Montague Rhodes James (1862 - 1936) was a British mediaeval
scholar and prodigious writer of ghost stories, much admired
by H. P. Lovecraft (now that's an endorsement) and often held
to be the best twentieth centuries writer of ghost stories.
In brute force terms, M. R. James's literary success can be
measured by the number of times his short stories have been
From 1918 to today his stories have appeared in over sixty
anthologies as well as twelve individual collections.
have been adapted for radio, two have been made as television
dramas and Casting the Runes was produced as the movie
of the Demon
popularity has continued decade after decade and now Fantom
Films have brought together five new readings of his stories,
Casting the Runes (1904), There was a Man Dwelt
by a Churchyard (1931), Number 13 (1904), Rats
(1929) and Lost Hearts (1895) under the title of Tales
of the Supernatural: Volume One.
If you're looking for a gore fest you're looking in the wrong
direction, but if you want to be led to a place, whose very
menace will scare the willies out of you then you need look
no further than the twisted and fertile mind of M. R. James.
first two stories in the collection are read by Gareth David
Lloyd, who at the moment is better known for his continuing
role as Lanto Jones in Torchwood. The next two are
read by Ian Fairbairn (best known for his roles in Doctor
Who and Timeslip), with the final story being read
by Geoffrey Bayldon, the well known stage and screen actor.
There is little to distinguish the various renditions, as
all three of the actors do a magnificent job at conveying
the menace inherent in the stories - and the quality of their
renditions perfectly matches the quality of the stories.
Anyone who knows anything about copyright will have already
worked out that the majority of M. R. James's work can be
found free on the Internet in various text forms. However,
if you go down this road your going to miss the nuance and
interpretation which the three actors bring to the stories.
Although this seems like a departure for Fantom Films, it's
a departure well worth making. If you love gothic horror do
yourself a favour and buy this CD, great stories read by excellent
actors, what more could you ask for? I look forward to Volume