is there a name or a phrase for or anything much written about that distinctly British CREEPY VIBE prevalent in TV shows and movies of the '60s/'70s? (e.g. The Prisoner, Sapphire and Steel, Baker-era

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This still gives me the creeps, 38 years after seeing it for the first time.

Jeez, yeah.

something of an astrological coup (tipsy mothra), Sunday, 1 May 2011 23:14 (twelve years ago) link

but takes a different form in a country and culture with so much history (as opposed to American suburban anxiety, where the suburbs are hollow because there's nothing underneath, no history, no anything -- or if there is, it's something recent and specific, like the Amityville Horror).

yeah, that's what i was getting at earlier. occurred to me when thinking about the 70s-era US boom in occult-themed horror - for example, the brotherhood of satan, which i watched just a few days ago. it's set in a small, isolated town that seems to be collapsing in an orgy of unmotivated violence. turns out that a secret satanic coven is behind things, no surprise, but you never get the sense that the looming evil, however ancient the forces it might draw on, has any real history or deep connection to place. it seems, in fact, more like a foreign invader - or a commie/druggie plot from within, not to put too fine a point on it...

rosemary's baby, perhaps because it was directed by an "old world" european, positively reeks of occult history, but here even history becomes a sort of threat from without. the movie consequently seems like a battle between a placeless and superstitious anciency and the ostensibly rational modern world. to pare it down even further: between corrupt wisdom and innocent naivete, age and youth, europe and america.

upthread, wk says that, "the ancient indian curse seems like such a cliche that it would be impossible to list how many times it was used," but i'm not so sure about that. it's certainly a familiar device, but i'd hardly say that it's dominated the imaginations of american horror filmmakers over the last 50 years. and films like pet sematary and creepshow 2 (both stephen king adaptations, oddly) have often used the idea of the "indian curse" without any perceptible investment in the significance of history or landscape. poltergeist seems more interesting in this regard, given the political implications and the eventual eradication of suburban property as a sort of penitential sacrifice. then there's the shining, which allows any number of readings, but remains maddeningly vague.

i like the idea of an american horror film in which a presence or purpose coded into the landscape, something that predates european settlement, enacts itself in ways that destablize "ordinary" american life. maybe not because the presence/purpose is evil or aggrieved, but simply because its ends are different. there must be examples of this, but i can't think of any offhand...

normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 06:33 (twelve years ago) link

i dunno. maybe i'm giving pet sematary short shrift. though it's not as direct as poltergeist in its suggestion that american comfort is built on genocide, it does invite similar interpretations. the contemporary nuclear family existing in a state of constant existential peril, threatened from one side by the very things that supply its material comforts (the road with its long-haul trucks), and from the other by a terrifying forest that conceals an explicitly forbidden history, stinking of death.

normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 06:43 (twelve years ago) link

The Dark and Lonely Water, Billy Dods up here is sending shivers down my spine... Perfect example!

RIP Brodie, aspiring bellhop boy, 4 months old (Le Bateau Ivre), Monday, 2 May 2011 07:50 (twelve years ago) link

voiced by donald pleasance too...

koogs, Monday, 2 May 2011 11:29 (twelve years ago) link

Even Disney got in on this -- Watcher in the Woods is probably the first movie like this that I saw growing up in Ohio. It was really really scary at the time.

Also, The Shining to thread (re: uh oh burial grounds).

Oh, and speaking of Bette Davis, what about The Dark Secret of Harvest Home?! (The book was really good, too btw)

deez m'uts (La Lechera), Monday, 2 May 2011 13:15 (twelve years ago) link

The cover is pretty cool -- has the same most dreadful sacrifice theme as Wicker Man, only it's set in a quasi Peyton Place sort of atmosphere. The Widow Fortune is sort of like Lord Summerisle, I guess?

deez m'uts (La Lechera), Monday, 2 May 2011 13:18 (twelve years ago) link

Haha, we own so many of these things. In fact, just watched Penda's Fen again last night for film club. Such a strange and beautiful film.

I think the Britain = internal/forgotten histories/nature and USA = external/eradicated history/urbanity thing is spot on, actually. I want to agree that the Indian burial ground plot is a very common trope but can't think of many more examples than those already mentioned. I guess America does also have the natural spookiness of vast desert landscapes etc but I'm unsure if that's *uncanny* or something different. I guess it's less centred on the homeliness of the small British island and more on exploration of the unknown?

emil.y, Monday, 2 May 2011 13:29 (twelve years ago) link

feel like the vibe y'all are talking about got expressed in the US via dystopian future fantasies like phase iv and the like

don't judge a book by its jpg (Edward III), Monday, 2 May 2011 13:44 (twelve years ago) link

for some reason equivalent US examples I can think of are TV movies

dark night of the scarecrow
don't be afraid of the dark
crowhaven farm

don't judge a book by its jpg (Edward III), Monday, 2 May 2011 13:48 (twelve years ago) link

thinking of some other "ancient evil" type US films of the 70s

burnt offerings
let's scare jessica to death
the other
lemora: a child's tale of the supernatural

don't judge a book by its jpg (Edward III), Monday, 2 May 2011 14:03 (twelve years ago) link

I saw some of these series in the early 80's, and from the perspective of an Italian 10-yr old they seemed extremely eerie, exotic and mysterious. Sapphire & Steel and Children of the Stones were, for lack of better words, just terrifying, but as pointed out upthread even series like The Avengers seemed to have a certain, not-quite-there aura that was puzzling and fascinating.

How was Tomorrow People? I think I saw it, but I'm not sure about it.

Marco Damiani, Monday, 2 May 2011 14:34 (twelve years ago) link

that tomorrow people sequence was heavily nostalgic for me but I can't remember a damn thing about the show itself

don't judge a book by its jpg (Edward III), Monday, 2 May 2011 15:17 (twelve years ago) link

feel like the vibe y'all are talking about got expressed in the US via dystopian future fantasies like phase iv and the like

Yeah. I was thinking Westworld, e.g.

something of an astrological coup (tipsy mothra), Monday, 2 May 2011 15:32 (twelve years ago) link

The closest i can think of from the US might be Twin Peaks. There was a lot of explicit nastiness going on which doesn't necessarily fit easily with the theme but the underlying idea of something ancient and evil in the woods intruding into small-town life has a lot of parallels. It's interesting as i don' think it was ever fixed at a point in history (native American curse, etc). I got the impression it predated that, in a way i'd normally associate with British or European mythology.

I LOVE BELARUS (ShariVari), Monday, 2 May 2011 16:21 (twelve years ago) link

^ very good call

normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 17:41 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

Looking to present a night of creepy-ass UK children's programming from the 70s/80s. Can anybody give me suggestions as to available stuff? This would be much easier if I could just plug a laptop into the video projector, but as it is, I'm stuck with DVDs.

I'm thinking stuff like the Tomorrow People or, if available(probably not), Children of the Stones or The Third Eye.

Steam Sale Jonesin' (kingfish), Sunday, 8 July 2012 23:14 (ten years ago) link

Ace of Wands

Bob Six, Sunday, 8 July 2012 23:35 (ten years ago) link

Looking to present a night of creepy-ass UK children's programming from the 70s/80s.

Where are you doing this because I'll book a plane ticket right now. When they used to show that weird block of UK shows on Nickelodeon it was pretty much my favorite thing on television.

Amoeba, Fish, Monkey, Shame (GOTT PUNCH II HAWKWINDZ), Monday, 9 July 2012 03:22 (ten years ago) link

Northeast Portland, naturally.

Yeah, Nickelodeon showing these in the early 80s during the Peter Davison era on PBS were a source of immense terror growing up.

Steam Sale Jonesin' (kingfish), Monday, 9 July 2012 05:04 (ten years ago) link

children of the stones is (was) out on dvd, i have a copy...

and an amazon search for them turns up a lot of stuff in a similar vein, Shadows, Owl Service, TP, S&S...

koogs, Monday, 9 July 2012 08:42 (ten years ago) link

see also the various public information films of the time... BFI have recently put out a dvd...

koogs, Monday, 9 July 2012 08:43 (ten years ago) link

"Follow follow follow follow follow woof woof WOOF!
Follow that dog, woof woof
Follow that dog, woof woof
solving crime is an asset
which aint too bad for a long eared bassett
Follow that dog, woof woof
don't follow that cat, meow meow..."

Cheapest recorded tv theme tune ever?

Mark G, Monday, 9 July 2012 09:02 (ten years ago) link

This seems to be a cheap source of public information shorts:
Lonely Water very fitting. Apparently no Apaches on there tho' :(

woof, Monday, 9 July 2012 10:43 (ten years ago) link

here's the BFI version, with apaches

koogs, Monday, 9 July 2012 11:28 (ten years ago) link

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Monday, 9 July 2012 12:25 (ten years ago) link

I remember that thing! Not particularly strongly but I don't recall being creeped out, although it is fucking weird.

The ugly-wuglies scene in The Enchanted Castle by Elizabeth Nesbit definitely qualifies, although the rest of it is distinctly uncreepy. No videos available.

ledge, Monday, 9 July 2012 16:42 (ten years ago) link

two weeks pass...

The Stone Tape

DavidM, Tuesday, 24 July 2012 11:09 (ten years ago) link

seven months pass...

My search for ugly wuglies brought me here. Totally agree with that creepy quality that came up in 70s/80s stuff on UK TV. Good call on Nosey Bonk, Ugly Wuglies and Sapphire and Steele.
I'd also add to that list:

- the "Boy from Space" episodes on Look and Read
- Hickory House. Some kid of possessed house where presenters interacted with an alive elephantine cushion and a mop end with a red nose:
- the big-eye-browed serial killer narrator on Words and Pictures
- Vision On(with Tony Hart/Sylvester Mccoy) - furry alive caterpillar things darting around and a guy with a white-line painter paiting pictures.
- Davros from Dr Who - I once had a highly pleasant dream where he was torturing me with hyperdermic needles.
- The blonde-mulletted hippie woman off Music Time.

These are probably completely off-topic but creeped me out also:

- Wizbit, though it's later and not quite in the same league as the above stuff. Still the disturbing product of a deranged criminal mind.
- The Dick Emery show full stop.
- most of the BBC2 Open University stuff I inadvertently stumbled on in the 70s/80s
- Horror films I shouldn't have been allowed to watch: The Ghoul, Horror Express, Island of Terror, The House that Bled to Death
- The Belfast Gang on Why Don't You(sorry but they just did)

Geronibload, Tuesday, 26 February 2013 21:23 (ten years ago) link

Oh and I forgot Wurzel Gummedge, though I was never a fan - but the bits I saw were deeply DEEPLY disturbing. Always found it odd any kid could in all honesty enjoy that messed-up horror show.

Geronibload, Tuesday, 26 February 2013 21:42 (ten years ago) link

~How did I miss this fucking thread? This is totally my thing. Just got the Wicker Man s/t on vinyl and have been rinsing it.

dog latin, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:11 (ten years ago) link

What was the kids show with a puppet called Pob who used to blow on the screen?
Also, WRT kids TV, Noseybonk from Jigsaw

And a recent honourable mention (even though it's set in Italy) - Berberian Sound Studio

dog latin, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:14 (ten years ago) link

oh we mentioned noseybonk.used to scare the shitejesus out of me.

dog latin, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:15 (ten years ago) link

What was the kids show with a puppet called Pob who used to blow on the screen?

pob's programme

love this thread.

So: The Answers (or something), Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:24 (ten years ago) link

"If in my programme you would be,
Wind the wool and follow me.
Wind it slowly, wind it fast,
A secret you will find at last."

I mean, what. the. fuck. If that's not some sort of pagan incantation I don't know.

dog latin, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:28 (ten years ago) link

*jimmy saville reference*

bbag bbag my nebby shot me down (darraghmac), Wednesday, 27 February 2013 11:02 (ten years ago) link

A friend of mine posted this sequence from The Boy from Space a couple of days ago on Facebook with the comment "This gave me nightmares as a kid!" Clicking on the link brought back a weird rush of nostalgia mixed with half-remembered terror:

bizarro gazzara, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 11:54 (ten years ago) link

Dammit, buggered the embed there, sorry. It's worth watching!

bizarro gazzara, Wednesday, 27 February 2013 11:54 (ten years ago) link

Good call on the Boy from Space link and Pob.
Here's one I forgot. OK so it's way O/T cos it's Spanish, but it is 70s and one of the creepiest things I remember seeing on TV in the 70s.
Took me an age to track down cos I only remembered imagery and nothing else. Didn't even realise it was Spanish, then a guy I worked with mentioned his Spanish girlfriend had seen this creepy short ... and I was reunited.
It's called La Cabina:

Once again, how did a kid younger than 10 get to watch something like this!?!?!? The TV was my babysitter back then.
Oh and while I'm here - - again way O/T - but can anyone remember a film. My memory of it is sketchy but here's what I *think* it was:

- black and white
- I'd guess 40s or 50s and British
- This is really sketchy but... I think a man looks at a painting of a big manor house, and is transported into the painting/house. He proceeds to encounters the strange residents, including an old guy who captures people and makes them trophies in the same way you'd caprture butterflies - something to do with sticking a pin through their abdomen, paralysing them and mounting them in a case. And he wants to do it to this new guy, but can't remember if he got away or not. Maybe I had to go shopping with my mum to Bishops and missed the end(!)

Geronibload, Friday, 1 March 2013 01:27 (ten years ago) link

Sincerely sorry but OCD and this thread don't combine well.
Some more I thought of more in line with ogirinal theme of this thread:

OK so I was going to add these but I just searched and see they were already mentioned:

Quatermass 1979 Series:
Witchfinder General - film with Vincent Price (I own this on DVD but can't bring myself to watch it again it's *that* ewwwwwww - beautiful cinematography though it has to be said.)
Children of the Stones

I think this also qualifies though:
The One Game

And these definitely fall under general British weirdness factor:
Mr Pye
Dominic Hyde
The Phantom Raspbery Blower / The Worm that Turned (both mini-serials that featured in The Two Ronnies)

Amazes me they don't make some cheap wins and replay this stuff from time to time instead of some of the bad new stuff.

Geronibload, Friday, 1 March 2013 20:22 (ten years ago) link

I am watching The Wicker Man right now after a chance evening conversation about it.

Troughton-masked Replicant (aldo), Friday, 1 March 2013 21:46 (ten years ago) link


seasonal dog served on a bed of creative latin (dog latin), Saturday, 2 March 2013 12:27 (ten years ago) link

Great posts Geronibload. Will check these

seasonal dog served on a bed of creative latin (dog latin), Saturday, 2 March 2013 12:41 (ten years ago) link

that creepy gruesome animated sinbad by karel zeman:
with disabled green alcoholic piggyback abuser @ 24 mins

massaman gai, Saturday, 2 March 2013 15:54 (ten years ago) link

aw poop i was doing my very damnedest NOT to embed that fer cryin out loud !

massaman gai, Saturday, 2 March 2013 15:56 (ten years ago) link

From the Scarfolk Council blog, which might be of interest to readers of this thread.

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. "Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay."

bizarro gazzara, Saturday, 2 March 2013 18:25 (ten years ago) link

I looked at that and although I liked a lot of it at times it was trying way too hard.

Troughton-masked Replicant (aldo), Saturday, 2 March 2013 20:02 (ten years ago) link

Aw, I love it!

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Saturday, 2 March 2013 20:14 (ten years ago) link

Barbara Bain looks worried too.

Maggot Bairn (Tom D.), Wednesday, 22 March 2023 11:43 (two months ago) link

'Black Sun' is my Space 1999 Series One go-to, absolutely batshit and bleak, until this brilliant 2001-style third act.

MaresNest, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 11:45 (two months ago) link

Really nice spooky feel to several season 1 eps in Space: 1999; there's the episode where Big Jim Sullivan is playing a coral sitar recital for the team, and that music underpins the rest of the show. Lots of ultra-wide angles, shadows and voids, and age-inappropriate scares. In season 2, the ambient lighting and colour palette get brighter, Maya solves everything by turning into an insect or whatever, and they all have a good laugh in the epilogue at Tony Anholt's homebrew. Not good!


Michael Jones, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 11:50 (two months ago) link

I'd have sold a kidney to own this.

— Scarred for Life (@ScarredForLife2) March 20, 2023

koogs, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 13:46 (two months ago) link

^ all three of them looking worried

koogs, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 13:51 (two months ago) link

lol yes I love how despite all the attempts at HEY KIDS TOYS advertising that clip still feels bleak a f

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 24 March 2023 12:24 (two months ago) link

Space 1999 is a good call, I can't think of too many contemporaneous U.S. shows that had something of that sinister vibe but that one did.

I watched the movie The Wonder (currently on Netflix) the other night on a giant TV with motion smoothing turned on, and the digital made it look very much like a low budget 70s or 80s BBC production. I thought it really added something, so if you're thinking about watching the movie, I recommend seeing it that way if possible.

but also fuck you (unperson), Saturday, 25 March 2023 20:46 (two months ago) link

Any good cultural studies type writing on the British archetype of the guy who knows more than everyone else and is a total asshole about it? Sherlock Holmes, old school Who, Saphire & Steel...

Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 25 March 2023 21:32 (two months ago) link

Henry Higgins …

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