Remade and released to great box office success in 2012 (that review is here), The Woman In Black is a very traditional ghost story adapted in a very traditional style from the novel by Susan Hill. Directed by Herbert Wise, and written by the very talented Nigel Kneale, I had high hopes indeed for this one. Sadly, it turns out that even though I didn't love the remake as much as some people did I have to say that I found it a more enjoyable experience than this version, overall.
That's not to say that there isn't plenty here to enjoy. It's a solid piece of work with at least one or two memorable scares. Adrian Rawlins stars as Arthur Kidd, a young solicitor who is sent by his demanding boss to settle the affairs of a deceased old woman. This means quite a journey and a few days away from his loving wife and children but Arthur must do what seems like the best for his career with the firm. When he gets to his destination he soon finds out that the old woman had no friends and that nobody will be attending her funeral, bar legal representatives. However, when Arthur turns around during the funeral service he spies one mourner - a woman in black (Pauline Moran) - but he seems to be the only one seeing her. When he goes to the house of the deceased woman to start sorting through her effects he soon finds himself scared out of his wits by strange noises and the occasional presence of . . . . . . . . . . The Woman In Black.
With a cast that also includes Bernard Hepton, John Cater and Fiona Walker, this isn't a TV movie full of big names but every role is perfectly cast. There are even great supporting turns from Steven Mackintosh and Andy Nyman (two of my favourite British actors). No, there's no denying that this is an earnest and handsome attempt to provide an intriguing story with a number of chills on a limited budget. It's not as terrifying as the infamous Ghostwatch or even as constantly eerie as The Stone Tape (another fine example of Nigel Kneale's writing) but it's still a very nice slice of spookiness that makes for perfect viewing on a dark, winter evening.
Director Herbert Wise doesn't do too badly, it's just a shame that the whole thing has to be kept well within the limits of what was acceptable for UK TV work back in the late 80s. With things ever so slightly amped up throughout, this could have been a terrifying experience. As it is, there is at least one scene that still haunts many people to this day (pun intended) and there's a very good ending but the rest of the film isn't all that memorable.
Sadly, The Woman In Black isn't available at a bargain price at the moment but if you have money to burn you can pick up a copy here.
Thankfully, you can also view it on YouTube for free here.