed bag of black and white and colour productions. The earliest, Lock Your Door and The Reformation of St Jules come from 1949 and are essentially a spoken word recital by the writer Algernon Blackwood. As creaky and awkward as they appear, there’s a warmth about them, as though a grandfather is telling a creepy bedtime story. Compared to the later offerings, you may call them quaint. All the shorts included possess a sense of otherworldliness rather than outright horror. Twenty-Nine is a particular highlight, as the story unravels before our eyes. It also includes some great footage of late-‘60s swinging London, and an outstanding appearance by Alexis Kanner (who you may recognise from Goodbye Gemini and The Prisoner). The real standout, however, is the tour de force performance from Sir Stanley Baker in The Tell-Tale Heart. Long lost, it’s a stroke of fate that it turned up at all. This solo rendition is an acting masterclass and is suitably filmed in a creepy, Gothic style.

The films themselves are worthy of purchase for fans of genre cinema history, but they are also accompanied by some really interesting special features. The first disc includes an interview with the chair of Adelphi Films, Kate Lees, who talks about the rediscovery of The Tell-Tale Heart and the fascinating history of the studio. The second is even more packed. There’s a lengthy and entertaining interview with producer Peter Shillingford, who as well as talking about Twenty-Nine, is refreshingly frank about the rest of his career, which included filming The Making of Star Wars. Renée Glynne, continuity/script supervisor on Twenty-Nine also opens up on making the film and, as always, is a delight to listen to. Actor Julie Peasgood enthusiastically recalls The Lake as well as joyously recounting making House of Long Shadows with the quartet of horror legends, Cushing, Lee, Price, and Carradine. The best of the lot is three quarters of an hour in the erudite virtual company of David McGillivray, screenwriter and producer of The Errand. We could listen to him talk all day as he takes us through the highlights (and lows) of his career. There are also plenty of image galleries and such, but they are just the icing on the cake of a great presentation. The accompanying booklet is also worthy of mention as it contains, as well as the usual notes on the films, an interesting interview with The Lake director Lesley Vickers, but a fun fumble through that man McGillivray’s diary, as he recalls (with fondness now) his nightmare filming The Errand.

A great collection for fans of cinema, particularly those who love the strange and unsettling.