The Clifton House Mystery 1.1 and 1.2

Here’s another purchase that I made based on a recommendation from the Scarred for Life gang. The Clifton House Mystery is a six-part serial made by HTV in 1978, and is part of that network’s grand seventies tradition of creepy paranormal kids’ shows. This one doesn’t appear to have ever been shown in America, but it would have fit right in to Nickelodeon’s early programming schedule.

It’s a very slow burn, and our son was quite restless this morning. An elderly woman in Bristol has sold her home, where she lived with her granddaughter, to a concert conductor and his family. The pianist is played by Sebastian Breaks, and his wife by Ingrid Hafner, who had played the semi-regular role of Carol in the first series of The Avengers. They have three children, and, this being television from the “children should be seen and not heard” era, they’re having their own experiences while the parents have no idea what’s happening.

The daughter Jenny was gifted a tiny music box by Emily, who suggests that her grandmother sold the house because it was actually making her daughter sick. Opening the box allows an image of a woman to appear. The older of the two boys spends months of pocket money on a very beat-up 1830s-era cavalry helmet when the grandmother’s belongings are auctioned off. Each of the boys later sees the helmet glow and a face appear beneath it. Then they discover there’s a window on the outside of the house but no way into a room there. And the grownups are utterly oblivious.

Episode one is very, very slow even by the standards of videotape drama. It’s almost entirely focussed on the auction and establishing the dad character as aloof and in his own world. Our son grumbled at the commercial break of the first episode that “this isn’t very mysterious.” But it picks up, and he enjoyed a few good giggles at the children’s interactions. He was so surprised that the younger boy had to take two buses to get to school from their new home that we paused to explain that these would be city buses, and not the big yellow school bus that he takes in the morning.

I was a little surprised myself that Jenny’s school is on a different calendar and doesn’t start up after its winter break for a week after the two that the boys attend, but then I remembered that schools are all alike everywhere. If they can inconvenience parents with some dumb schedule or other, they will.

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