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Stories that inspired M.R. James

Twelve tales of terror recommended by the master of the genre!

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Episode 97 – Mark Gatiss’s Lot 249

January 15, 2024 | Episodes | Comments (8)

Stylised image of Mark Gatiss with a mummy looming behind himHold on to your mummy! This episode Mike and Will discuss Mark Gatiss’s recent Ghost Story for Christmas TV adaptation Lot 249, as well as the Arthur Conan Doyle short story it is based on.

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8 Comments

  1. Oliver Sampson says:

    Thanks so much for doing another review episode!

    I’m on the fence as to whether I liked this one if I’m totally honest. On the one hand I really enjoyed Harrington’s performance and a lot of the scenery you highlighted such as Bellingham’s room all full of creepy artefacts. However, I agree that the character change right at the end didn’t work and I’m not sure the changes to the story added any extra enjoyment, it also felt a bit too short (it lacked a bit of suspense as a result) but I do understand that there are budget constraints which probably force things to be this way. Merely my opinion though!

    Despite all that I’m still glad Gatiss does these, his passion is obvious and it really comes across. It was great to sit down at Christmas to watch this with family. Lastly, I’d love to see A School Story adapted next as I don’t think that’s ever been done before, especially as I share the same surname as the Latin teacher.

  2. Seán says:

    I’m not the only one who thought this was on the level of a school child’s panto, am I? Gatiss has too much of the schlock Hammer/giallo horror fan about his films, which is at fundamental odds with M.R. James, and general Victorian horror, to the point very little of the source material other than its bare bones remains in a “transformative” adaptation (not to mention squashing much longer stories down into a bare 30mins). I wish he’d act as an executive producer rather than writer or director. He has the clout with the BBC to bring in other talented filmmakers.

    Also, I take some offense to Gatiss’ insistence that subtle endings don’t work for a TV audience, and that he had to tack on what amounts to a joke ending (he has a bad habit of this). It’s as if he assumes his audience is stupid and just wants gore and monsters, which lets be real, seems to be all he wants himself. Meanwhile Lawrence Gordon Clarke’s films are sitting there, beloved classics of subtle dread and atmosphere, as well as 2004’s incredible A View From a Hill which delivers on every front. Simple fact is nothing of their calibre has been produced by Gatiss yet, so I’m afraid all we can do is look to the past for quality James material!

    • Jeff says:

      Agree completely.

      In fact, I wish Gatiss would just pack it in altogether. I rather not see classic weird tales treated in this way at all.

  3. Luke says:

    I live in Australia so the only way I get to see these annual Mark Gatiss Christmas ghost story specials is via a British friend.

    I thought it was alright but I’m such an M.R James loyalist and there’s so many great stories of his that have yet to be adapted. The Residence at Whitminster, anyone?. Or even a proper adaptation of “Oh whistle & I’ll come to you, my lad” after that awful John Hurt version.

    Even though I thought it was just okay, I hope Gatiss and the BBC keep on making them each year. Fingers crossed!

  4. Audrey Peterson says:

    Really thought the additional scene was unnecessary. A quiet conversation about how Bellingham had traveled to Sudan would have been enough of a hint that he continued to be up to no good. Also the ending has Smith enough out of character that it comes off as corny. And whatever Doyle’s works were and are, they aren’t that.

  5. Kim says:

    I’m with Sean and Jeff above. Saying that Mike & Will’s coverage of it was far more entertaining than what they were covering is not mere sucking up to our hosts here.

    I admire Gatiss’s enthusiasm and labor for this genre, but… I just think his actual work is usually between ‘miserable’ and ‘jaw-droppingly awful’, with the rare splats of ‘perfectly ok’ to keep me hoping.

  6. Eddie says:

    Thanks lads for indulging us with the review but I was left underwhelmed by the experience on this one. I was not scared in the slightest and giggled out loud at the mad laughing then abrupt neck snap during the Mummy POV end.

    Agree on the main performances being entertaining and the scenery chewing of Fox’s vamp-camp and Harrington’s moustachioed macho-ness was fun. The Sherlock insert was a bit corny and considering Gatiss directed this, surprised it wasn’t Mycroft instead!

    Really though it’s your enthusiasm and entertaining discussion that makes this podcast what it is. Appreciate both your efforts bringing them to us and keep them coming!

  7. jeremy greenwood says:

    I thought this was excellent, Gatiss goes from strength to strength and as always it improves with repeat viewings, long may he continue. He obviously doesn’t have the budget for the location shots of Lawrence Gordon Clark, but he captures low internal lighting just as well and also the spirit. He often attracts poor initial reviews, but so did Lawrence Gordon Clark. This series commands world wide acclaim and must more than pay its way, I wish the BBC would properly fund it.
    Jim Moon does a reading of this in Great Library of Dreams 18.
    Another great neck snapping moment is in the Matthew Holness film Possum, where the villain is strangled in an old house and his head falls back with a great crack. There followed a horrible silence on set, they thought they han necked Alun Armstrong, but they hadn’t, an old floorboard had given way.

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