Children of the Stones is one of those rare children’s television series whose reputation has given it a cult attraction over the years, largely due to the disturbing impression it left on those who were lucky enough to see it when it was first broadcast.I am not quite old enough to have seen it in 1977 (well I was, but it might have been a bit too scary for me then!). It is one of a series of programmes from the late seventies and early eighties which hold a strange fascination for people who, like me, crave that rare strata of storytelling which incorporates intelligent ideas with weird elements.
I have just received the DVD in the post and although I have only seen the first few episodes, it is certainly living up to its reputation. The themes and ominous mood of the series bring to mind a plethora of other films, directly and indirectly; from Val Lewton’s ‘The Cat People‘, through to ‘The Village of the Damned‘, ‘Quatermass and The Pit‘ and ‘The Wicker Man‘.
The soundtrack is quite unique and unnerving by itself and reminds me of the strange choral sounds which arise in ‘Invaders From Mars‘ when the holes appear in the sandpit, but it is far more guttural and Pagan sounding.
The story (created for the series by Jeremy Burnham and Trevor Ray) is certainly not dumbed down for its target audience – if only more children’s television series were brave enough to stretch the minds of its viewers. Supported by an excellent script, great camera work and classic 70’s acting which all adds to its strangeness and to what made it so memorable at the time and what still makes it so appealing today.
The series was filmed in and around the Avebury stone circle (renamed as Millbury) as well as the HTV Bristol Studio. From what I can gather so far, it draws on myths and legends, occultism, Ley lines, magnetism, Paganism and the eternal tension between science (rationalism) and folklore (superstition).It is only seven short episodes long (about 25 minutes each) yet it has not been repeated on British television since its second showing in 1978. It is supposedly the one of the scariest children’s programme ever screened and today actually carries the unusually high 12 certificate on the DVD. It was released as a book in 1977, and more recently a follow-up book called Return to the Stones (also by Jeremy Burnham and Trevor Ray) was also published (in 2012).
In a way it deserves to be remade, but on the other hand I think it would be a wrong move – we seem to have become far too superficial in our tastes (and rational thought has oppressed our folk memory); at the same time we are usually fed simple stories as if we are unable to process complex plots. Not only that but so many great films have been remade and ruined (basically they’ve been dumbed down!) – ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ is a perfect example! ‘Quatermass and The Pit’ is another fantastic story which deserves a good remake, but I’m sure the multiple layers of ideas would be stripped out and it would end up as a simple horror (horror in the modern sense – gore over mood).
If you are at all interested in strange goings on and atmospheric storytelling then ‘Children of the Stones’ is well worth a look!