Sunday, 4 March 2018

Three Miles Up

Elizabeth Jane Howard wrote 'Three Miles Up' as one of her three contributions (along with ‘Left Luggage’ and ‘Perfect Love’) to 'We Are For The Dark: Six Ghost Stories' a collaborative book with Robert Aickman published in 1951.  Other than these Howard only ever wrote one other story of the supernatural, 'Mr Wrong', which is a crying shame as her take on the genre is very much in line with her previously mentioned collaborator and we all know how far he developed the genre.

'Three Miles Up' is by far the most famous of her 4 tales turning up in numerous anthologies and it's easy to see why it was chosen for adaptation both in terms of budget constraints as it's all set in the very enclosed environment of a canal barge travelling through a sparse and desolate landscape and in the inscrutable power of the story.

The original tale sets two friends, one recovering from a breakdown, on a canal holiday that they are woefully ill-prepared for and soon fall to bickering before the discovery of a young woman asleep near the canal who agrees to travel with them sets them down a very different path canal.  The TV version made for the short lived mid 90s series 'Ghosts' changes some elements of the story making the two men brothers (played by Douglas Henshall & Dan Mullane, with Jacqueline Leonard playing the mysterious Sara) and adding in a slightly confused and overwrought back story regarding the death of their mother that allows the actors chance to chew some scenery and for the director to bring the story to a more definite close than the more powerful and enigmatic ending of the original.

If, like me, you are a fan of the original story I doubt this version will take it's place in your affections but it's an interesting attempt at updating and filming one of the finest takes on the modern supernatural tale.


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