Murrain (1975)

Nigel Kneale scripted episode of Against the Crowd, Murrain

By the by: if you’re on Letterboxd, let’s connect: I’m here.

Sometimes you just need a nudge to get something done. Andy Miller tweeted that he wrote about the challenge of ‘getting back to normal’ for the NYT and about heading to London to celebrate Kneale’s centenary. He’s come to same conclusion as many: ‘normal’ has changed. Among the features at that celebration was ‘Murrain’, an episode of Against the Crowd that aired on ITV.

It touches on the subject of witchcraft, so I think I need to bring it into what I’m writing on The Witches, another of his scripts. It’s concise and efficient storytelling, with David Simeon as a government veterinarian, check on a mysterious illness amongst pigs in Derbyshire. As the title hints — murrain is a somewhat antiquated term for a plague — there’s a suspicion that something more is going on, at least amongst the locals. Their convenient scapegoat is old Mrs Clemson (Una Brandon-Jones) who lives alone and seems a bit odd.

Farmer Beeley warns that there’s a  ‘dreadful strength in the land’ for those who can harness it

There’s nothing that will surprise you here but it is all so compactly and authentically done that it still gives a chill by the end. In its time — not long after The Wicker Man — it must have been startling indeed. Kneale is good about the ways women end up being the scapegoats for problems men can’t solve. At present that’s a rather raw spot.

Una Brandon-Jones offers a powerful performance in just a few scenes. And hey, a visitation from the spirit of Mark E. Smith! Now to read a few reviews to see what nuance I missed as I am tired.

Asking Marjorie Yates, have you got a carrier bag, ah?