David Pirie – author and film critic


David Pirie is a screenwriter, film producer, film critic, and novelist.

As a screenwriter, Pirie has written numerous mysteries and horror-themed works, mostly for television, including the ITV series Murderland starring Robbie Coltrane (2009). He was nominated for a BAFTA for his adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1997).

The Woman in White
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He originated a completely new approach to Sherlock Holmes with his two episode pilot Murder Rooms (2000) which was partly based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s early life. It won rave reviews  and was the second highest rated of all dramas on BBC2 in its year, spawning a series of books and TV shows, most notably Murder Rooms: The Patient’s Eyes (2001). Pirie was credited as associate producer for both titles. He provided the script for the horror film, Element of Doubt (1996), and worked (uncredited) on the screenplay for Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996).

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Pirie has written numerous film reviews for such publications as Sight and Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin. He was the Film Section editor of the London listings magazine Time Out. His first book, A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946 – 1972 (1973), was the first book-length survey of the British horror film, and is still considered the definitive study of that particular period. In it he analyses the films of Hammer and Amicus, as well as other British horror phenomena, including the works of Michael Reeves as well as what Pirie referred to as Anglo-Amalgamated’s “Sadean Trilogy”, beginning with Horrors of the Black Museum in 1959 and continuing with Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom.

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An updated version of Pirie’s book, entitled A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema was published in 2008. Film-maker Martin Scorsese described it as “the best study of British horror movies and an important contribution to the study of British cinema as a whole.”

Pirie’s other film related works include The Vampire Cinema (1975) and Anatomy of the Movies (1981, as editor). The Vampire Cinema is considered by many to be a seminal genre book, as it offered some of the first detailed coverage of films by European directors such as Jean Rollin to appear in the UK. It was also mildly controversial because of the extensive nudity featured in the film stills used as illustrations, at a time when horror film books were still widely read by a younger audience.

The Vampire Cinema
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He has written several novels, including Mystery Story (1980), The Night Calls (2003), and The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (2006).


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