#138 – In Lamplight or Candleflame

(1977, GB, 69 min) Dir Eric Conway Bryce. Cast Thomas Pretton, Billie Whitelaw.

In Lamplight or Candleflame was supposed to kickstart a series of annual films that would rival the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas but despite being perhaps Conway Bryce’s best film (and definitely his last) hardly a soul watched it upon broadcast and those who did found it, in the words of the Times’ reviewer, “turgid and murky”. Despite not being held as fondly in the public consciousness as A Warning to the Curious or even Schalcken the Painter a lavish reissue was mooted in recent years until it was discovered that the only remaining copy had somehow been spirited from the vaults. Despite this there are those, like I, who had the exceptionally good fortune to have seen it on first broadcast who will attest, in defiance of the opinion of the time, to how terrifying a watch it really was, despite the fact that, like those who I have discussed the film with, I can’t recall exactly what it was that I saw in the film’s flickering candlelight that frightened me so. Pretton plays a reclusive lord rattling around his vast country estate with only the imagined voice of his mother (Whitelaw in voiceover) for company though the speed with which she alternates between love and anger makes her uneasy company at best. As time wears on in his dark midwinter house he begins to perceive that perhaps there may be a figure out in the fluttering darkness beyond his meagre illuminations and while she’s not telling he begins to suspect that figure may be that of his long dead mother…

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