Dig the demonic dressing gown

Stills from "Fever" - 8mm film by Graham Edwards and Phil Tuppin, broadcast on BBC Screen Test in 1981

Updated September 2021 with montage of stills and video clip

One of my earliest adventures in fantasy film-making was the epic Fever, made in collaboration with my long-time buddy Phil Tuppin. It was a four-minute horror movie made with a Standard-8mm clockwork camera and entered for the BBC’s Screen Test Young Film-Makers of the Year competition. And, yes, it actually got broadcast in the Highly Commended category, although they censored the second half for fear it would “give younger viewers the heeby-jeebies”!

The key special effect in this epic is a shot of a demonic dressing gown crawling across a boy’s bedroom floor, shortly before throttling said boy (who’s lying unconscious in bed with a fever) to death. We did it using good old stop-motion animation. Each frame, I extricated myself from behind the camera, picked my way across the room without disturbing any of the artfully-arranged props, moved the gown the requisite inches, then clambered back out of shot ready for Phil to click the shutter. Our rudimentary lighting apparatus meant all this was done under the searing glare of bare 200W bulbs positioned close enough to our faces to act as sunlamps. Most of the other gown shots were puppeteered with garden canes taped into the arms.

It was all back-breaking stuff, but so rewarding to see it all come to life when we got the processed film back from Kodak a fortnight later – yes, this was pre-video and definitely pre-digital.

5 thoughts on “Dig the demonic dressing gown

  1. Oh my Goodness – I was just explaining to my business partner about seeing this on screen test – I was one of the younger viewers who definitely got the heebie-jeebies. She put dressing gown crawling across the floor into Google and found your blog. I would love to see the film again, if only to exorcise it.

  2. Hi Graham,

    I’m the co-author of a book called Scarred For Life; it’s a two-volume tome about growing up in the 70s and 80s surrounded by scary kids’ shows, bleak dramas, public information films, violent comics and horror-themed toys, games and sweets. Volume One: the 1970s has been a big success for us, leading to live shows and a possible TV series in the planning stages!

    We’re currently hard at work on Volume Two: the 1980s, and we’re planning to feature a short piece on Screen Test’s Young Film-maker of the Year competition. So many of those films are burnt into people’s memories (I had nightmares about a particular one involving a child-murdering ice-cream man!), and Fever crops up again and again in our Twitter feed whenever they’re mentioned. So I was delighted to find your website, and this article in particular.

    Do you still have Fever? Is it transferred to video? Would you be open to answering a few questions about the making of Fever (for a start, I’d love to know what year it was transmitted!)?

    My email address is ste1bro@hotmail.co.uk

    Thanks in advance, and thank you for scarring some of our readers and Twitter followers for life 🙂

    Stephen Brotherstone

    1. Hi Stephen

      Thanks for getting in touch. As a child of the ’70s who grew up reading Action comic and watching Sapphire & Steel, I’m tickled pink to learn that the little film we made has carved such deep scars into the nation’s psyche. I’ll definitely be in touch!

      Best wishes

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