Whistle and I’ll Come to You. is a classic 1904 M.R James ghost story adapted for TV by Jonathan Miller. It tells of an eccentric and distracted professor who happens upon a strange whistle while exploring a Knights Templar cemetery on the East Anglian coast. When blown, the whistle unleashes a frightening supernatural force.
This version is highly regarded amongst television ghost story adaptations and described by Mark Duguid of the British Film Institute as “A masterpiece of economical horror that remains every bit as chilling as the day it was first broadcast”.
A BBC Press Release for its repeat showing in 1969 stated that it was an “unconventional adaptation…remarkable, both for its uncanny sense of period and atmosphere, and for the quality of the actors’ performances”.
The performance of Michael Hordern is especially acclaimed, with his hushed mutterings and repetition of other characters’ words, coupled with a discernible lack of social skills, turning the professor from an academic caricature into a more rounded character, described by horror aficionado David Kerekes as “especially daring for its day”.
The stage journal Plays and Players suggests that Hordern’s performance hints that the professor suffers from a neurological condition called the “idea of a presence”. The production starred Michael Hordern and was directed by Jonathan Miller.
It was broadcast as part of the BBC arts programme Omnibus and inspired a new yearly strand of M.R. James television adaptations known as A Ghost Story for Christmas. First broadcast 7 May 1968