REVIEW: Hammer House of Mystery And Suspense: And The Wall Came Tumbling Down

  • Episode: And the Wall Came Tumbling Down
  • Broadcast: November 19th, 1984

Character: Daniel Haswell

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⇐ PETER as Daniel Haswell

In the early 1980’s Hammer, the leading producers of British horror movies across the previous three decades, attempted to restore themselves to their former glory through the medium of television. Having achieved some success with their first ‘Hammer House of Horror’, plans were made in conjunction with 20th Century Fox (as financiers) to create a second series. Fox insisted on a longer format, with an eye to gaining primetime exposure in the USA. Thus was born ‘The Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense’.

The series was made with the US market in mind – hence each story contained at least one American household name. In addition to this, the series also boasted an impressive list of British stars, such as Susan George, Stephanie Beecham, George Sewell and last, but definitely NOT least, Mr PETER WYNGARDE – his story was entitled ‘And The Wall Came Tumbling Down’.

The action opens on a busy building site in the environs of London. In the centre of the site stands an old, deconsecrated Church, which is scheduled for demolition. A works supervisor, Peter Whiteway, and instructs a man called Brinkley to proceed with the removal of an interior wall within the Church. Taking a jackhammer, Brinkley does as he’s told. Peering in to the hole he’s just made we see, from the workman’s viewpoint, a small room, and on the rear wall a strange painting. Our gaze then drops to the floor and we can clearly see two skeletons – one seated against the wall, the other lying on the floor.

Not surprisingly, Brinkley is disturbed at the sight, but as he begins to withdraw he sees a thick, blood-like substance oozing from the fissure. Suddenly the unfortunate Brinkley finds himself tangled in the airline of the hammer, in his haste to get away. It then becomes apparent that this is no accident as the pipe binds him even further. Twisting around his entire body before finally, and deliberately, strangling him to death. In the background, we become aware of an ominous and mournful chanting as the hole continues to release blood and the show’s opening titles commence.

Immediately after the titles, we find ourselves transported back in time to London of 1649. A young man, Martin Yardley, is seen at the feet of a Priest. He is highly agitated and is begging for the holy man’s blessing, but the Priest doesn’t understand why he wants it. Martin tells him that he’s painted a picture of the Devil in God’s house – meaning he’s a member of a Black Magic Coven. The Priest refuses to give his blessing unless Martin reveals the names of his fellow worshippers. The thought of betraying his fellows is daunting to the young man and he cries out for the blessing. He is again refused. Eventually, he begins to blurt out a shortlist of names: David Pritchard, Sarah Graycott, Matthew Rayner… Abruptly, a figure appears at the window – it’s a hooded man with a cool but menacing expression. The startled Martin, cries out and runs out into the stormy night.

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The following day reveals the Witch Finders have done their work, as we see the named people tied to stakes ready for execution. Martin panics when sees the hooded man again, calling “Daniel!” and makes for the forest, where he sees the man ahead of him, blocking his way. We jump again as we see the Priest making ready with the cleansing flame. Cut back to Martin who, again, sees his pursuer in front of him, beckoning. He makes for the Church, but as he leans back against the door, the handle is turned from the outside. Exhausted, he walks towards the transept, where he’s confronted by his own work; a mass of blurred colours. Sickened by his own heresy, he turns away only to see a group of figures clad in white robes walking towards him. As he recoils in fear, a man steps out of the shadows in the archway behind him. It’s Daniel (PETER WYNGARDE).

Martin is quickly overpowered and is laid on the floor of the transept. Here Daniel confronts him – saying that, because of his betrayal, three members of their Coven had suffered terrible deaths. For his crime, Martin’s own life must be forfeit – they will be walled into an alcove of the Church, until they can return their lord’s vision of destruction through the painting. This wall, Daniel informs him, will be stained with the blood of his victims. Fleetingly, we return to the burnings in time to hear David Pritchard scream a curse at the Priest: “I will destroy your Church!” We then return to the Church to witness the last stones being placed into the wall as Daniel calmly looks out for the last time.

Swiftly, we’re transported back to the present day as a police car pulls up on the building site. Simultaneously, a young couple arrive at the gates of the site – a blonde girl and a man who looks identical to Martin Yardley. They chat to the site guard – the young man informing him that he used to live in that area, and had just come to look at St Peter’s Church one last time before it is demolished. The guard seems somewhat surprised, given that the Church had not been called St Peter’s for some time.

In the Church, the police are investigating the demise of the workman, Brinkley – concluding that he’d simply become tangled in the airline of the hammer. They then notice the blood-like stain on the wall, and realise that it couldn’t have come from Brinkley as there is no wound on his body. They also wonder who might’ve switched off the hammer that killed him? At this pint Whiteway looks into the alcove and sees the painting.

A few moments later, we see an ambulance drive away from the Church just as a young woman arrives by car. She’s initially refused entry, but then produces a Defence Ministry pass and is allowed in. She introduces herself to Whiteway as Caroline Trent, and explains to him that she’s there to study the architecture of the Church, and that it can’t be demolished until whilst her department try to get a preservation order. The site boss is rather abrupt with her, telling her that she’s not allowed inside the Church until tomorrow, after an inquest into Brinkley’s death has taken place.

Meanwhile, the young couple who had been at the gates earlier have walked off. The young man tells his girlfriend that they can go back later – he remembers a way into the site from his childhood spent there. As they walk through the streets that are being prepared for demolition, he tells her how important the Church has always been to him.

Back at the site, the telephone rings – Whiteway’s secretary tells him it’s General Haswell, whom Whiteway explains to Caroline is the Commander of the NATO nuclear base that is to be built on the site. Haswell is pressing for a visit, but Whiteway contrives to put him off.

The young couple have now reached their interim destination – Kemble Street, home of the man’s grandmother. Granny gives her grandson, Alan, a warm welcome. He introduces the young woman as Kim. On the walls of the living room are several paintings various aspect of St Peter’s Church – sometimes these have been nightmares that Alan had suffered, involving something that’s just around the corner; something that will happen soon. Each time he’d woken up, and had been unable to recall what the dream had been about, but ever since he was a child he’d painted scenes of that Church. Before setting off again for the building site, Alan shows his grandmother the engagement ring he’s bought for Kim.

Back at the site, Whiteway takes another look at the painting inside the Church, which seems to be changing. Alan and Kim, carrying a folio of his paintings, sneak back onto the site through a back entrance. Unfortunately for them, they’re spotted by Whiteway who gives chase, forcing them to run and drop one of the paintings. After Whiteway has given up his pursuit, the determined pair make their way back in. This time they’re successful, and Alan tells Kim how, as a child, he and two other kids had stayed in the Church overnight, to protect the Harvest Festival display. But whilst he’d felt entirely comfortable there, the other two youngers couldn’t wait to get home.

Kim, it appears, agrees with Alan’s young friends, and tells him that she finds the place “creepy”. At that, she notices the hole in the wall made by Brinkley, and stoops to look at the painting on the wall. Without looking himself, Alan tells Kim that there’s a painting behind the wall, and mentions the name ‘Martin’. Taking out the engagement ring, he turns to give it to her, but as he does he suddenly throws it to the ground, saying: “Let’s get out of here!” At that moment, Kim appears to him in 17th Century dress, with what appear to be a crowd of monks surrounding her. From behind her, Daniel appears, dressed in red robes. This is a Black Magic consecration ceremony, with a sacrifice for the Devil to inaugurate the Church as meeting place for the coven.

Abruptly, we switch to Kim, who appears to be entirely unaware of what’s happening. She runs to recover the Engagement Ring. The ‘Kim’ of 1649 we find is called Catherine Parkes – the girlfriend of Martin Yadley, and she’s to be sacrificed. As Kim picks up the ring, we see Daniel behind her – dagger poised – ready to strike. He kills her, leaving her dead on the floor, clutching the ring as Alan looks in horror at the bloodied drill-bit he has in his hand. He drops the object and flees in terror.

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The following day, we see a tramp scouring a nearby site for firewood. When he returns to his hut, he finds Alan asleep inside. The tramp sits down and tries to engage with the young man in friendly chat. The tramp bears an uncanny resemblance to the Priest of 17th Century St Peter’s. Alan is in a state of shock and refuses to speak.

At the demolition site, Whiteway is about to show Caroline around the Church when General Haswell rings again. He’s put off one more, and the two discuss Haswell as they walk to the Church. Miss Trent believes that Heswell is the type who’d happily start World War III, given the opportunity – “He’s a button-pusher”. Just as they reach the Church, they notice the picture that Alan had dropped the previous day. Caroline picks it up and sees that it’s a painting of one of the Church windows.

Meanwhile in the hut, Alan sees flashes of the witches burning. He falls down at the tramps feet and begs for forgiveness.

At the same time, Caroline confesses that the fight to save the Church is ultimately doomed, given that it has nothing of any architectural importance. In reality, she’s only there because of the buildings psychic reputation – something which she thinks will prevent it from being demolished.

Back at the hut, Alan hears what he believes to be the peel of Church bells and becomes agitated.

Whiteway and Trent again peer into the hole in the wall, which appears to have grown smaller so that the painting can no longer be seen. She tells him that in the 17th Century, a Black Magic Coven took over a number of deconsecrated Churches, and set up their own alters to worship the Devil. On discovery of these alters, they were walled up in their entirety. Whiteway dismisses this, claiming that it is merely a reinforcing wall. “Reinforcing what?” she asks. Wandering across to look at one of the stained glass windows, Caroline stumbles upon Kim’s body. Back at the hut, Alan screams out Kim’s name and runs out.

When the police inevitably arrive, Whiteway informs them that he’s seen a young couple on the site earlier. Meanwhile, Caroline tells the Police Inspector that she’s noticed some odd markings around the Church, and that there’s something similar on the dead girl’s forehead. These marks, she explains, are the sign of a Black Market Coven. But the Inspector soon loses interest when she admits that the Coven existed hundreds of years before. Unperturbed, Miss Trent says that these are paranormal revenge killings, and that the evil within the Church has grown since the de-consecration. She wonders how many more deaths it will take to convince the authorities.

Meanwhile, Alan has been running through the ruins of the surrounding streets. As he comes to a rest he scratches the sign of the Cross into the dust at his feet. In flashbacks, we see Daniel outside the Church window.

The police arrive at Alan’s Granny’s house in the hope of finding her Grandson there, but without success. They notice the paintings of the Church on her living room walls, and show her the picture that had been dropped at the building site. They take her pictures away for inspection. At the building site, General Haswell finally succeeds in arranging his visit, and makes a date to tour the area on the day after tomorrow. An unimpressed Whiteway consoles himself by taking Caroline to lunch. Then, referring to the General, he sighs: “After all, better the devil you know!”

In flashback, as Alan reruns the earlier scene between Martin and Daniel – once again, the latter is one step ahead. Alan runs onto the site and is spotted by Whiteway, just as he and Caroline are about to leave. They give chase in his car, but are too late to stop Alan running to his Grandmother’s house and straight into the hands of the police.

At the police station, Alan is questioned, and he tells the story of how it was Daniel who killed Kim/Catherine Parkes in an initiation ceremony. Obviously the authorities find this hard to believe., and dismiss the story as evidence of insanity. They rationalise that it was, in fact, a crime of passion; she’d refused his proposal of marriage, so he’s killed her with the drill-bit. Subsequently, Alan is confined to a cell in a secure hospital.

In the meantime, Carole Trent tells Whiteway that she intends to visit Father Harris – the last priest of St. Peter’s. Unfortunately, he dismisses her theory by saying that Alan in clearly insane. Nevertheless, she persists that evil forces are at work, and is determined to help the young man.

She return to the Church where she discovers that the hole in the wall is now gone. Taking a pair of scissors from her bag, she scratches them against the wall. As she does, a piercing scream comes from the stonework, and the scissors are torn from her hand. Momentarily, the Church bells begin ringing. At the same time Whiteway receives confirmation that no Preservation Order will be granted on the Church, so demolition can begin. He walks over to the Church to give Caroline the news.

Suddenly inside the Church, the ‘Monks’ once again appear, and Daniel walks slowly towards Miss Trent, backing her into a doorway. Above her head, a heavy stone statue of an angel begins swaying dangerously as Daniel drives her beneath it. In the following instant, Whiteway arrives. She screams and he manages to push her out of the way just as the angel smashes down to the ground. “I’m beginning to believe you,” he confesses.

The next morning, at a nearby rest home, meets Father Harris who reveals that, although he spent 27 years at St. Peter’s, he never really felt settles; the Church, he says, had a chequered history, and a certain “atmosphere”. However, he’s unable to recollect any unusual happenings; Alan, he says, was just a choir boy, and that the Yardley’s, like many other families in the area, could trace their line back several hundred years. It was a very close community.

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He also tells her that he is privy to the story of the Coven and the subsequent ‘walling-up’ incident. Caroline shows him Alan’s painting of the Church which Whiteway had found on the site. He identifies it as a 15 Century stained glass window, which clearly has the mark of the Coven etched into the hand of Christ.

Father Harris is curious as to where she acquired the picture, and when she tells him it’d been painted by Alan, he tells her that her claim is impossible, given that the window in question was destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid long before Alan was born.

Whiteway and Trent’s next port of call is Alan’s Grandmother’s home, where Caroline shows her the painting. Granny tells them the police have taken all of her pictures… except for the ones in the loft. Miss Trent asks if they might see them, and the old lady agrees, adding that they aren’t very good. In fact, they’re just vague swirls of colour. However, when she shows them to Whiteway, he recognises them as being similar to the painting behind the wall in the Church.

Caroline now determines to share her full story with him. After Martin’s betrayal of his fellows back in the 17th Century, the altar was walled up since the Coven was unable to continue with it plan. However, she now believes that their plan is now coming to fruition, and that the forces contained behind the wall are attempting to prevent any interference. Typically, Whiteway dismisses this, reminding her that Heswell is due his visit to the site tomorrow and immediately afterwards, the Church will be demolished.

In his cell, Alan continues to suffer nightmares and visions. Meanwhile, his Granny pays a visit to St. Peter’s to pray for him. As she takes her place on one of the pews, we begin to hear the ‘Monks’ chanting again, and a shadow approaches her. As she turns, the dark entity envelops her, and the young prisoner sits bold upright in his bed and screams, “Gran!”

The nest morning, as the watch the elderly lady’s body being removed from the Church, Trent and Whiteway look at each other and wonder what might happen next. At the same time, Alan is being interviewed by a psychiatrist. The young man protests that he’s not mad – saying that the Church is some kind of sign to him, but that he doesn’t know what he’s meant to do. He picks up a newspaper from the desk and reacts instantly. He hits the doctor and affects his escape via the window. He succeeds in reaching the tramps hut and confronts the man inside: “I want to deal with you!”

Having been put off for what has seemed like an age, General Haswell finally arrives at the site of his new NATO base. With all the ceremony that is according a general, he rolls up in a black limousine. Across the site, at his childhood entrance, Alan is watching – disguised in the tramps clothing. The General emerges from his car, and as he turns to summon Whiteway, we finally see his face – it is Daniel Haswell!

The General strides into the Church – ignoring both Trent and Whiteway as he does so. He observers that this is the building that has been causing the delay. Behind him, Alan enters the Church: “Daniel Haswell. We finally meet again”. From Alan’s viewpoint we see, in flashback, as the General turns, the 17 Century Coven Leader.

Alan confronts Haswell, enquiring if they are still to carry out their pact; will his lords vision of destruction be realised through the guise of the defence base? Haswell reminds Alan that the painting behind the wall was his work, that it was a joint vision, and that they now have a second chance to see it through.

Haswell offers Alan “salvation”, but he refuses, saying that 300 years have not changed him, and that he realises what he must do. With that, he hurls himself at Haswell with all his might, so that the two of them are pushed into and through the wall. As the bricks crash down, we see Haswell lying beneath them, dead. Simultaneously, the painting on the wall begins to disappear, and is replaced by the vision of an atomic explosion. Whiteway and Trent, both standing in an archway, realise what Alan had to do, “To save us from destruction”.

As they turn to leave the scene behind them, Caroline runs her hand across the Coven symbol etched into the side of the arch, then bangs her fist onto it.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

The role of Daniel Haswell is another of those restrained villainy type of roles in which PETER WYNGARDE can excel. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that his performance is the only thing that redeems this entire production! Although Haswell is responsible for the only moments of overt terror in this piece, this does not detract from the brooding malevolence which seems to seep from those eyes whenever we see the silent warlock. As with his previously reviewed performance in ‘Night of the Eagle’, PETER gives the role its due and plays it in a way that allows the audience to suspend its feelings of disbelief – the basic premise on which all fantasy films either live or die.

Sadly this suspension of disbelief is blow away very quickly after PETER’s first appearance – this is because the plot’s lynchpin – the tried and trusted fantasy formula of reincarnation. Unfortunately, instead of giving us a basic hero/villain reincarnate to contend with, Dennis Spooner’s script throws us an entire community back from the dead – giving heavy weight to Father Harris’ comment that this WAS a very close community!

This, for me at least, is where this play loses credibility, but this may not be entirely attributable to the author as his work was apparently heavily rewritten by the Series Script editor, John Peacock.

Also, the film suffers somewhat by having too many characters, none of which are fully developed. Thus we are forced to accept scant descriptions of many relationships contained therein. Characters seem to be introduced simply to move the plot along – as if the writer had merely sat down and penned this at great speed, circumventing any problems by throwing in a new body.

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PETER (right) as General Haswell

The relationship between Whiteway and Trent is so intertwined that it gives the impression this was actually one character split down the middle so that casting could benefit by putting in a British and American star and get the best of both markets. What it really does, however, is simply make the Whiteway character look superfluous.

I’m afraid this production strikes as being very bitty. As is the cure with ‘Flashbacks’ stories, we often find ourselves being moved here, there and everywhere in an attempt to keep the relevant information in the forefront. Why the shifts back to the Site office each time Haswell calls? Why the scene with the tramp, and why does he have to resemble the 17th Century Priest?

More niggling questions spring to mind: Why would Alan’s Gran go to the scene of Kim’s murder to pray, when the Church had been deconsecrated for years, and how was she not spotted by security guards making her way there? Indeed, why did Alan run back to his Grandmother’s house in the first place – surely he’d have realise that the police would be looking for him?

But if you can skip over plot holes and live with the skimpy characterization, there is always PETER to save the day, which he does admirably in his ice-cool portrayal of the vengeful Haswell.

To close on ‘And The Wall Came Tumbling Down’. This review is obviously personal, so don’t just take my word for it – see it for yourself. At the risk of sounding like a last minute turncoat, I DID like the ending!

Written by Al Samujh


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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