Lost Heart (1973) based on a tale by the marvellous ghost story teller MR James, is one of the Ghost Stories adapted by the BBC for the Yuletide series, adapted by Robert Chapman. Filmed on location in Lincolnshire during November, the autumnal scenery and gothic Manor House provide a beautifully effective setting for such a spooky ambient tale.
The story tells of Stephen Elliott, (Simon Gipps) a young orphan boy sent to stay with his much older cousin, Mr Abney (Joseph O'Conor) who's portrayal is reminiscent of Dr Caligari in his jerking movements and animated expressions. The eccentric Mr Abney is an alchemist seeking immortality while young Stephen is plagued by ominous visions of a young gypsy girl and an Italian boy, with their hearts missing...
Use of lighting and creepy, distinctive hurdy-gurdy music raises tension dramatically to truly spine chilling effect, it accompanies the appearances of the children, who are akin to Nosferatu with their sharp long nails and menacing grins.
Although the actual horror is muted, it does not deter from the terrifying tale. As a lifelong horror fan, I'm not sure what specifically I find so frightening, but this tale has succeeded in delivering a lasting impact.
"Lost Hearts belongs to a great native tradition whose influence is with us still. Long may such films rise from their graves!" - Ramsey Campbell