A Warning To The Curious (1972 Britain)

A Warning to the Curious (1972) - 1Similar in essence to Whistle and I’ll Come to You in having a disturbed ancient artifact trigger a supernatural visitation. Genuinely unsettling in places, with director Lawrence Gordon Clarke’s ghost having a more physical presence than M R James’, including a fantastic torchlight scene which lingers long in the memory. In just 50 minutes of viewing you will experience real 10 out of 10 fear. Just what the heck is lurking in those trees behind us?

The gritty and effective Peter Vaughan deviates considerably from the character in the book, but he is still highly effective as the ambitious treasure hunter. Visually it is a cinematic production beautifully filmed on that most Jamesian of locations, the coast of East Anglia. Clive Swift returns, playing Dr Black, in what would be his final appearance in the series. He also appeared in the The Stalls Of Barchester the previous year. This version opens out the horror into the wide spaces of the Norfolk coast.

The setting is a panoramic, desolate place where dense forests lie intermittently across large open wasteland where you can see a man standing miles away. Set in Autumn’s hypnotic brilliant, subtle colours. As Dr. Black puts it: “You can’t tell where the beach ends and the sea begins.” An amateur archaeologist makes the greatest find of his life, an Anglo-Saxon crown, buried for centuries and unknown to anyone – living. Peter Vaughan plays an older, more down-trodden character than in the original story, and the timing is moved forward a few decades to the great depression. This gives him strong motivation – he’s desperate for money as well as fame. After finding the crown, he’s simply desperate to put it back.

Warning to the Curious figure in forestWide landscapes and blue skies are no protection against vengeful spirits; the beauty of the filmed scenery and music gives emphasis to the pursuing horror. With a few changes to the text, this story introduces more moments that never fail to give a jolt, no matter how many times you’ve seen them, as Paxton’s viewpoint becomes ours. Dr. Black is once again on hand to help the story along, but this time perhaps he is rather too close to the ghost for comfort. As its made for 1970’s TV, its production values (videotaped, not filmed) are quite low, and because of this and its leisurely pace, it may not be for the modern horror fan.

But for those of a certain age and a discerning eye for good ghost stories, this is hard to beat. I just want to add that the music used in “A Warning to the Curious” is a section of the aptly named “Atmosphères for Orchestra” by György Ligeti written in 1961. Previously used to great effect by Stanley Kubrick in “2001: A Space Odyssey” during the star gate sequence and I’m pretty sure that the version used here in “A Warning to the Curious” is the same version used by Kubrick in “2001” – Ernest Bour conducting The Sudwestfunk Orchestra.

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Comments

  1. Watched this on t.v in the early 90’s…couldn’t sleep for a bloody week afterwards!.

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  2. I can easily believe that! The first time I watched this was the worst – what happened to the first digger/archaeologist really shocked me.

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  3. This is definitely one of the more unsettling pieces of horror television I’ve ever seen. Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! This version of the story never gets old – if you know what I mean.

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