In the decidedly off kilter Ghost Story For Christmas entry The Ice House Paul (played by brilliant star of The Main Chance John Stride) is spending time at a health retreat in the country. He is disturbed when his cold handed masseuse Bob asks for help, even more so when Bob then disappears.
Egged on by the retreat owners – brother and sister Jessica and Clovis, Paul is drawn to a Victorian Ice House on the estate (literally used to store Ice in pre-refrigeration days). Each time Paul approaches the Ice House he feels genuinely scared and when he does build up the courage to enter the building (at night funnily enough) he discovers Bob encased in a block of Ice.
Everyone acts in a deliciously camp manner, from Stride’s smelling of the flowers to the dialogue itself. Close your eyes while you read the next bit if you don’t want to know the pay off but it’s clear the estate is a Halfway House between the living and the dead. Jessica and Clovis acting as the gatekeepers and the Ice House itself the entry point to death. The ice serving to preserve the body until it’s owner is ready to accept it’s fate.
Writer John Bowen often dabbled in these type of stories, rural and/or pagan stories of other worldly menace, he was most noted for his play Robin Redbreast but all of his work leaves you thinking. Stride had appeared the year before this in Bowen’s equally ambiguous Play For Today – A Photograph. Earlier in 1978 Bowen also wrote an episode of Stride’s popular ITV series Wilde Alliance, this was called A Game For Two Players.
Rather than A Ghost Story For Christmas it’s official billing was Christmas Ghost Story.
“My brother and I do not approve of death you see.”
UK / BBC One / 1×40 minute episode / Broadcast 25 December 1978 at 11.35pm
Writer: John Bowen / Production Design: Roger Murray-Leach / Director: Derek Lister
Series: A Ghost Story For Christmas Episode 8
John Stride as Paul
David Beames as Bob
Elizabeth Romilly as Jessica
Geoffrey Burridge as Clovis
Gladys Spencer as Diamond Lady
Eirene Beck as Rossetti Lady
Sam Avent as Gentleman Guest
Dennis Jennings as Gentleman Guest
Ronald Mayer as Gentleman Guest