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to both the inherent limitations and the remarkable potentialities of the genre.


We are often told that televi- sion is a writer’s medium, but this seems to be little more than an excuse for the mediocre mise


en scène evident in many ac- claimed American series of re- cent years; individual writers rarely make much impact, their contributions being controlled by a showrunner or producer. By contrast, SUPERNATURAL is the product of an era of British televi- sion in which the writer genuinely


was the auteur, and there is a re- spect, even a reverence, for the spoken word here which is rarely encountered nowadays.


encounter a poet named Ama- deus. It is also the name gener- ally given to an enciphered letter sent by Edward Elgar to Dora Penny, and Muller’s Dorabella is certainly a “text” whose meaning is not apparent on the surface. Using only the most basic re- sources (though there is far more location filming here than usual) and some poetic dialogue, direc- tor Simon Langton creates a hauntingly evocative portrait of female power and male impo- tence, as notable for what it re- frains from doing (the word vampire is not used until near the end) as for what it does. A


scene in which Dorabella first hints at her supernatural powers by juggling some apples, then throwing them to a guest, who unexpectedly finds himself ca- pable of juggling them, then passes them on to another guest, who does the same thing, could hardly be simpler or more effective. Masculine fear of inde- pendent female sexuality—a key concern of the Gothic—is at the heart of this televisual gem, and if the narrative can only resolve itself by viewing Dorabella’s tri- umph in terms of horror (the nov- elized version has a somewhat different resolution), this testifies


The primitive video equip- ment used to shoot SUPERNATU- RAL has inevitably resulted in this two-disc set released by the Brit- ish Film Institute looking like a VHS transfer. Candles, which feature in most episodes, evi- dently posed particular prob- lems, but the various directors did their best to turn the bud- getary and technological limita- tions into assets: obviously painted backdrops give the stu- dio sets an entirely appropriate feeling of unreality, and the grainy imagery, drained of color, suggests (perhaps especially to someone who recalls viewing the series as a child) the quality of a shadowy dream, or a dream remembered. There are no extras (aside from a BBC test card from the period), but all eight episodes have En- glish subtitles for the hard of hear- ing (particularly useful for making out Amadeus’ whispered poem), and the package contains a 20- page booklet with an excellent essay by Julian Upton, a biog- raphy of Robert Muller by the late Tise Vahimagi, and complete credits for the series (including the names of uncredited bit-part players).


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