The Ash Tree Film Details
Overview: Man of leisure Sir Richard (Edward Petherbridge) receives notification that his Uncle has died, bequeathing him his stately country manor and all its lands. On his return to England he …
Review: While spending his time in Italy, where he learned his artistic skills, man of leisure Sir Richard (Edward Petherbridge) receives notification that his Uncle has died, bequeathing him his stately country manor and all its lands. On his return to England he immediately sets about taking stock of all legal matters concerning his new property, but during these dealings Sir Richard seems to be more than a little distracted, he hears echoing voices from a distant time and the viewer is shown flashbacks of Sir Matthew his great Uncle who he learns died a terrible death. The facts surrounding Sir Matthew’s death are quite murky, he was found in his room, his body blackened with all life drained from it, initial impressions were that he had been poisoned but tests were inconclusive. The oddest fact surrounding his death was that anyone who touched the dead body was immediately given stinging sensation followed by terrible pains in the hands and arms for weeks after the event. Settling in to his new home, Sir Richard learns of a local woman known only as Mother Soul who is buried there in unhallowed ground, a woman from Sir Matthew’s time who was hung after being accused of being a witch, her dying words cursing those who would take her life. Her grave must surely be dug up to make way for a newly built extension to the chapel. Sir Richard’s work continues and he decides that the best room in the house for him, is in fact Sir Matthews old room, the one he died in that has been boarded up for many years since his death, it seems to have the suitable requirements of privacy and sunlight that he needs, except for one Ash Tree that stands outside his window, a curious anomaly he is told to have such a tree so close to the house, a species of tree that can do untold damage to a house’s foundations. Sir Richard decides to have it cut down, but before he can he begins to see strange shadowy figures in the tree and hear faint screeches like those of an infant. Are these the portents of doom for him? Sir Richard says “The dead are dead” there can be no possibility of harm or retribution from the other side? The fifth installment of the A Ghost Story for Christmas was broadcast in 1975, its brief running time of 35 minutes making it one of the shortest in the series. Again M.R.James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary has been plundered for this adaptation and its another good one. On watching it first, it didn’t strike me as being very good, so i watched it again the following morning and enjoyed it immensely. I think tiredness may have been a factor in my indifference the first time, although having said that i think that overall the film still lacks immediacy and even in its short running time it is rather hard to figure out exactly whats going on, so it may not appeal to everyone. Sir Richard is certainly being haunted, not only by a vengeful witch and witchfinder’s but perhaps also by his own ancestor? I’ve always had a liking for trees with a soul, that exude evil in some way and the Ash Tree here, has some nasty surprises for those who would wish to cause it harm, the Gremlin/Spiderlike creatures which reside there, are surprisingly well done for the time and media and pose an interesting foe for Sir Richard. The flashback scenes of 17th century England are beautifully realized, the style of dress and the themes involved immediately bring to mind memories of films like Witchfinder General(1968), the countryside therein also being like an uncredited character, with the delightful sounds of nature allowed to hold sway over intrusive dialogue. Edward Petherbridge plays the dual roles of Sir Richard/Matthew with a great deal of gravitas, he exudes an eloquence of speech that can’t hide his stage past of some renown. Director Clark again passes muster with another excellent entry, the film benefits greatly from its almost docudrama style that lends the film an instant air of authenticity. The horrific ending is supremely handled, perhaps heralded just a little, but James fans will not be surprised but most certainly enthused by it. Again like all James’s work its leaves more questions than it provides answers, just the way i like it.
Duration: 32 min
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Also known as: The Ash Tree,Ясень,Ghost Story for Christmas: The Ash Tree