1 9 7 7 (UK)
8 x 50 minute episodes
This BBC late-night series was imaginatively made by producer Pieter Rogers, stylishly performed by its guest stars, and evocatively introduced to viewers:
“During the final years of the last century,” a sonorous voice would announce beneath the opening credits, “there still stood a mansion in Limehouse to the east of London, known as The House on the River. Here men with bizarre tastes would meet once a month in order to terrify each other by means of true stories of horror and the supernatural. Those story-tellers who failed to impress the assembly were – it is said – never seen again. Those who succeeded were permitted to join The Club of the Damned.”
For each episode, the hosts Sir Francis Fell (Andre Van Gyseghem) and Sir Charles (Esmond Knight) would receive the latest guest into the plush clubroom and then, after the sombre organ strains of the Poulene signature tune had faded away, invite them to begin.
The stories included Dorabella, a vampire tale set in Eastern Europe (starring Jeremy Clyde, Anna Marson and John Justin); Night of the Marionettes about a puppet show and an interesting twist on the Frankenstein story (with Gordon Jackson and Kathleen Byron); and a variation on the Jekyll and Hyde theme, Lady Sybil (with Denholm Elliott and Cathleen Nesbitt).
Jeremy Brett appeared as Mr Nightingale, a man haunted by a doppelganger who drives him to murder – but because his story was judged by the members to be the product of a deranged mind rather than a supernatural occurrence he suffered the ultimate punishment of The Club of the Damned.
Supernatural was the creation of Robert Muller, a German-born former journalist and theatre critic, whose interest in Gothic literature had been fired while working on some of the adaptations for the ITV anthology Mystery and Imagination.
For his own series, however, he utilised the archetypal themes of Victorian ghost and horror stories but gave them modern and often nasty twists. Muller wrote all the episodes except one, Viktoria by Sue Lake, which recounted the story of a little girl avenging the death of her mother with the aid of black magic.
The stars were Catherine Schell and Judy Cornwall – who became the only female to trick her way into the club to tell her story.
Perhaps the very best of the stories was Countess Ilona, a werewolf tale directed by Simon Langton and starring Billie Whitelaw (who was Robert Muller’s wife), Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Sandor Eles.
Ghost of Venice | Countess Ilona | The Werewolf Reunion | Mr Nightingale | Lady Sybil | Viktoria | Night of the Marionettes | Dorabella