Alien Nation IV: Schalcken the Painter + The Exorcism + INTRODUCTION

Dir. Leslie Megahey + Don Taylor, English, 1979 + 1972

Sun 24 July 2011 // 19:30 / Cinema


The “Alien Nation” season of weird and haunting UK telefantasy concludes with this double-bill of two gems highly rated by connoisseurs of 1970s TV horror.

The first is a gorgeous, brooding drama about the downfall of the seventeenth century Dutch painter Godfried Schalcken. The second is a politically-charged frightener about a dinner party disturbed by supernatural forces.


We are very happy to announce that great film specialist Gail Nina-Anderson will there to introduce these films!



"Turn from the light. Your breast bare. Look into the dark."

The young seventeenth century painter Godfried Schalcken forsakes love for ambition, but in later life discovers that there is still a terrible price to pay.


Godfried Schalcken was a real 17th Century Dutch painter who studied under Gerard (Gerrit) Dou, himself a former student of Rembrandt.

Schalcken, like Dou, specialized in both portraits and dark, atmospheric visions lit solely by candlelight; many of which take on an eerie or sinister quality.

Inspired by the work of Schalcken, Sheridan Le Fanu wrote a Gothic horror story entitled "Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter" in 1839, which was in turn made into a theTV programme, Schalcken the Painter.


Megahey's ravishingly shot horror story explores the nature of art, money, sexual politics and ambition in a style indebted to the work of Stanley Kubrick.

The elegant, slowly paced narrative, the carefully composed tableaux, the discreet but meticulously designed tracking shots and the ironic detachment of the narrator are reminiscent of Barry Lyndon (1975); the throbbing music presaging ominous or supernatural moments recalls Richard Strauss's 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', used to similar effect in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).


3 reasons why this programme is great by THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

"For starters, it's a respectable, eerie and fairly faithful adaptation of Le Fanu's story.

Secondly, it manages to accurately capture the flavor of the era in which it takes place.

Finally, and most impressively, it manages to capture the dark beauty of Schalcken's artwork. Nearly every frame of this film seems to be a painting in and of itself, and done in reverence to the shadowy world Schalcken created in his paintings.

Most of the shots are very carefully set and lit, with soft candlelight illuminating the action in the middle of the screen yet leaving the edges of the frame shrouded in shadow."


The affluent Edmund and Rachel move to a remote cottage they have just renovated at great cost. During a Christmas party they discover that it holds a dreadful secret to which they may hold the answer. Chilling drama presented in real time.



Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto begins with the celebrated phrase, "A spectre is haunting Europe". In 'The Exorcism', writer-director Don Taylor extrapolates this into a frightening dissection of the bourgeoisie, told in the form of a traditional ghost story.

Edmund and his wife Rachel renovate a remote cottage in the country and invite their friends Dan and Margaret to have Christmas dinner there.

Through the course of the next 45 minutes, they are brutally forced by supernatural means to confront the literal and figurative foundations of their privileged existence.


Director Taylor made the play shortly after returning to the BBC after several years during which, he claimed, he was essentially blacklisted for his political views.

Although reminiscent of Luis Buñuel's absurdist comedy The Exterminating Angel (Mexico, 1967), in which dinner guests find that they can no longer leave their home, 'The Exorcism' is a truly singular horror allegory that can be described quite fairly as a 'socialist' ghost story.

Director Taylor contrasts Edmund and Rachel with Edmund's die-hard socialist father, and soon they prove to be highly vulnerable to the power of the haunted cottage. Even their emphatically scientific friend Margaret proves susceptible to irrational fear when her husband Dan blindfolds her.

Anna Cropper as Rachel provides a real tour-de-force in her climactic possession scene, though Clive Swift as Dan gets the best dialogue ("I think we should concentrate on how to be socialists and rich").



"Broadcast in 1972, and widely believed (on this site anyway) to be one of the most frightening pieces of TV drama ever shown, 30 odd years have done little to dampen the effect of 'The Exorcism', which still manages to trouble our conscience while losing none of its power to shock or repulse - and that's just the fashions on display." - BRITISH HORROR TELEVISION




£4.50 advance ticket

OR £5/£3.50 (conc) on the night




A celebration of the freaky, spooky and obscure side of UK television drama. Programmed by James Leggott (Lecturer in Film and TV, Northumbria University) from the darker corners of the BBC archives, with special guest introductions, this is a rare chance to catch some of the most haunting telefantasy ever transmitted.



Sunday 17 July, 7.30pm: The Stone Tape (1972)

This futuristic story concerns a group of scientists who discover that their newfangled recording device is picking up disturbing transmissions from the past...






Wednesday 20 July, 8pm: Ghostwatch (1992)

This infamous BBC mockumentary about an evil spirit possessing a suburban household was taken by some audiences as a genuine live broadcast upon its first (and only) broadcast on Halloween in 1992.




Thursday 21 July, 7.30pm: Penda's Fen (1974)

A true cult classic about a teenage boy’s fantastical encounters with angels and pagan rulers, Penda’s Fen is an enigmatic meditation on themes of nationality, sexuality, myth, masculinity and religion.





Sunday 24 July, 7.30pm: Shalcken the Painter (1979) + The Exorcism (1972)

The “Alien Nation” season of weird and haunting UK telefantasy concludes with this double-bill of two gems highly rated by connoisseurs of 1970s TV horror.



This event is being programmed with the support of Northumbria University, as part of the International Conference “Alien Nation: A Conference on British Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Television” (20-21 July 2011)