An actor revisits the scene of a childhood trauma, and learns more about himself than he bargained for. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at Shadows: Dark Encounter.
BROADCAST: 18 August 1976
STARRING: Alex Scott, Shelagh Fraser, Brian Glover, Hugh Morton, Margot Field, Carolyn Courage, Graham Kennedy
WRITER: Susan Cooper
DIRECTOR: Leon Thau
Shadows: Dark Encounter Review
Former World War II evacuee Jonathan Brent (Scott), now a grown-up actor returns some 30-years-later to the village where he was sent for safety. His memories of the time are hazy, but something has lingered in his mind clearly: The strange feeling he got from the trees, a feeling of darkness which has left him frightened of being in any woodland alone.
Another half-memory lingers, one of playing in a field near an old windmill. Something there scared Jonathan out of his wits, and yet he is unable to remember what it was.
Taking a walk around the area, hoping to jog some recollections Jonathan comes upon Johnnie (Kennedy), a young boy who has injured his ankle whilst trying to retrieve his kite from a tree. Spotting the old windmill from his childhood, which now seems fully inhabited, Jonathan takes the boy there.
Nothing strange in that, except that Jonathan has already been told that the windmill burnt down some years ago, and the people he encounters there seem to know a lot about him. They also have a very keen interest in reminding him exactly what he encountered there as a child, and enlisting him to confront it…
The people at the windmill include some familiar faces, with the ever-reliable Brain Glover (as Jim Debbitts) gruffly giving Jonathan short shrift, somewhat nonplussed that the visitor gets to face the mysterious source of his fears rather than him. Margot Field was Debbitts’ more accommodating wife, while Hugh Morton (often seen in roles as authority figures) was the friendly local doctor.
Rounding-off an impressive cast was Shelagh Fraser as the manager of the local hotel whose closing dialogue with Jonathan throws a last curve-ball before the credits roll on a pleasingly enigmatic entry which seems less concerned with spelling everything out than in allowing the viewer to ponder the episode’s events and assemble the pieces themselves.
With a sprinkling of folk-horror flourishes to top things off, Dark Encounter (following The Inheritance) made it two standout episodes in a row for Shadows’ second series, but could it keep up the momentum? Join me next time for series 2, episode 5: Peronik…
TRIVIA POINTS: Brian Glover was well on his way to becoming one of Britain’s most beloved character actors, whilst simultaneously voicing long-running ad campaigns for Tetley Tea (“Tetley make tea bags make tea”) and Allison’s Bread (“with ‘owt taken out”). He was also a popular wrestling attraction under the name Leon Arras and, until 1970 taught English and French at a school in Barnsley: His colleague there was Kes author Barry Hines, who suggested him for the role of brutal P.E. teacher Mr. Sugden in its 1969 screen adaptation, and a screen star was born. His prolific filmography included memorable appearances in Jabberwocky (1977), An American Werewolf In London (1981), The Company Of Wolves (1985) and Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (1997), which was released posthumously after Glover sadly died at just 63 from a brain tumour.
Shelagh Fraser went straight from this episode of Shadows to a classic instalment of Brit-TV horror, in the Beasts episode, Baby (1976).
Another from our whatever-happened-to file: Other than an appearance as a delivery boy in The Brothers (1976), Graham Kennedy had no further screen credits. Any info on what became of him is welcome.
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