It’s Hammer Time With a Spooky Twist from a Dead Man…
Penny shoots and kills an intruder who tries to rape her in her country home. Her boyfriend, Harry buries the body in the woods, but she believes that the dead man is very much alive.
“Hammer House of Horror: The Complete Series” – Order now, Network Distributing
With Pierce Brosnan, Simon MacCorkindale, Christopher Cazenove and Diana Dors among the cast lists for the 1980 Hammer House of Horror TV series, it was kinda inevitable that this thirteen episode one-off series show would one day appear here. For this post, I have chosen the eleventh episode Visitor from the Grave (1980).
This episode has the most spooky and fun storyline out of the ones I have watched so far. However, it comes with an important warning, as one of the cast is seen as politically incorrect, as this white actor goes blackface during the chilling plot. However, this can not be commented on in full, as bizarrely this plot is relevant to the storyline that I haven’t told you.
Visitor from the Grave tells of a very rich youngish American woman, Penny Van Brutten (Kathryn Leigh Scott) who is staying alone in an isolated but idyllic country cottage, with its own pond. Penny has just been discharged from a mental health hospital and has been encouraged to go to the country to relax. Her English live-in boyfriend Harry Wells (Simon MacCorkindale with a twirly moustache) is away for the night.
day-night night, she wakes up after she hears heavy footsteps and then she sees a man appearing at the window. This man then tries to get into the house. Penny is superfrightened, especially as it’s day night. The man trying to get in is very angry and he then breaks into the house, shouting that he is looking for Harry.
He sees Penny is all alone, and he then forces himself onto her by kissing her and tries to rape her. In self-defence, she shoots him in the face using Harry’s shotgun. This man clutches his eye and then disappears into the
day night. There is crimson paint blood everywhere and Penny is now superstressed out. All this drama happens before the opening theme tune and credits.
The next day, Harry returns home and he says that his man is Charles Willowbee (Stanley Lebor), who is an acquaintance of his. Harry goes off to find Charles’ body following the bloody marks on the ground. Penny is hysterical and requests a pill to help her relax. These pills are in a locked cupboard and Harry is the only one of them with a key. Harry keeps his shotgun cartridges in there too.
Harry goes all masterful and tells her to burn her bedclothes and clean the blood away. He then finds Charles’s body in the nearby woods and buries him and then drives Charles’ car into a pond. Harry tells her they must not mention his visit as the police will arrest him as he doesn’t have a gun permit.
He adds that they won’t believe her self defence argument and will put her back in the hospital. Harry insists that they act normally, and she goes to a planned bank appointment. It is revealed that he lost his job.
A now near hysterical, Penny believes she has seen Charles’s car and also seen him on various occasions, and these sightings leading her to scream in fear. Local Constable Richard (Gareth Thomas) visits the cottage and asks the pair questions, as Charles has been reported missing.
This policeman says that when Charles was last seen alive that he said he was going to see Harry, and that he sounded superangry. Penny and Harry manage to convince this policeman that Charles never visited them. Penny continues to see visions of Charles and his car day and night.
After taking another tablet and later downing a few drinks, Penny and Harry then go to a party run by their friend Mia (Margaret Tabori). Mia senses all is not well with Penny. Mia then reads Pennys tarot cards which include the death card. Penny gets jittery and screams as again believes she’s seen Charles as a waiter at the party. Mia suggests doing a seance the next day to talk to the dead man.
Harry takes Penny to the woods where he digs up Charles’s body in an attempt to bring her back to reality. We see that Charles is dead and his face is covered with maggots. During the seance – while Harry makes the tea – Charles is seen and heard saying wants revenge. Penny again is teetering on the edge of a breakdown by now. Mia then collapses. On coming round, Mia tells Penny that Swami Gupta Krishna (an actor in black face) is the only one who can help Penny from seeing this dead man.
She claims that Krishna can also help Charles find peace in the afterlife and not look for revenge. But Krishna is in Asia and after asking him to come, he demands a hefty fee. Penny is willing to pay the 150 thousand quid for the centre he hopes to build in England… with more to be revealed in this stand-alone episode…
This story was wonderfully executed providing tension, fear and at times, general silliness. The opening few minutes built up suspense and the terrifically chilling opening was captivating and inviting. During the 50 minute episode, we grew concerned about Penny’s deterioration in mental health. It seemed the only one in her relationship seeing this dead man. As Penny, Scott gave a worthy performance of an overanxious woman and you understood and emphasised with her hysteria.
Simon MacCorkindale gave a strong and supportive performance to Leigh. His take-charge attitude at the murder scene showed his character as the more dominant one in the relationship. This is also when he mansplained the possible consequences by telling the truth to the authorities. Rather than calming his girlfriend, she became more anxious and full of fears regarding this situation.
Gareth Thomas seemed like your typical jolly country policeman and it was nice to see him in another spooky series after seeing him in Children of the Stones (1977). As Mia, Margaret Tabori gave a multi-layered performance, as she was seen to be intuitive to her friend, Penny, a wee bit flirty with Harry and suitably eerie during the seances. As for the actor who played Krishna, you will find there really was no need for him to be an Indian, so this blackfaced character could have been portrayed more appropriately to his race.
This episode was directed by Peter Sasdy – Margaret Taboris`s off-screen husband – who had directed the first episode of Minder (1979). He later won a Razzie award for The Lonely Lady (1983). It was written by John Elder (otherwise known as Anthony Hinds).
I have still to see all of this 13 part one season wonder series. With regards to two of the few episodes that I have watched so far, both of these had familiar plots. These are reminiscent of and being inspired by well-known movies. But I won’t tell you more as this is now a show that I will Hammer on about in some future posts…
Weeper Rating: 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂/10
7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon No 8.
This post was added to A Shroud of Thoughts 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Stanley Lebor in The Medusa Touch and I Don’t Want to Be Born. Mia Nadasi worked off-screen as a choreographer for the latter film. Gareth Thomas in Juggernaut and The Avengers. Simon MacCorkindale in Death on the Nile, Dynasty, Hart to Hart, Juggernaut and Fantasy Island. Kathryn Leigh Scott in Dallas, Knots Landing, Hotel, Magnum PI, Dynasty and Space 1999.