1 9 6 8 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
In 1967, shortly before the introduction of colour transmissions on BBC2, the Corporation started a practical training experiment to familiarise its staff in the use of the new equipment for the service.
In a somewhat surprising decision considering the normally sober-sided nature of the BBC, the channel opted to produce a series of half-hour plays under the generic title of Late Night Horror which it hoped would provide the necessary experience.
The resultant use by producer Harry Moore and his scriptwriters of stories replete with colourful surroundings and lashings of blood and gore was, perhaps, hardly surprising.
Amongst the tales adapted were H. Russell Wakefield’s The Triumph of Death about a crumbling, haunted mansion (dramatised by David Campton and starring Claire Bloom and Nora Nicholson); an unexpectedly erotic chiller, The Bells of Hell by Robert Aickman, (dramatised by Hugh Whitemore with Michele Dotrice and Ronald Hines); The Corpse Can’t Play by John Burke (adapted by Hugh Leonard, with Clare Austin and Frank Barry); and – for a second time on television – William and Mary by Roald Dahl, which Richard Martin directed with Donald Sinden, Brenda Bruce and Andre van Gyseghem.
Commenting on the series after its launch, Francis Hope wrote in the New Statesman, “We are all ready with scornful dismissals of green rubber monsters, diaphanous spooks and gouts of ketchup, but the series seems to me practically effective and artistically interesting. I was, indeed, horrified, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that a success for the programme.”
The episode to take the most advantage of its new freedom to use colour was The Kiss of Blood, an adaptation of the short story The Case of Lady Sannox by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The story of the beautiful young wife of one of the richest men in London who horrifyingly discovers when she takes a lover that her husband is not the meek and mild man she believed, was stylishly adapted by John Hawksworth and directed with relish by Richard Martin.
Diane Cilento was dazzling as Lady Sannox. The episode screened at 11:50 PM on Friday 16 May 1968.
No Such Thing as a Vampire | William and Mary | The Corpse Can’t Play | The Triumph of Death | The Bells of Hell | The Kiss of Blood