I recently watched Robin Redbreast, a 1970 episode of Play for Today. When Londoner Norah Palmer buys a country cottage she gradually finds herself ensnared in the strange goings on in the local village. Cue pagan creepiness, made even creepier by the fact that despite being shot in colour the only existing version of the episode is in black and white. Kind of a proto-Wicker Man. But with no shots of a naked Britt Ekland. Even so, it's still good fun.
Reading through the booklet that accompanies the DVD I realised that the writer of Robin Redbreast, John Bowen, also wrote for the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas series and that I had one of his episodes, The Ice House, on DVD. Not having previously got round to watching it I dug it out and gave it a whirl. Weird goings on at a health spa, specifically in the buildings where the owners store their ice. More oblique than Robin Redbreast, with very mannered dialogue, but still creepy in its own way.
I've seen 'The Ice House' and thought it was pretty good--rather different from the mostly M.R. James adaptations that came before. I have heard of 'Robin Redbreast,' though haven't seen it as yet and didn't know of its connection to 'The Ice House.' It's a shame that some of these episodes of Play for Today, The Wednesday Play and so forth are not screened nowadays. No doubt some may have been wiped but surely many will still exist in the archive.
Robin Redbreast is a tremendous piece of film. Freda Bamford's Mrs Vigo and Bernard Hepton's Fisher were wonderful characters, the note-perfect incarnation of creepy-folky weirdness. Anna Cropper made a very plausible heroine, holding onto her modern skepticism with increasingly frantic desperation as things unraveled.
It's grainy black-and-white, lo-fi, and very much the intrusion of nightmare Robert Graves/James Frazer territory upon the lives of a few hip young Londoners still reeling from the speed-up social shakedown of the Sixties. So, not everybody's cuppa, but one of the most memorable things I've ever seen.
John Bowen wrote another play with a character named Mrs Vigo which was produced by BBC but I do not think the latter has been released, and may not survive. It would be interesting to see.