The sinister and creepy 1976 home movie from the man behind The Wrong Trousers.
Nick Park’s animated films – notably the Wallace and Gromit series – are perhaps the very definition of wholesome, twee Englishness, but his career might have gone in a different direction had he followed up on the promise of an 8mm film that he shot as a teenager.
A Fisherman’s Tale was made during the Easter weekend of 1976, with Park directing, friends Mick Wilkinson and Neil Maver starring, and Hugh Graham and Liam Brodrick helping with production. All five were aged sixteen and seventeen at the time. Shot on a Bell and Howell Standard 8mm camera – which, even at the time, must have been something of an antique – the seven-minute, silent film sat unseen outside the circle of the filmmakers’ family and friends since completion until emerging this summer with newly-added sound effects, music and credits.
It’s an unexpectedly impressive affair – certainly, I’ve seen much more professionally produced shorts that are far less effective. It has a certain Ghost Stories for Christmas vibe about it, with a young fisherman followed by a sinister figure before the film takes a sudden turn from what you might expect and perhaps lurches into Lovecraft territory. It’s creepy, moody and well-shot – and in a strange way, the limitations of 8mm film add to the mystery of it.
On the strength of this, you wonder if Park might have had a full-length horror film in him. For someone living in Northern England in the mid-Seventies, that was probably never going to happen, and no doubt many people are glad that he focused on animation anyway, given how beloved his characters are. I’m glad that this lost oddity has finally been dusted off and made available for public viewing via Bristol’s Cinema Rediscovered, though.
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