Saturday, 31 October 2009

Reece Shearsmith's Haunted House

During the first part of Reece Shearsmith's Haunted House for BBC Radio 4, Ghostwatch was given a much-appreciated mention by the esteemed panel (made up of Reece, Mark Gatiss, Vic Reeves and Yvette Fielding).

As the programme is only currently available for a limited period on the BBC iPlayer, here is a transcript:

REECE: A famous bard once wrote, "there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy". Maybe the BBC had this is mind when they, in 1992, presented, Ghostwatch - a wonderful, postmodern ghost story which has come to be known as a kind of hoax akin to Orson Welles' famous, War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. It was a wonderfully produced documentary with all the trappings and the tropes of a live broadcast. Ghostwatch used a familiar cast of television presenters and it begins like this knockabout television investigation into the most haunted house in Britain, however before long, things start to go a bit wrong. 

A BRIEF CLIP FROM GHOSTWATCH IS PLAYED

REECE: So, who remembers that when it went out? Does anyone have any memories of it?

MARK: Parky - brilliant.

REECE: Yeah, brilliant actor in it! So real.

YVETTE: He was fantastic, wasn't he?

REECE: He was the thing that made it--made you question whether it was real or not.

MARK: The genius of that, I think - it's kind of uneven - there's some brilliant things in it, but the absolute copper-bottomed genius is that the ghost is called, 'Pipes'.

REECE: Yes!

LAUGHTER FROM THE AUDIENCE

MARK: 'Pipes' - it's so brilliant! And it's 'cause he lives in the--they think it comes from the cupboard under the stairs, and it makes a banging sound.

REECE: They think he's in the radiator...

MARK: 'Pipes' - that's a real ghost name if ever there was.

YVETTE: But there was huge controversy about that programme - massive.

REEVES: I've never heard of it.

REECE: Did you not see it when it went out?

REEVES: Never, no.

YVETTE: I didn't see it when it went out, either, no.

REEVES: I never heard of it.

MARK: Oh, it's good.

REECE: Have you seen it now..?

REEVES: I've heard of... Parky.

LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE

MARK: He's not real..!

You gonna write us a happy ending, Heather..?

After the recent explosion, popularity-wise, of the 'Reality Horror' sub-genre, the film series that helped bridge the gap between Hollywood and Indie film is now rumoured to finally become a trilogy.

Co-creators of The Blair Witch Project, Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez, are reportedly said to be closer than ever before to pitching their concept for Blair Witch III to Lionsgate, the studio who now own the movie rights.

Intriguingly, the proposed third film in the series (at one point, set to be a 'The Village'-type endeavour, charting the rise and fall of Elly Kedward/The Blair Witch), may now be returning to its dark roots - acting as a straight sequel to the original, and bypassing the events of the critically-mauled second film, Book of Shadows altogether. Despite having met a grizzly end, presumably at the hands of the Witch herself, this could mean original stars, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams could also be returning, albeit in smaller roles.

Personally, I have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Book of Shadows. Granted, it might not be quite as groundbreaking as the original, but I believe that you really had to check out the two accompanying (and not to mention, wonderfully produced) documentaries that preceded its release, first (Shadow of The Blair Witch & The Burkittsville 7) to make for a more complete viewing experience.

Actually, now that I think about it... what a year for cinema, 1999 was. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, and Sky Pictures', Tube Tales (one of my personal favourites) were all released that year.

Not to mention Rapture TV's quite stupendous Blair Witch Weekend (wow, now that takes me back...). Given the unprecedented financial success that films such as, Paranormal Activity have had for their distributors, here's hoping the granddaddy of them all, Ghostwatch finally gets some of the recognition it deserves too(!)

Since 2007, I have personally been discussing, pitching, recommending, and inquiring about the possibility of Ghostwatch returning in some shape or form. The doc was actually very close to going out on a well-known digital channel back in January 2008, but that was before the idea of a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD reared its bloody, cat-scratched head.

As ever, should any news come through, you'll be the first to hear. Thanks again for all the support, and we hope you all have a Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Well, this is... this is my favourite, I think.

Many thanks to Ghostwatch fan and Behind the Curtains supporter, Arfon Jones, for sending us this truly haunting piece of artwork depicting two of the main stars from the original film - Sir Michael Parkinson & Mr. Pipes.

Any more Ghostwatch-themed artwork out there? If so, we'd love to see it!

And don't forget... Tonight, BBC Four, 9.00pm.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Ghostwatch back on BBC... nearly.

On Tuesday night, the BBC is set to broadcast a one-off special entitled, Ghosts in the Machine just in time for Hallowe'en.

You might have noticed in the upcoming TV listings that part of this spooky retrospective documentary (sound familiar?) will feature a short segment on Ghostwatch.

A good sign for fans, surely. Especially when you consider Auntie's (until recently, it seems) long-assumed, steadfast reluctance to revisit the "legendary Hallowe'en Hoax", since it was first broadcast, now almost two decades ago.

Who knows where this unexpected, new-found interest might lead? The first-ever repeat screening of the film, late one evening, perhaps? Or even the fabled 2-Disc Special 'BtC' Edition DVD arriving sometime in the not-too-distant future? ...We can only dream.

In the meantime, as a special treat for the film's upcoming 17th birthday, here's a sneak peek at an early DVD menu design (as it happens, a Chapter Select screen). Any release date for a Special Edition DVD remains TBA, though with increasing/continued support, it hopefully won't be too far down the line.

Thanks again for all the comments, subscriptions, invites and support, guys. Happy Hallowe'en, and here's to a prosperous 2010!

...Oh, and by the way - filming of Stephen Volk and Lesley Manning's interview for GitM had to be halted several times due to the sound of knocking pipes... No, really. Honest.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Fortean Times #67

GHOSTWATCH: Whatever Possessed Parkinson?

"Ghostwatch was a dramatised investigation of "the most haunted house in Britain". The unremarkable three-bedroomed terrace house "in Foxhill Drive. Northolt, Middlesex" was home to divorcee Pam Early and her two daughters. They had been tormented for several years by voices, loud thumps in the walls and pipes, objects moving inexplicably around the house."

...Begins a five-page article written by Bob Rickard for Fortean Times magazine, published in 1993.

The article simultaneously serves as a review, critique and dissection of the film and the unprecedented impact it had on viewers post-broadcast. It also features opinions from Stephen Volk, and others who contributed to the production, and even some comparisons (plot-wise) with the much-documented, true-life Enfield Potlergeist case.

The article concludes with various paranormal experts being asked to voice their own opinions of the film - such as, Guy Lyon Playfair, John, Lord Haddington, Maurice Grosse, Alan Gauld, Susan Blackmore, Anthony D. Cornell and Manfred Cassirer.

"After at least one postponement, the Broadcasting Standards Council finally published their deliberation of the BBC1 Hallowe'en drama Ghostwatch, shown on 31 October 1992. The BSC (Bulletin no.24, Jan 1993) said they received 33 complaints - compared to least 20,000 received by the BBC - and have "decided that the complaints lay outside its remit".

Most callers felt that this fictional programme breached the trust between broadcaster and audience, and the BSC deems this was not a matter of "taste and decency". Star of Ghostwatch Michael Parkinson (who features on our cover) enraged many by gloating: "If we've scared the pants off people, we've done our job well."

Read all about it in our 'Hoax!' section this issue - see p 38."

- Fortean Times Editorial by Bob Rickard and Paul Sieveking

SPECIAL MENTION: The quite fantastic cover for this particular publication was designed by renowned comics artist, Hunt Emerson. Be sure to check out Hunt's website, LargeCow.com, which features a wide selection of his work, past and present.