I had been looking forward to this one, but time constraints and a glut of good drama meant I was playing catch up. This then is the first of my blogs for 2016...
Rafe Spall is fast becoming an actor that I love to look out for , and his star turn as Harry Price in ITV’s Ghost Hunter is not going to alter my interest. He has that kind of Everyman face that can play high born Toff and East End Barrow boy with equal ease and I thoroughly enjoyed this feature length adventure!
Set in 1920s London at a time of social flux, is standalone story about Britain’s most famous real-life ghost hunter and sceptic Harry Price, who investigated potential manifestations of the paranormal and supernatural.
Mixing real historical events and fiction, it is a dramatisation of the novel The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring.
Beginning with a seance to contact the mother of a worried brother and sister, it soon becomes apparent that Young Henry Price is a bit of cad, offered money to rid the home of the malevolent spirit he has manufactured using all manner of props. He plays on the grief and fear of the unsuspecting.
His callous nature rocked by the suicide of a sweet young soldier before his very eyes who interpreted the almost Pat spiel "of your loved one wants you to find Peace too now they have found theirs" , he halts all access to the world of the paranormal be it faked or real. That
is until he is contacted by a government official asking him to investigate the wife of a promising MP who might save the Party had she not been found naked in considerable distress casting a Pall over his political progression.
He puts his faith in science despite being prone to visions of his own, both he and friend Albert Ogoro ( played by Ritchie Campbell ) used misdirection and knowledge of human frailty to further their income, but they are good hearted and honestly want to keep Grace out of the sanatorium if they can help it.
The Parlour maid Sarah ( Cara Theobald ) has troubles of her own, her mother spending all of the household money on medium shows, but she is capable, strong and wilful. Her challenging nature is a catalyst in Harry's behaviour to save innocent folk being fleeced by other charlatans.
Grace is delicate, obviously troubled by a past not clear in the start of the programme, but so too is our intrepid hero, whose own losses seem to have informed his choice of career. Grace and her husband are attempting to escape a personal secret in their pasts.
Meddling journalist Vernon Wall adds to the mix as a discredited Hack whose interference leads Harry to engage him on some digging into the pasts of the victim and her husband whose ascending career is put at risk by her deteriorating mental state.
Great use is made of statues and the imposing edifices of the building where the mystery centres. Even the beautiful call of a song bird is used to ramp up tension. Even the obligatory Crow is used to great effect. Let this for instance, be a cautionary tale to all, that hiding in wardrobes is never,ever a good idea.
Many of the tropes are present, but so beautifully played, you feel obliged to pretend you have never seen them before.
Setting this in the post war era when grief and loss was so raw helps explore the human need for resolution, for redemption and forgiveness and the efforts of Harry to disprove the existence of the ghostly and show how environment and nature can reap the same results is a symptom of his own suffering. His grief for a wife lost through a lack of courage to stand up against strident family is palpable.
Without spooling the plot, I would happily see this become a series featuring Harry, Sarah and Albert. Not having read the source novels, I am presuming they do form a team, but this wonderfully realised film will encourage me to seek them out and Lobby the good people at ITV to schedule more Harry Price in 2016.