ACT OF GOD (1980)


Some Lightning Experiences 1966-1980

Thunder and lightning are called for in The Tempest, Macbeth, Doctor Faustus, Pericles, King Lear, The Massacre of Paris, Brand, Henry VI Part I, Peer Gynt, Julius Caesar, The Seagull, Rigoletto, The Flying Dutchman, The Valkyrie, The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville Peter Grimes, Oklahoma, Porgy and Bess, Der Freischütz.

A marvellous short film made for Thames TV. A study of lightning and some of the victims who have been struck by lightning. Each victim describes their circumstances in detail. They appear in person except for one where we see a phone and hear the victim's voice on the phone. Each setting is completely different and scrupulously filmed. Statistics of each incident are shown. At brief intervals throughout the film we are shown an apocryphal story related to lightning, which is also narrated to us. It is not dissimilar to The Falls.

Greenaway on Act of God:

"I was asked by Thames, a rather reactionary TV station, to make a half-hour program on any subject whatsoever. In my interest in taxonomies and attempts to classify information, I looked for the most unclassifiable events or phenomena I could think of - which was being struck by lightning. We advertised in the national press for all those people who had been struck by lightning and survived, to come forward to be interviewed - and that's what the film's about. I had hoped to find extraordinary religious experiences, people who felt they'd been punished by God. Most of their reactions were totally banal, but we came across some extraordinary events - girls riding fat ponies down English country lanes and entirely disappearing apart from a pool of cooling fat on the road. I put all these events together and of course everybody thought I had made them up."


1974 Ilfracombe, Devon               1977 Kensington, London


1979 Skegness, Lincolnshire                 1966 Celle, Germany


1979 Tyrell's Wood, Surrey      1975 Neuadd Cross, Cardiganshire


1970 Wrea Green, Lancashire             1971 Lofoten Islands, Norway   


1968 Paddington, London            1971 Blenheim, Oxfordshire   


1970 Badile, Italy               1972 Langdale, Westmorland              1979 Caerleon, Gwent


Collated Statistics TIME OF DAY

11.30, 15.30, 15.30, 15.30, 16.10, 16.30, 18.50, 19.00, 21.30, 23.50.  

Collated Statistics TIME OF YEAR

April 18th, April 25th, Late May, June 24th, July, July 4th, July 23rd, August 6th.

Collated Statistics HEIGHT OF SUBJECT

5'3", 5'3", 5'6", 5'6", 5'7.5", 5'9.5", 5'10.5", 5'11", 5'11", 6'1", 6'2", 6'2", 6'2".

Collated Statistics SUBJECT'S FOOTWEAR

Training-shoes, leather shoes with composite soles, rubber-soled sandals, fell-walking boots, football-boots with plastic studs with metal inserts, fell mountain-boots with rubber soles with a steel shank to stiffen the sole, football-boots with nylon studs, nothing on his feet, a new pair of Crockett and Jones brogues with very heavy Dunlop rubber-soles, just socks.


A metal-frame chair, nothing, an umbrella, nothing, a map-board, arm around his son's shoulder, an umbrella, nothing.


Familiar lightning superstitions suggest that when lightning is present it's advisable to turn mirrors to the wall, hide knives, cover the milk, stay away from trees, keep scissors closed, empty standing water, move away from the fireplace, pull out all electric plugs, and carefully protect your eldest child.


Apocryphal Stories 1 of 10

In September 1970, a woman wheeling her daughter in a metal-frame push-chair on the promenade at Southend, was struck by lightning in a sudden storm and killed.

The child was untouched, but the untended push-chair ran over the edge of the promenade into the sea and the baby was drowned.


Apocryphal Stories 2 of 10

In June 1971, a woman standing on the roof of the spectator's lounge at Luton Airport was struck by lightning and was superficially burnt in ten places that corresponded to the contact of metal on her body.

The pieces of metal responsible were her earrings, a St Christopher medal, a brassiere clip, a wrist-watch strap, a wedding-ring, two suspender-belt hooks, and a six-penny piece she kept for luck fixed in the inside heel of her left shoe.


Apocryphal Stories 3 of 10

On September 21st 1972 lightning struck a horsechestnut tree at Hatfield Heath in Essex. Three minutes later, two miles away, it struck a boy playing conkers in a bus-shelter at Matching.


Apocryphal Stories 4 of 10

In August 1973 lightning struck a paint factory at Middlesbrough, bringing down a vat of sulphuric acid. The acid fell into a yard spattering gloss paint test samples that had been weathering there for fifteen years. The one sample to escape damage was a colour identified on the paint manufacturer's colour chart as electric-blue.


Apocryphal Stories 5 of 10

A harbour authority clerk who had seen his work-mate killed on the quayside at Falmouth when lightning had struck his cap-badge, never failed to take his own cap-badge off if there was a storm about.

The clerk was seen on such an occasion by his superior and was reprimanded for improper dress. A reprimand, that coupled with a charge of negligence conductive to arson, led to the clerk's dismissal.


Apocryphal Stories 6 of 10

An elderly man and his son, taking a stroll arm in arm one night outside a hotel in the Transvaal, received a shock as they were walking over an outcrop of ironstone that had conducted a charge when struck by lightning some considerable distance away.

Knocked down and locked in one another's embrace, they rolled about on the ground unable to disentangle themselves. They were finally separated by other hotel guests who believed them to be drunk and disorderly.


Apocryphal Stories 7 of 10

In August 1977 lightning struck a cottage near East Dereham in Norfolk with no apparent ill-effects until the owner, taking a bath, touched a metal tap with his foot and received a severe shock.

It was subsequently discovered that the whole plumbing system was electrified and remained that way for twenty-four hours until the local electricity authority fitted an earthing device.


Apocryphal Stories 8 of 10

A Park-Ranger in America has been struck by lightning seven times. In 1942 he lost a big toe-nail, in 1969, two eyebrows, in 1970 his left shoulder was seared and in 1972 and 1973 his hair was set on fire. In 1976 his ankle was injured and in 1977 he suffered chest and stomach burns.


Apocryphal Stories 9 of 10

A man with a record of at least three potential suicide attempts regularly climbed the steep hill at the back of his house at Great Malvern every time a storm was forecast to see if he could be struck by lightning.

On one such occasion, a milk-float whose brakes failed to grip the hill-road that was awash with heavy rain, ran out of control, mounted the pavement and knocked down and fatally injured the potential suicide as he was about to set out and climb the hill. 


Apocryphal Stories 10 of 10

A woman at Redcliffe was struck by lightning on her front porch as she was bringing in the milk. It was the first time she had brought the milk in for six years, for her husband, a postman rising early, always did it. On this occasion her husband was off work, laid up in bed, having been bitten by a dog called Flash.





H is for House


Water Wrackets

Dear Phone

Vertical Features Remake

A Walk Through H

The Falls

The Draughtsman's Contract

The Sea in their Blood

Making a Splash

A Zed & Two Noughts

26 Bathrooms  

The Belly of an Architect

Drowning by Numbers

Fear of Drowning

Death in the Seine

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

A TV Dante: The Inferno Cantos I-VIII

Prospero's Books

M is for Man, Music and Mozart


The Baby of Mācon

Lumiere & Company

The Pillow Book

8 1/2 Women

The Death of a Composer

The Tulse Luper Suitcases

The European Showerbath


Tulse Luper


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