This one’s a little adjacent to the theme of Christmas ghost stories and folk horror. ‘A Photograph’ is a chilling 1977 addition to the long-running Play for Today series, not a Ghost Story for Christmas, but it was written by John Bowen, who wrote two of them, the M.R. James-derived ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas’ and his own original but less well-regarded piece ‘The Ice House’. However, one of his other Play for Today contributions, ‘Robin Redbreast’, is a legendary piece of TV folk horror, and ‘A Photograph’, now finding a new audience thanks to a BFI release of a box-set of the plays, has more in common with this sub-genre than at first appears, both structurally and thematically.
Not only that, but the philandering Michael Otway, played with consummate smugness by John Stride, is an M.R. James protagonist for a more permissive age. As a TV and radio intellectual who regards the working classes as ‘Morlocks’, he bears more than a passing resemblance in his complacent arrogance to the Reverend Justin Somerton in ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas’. Despite the lack of any supernatural element, the mysterious photograph provides the haunting element in a ghost story without a ghost but full of dread and unease.
Here’s the trailer for the first volume of this series: