Skip to main content

Nobody ever leaves the circle.


Children of the Stones
2: Circle of Fear


Episode Two focuses in on father-son theorising. The recovering Adam, who requires a large glass of Scotch to soothe his nerves, remains dismissive of supernatural forces. He sees the energy as electromagnetic, a “perfectly natural phenomenon”. So Margaret has to go to work on him as “a man of sensitivity”. It’s a curious conceit to fashion the scientist as a closet receptive, but it isn’t that uncommon; the hero has to be able to rise to the challenge of any forces that come his way. The magpie pseudo-science, pseudo-folklore reminds me a little of Doctor Who’s Image of the Fendahl, also concerned with scientists in a rural environment experimenting on ancient artefacts and encountering vast unleashed powers.


And, like that story (although much of that has tongue firmly in cheek), there are gloriously silly admissions such as “I read a fringe lunatic book on the psychic force in standing stones”, as if people put together a term like fringe-lunatic, and consider it viable reading. . Margaret’s understanding was that only certain people, “perceptives”, could feel the power, and it’s nice to see the constructive sparring of her objection to his electro-magnetism theory (“Even though you were earthed so was the stone?”), not to mention her witty making light of his experience; “You flew through the air with the greatest of ease”.


Matthew’s reaction to Dai is as unrestrained as kids hurling abuse at their elders probably got on mid-70s TV Series (“You – you nutter! You stupid old fool! Look at my bike! Look at my jacket!”)


Dai: Go on, swear a bit. Call me words.
Matthew: Oh no, the village idiot

Matthew’s initial apoplexy would suggest he’s the sort to heed Charlie’s advice never to talk to strange men who spy on you through telescopes. Especially when they try buttering you up with compliments like “You’re different then. Not mindless like the others”.


Jones is as great as ever and, cast to type as a trampish country-oddball, he instils confidence that his array of knowledge of both poaching and science (theodolites) is broad. I’m not quite sure how he knew Matthew let one of his rabbits go to leave the message in his trap (unless he’s been using that telescope again), but the sight of him tucking into the cold collation Matthew has left him, with a bottle of cider, is most amusing. His admonitions concerning the stones (“Don’t meddle with the stones”) intrigue, most of all the chillingly off-the-cuff comment that Matthew and his father are trapped there.


Dai: Leave? What do you mean? Leave the circle? Leave Milbury? Leave the stones? You never will.
Matthew: What do you mean?
Dai: Nobody leaves the circle.


He qualifies this by adding further unexplained mystery, how one can “get beyond their sight boy, but never out of their grasp. Not until the day of release”.


The back-and-forth of mystery and deduction is well conceived. I have to admit, Matthew’s keen scientific acumen comes across as a stretch, however. The only sign of his misspent youth is ham and bananas with gerkin and honey sandwiches. We learn that he has embarked on his own investigation in which he attempted to clarify the direction of the stones, on the premise that they all lean slightly towards the centre (the camera work around the stones, using low angles and wide angle lens – creates an effective sense of edginess and distortion). In fact, they are all “dead upright”. He only counted 23, of course; it would be 23, as that number is bound to show up even in non-odd TV and movies. The stones are all pointing in one precise direction – but upwards.


Adam: No stone circle was constructed at random.

Adam’s theory is that there is a giant dish under the ground, lending the entire circle a rock base. But he is baffled by the absence of an obvious path of alignment, so it is Matthew who provides the missing link. This is very much of a piece with the Quatermass and the Pit revelations that combine science, ETs and myth.  But Adam’s subsequent theorising is a leap into the dark, so he’s either secretly straining to unleash himself from the shackles of orthodox science or revealing what a sensitive man he is.


Adam: What we have here is a primitive Jodrell Bank immovably aligned with something up there.

He concludes that, if the dish was designed as a receiver for psychic forces, it follows that the signals must come from a force directly above it; this from a circle designed in Neolithic times. But why? There is nothing charted on that alignment path, so he asks Matthew to cable a friend in America at Montelimar Observatory.


The remainder of the episode backpedals on the theorising and concentrates on the sinister village undercurrents. Matthew attempts to make his father understand that the other kids are not normal, and then Adam leaves him home alone while he goes off for a pint (quite right too!) After his crackpot theory, he reverts to type with Margaret, commenting of ley lines “It’s all very unscientific”. And discussion focuses on where all the villagers have disappeared to, where they go to one night every month (“My guess is they turn into werewolves”). Only Lyle and Browning, also recent arrivals, were about. And the affable Hendrick comes back into focus (“He’s pretty well informed about the local phenomena”), his Highfield House identified as a focus of the village and having been built on the site of earlier houses (not dissimilar to the generational manor in Stones of Blood).


As per the last episode, we end on the stones, as Matthew, who has been dreaming of his picture which falls, sees the same imagery and chanting as his father. Going to the stones, he perceives a blue mist has formed with villagers standing in a circle. As he touches one of the stones, Dai appears and grabs him; Matthew falls to the ground.


At this point it appears that the ancient mystical has been identified as a negative force. Britain’s pagan past is something to be fascinated by but also to fear; it holds diabolical secrets, not enchantments that can free us. It’s an understandable trope to seize on, since it butts heads against the new religion that took control of the British Isles. Or perhaps, as subtext, the writers are suggesting that the past is as constraining as the present. The ‘60s saw a swing back to nature, to embrace old ideas and beliefs that had been neglected and were perceived to be spiritually liberating. Milbury’s ancient system is just another set of shackles. And the way to free oneself? The application of warped logic, if pseudo-scientists Adam and Margaret are any indication.

Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.