The Owl Service- Cult TV Review

Whilst carrying out research on the children's TV series The Children of the Stones I heard a bit about a series called The Owl Service. The premise seemed quite interesting so I purchased the set and over the course of a week watched the entire 8 part serial. The series was produced in 1972 for children's television and was based of a book by Alan Garner, but was never shown again as many thought it was too dark and inappropriate for younger viewers, and looking at it now I can kind of see why.

The story is that two families join together to enjoy a holiday together, the dynamic is difficult as both parents are a recently married divorcee and widow couple. They both have a son and a daughter and are trying to get along as a complete family unit. The daughter inherits a house in the country from her dead father and this house is looked after by an eccentric Welsh valley gardener, maid and her son. In the valley nearby there is a mysterious stone with a hole through it and a tale of a love triangle gone wrong when someone is murdered. The story is replaying out again with the son, daughter and the maid's son, almost like a dark prophecy.

Watching it for the first time I was taken with the title sequence, which got me invested straight away. They were strange as they bounced from moody mellow to wonderfully surreal amid squeaky balloon like noise - which I guess are the calls of an owl. The title sequence featured a hand shadow depicting an owl in flight, photographs of the valley and a flickering candle along with sound effects.  All in all the titles set up the creepy mood of the series.
The actress, Gillian Hills, deserves special mention as she is great, playing a precocious girl haunted by an owl dinner service, yes you read that correctly, owl dinner service... as in plates. Sounds daft but it kinda works as she descents into a gentle madness which involves paper owls and an old dolls house.
The owls are most definitely not what they seem.

As a whole the series is worth a look but in my opinion does not chill me as other TV series I have discussed before. I'm not sure why but I wasn't as invested in the characters, apart from Gwyn (the maid's son who wants to better himself by speaking proper) as they seemed spoilt and bratty. The ending is pretty anticlimactic too but I won't spoil it for you here in case you do want to watch it. The small ensemble cast perform admirably, is a small slightly creepy production of an old Welsh myth played straight with a difficult family dynamic. Special mention must be made to the scenery, it was shot outside in the British countryside and is all the better for it, featuring picturesque hills, rivers and woods which adds much to the mood and atmosphere.
So in summation the series is worth watching if you are looking for something new but I'd check out Children of the Stones or the Stone Tapes first.