BBC 2 showed a remarkable drama last night night based on, of all things, James VI’s book Daemonologie.
Witchcraze took a rather bullish attitude to James’ arrival back in Scotland from claiming his Danish bride and his growing belief in the presence of witches across the lowlands.
The inevitable torture scene was located in a white-tiled room, rather reminiscent of Ken Russell’s virtually unwatchable The Devils. But what really caught the eye was the decision to film the whole thing as a documentary, complete with voiceover introducing interviews and plenty of unsteadicam verité-style footage.
The previews I read were all excited by this new idea technique of treating history as current affairs. Well, that makes them only about 40 years late; not bad for TV reviewers, I suppose. It’s a shame because the film that really did invent this technique, Peter Watkins’ wonderful 1964 drama Culloden, is finally available on VHS and DVD this month.
Also just released is Watkins’ famous film about a nuclear attack on Kent, The War Game - so disturbing that the BBC refused to show it for 20 years. It’s nice to see the man getting some attention at last.