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9 customer reviews

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(Jul 17, 2012)
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Editorial Reviews

A classic tale of mystery and the supernatural

“No, no, Miss Dunning. You’ll have to be more clever than that.” With these words, Julian Karswell dismisses Prudence Dunning’s attempts to undo his satanic spell—a curse that terrorized and ultimately killed a writer a decade earlier.

Drawn from one of ghost-story master M.R. James’s most frightening tales, Casting the Runes pits an innocent television producer against a fiendish alchemist. While working on a piece exposing would-be mystics, Dunning brings unwanted attention to the reclusive occultist. In retaliation, he delivers a runic scroll that dooms her to a horrific fate, unless she can devise a way to turn the tables in her favor, at any price.

Iain Cuthbertson (Gorillas in the Mist, Children of the Stones) is thoroughly chilling as Karswell, and Jan Francis (Just Good Friends, Under the Hammer) plays the increasingly desperate Dunning to the hilt in this tense and atmospheric British thriller.

Special Features

The M.R. James adaptation Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance (20 min.) and the documentary A Pleasant Terror: The Life & Ghosts of M.R. James (51 min.)

SDH subtitles

Due to the age of these programs and the improved resolution that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio on this DVD presentation that were beyond our ability to correct from the original materials.

Product Details

  • Actors: Iain Cutherbertson, Jan Francis, Bernard Gallagher, Joanna Dunham
  • Directors: Lawrence Gordon Clark
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: July 17, 2012
  • Run Time: 47 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007TSV4EW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,976 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on June 2, 2012
Format: DVD
Ghouls! Early 20th century short story turned film. Characteristic of author Montague Rhodes James who used more words depicting eeriness and horror than the ghost or being itself. His classic ghosties were short, often 20 pages or less, but packed. Some will object, preferring today's writing and filming where all the emphasis is placed on the occultist image, not the victim. The movie moves fast, and leaves much of the ghoul's characteristics left to the imagination of the viewer, just like M.R. James (1862-1936). Today's stories require much blood, witchcraft, and dramatic action; but CASTING THE RUNES allows the atmospheric view to inspire the viewer to greater heights of fear. OK, I jumped once.

SUBTITLED feature begins with the same beautiful eeriness of early master paintings of Andrew Wyeth, neutrals in winter. The story name comes from an action of writing a spell onto a paper and delivering it to the victim; who then has the option to reverse the spell by personally returning the note.
The novel story of 22 pages is played satanically by Iain Cuthbertson (Painted Lady) as the bad guy; Jan Francis (Dracula) as the beautiful next victim; and tosses in several others who are well known on Brit film soil, like Edward Petherbridge (The Brief Complete Collection).
47 min. modernized 1979 adaptation, since the book appeared prior to TVs and jet travel.
Enjoy it for what it is.

Bonus (all subtitled) includes another film adaptation of M.R. James.
"Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance" is introduced by the music composer and is a short film (20 min) about a spooky garden maze's secret.
"A Pleasant Terror..." is 51 min. about the author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dobey on March 26, 2013
Format: DVD
Many of the twits of today who don't read and can ONLY enjoy the type of horror in which they must have instant gratification (I like that kind too butnot ONLY) will not like this one. It is a very literate take on the classic M.r. jame's story "casting the runes' shown back in 1978 this film has some minor specks and such on it, however many films from that era no longer exist so it's a good thing they saved this. It uses the typical british style of the day. The inside shots are done on videotape and hold up much better , and the outside scenes were shot on film. the british did this technique right up to the mid-80's on many programs. There is also a short film of 20 minutes that is another mr james story. both of these came from short stories. Perhaps the best part of this whole dvd is the biography about m.r. james. I was glad that they preserved this but I can't stand people who say this is dated. This was not dated in 1978. It was fine and while it's from it's era , if you were to do this stories today they would just have better effects and there are only several effects in each story anyways. Instead we get character driven stories here and not a slasher movie. (which is fine but nto this type of thing at all) Itv produced this back then for their playhouse series. Every week a different story and type of show was on. A variety of themes and episodes which no longer exists. IN those days you were expected to watch a show and enjoy the characterizations and such. This isn't for people who can only enjoy the most mindless of entertainment and need lots of things happening. that's a very sad person. But if you want a literate little short story that influenced the classic movie 'night of the demon' then this may be for you. It's of IT"S time though. Which is fine by me. As I don't expect modern effects!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeri L. Stone on November 30, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was really disappointed in this DVD and returned it to Amazon. This is an old production which is evident in the transfer quality to DVD as well as the corny production which jumped around and used loud music to denote fear. I found it difficult to even sit through the piece, although I felt compelled to see if it got any better, which it did not. As far as I am concerned the production is not eerie, scary, or even interesting. Don't waste your money on this one!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on October 1, 2012
Format: DVD
I'm a great fan of M.R. James' supernatural stories and love watching the TV/film adaptations. "Casting the Runes" is a cautionary supernatural tale and I was very impressed by 1957's Night of the Demon (also known as Curse of the Demon) starring Dana Andrews, which is an incredibly satisfying and atmospheric adaptation of James' tale.

Now we move on to this 1979 adaptation of this classic tale. It is an ITV Playhouse epsiode and at only 51 minutes is not as satisfying, though one needs to keep in mind that James' story itself isn't very long. This adaptation has been updated and in the process great liberties have been taken with the original storyline. Jan Francis plays TV producer Prudence Dunning, who earns the hatred of occultist Julian Karswell (Iain Cuthbertson) when she portrays his work in an unflattering light on one her productions. She comes to realize that the strange events plaguing her after the show goes on air has something to do with Karswell when she learns that another person had been plagued by mysterious events, a person who has since died under suspicious circumstances. When she learns from the victim's brother that the death might have something to do with a runic note passed to the victim some time before his death, she thinks that she might be a potential victim too.

The story moves along and the female lead does a credible job in her role though Cuthbertson's portrayal of Karswell is nowhere near as malignant or effective as Niall MacGinnis' portrayal in the 1957 movie. No comparison here between the 1957 movie and this short TV play, but I feel that it is quite decent and certainly worth a watch for ardent M.R. James' fans, if only to serve as a basis for comparison and discussion.

This DVD also contains 2 other noteworthy features, i.e.
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