Year: 1972 

Movie / TV:   Dead of Night - The Exorcism

Director:  Don Taylor

Others in the Cast:  Anna Cropper, Sylvia Kay, Clive Swift, Kenneth Kendall

Plot summary: Four friends gather for Christmas dinner at an old cottage. Suddenly, there's a power failure and the phone goes dead. Then their wine turns to blood and the turkey makes them violently ill. Then things really get strange! 

Peth’s role:  Edmund


Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto begins with the celebrated phrase, "A spectre is haunting Europe". In 'The Exorcism', writer-director Don Taylor extrapolates this into a frightening dissection of the bourgeoisie, told in the form of a traditional ghost story. Edmund and his wife Rachel renovate a remote cottage in the country and invite their friends Dan and Margaret to have Christmas dinner there. Through the course of the next 45 minutes, they are brutally forced by supernatural means to confront the literal and figurative foundations of their privileged existence. - Screenonline

Similarly spooky was The Exorcism (1972), written and directed by Don Taylor for BBC2's "Dead of Night" series, with Anna Cropper and Edward Petherbridge as an affluent couple moving, at Christmas, into the cottage they have renovated at great cost and discovering that it is haunted. The play, not simply a ghost story but a metaphor for the bourgeoisie's privileged existence, was subsequently staged at the Comedy Theatre in 1975, with Cropper reprising her role.  - The Independent

This tale is remarkable on every level. It's one of three existing episodes of the BBC'S 'Dead of Night' series and widely regarded as the best of the series' single 1972 run. It's a dark tale and it's well-acted by the four protagonists. The exorcism in question is that of the telling of the suffering of three people living in the cottage many years before, retold through the current lady of the house via her possession by the long-deceased mother of two, who had starved to death with her children at her side whilst the rich of the town ate like kings. -

User review on IMDB 

The direction is a bit clunky as it is essentially filmed theatre, with all the action more or less in one room of the house; however we do get these unnecessary closing-in shots that again date it and make it feel a little cheesy. Credit then to the performances because it was these that drew me into believing what was going on. Again the actors are heavily dated in terms of looks and costume but their performances make it work despite the script giving them overly elaborate dialogue at times. Cropper is handed the hardest role but deals with it pretty well. Petherbridge works well as the logical core while Kay and Swift are solid as well – even if the latter looks very dated in his purple cravat! Overall then, an overly wordy film but one that builds the tension well, increasing tension gradually rather than expecting one trick to deliver a jump scare. Dated and not brilliant but quite chilling and engaging.

The dark atmosphere is prominent from the beginning, but the viewer doesn't know where the tale is going to lead or what to make of it until they are witnessing the events themselves through a touching and emotional ocean of words. Each actor does a fine job and they are all equally engrossed and believable.


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