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Schalcken the Painter
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from 170 votes
Release: 23 December 1979 (UK) /

Schalcken the Painter

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Director: Leslie Megahey,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Can Schalcken save his love, Rose, from the clutches of a ghastly suitor before it is too late?

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Critic Reviews

Only the BBC has the ability to outdo great writers, and even then, only rarely (Ashenden was one example, Jeeves and Wooster another). Here is one of the best examples: a classic BBC TV play adapted from J. Sheridan LeFanu's chilling short story of the same name.

The atmosphere of this TV film is incredibly disturbing, and the cast and crew all do a brilliant job to recreate one of the most chilling stories of gothic literature. Godfried Schalcken was a real painter who studied under Gerrit Dou in Leiden (Holland). Schalcken painted figures lit by candlelight, and his paintings are quite atmospheric. It is this dark atmosphere which suffuses LeFanu's work and this TV play. After seeing the movie, I took a trip to Europe, and had the chance to see some of the original paintings. They are brilliant in their depiction of light, shadow, and darkly captivating mood.

The TV play is a kind of allegory and a mystery, in which a young maiden (a rare appearance by the lovely and talented Cheryl Kennedy) is married off to a mysterious suitor and disappears. It falls to Schalcken (played brilliantly by Jeremy Clyde), who had used the girl as a model, to investigate. The horror that he uncovers haunts him (and his subsequent artworks) forever.

Unfortunately, like many late-night TV plays that were prevented from making it to VHS by a reactionary '70s era British VHS censorship debacle (the play features a very brief frontal nude scene, performed quite eerily by Cheryl Kennedy), this TV classic is now apparently lost. It has not been seen on TV for over a decade (as far as I'm aware), and like many '70s BBC masterpieces, seems destined to spend decades completely forgotten in some film vault. We can only hope that someone at the BBC will eventually find it and get the powers that be to release it on DVD or VHS. Hopefully soon!

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