Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blackwood on Film!

There is a for me a special interest in seeing video or hearing a voice recording of a long-dead favorite author. I have heard some recordings of Arthur Machen, an author typically associated with the 1890s, and it almost felt like having a time machine when I heard his lilting voice. I have never heard any recording of Lord Dunsany, but suspect some may survive, owing to his broadcasts on the BBC. There are various recordings and even some video footage of Tolkien, but I doubt I'll ever hear the voice of David Lindsay (alas!). Or Kenneth Morris. Or E. R. Eddison.

I knew from Mike Ashley's excellent Algernon Blackwood: A Bio-Bibliography (1987) that late in life Blackwood did radio and television broadcasts. And some years ago some surviving clips of one of these 1951 television programs showed up in a BBC4 show "The Story of the Ghost Story", broadcast on December 23, 2005. I hoped (in vain) that this show might appear somewhere on US television, but it never did. No DVD came out either, but at last I've found it on YouTube. The program is just under thirty minutes, and on YouTube it appears in two parts, part one and part two.  The snippet of Blackwood (less than twenty seconds) appears in part two, from the 6 minutes and 51 seconds mark, through 7 minutes and 9 seconds. Not much, but it is a privileged glimpse at the man, and it whets your appetite for more.

If more footage of Blackwood and other such classic authors survives, and could be complied on a DVD, I'd be first in line to buy it.


  1. Wow--thank you for posting this, Douglas. Algernon Blackwood is my favorite writer of weird fiction (with Arthur Machen running a close second) and I had never seen him in motion or heard his voice before!

    Do you have a link for the audio of Arthur Machen? I'd love to hear it if it was available. Thanks again.

  2. Hi Alf:

    I don't know of a link to the clip of Machen, but it is available on a 3-CD set "The Spoken Word: British Writers" put out by the British Library. The Machen clip (supposedly the only recording of his voice to survive) is three and a half minutes. There is also a seven minute clip of Blackwood doing "Pistol Against a Ghost" from 1948. And the CD includes Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, of that era; with Tolkien, Daphne du Maurier, J.G. Ballard, and William Golding among the more modern writers. A fascinating set of recordings. ISBN 978-0-7123-0541-9.

  3. Thank you, Douglas! I will certainly give this disc set a listen.

  4. Algernon Blackwood appears very dynamic and quintessential.

    Annoying that it is so short. If they started rolling a camera in front of him, really, much more of it should be available, somewhere.

    It is persons like HIM we want to see and hear! Even if the image is black & white and blurry.

  5. Well, it's not Algernon himself, but there is a short film-version of "The Man Whom the Trees Loved". It is really garbage, and has nothing of the quality or substance that makes Blackwood great, but on the lowest bottom level it is basically the same story. The episode can be seen 36 minutes into "Tales That Witness Madness" on Youtube. For research completists only!

    It did once again remind me of the film-industry that spends billions doing remakes of great old films, when there are so many stories that could be filmed! What a sad waste.

    I wrote to BBC4 about the Blackwood TV broadcasts, but they refuse to give personal replies. I am sure, that if one of you distinguished gentlemen who live in or near London, will go up and knock on BBC4's door, you will have better success. I believe those old archives from 1951 must be in the public domain, and ought to be accessible like a library. Please try if you get the opportunity.