Moondial is back on DVD

Monday, 04 May 2015 23:00 Written by 

Moondial - Back on DVD at last, so you no longer have to pay a princely sum for itTeenage girl Minty goes to stay with her Aunt Mary during the school holidays, and shortly afterwards her mum is seriously injured in a car crash. Feeling miserable and a little cut off, Minty (Siri Neal - Sharpe's Battle) explores her surroundings, becoming fascinated with Belton House, a large stately home with a well-tended garden. In the grounds stands a mystical sundial that allows Minty to travel back in time to the 1800s. On her first time-trip she bumps into Tom (Tony Sands - "The Krays"), a perky, young footman at the house. Minty discovers that Tom is sick with tuberculosis and gravely mistreated by the adult servants. She also learns about Sarah, a facially-disfigured girl who is bullied by the other children and considered a 'devil child' by the adults. Minty must work quickly to save Tom and Sarah, though there are evil forces pitted her.

And now, this serial is back on DVD thanks to Second Sight - having long been out-of-print since its original DVD release by Revelation back in 2000. The original copies have been fetching huge sums on the internet, showing there's definitely a market for it!

Moondial is an atmospheric and very intriguing mini-series based on a novella for children by Helen Cresswell, famous for her Lizzie Dripping and The Bagthorpe Saga books. Over the course of six twenty-five minute episodes, the mysteries of the sundial's interaction with the moon, the plight of Tom and Sarah, and the fate of Minty's mother play out.

The rather vague, ethereal nature of the plot is both a blessing and a curse. It encourages the viewer to use their imagination, rather like they would if they were reading the original book, and it helps to unsettle us as we join Minty in her struggle to comprehend what is going on. There are a few loose ends and some details are not fully explained, which can frustrate is you are one those people who likes everything laid out clearly. I am glad to say that, on balance, I found it was more a strength than a weakness, as long as you can suspend your sense of disbelief.

Neal is excellent in the central role, full of pluck, self-sufficiency and inquisitiveness. Sands is wonderfully chirpy and the combination of 1980s' teenager and 1800s' boy-servant works very well, with plenty of fizzing chemistry between the two young actors. Amongst the adult actors involved, Valerie Lush (And Mother Makes Three) adds warmth to an otherwise quite chilly serial through the role of Aunt Mary, and Jacqueline Pearce (Blake's 7, "White Mischief") is brilliant as the meddling and rather threatening Miss Raven.

Special effects are light on the ground but it really does not matter because effective use is made of filters to drain the picture of some colour when Minty goes back in time, and night scenes were actually shot during the day and then darkened to create an oppressive, otherworldly quality.

Best of all is the foreboding, imposing theme tune by David Ferguson (Dark Season, Cracker), which immediately sets the sinister, magical tone as the sundial spins during the opening credits.

Special features include:

  • Interview with director Colin Cant
  • Interview with actor Siri Neal
  • Commentary from Cant and Neal on episodes 1 and 6

Cant and Neal divulge some interesting memories concerning the production of the mini-series, including how Neal was held back from the initial casting line-up because she had been naughty at school! The two are evidently thrilled about their involvement in a cult classic. The picture quality is a little fuzzy but nothing to worry about.

Moondial (1988) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Second Sight Films. The single-disc has a running time of 158 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:43

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