Monday, Jan. 19, 2009

Children of the Stones

By David Luhrssen
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The idea that dangerous primeval vestiges remain neatly tucked into the British countryside is at least as old as Arthur Machen and other horror authors of a century ago. The theme enjoyed a pop culture revival with the popularity of a movie called The Wicker Man (1973), which imagined the persistence of an age-old cult. From this climate came “Children of the Stones,” a 1976 British television production about strange doings in a remote hamlet surrounded by standing stones that were old when Stonehenge was young.

The series is out now on DVD.

A much-loved cult item in the UK, “Children of the Stones” concerns astrophysicist Adam Brake (with his teenage son in tow) who arrives in remote Milbury armed with a research grant and devices for measuring the magnetism of the village’s ancient stone ring. The locals are a shifty lot with their cryptic allusions and odd ways. They are keeping a secret that Brake, hardheaded man of science, can’t see through the thicket of his theories.

“Children of the Stones” has strengths and weaknesses, including an intriguingly weird choral score (Ligetti meets the Bulgarian Women’s Choir) deployed melodramatically, an occasionally witty script that tries to squeeze too much information into everyday banter, and a capable cast up against a painfully tight budget. Yet “Children’s” themes hold interest and the simplicity of its presentation gives rise to nostalgia in our era of too much CGI and not enough story.

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