Friday, November 22, 2019

Guest Post: Uncle Silas (1968) Location, by Gavin Selerie

I recently watched the version of Uncle Silas directed by Alan Cooke for TV (Mystery & Imagination series, 1968). I thought I hadn't seen it before but recognized in particular the performance by Patience Collier as Madame de la Rougierre, who conveys a twisted humour within menace. I now think I did see this at the National Film Theatre (BFI) years ago. It's quite an impressive version, though not as detailed as the more famous TV one with Peter O'Toole and Jane Lapotaire. Cooke plays up the melodrama but the central performance by Robert Eddison is superb and the atmosphere is well sustained throughout. Lucy Fleming as Maud displays a convincing innocence and naivety turning into horrified awareness. I note that the IMDB entry lacks any information about the location where it was filmed. I think there can be little doubt that at least the exterior and some of the internal scenes were shot at Horsley Towers in Surrey. This was the home counties residence of Earl and Lady (Ada) Lovelace. The arch which the carriage drives through from the courtyard and the lake in front of the Italian tower (east side) are unmistakeable. The rows of gothic windows seem to be further evidence that the Lovelace dwelling is the base site. I think the main staircase was  also used, although some further decorative detail may have been added. Finally, use is made of the Great Hall, with balcony or gallery. Perhaps some of the architecture was recreated in the studio, although it may well have been cheaper to film the entire thing on location. Interestingly, Horsley Towers was also used as the exterior location for The Stone Tape, a landmark of TV drama with script by Nigel Kneale, although in that case much less of the site is evident.

I visited Horsley Towers earlier this year, so my memory of the building and grounds is fresh. A poem I wrote afterwards, simply called 'Horsley Towers', appears in my recently published Collected Sonnets (Shearsman Books), which also features two outtakes from Le Fanu's Ghost, 'Stalking Grove' and 'Peep into a Whiskey-shop'.

 Gavin Selerie

1 comment:

  1. Such a shame so many episodes of Mystery & Imagination have been wiped. I saw every one of them as a boy. It seems clear most of those retained were saved because they were regarded as 'prestigious' - eg Frankenstein, Dracula, Uncle Silas.