League of Gentlemen [1959]

A Gothic-comedy masterpiece, The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special is a horrific anthology of three related stories, all set in Royston Vasey, which takes its inspiration as much from the writings of M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe as the low-budget Hammer and Amicus shockers that the team parodies so affectionately. The stories are all linked by the Dickensian device of Reverend Bernice receiving unexpected guests on Christmas Eve: the first concerns troubled married couple Charlie and Stella becoming unwittingly involved in voodoo and witchcraft; the second features the horrendous Herr Lipp in a Nosferatu skit that reveals the terrible truth about what really goes on in Duisburg; while the third, and best, tells of the horrible hereditary curse that afflicted Dr Chinnery's great-grandfather. This one-off special distils all the League's penchant for disturbing, twisted characterization and macabre humor into a single hour; the result is one of the most daring "comedies" ever seen on British TV. --Mark Walker

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