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Lonely Water (1973)


Main image of Lonely Water (1973)
16mm, colour, 1.5 min
DirectorJeff Grant
Production CompanyIllustra Films
SponsorCentral Office of Information
COI ProducerChristine Hermon

Cast: Donald Pleasence (voice of the Spirit)

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The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water stands prepared to trap unwary children playing near water.

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Made in the same year as, and eerily redolent of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Lonely Water (1973) plays like a distilled horror film, deploying the menacing tone and special effects normally the preserve of x-rated cinema shockers.

In the same year that Lonely Water was produced, following pressure from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Home Secretary set up a working party to look at ways of reducing accidents caused by drowning. Although statistics have shown a downward turn since the 1970s, drowning remains the third most common cause of accidental death among the under 16s. Given government concerns, water safety was a recurrent theme in fillers across the late 1960s and 70s. Released around the same time as Lonely Water were Teenagers Learn to Swim (1972), Charley Says: Falling in the Water (1973) and Youngsters Learn to Swim (1973). Incorporating humour, Watch with Mother-style animation, or a gently cajoling Rolf Harris, these films in no way prepared audiences for the sudden plunge into the sinister depths that was Lonely Water. "I am the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the fool..." - the Donald Pleasance-voiced grim reaper (before the actor began to specialise in horror with Halloween, US, 1978), presiding over the fate of various foolhardy youngsters (among them Terry Sue Patt, later of Grange Hill, BBC, 1978-2008), can't fail to chill the spine even today.

Apart from a few forays into the sphere of public information commissions for the COI, director Jeff Grant worked as a writer/director for Random Films, best known for their industry-sponsored documentaries, before working extensively in the realm of advertising and corporate filmmaking.

Katy McGahan

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'The COI Collection Volume 4: Stop! Look! Listen!'. It can also be viewed on the BFI's YouTube channel.

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:27)
Charley Says: Strangers (1973)
Don't Look Now (1973)
Play Safe: Kites and Planes (1978)
Grange Hill (1978-2008)
Pleasence, Donald (1919-1995)
Public Information Fillers