The Womon in Black (1989) title

Tag line : A Spine Chilling Ghost Story.

The Womon in Black (1989)Long before being turned into a big budget movie for the cinema, I was surprised to learn that Susan Hill's gothic ghost story "The Woman in Black" had been adapted for the screen once before. Filmed back in 1989, this modestly budgeted made-for-TV movie stars Adrian Rawlins as solicitor Arthur Kidd (note, he was called Kipps in the novel), who is sent to a remote English town to oversee the sale of an old mansion, who's owner recently died.

Following the plot of the book a little more closely than the 2012 version, Kidd and a local solicitor, Mr Pepperell (John Cater), attend the funeral of their deceased client, who was a strange reclusive lady named Alice Drablow. Despite being informed there probably won't be any other mourners, he notices an elderly lady at the back of the church, dressed all in black. But is surprised when Pepperell claims not to have seen anyone else there.

Shortly afterwards, a child is injured in the village when a lorry carrying logs sheds its load. But strangely, no one else tries to help. Heading over to Eel Marsh House, which is a remote mansion located on an island, which is only accessible at low tides, Mr Kidd proceeds to go through Mrs Drablows legal paper work and sort her belongings out, but soon becomes aware that he isn't alone (well he wouldn't be would he?).

Strange noises and weird voices can be heard in the house, doors mysteriously lock and unlock themselves, plus he notices the strange lady in black again. Eventually fleeing from the house in abject terror, he later learns about how the property is supposedly cursed and about the strange misfortunes that happen in the village whenever the mysterious woman is seen. But will returning to London end his terrifying ordeal?

For the most part, this adaptation was more like a period drama than a horror film. There were quite a few good ghostly chills, I particularly liked the way the lady would mysteriously appear in the background, then disappear again using good old fashioned camera trickery. However, there did seem to be quite a few long periods where nothing much really happened and felt there was far too much narrative, as opposed to action.

But, bearing in mind this was a British TV movie, this is still quite an enjoyable ghost story. If you've seen the 2012 feature film version, you might want to check this one out. However, at the time of writing, the film is not currently available on home video and has pretty much languished in obscurity since its original showing back in the late 80s. But if you really want to see this and know how to use Google, a cursory search round some video sharing sites should yield positive results.

Overall Marks : 5/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • Made for the ITV networks in the UK, the film was broadcast only once, on Christmas Eve 1989. But despite being extremely popular, was not repeated. Channel 4 did broadcast it again years later, during Christmas 1994, but has not shown it again since.

  • Adrian Rawlins, who plays Arthur Kidd (called Kipps in the original novel), went on to play the father of Harry Potter in the "Harry Potter" series of films, which starred Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe went on to play Kipps in the 2012 adaptation.

  • The Causeway across to the island was filmed at Osea island in Essex, which was the same location used for the 2012 version.

  • The actress playing the titular Woman in Black was Pauline Moran, who fans of 80s TV series "Poirot" will undoubtedly recognise from her role of Mrs Lemon, Poirot's secretary, from the show.

  • The screenplay was written by Nigel Neale, who worked on the old "Quatermass" films and TV series.

  • David Daker, who played Mr Freston, was probably best known for his role in the popular 80s comedy "Boon". He also had a minor role in the horror comedy "I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle".

  • The film remains more faithful to the book than the 2012 version, but there were a number of changes made, several characters were renamed, the phonogram and scenes with the toy soldier weren't in the novel, plus the ending is completely different.

  • Fiona Walker, who plays Mrs Toovey, is the wife of Director Herbert Wise.

  • The scenes set in the town of Crythin Gifford were filmed in the village of Lacock, near Chippenham in Wiltshire. A popular filming location owing to its unspoiled Victorian appearance.

  • The film was released briefly onto VHS in the UK back in the late 80s, there was also a US DVD release in the early 00's, however both these releases are now long out of print and the film has pretty much languished in obscurity ever since.

Extra Info.

Cast & Crew.

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Other Recommendations.

The Woman in Black (2012)


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