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Does anyone have any good Gothic films to recommend? I have seen several of the Hammer Horror films that I believe fall in this category.
BTW, has anyone seen The Monk?
I think I prefer the German-language version, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht. It's a slow-moving film, and there are many scenes where Herzog holds a shot for a long time. There's a risk of this becoming boring. In the German version the shots are held even longer, but the effect is to get over or break through the 'boredom barrier', and become almost hypnotic. It must be even more so on the big screen.
This isn't really playing the game, but when trying to think of 'Gothic' on screen, I keep coming back to a children's TV programme I caught a little of in 1986 - still, that was enough for it to stay with me. So despite it being small- rather than big screen, and unavailable, I would repectfully direct your attention to this Wikipedia entry for 'Tottie":
As for something that should be available, how about:
The Ghoul (Boris Karloff, 1933 (I think) a UK Horror film almost as good as the early Universals. A beautifully clear print has recently surfaced and is available on DVD in the UK).
Blood on Satan's Claw AKA Satan's Skin
The BBC adaptations of MR James's stories from the 1970s - if any of these are available in the US (Jonathan Miller's 1968 'Omnibus' (an Arts Programme) Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You and 1972's A Warning to the Curious came out on DVD from the BFI.)
Actually, I have seen these uploaded on YouTube, and in addition a version of Le Fanu's Schalken the Painter. This is a poor-quality time-coded VHS copy that must have originated from the BBC Production Office. Still, it may be the only way we'll ever see it.
That's if it's still there - the Beeb jealously guards it copyrights!
That Tottie series sounds interesting. The BBC seems to put out some great adaptions. I liked their version of Sweeney Todd that I saw about a year ago. I'll have to check some sites to see about the availability of those MR James adaptions along with the LaFanu. Thanks for the recommendations.
The 1972 film was shown on UK terrestrial TV some time in the last ten years (the BBC again - bless them!)
whilst the 1990 version starring Paul McGann was on satellite TV (Rupert Murdoch's Sky) around 2005.
But now I'm going to be niggled all day wondering why 'The Bridges of Madison County' came up in the first page of search results for the UK site. And if you go down a couple of pages on the US site you get to 'The French Chef With Julia Child'.
Never fails to mystify me, Amazon.
Some films have never been released on DVD (and will probably never see a Blu-Ray release) and in those cases I take the freebooting route sine the only other option is to allow them to remain unwatched. Not sure if that is the case with any of the films listed here though. Some of the BBC stuff you might be able to watch on Youtube. I have used Youtube to view several BBC documentaries.
I've edited this post for fear I've inadvertently breached LT terms and conditions, or that BBC lawyers will come after me.
However, it can't hurt to list the BBC MR James adaptations, and the loose "Ghost Stories for Christmas" series of which they formed the major part.
(Please note a couple of story titles were slightly changed from James's originals. The programmes are between 35 to 50 minutes long.)
Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968) film, b/w
The Stalls of Barchester (1971) film, colour (as are all the following)
A Warning the the Curious (1972) film
Lost Hearts (1973) film
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974) film
The Ash Tree (1975) film
The Signalman (1976) film (Dickens, not M R James)
Stigma (1977) film? (this is an original modern-day screenplay)
The Ice House (1978) film? (another original screenplay, and apparently not highly regarded)
A View From A Hill (2005) video (but processed to look "filmic")
Number 13 (2006) video ("filmic")
It's a handsome production (shot on film) and the plot is faithful to the novel (the running time of 146 minutes allows for this). Vasily Livonov's Holmes is more genial than most modern portrayals (and is less sharp-featured, bearing a faint resemblance to the English actor Peter Egan). Vitaly Solomin is a very good, youngish Watson.
Costumes and sets aim for fidelity to the late-Victorian English setting. There are a couple of deviations. Sir Henry seems to be presented as a caricature of an American (he's been living in Canada, you'll recall) and Laura Lyons is presented as a vamp (perhaps her "fall" had to be presented in stronger terms for it to make sense to the Russian audience - a women doesn't have to fall very far at all, in Victorian society, to be a "fallen woman"; in the terms of Conan Doyle's fictional world, at any rate.
As this production was filmed in the USSR, the locations cannot always replicate 19th Century London or the environment of Dartmoor. On their own terms they are effective, often impressive.
On a technical level, it doesn't say anywhere on the packaging but I assume the 2 DVDs are coded for Region 2. It does say that it's authored from a DigiBeta source; this may explain a couple of moments where the picture breaks up in shivers and blocky artifacting.
One the whole this is one of the best screen versions of Doyle's novel I've seen, allowing for it's idiocyncrasies.
Incidentally, in hunting for that I've been quite astonished at how many versions are available. I even found one with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore! I have absolutely no memory of that one coming out.
Anyway, I just wanted to give it a recommendation - brilliant performance by Denholm Elliot. I seem to remember the BBC showing it again on his death as a tribute to him, so it must be a widely-admired piece.
I probably saw most of the pieces you listed as that was a period - my twenties - when I really loved that kind of stuff, but 'The Signalman' and 'Whistle and I'll Come to You' are the only ones that seem to have really stuck in my mind down through the years - especially 'The Signalman'.
The television companies must have so much good-quality, old stuff that they're presumably unlikely to show again: I wish they'd work up some sort of system analogous to book-publishing's 'print on demand'.
The Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film is reputed to be dreadful, unfortunately. But, your mentioning it did remind me of Gene Wilder's film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. The film features a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-him seconds of Douglas Wilmer as Sherlock.
Wilmer played Holmes for one season on the BBC in the 1960's ('season' would not have been UK television usage at the time, of course) and is still held by some to be the best screen Holmes ever. Unfortunately I've never seen any of these stories. They may even no longer exist (although, Peter Cushing replaced Wilmer in a second BBC series, and his stories not only exist, but have been released on DVD. So maybe they have survived).
Even Wilmer's one official BBC publicity photo fails to give any idea of him as Holmes, as it makes him look more like Roddy McDowell than himself. So the film may be the only indication of what his performance on TV was like.
A company called Network DVD have been releasing masses of material from the old ITV companies (that's the commercial television companies that have been broadcasting in the UK in competition with the publicly-funded BBC since the mid-'50s, for anyone reading who didn't know).
There's a lot of sitcoms and children's TV (some of the latter may be of interest - Children of the Stones or the surviving 3rd series of Ace of Wands, say) but also material that should fit squarely here, for example:
- All the surviving episodes from Mystery and Imagination.
- A 1979 updated Casting the Runes (includes as a bonus a short adaptation of Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance, made for schools, which has much of the atmosphere of the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas).
- The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, the first series of which includes Donald Pleasance as Carnacki the Ghost Finder in a version of The Horse of the Invisible.
These are all coded for Region 2, I should mention.
It's encoded for Region 4. It apparently includes all the M R James "Ghost Stories for Christmas" (including the two "Noughties" titles) plus the 1968 and 2010 (or 2011- not sure) versions of "Oh Whistle..." (I haven't said anything about the new version because I recorded it off-air but haven't seen it yet).
The box set also includes "Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas" from (I think) 2000, which was Lee reading M R James stories, in character as James.
Non-James stories are not included, so no "Signalman" and no chance to assess the two original screenplays (although since I posted above, the whole of "Stigma" appeared on YouTube, so I've seen that now. Only "The Ice House" remains a mystery).
The Box Set is distributed by Shock Records, if it's worth your while getting hold of Region 4 discs.
Mystery and Imagination sounds like a good one to keep my eye out for.
Yes, Hands of the Ripper is a good one.
My brother got me the coffee mug for Christmas (no comment on my character, I hope!)
This is a short film from 1952 credited to Irish actor-managers Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammóir (founders of Dublin's Gate Theatre Company), and notable for the presence of Orson Welles as star and narrator.
At the time of production Edwards and MacLiammóir were involved in Orson Welles' Othello. This was a project subject to many delays, mostly financial in nature but including the fact that Edwards and MacLiammóir had to return to Dublin for their company's regular season.
The feel of the film is very like radio dramas of the time (which of course Welles had plenty of experience of), with Welles as the host who recounts the story rather than being at the centre of events. The fact that all the sound was clearly added in post-production added to this feeling, for me.
The film starts on the set of Othello but swiftly moves to Ireland. Welles (as himself) is driving into Dublin when he stops to assist a man whose car has broken down. He gives the man a lift, and during the journey the man tells Welles about a supernatural experience he had, at the very spot where his car broke down tonight...
We see this story played out in flashback, with a voiceover narration from Welles. The story is quite slight (and very similar to Oliver Onions' short story "The Cigarette Case"). Despite almost nothing happening, the film does have an authentic feeling of the uncanny. It was well-thought of enough to be nominated for an Academy Award, and then disappeared from circulation for the best part of 40 years.
In the early 90's a producer called Richard Gordon acquired the film and made it available again (with an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich and a new overall title, "A Tribute to Orson Welles".
I know that this version has been aired on British television at least once, but it's now available commercially, as the bonus feature to a 1955 portmanteau film called Three Cases of Murder (Odeon Entertainment, Region 0). Welles is also in this "main feature".
I'm sure you're sick to death of this subject now, but I will just say that the BBC M.R. James adaptations, plus "The Signalman" and the two original plays, are scheduled for release from BFI films on DVD between August and October, on 5 separate discs, and then available in one box-set in October.
These are, needless to say, Region 2 PAL discs, but if you're overseas (from my perspective) and have a multi-region DVD player you may be able to view them (as a comparison, I have a 10-year old television set that's happy to display Region 0 NSTC discs).
Quite a reasonable price for a five-disc set, too.
I'm wishlisting that.
["I'm not sure, but I have it in the back of my mind that BFI releases tend to be in limited quantities. Do they tend to sell out; or have I got my wires crossed somewhere?" Should I pre-order or wait till it's released in the hope of finding a cheaper deal?"
"Am I being a cheapskate?"
"Yes, you are - pre-order it!"
"Okay - I'm pre-ordering it."
"Honestly! The way you faff about with these things - it's only a couple of quid!"
"I should think so!"]
Sorry about that - just thinking aloud.
["Just shut up and post!"
"The Signal Man" and "The Stalls of Barchester" are ones I particularly remember. I also remember watching Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
"Whistle and I'll Come to You" (1968) (42 mins)
"Oh, Whistle and I'll come to You, My Lad" (the original story) read by Neil Brand (over a still from the 1968 film) (42 mins)
Introduction by horror writer Ramsey Campbell (16 mins)
Ramsey Campbell reading his M R James-inspired story "The Guide" (27 mins)
Campbell's stuff is recorded in a horribly echoey acoustic. The story, in particular, is best listened to on headphones.
All the above was on the BFI 2001 release. The following are new:
"Jonathan Miller and Christopher Frayling discuss Whistle and I'll come to You" (3 mins)
It's actually the opening of the 1968 film (Miller's spoken introduction), then two very short unused bits of interview from a 2012 BBC Documentary on Miller; first Miller, then Frayling (separately, not discussing the film "head to head").
"Whistle and I'll come to You" (2010)
This got quite a mauling when it first aired, and it actually put me off watching an off-air copy that I made. It's better than I'd been led to expect from its reception, and sad as well as scary. I think the ending does let it down, though. I won't say any more though - no spoilers.
A 26-page booklet.
More on the BBC Ghost Stories DVD releases:
Disc two contains:
'The Stalls of Barchester'' (1971)
'A Warning to the Curious' (1972)
Both films have 10-minute introductions by director Lawrence Gordon Clark (evidently he's being interviewed and his answers edited together to remove the questioner.)
There are also the versions of these stories from 'Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee' (2000) in which Lee (or rather, Sir Christopher, plays not M R James but the narrator of M R James's stories, for whom the events are real. (The relevant article in the booklet makes this clear despite the voiceover in the opening scene.)
A 43-page booklet.
You might want to note that the extra from the 2002 release of 'A Warning to the Curious', a reading of the story by Michael Hordern, does not appear on the new disc.
'Lost Hearts' (1973)
'The Treasure of Abbot Thomas' (1974)
'The Ash Tree' (1975)
All stories have introductions from Lawrence Gordon Clark in the same format as on the previous disc.
A 30-page booklet.
'The Signalman' (1976)
'The Ice House' (1978)
The first two stories have introductions from Lawrence Gordon Clark in the same format as on the previous disc. 'The Ice House' was directed by Derek Lister and has no introduction.
A 22-page booklet.
The 2002 release of 'The Signalman' included a reading of the story by John Nettleton. It's not included here.
Currently, they're saying I should have it at the start of November.
I'm hoping that the other two Christopher Lee stories are bonus features on disc five.
The essays in the booklets are very good (i.e. I tend to agree with them!)
It's also been released under the titles 'Seduction of a Priest' and 'The Final Temptation'. It's directed by Francisco Lara Polop. Somebody is currently trying to sell a VHS copy on Amazon.co.uk for £46.00.
I'm currently watching the latest version of 'The Monk'.
It's not currently available in the UK, but I've been able to order a German Region 2 DVD of Ken Russell's 'The Lair of the White Worm'. On YouTube (search for 'Trailers From Hell'), the producer describes it as 'Wildean'. Well, we'll see...
Okay - I can work up a near nervous breakdown about practically anything: I haven't read one or two of the stories - now I'm stressing over whether I read them first or watch them first!
I thought the film worked well enough on its own terms. It's a long time since I read the novel, so I wasn't in the position of constantly being brought up short by changes to the story, dropped subplots and characters, and things like that.
It was broadcast on December 23rd '79, but the BBC seems to have classed it as part of their 'Omnibus' rather than their 'Ghost Story for Christmas' series; but the same seems to go for 'Whistle and I'll Come to You', and that's included.
Oddly, if you search UK Amazon for it this box set is the only hit you get. In reality, it doesn't seem to be available on DVD.
ETA - If you search US Amazon for it you get 'Doctor Who' Season 5 - work that one out!
This apparently has some reputation as (possibly) the first Hollywood film to treat ghosts seriously in a drama. It leans very much towards the mainstream/romantic side of the gothic - perhaps that's why I wasn't really aware of it (unlike notionally more obscure or even lost films whose memory is kept fresh in books and magazine articles illustrated with a few familiar stills - 'London after Midnight', 'Phantom of the Opera', 'Black Sunday', say).
It's just become available on DVD in the UK. Brother and sister Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald (Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey) discover a clifftop mansion while on holiday in Cornwall. Pamela (reminded of their childhood home) persuades her brother that they should buy the house. It's haunted, naturally, but the danger isn't primarily directed at them. It's directed towards Stella (Gail Russell), the orphaned daughter of the previous owners, and a woman that Roderick finds himself falling in love with...
Critic Jonathan Rigby's judgments are generally pretty sound, but I think he was a little harsh in his estimation in American Gothic: sixty years of horror cinema: "wrapped in so suffocating a mantle of faux-english gloss that it turns its tale...into a peculiarly twee after-dinner anecdote." Points against the film are it general air of a 1940s 'women's picture', and Ray Milland's wisecracking sometimes breaks the tension instead of coming over as 'whistling in the dark'; but there are enough moments where it succeeds in capturing the atmosphere of a Val Lewton horror film.
As an aside, Stella by Starlight (later to become a jazz standard) was created for this film - Milland's character is a composer.
I never expected YouTube to compete for my viewing time, but the searchability and unexpectedness of finds make it seriously addictive.
Since my last post, I've read that The Uninvited is currently only available in the UK. I've always assumed (mistakenly, it seems) that where DVD releases are concerned the US has everyone we get and more, and what we do get is shorn of extras.
I value YouTube for old TV and films and music videos - in fact as a free international b******s-to-copyright audio-visual library. The people ranting against evolution or falling off skateboards - what it was originally designed for - I can cheerfully do without. Or at least stop recommending them, YouTube!
The reason I'm here at this ungodly hour (1:33 GMT) is that I looked on Amazon.co.uk earlier and The Stone Tape is listed as another BBC Ghost Story for Christmas, due (I think) 26 November.
So if the series is being extended maybe, just maybe, Schalken the Painter will get a release at some point.
I'll also mention again, for completists, the Network DVD of the updated ITV Casting the Runes from 1979 (stars Edward Petherbridge, Jan Francis, Iain Cuthbertson; it's shot on a mixture of studio videotape and location film (like 'classic' Doctor Who)). It also features a made-for-schools Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance from 1976, and a documentary from 1995.
Time for bed!
I like YouTube but I'm getting really annoyed lately by their continually trying to get hold of my mobile phone number and me to use my real name. It was a sad day when Google took over YouTube. Tangent - sorry (but it's a sore point).
I watched another from my 'Ghost Stories for Christmas' box set, last night - Stigma.
I wasn't impressed - a quite sketchy storyline and in large part an excuse to get a serious actress to show her breasts. This was 1977 and around that time, I remember, they'd stick bare breasts in almost anything, so I can't say they were to cover the shortfalls in the story; but, that attitude of 'it's legitimate nudity because this is a really serious drama and it's really in context' makes me uncomfortable. So often it's hypocrisy and, of course, it makes you complicit in it. I'm not a prude (oh ye gods - a negatively-loaded cliché if ever there was one - shades of Mary Whitehouse), but I prefer honest, upfront titillation.
I wrote that under the impression I'd already posted here about watching 'The Signalman' - obviously I hadn't, so ...
It really was as good as I remembered. It's faithful to the story - which I read for the first time immediately after watching - no liberties taken at all.
Denholm Elliot was painting the portrait of the signalman with a really subtle brush, as it were - nothing showy or over the top - and his performance convinces me he was perfectly familiar with Dickens's story (though he didn't actually look much like Dickens's signalman; but that's not at all important).
If I have any criticism it's that Bernard Lloyd, who played 'The Traveller' (equivalent of the narrative voice of the written story), wasn't quite up to Elliot's weight in terms of acting (broader brush strokes?). He was perfectly adequate, though, and it seems a bit carping even as I'm writing it.
Reading the story was something else again, though - a tremendous piece of work, I thought. But that's for elsewhere ... actually, I was so impressed I'm working up a post about it for my blog.
But, if you're going to "do" body horror, don't you need a body? I was more impressed by this story than I expected to be, given the reputation of the two modern day stories. Also, I first saw it on YouTube back in the spring. The whole programme had unexpectedly been uploaded and it had the air of an unexpected treat.
It seemed to be a very "70s" story, insofar as a male writer was obviously trying to address "women's issues" and doing it via some familiar ingredients: the domestic round, friction between mother and teenage daughter, unobservant/useless men, haunted bronze age tomb ... well maybe that last one was not quite so familiar (but if it was going to turn up anywhere, it would be in the 1970s!).
The YouTube comments, by the way, were split between surprise at actual bare breasts on YouTube, and indignation at the cavalier treatment of an archeological site. It must be the influence of Time Team.
Incidentally, it wasn't really Britt Ekland's bottom.
The story goes that she had no problem at all with showing her breasts, but absolutely refused to show her bottom - didn't like her bottom, apparently. So they waited till she was safely off set one night and secretly sneaked in a stripper and filmed the scene with her. Ekland didn't find out till after filming was finished, and is said to have been furious about it.
Just my curiosity, but I've always been mildly intrigued as to the exact reasons why she was furious. It's not as if the use of body-doubles was unusual.
The irony is that the scene has become iconic in a 'laddish' kind of way and 'Britt Ekland's' bottom has been referenced in a number of Brit comedy shows and so forth.
Back to Stigma: I must be 'Time-Teamed', too - my first thought was, "Whoa! They can't do that to an archaeological site!"
And what about the onions? I'm going to have to watch it again to try to work out the onions - they've been niggling at me.
They consist of 50-minute adaptations of 'The Ferryman' by Kingsley Amis and 'Poor Girl' by 'the other' Elizabeth Taylor (At Mrs Lippincote's, etc.).
'The Ferryman' is clearly an offshoot of Amis' novel The Green Man, in that a novelist who has written a successful 'literary' horror novel (the counterpart to The Green Man) finds himself living in the setting of his novel.
'Poor Girl' is about an Edwardian governess taking up a post in a house where there are
unspoken tensions ("not in front of the servants")between the master of the house and his wife, and their son is creepily knowing (Echoes of 'The Turn of the Screw' here).
In truth, I don't think these are as successful as the best of the BBC films, but my guess would be that it's because of the inherent difficulty in dramatising modern fiction. What works on the page may be too allusive and ambiguous to be easily dramatised, and on the other hand, what would be a throwaway line of dialogue on the page can clumsily signpost the way the whole plot is to unfold when spoken by an actor. 'Poor Girl' suffers from the first problem, 'The Ferryman' from the second.
Region 2 PAL DVD, 100 minutes duration (no extras) from Network DVD.
One of the blogs I've started following has put up some screen grabs and a brief appreciation of the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas 'A Warning to the Curious'. Lovely!
(there's a small mistake - the story was shot on 16mm film, not videotape).
Happy Christmas, all!
Well, in defence of ghosts, one appears (and a giant one, at that) in The Castle of Otranto.
Feuilade's Fantomas and Les Vampires are available on DVD in the UK. The way the camera holds still on a scene for minutes on end, no cuts, and suddenly something genuinely startling happens, is almost like watching CCTV footage. It's curious that something from so early in cinema history can anticipate something so ubiquitous today.
housefulofpaper, The Swan River Press discussion on Longsword by Thomas Leland, first published in 1762, included the claim that Longsword qualifies as a gothic novel that pre-dates The Castle of Ontranto by two years. It has an evil Monk.
Albert Power, the editor, gave a brief definition of what he considered to be gothic which included family secrets, revenge or some such motivation, and a medieval setting, amongst other things. The supernatural was not an essential ingredient in his opinion.
By the way, a very Gothic Christmas to one and all.
In both cases it's difficult to say what if anything is left as "pure" Gothic or "pure" natural philosophy (maybe it's easier in the latter case, if a case could be made for the kind of theoretical physics where it is impossible to test the theories by experimentation because the resources needed are so huge - although I suppose it could be counter-argued that this is a practical rather than philosophical distinction).
For cinema, it must be even more difficult what constitutes an example of "pure" Gothic because literary Gothic had begun subdividing into the various genres before the new medium of film was out of its infancy.
I don't think the presence of the supernatural necessarily lessens a work's claim to be Gothic: surely the 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub's Ghost Story is "more Gothic" than, say, Get Carter (both involve revenge and family secrets).
The reason I've posted about ghosts recently is that these are the DVD releases that I was excited about, or that caught my eye and that I thought others would be interested in hearing about.
I'd be interested in hearing about what other members of this Group would consider to be a Gothic film.
After all that, I'm no longer sure what a "Gothic Christmas" would be ; ) - so I'll settle for wishing you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous one.
Thanks for those links. I think you'd agree that the Wiki list of elements needs to be treated with some care. There are unquestionably Gothic works that don't include all of those elements, and no doubt works that few (or none) would define as Gothic, that do include one or more of them. The main article talks about the English Gothic works of the 18th Century, parallel works in other languages, and subsequent works that developed from or borrowed from the Gothic. The Gothic novels site uses a much more restricted definition.
My feeling is that any attempts to define the Gothic, and say what works are or are not Gothic based on that definition, can only be a quasi-legal exercise and not definitive.
Some of the works we've looked at here, including Arabian Tales and Pulp Science Fiction, are arguably the more interesting for being on the borderline of Gothic. Considering them perhaps helps to sharpen a personal sense of 'the Gothic' - but only, I think, a personal one and not definitive.
The Seventh Victim (1943)
I think this might be my favourite of the horror films that Val Lewton produced in the '40s. It's at least as much film noir as gothic horror. The set up is that a teenage boarder at a fee-paying school (Mary, played by Kim Hunter) has no other family than her wealthy older sister. Mary discovers in the space of a few minutes that her sister has been missing for months, and that the school fees have not been paid. This propels Mary into the dangerous outside world in an attempt to find her sister.
It's still an enclosed world, though, as one character explains to Mary: "Manhattan is only nine miles long and two-and-a-half miles wide. I ain't never been off it. I know it like you know your own back yard". And visually it's all a succession of rooms connected by dark corridors, dark streets, the subway.
The story weaves its various strands of Chandlerish detection, popular Freudianism, genuine old-style gothic horrors, familiar Lewton tropes (including nerve-racking "night walk"), Hollywood romance (although - I suppose due to the War as much as the film's budget - the male lead actors aren't, let's be blunt, as handsome as one would expect from Hollywood's golden age) and, famously and surprisingly (in the days of the Hayes Code), a secret society of devil-worshippers as the villains, and most surprising of all, a persistent thread of morbid lust for death. This runs from the opening shot - a quotation from Donne in a stained glass window to the last shot of the film - which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it.
Scandalously, Lewton's films are still not all available in the UK, but this one be had on DVD (budget price, no extras, sadly).
I own--and ADORE--Dead Ringer! I'm a great fan of all those 'psycho-biddy' films. And I don't find you to be pushing definitions: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte are probably as archetypal as Gothic film can get... :)
On the question of "Gothic - yes or no?", what about "Old Dark House" films (or movies, if you prefer)? I would guess that James Whale's The Old Dark House (1932) would be on most people's lists, but how many others? What prompted the question is, in part, the recent UK DVD release of The House in Nightmare Park, a film from 1972 starring (of all people to make an appearance in this forum) the comedian Frankie Howerd. (The US title was Night of the Laughing Dead and it was recut; at the very least, the pre-credits sequence was discarded and a new title sequence filmed).
Well, the British Film Institute (the BFI) has launched a thing ... not just a 4-month season at the South Bank, but open air screenings around the country, books, DVD and Blu-ray releases. And the subject is Gothic: the dark heart of film.
On the BFI website, a DVD (and, I think, Blu-ray) release of 'Schalken the Painter' is promised.
I hope their website can be viewed outside the UK. Here is the link:
Or not. Let's try this page:
I don't know why that didn't work...I think you get most of the way there with that first link, now.
Does it all work now? Weird...
Am I'm definitely looking forward to that book, Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film .
The one problem I do have is that I will not be near any of the venues when the films are showing.
BTW I watched Polanski's "The Tenant" last night. Very well done, both eerie and, in parts, hilarious.
Today I am introducing my older son and his girlfriend to the original Nosferatu. After that we will watch...Shadow of the Vampire.
My wife is away so I have some control over the day's activities. ;-)
Thank you for posting the BFI Gothic link. The trailer was great with memories of old movies watched with my family in the 1960s coming to the surface.
Thanks. to be honest, the screenings aren't necessarily the most enticing thing for me either (certainly not the open-air ones - have you looked at the do's and don'ts for the British Museum screenings, for instance?). In any case, I'm not a BFI member.
That lovely trailer (which is also on YouTube, by the way) reminded me of quite a few films that deserve to be seen again (or in some cases, to be seen for the first time, like Night and the Hunter, which I recently got on DVD, or Eyes Without a Face, which I must have recorded onto VHS video from a TV screening nearly two decades ago.
I watched Dark Shadows on DVD and enjoyed it more than I'd expected, but that may have been because my expectations had been lowered by the poor reviews it gone on its theatrical release. It does admittedly revisit a lot of themes in Burton's earlier work. Like Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice, this one sets a full-on Gothic aesthetic (over-designed, some argue, or a sort of theme park version of Gothic) against a garish, nylon-and-polyester mid-20th century (specifically 1972) America. And it's played for more for laughs than for pathos. In that sense, it's closer to Mars Attacks! than Edward Scissorhands (but not as broad).
One thing that disappointed me was the climax to the film. In essence, it's a big CGI-heavy super-hero fight, which doesn't really fit tonally with what went before and also brought up memories of the 1999 remake of The Haunting.
I imagine if I had fond memories of the original TV series I wouldn't be very happy with Burton's treatment of it.
However, there is a lot going for this film. The cast is excellent. Johnny Depp in particular, I thought, did a great job, all fish-out-of-water, olde-worlde courtliness played throughout with stiff, Max Schreck body language. There are some good funny bits and genuinely creepy images. And there's a Christopher Lee cameo.
He's making a documentary about M. R. James too, also to be shown this Christmas (he's been tweeting from various James-related locations in the last few days, during filming).
I think I remember seeing an interesting documentary by him on horror films, so I must watch out for the M. R. James doc.
I've never read The 'Tractate Middoth'! The exclamation mark is quite inadequate, there, to express the notes of aggrievement and surprise in which I'd liked to have written. I've just discovered I've been tripped-up yet again by my creation of a 'Long term reading' collection. I've been putting things - especially anthologies and 'collecteds' - in there and then completely forgetting about them - I have a hard enough time keeping track of my 'Currently reading'! I've just checked and I've still got James, Hawthorne, Bierce, Poe and Lovecraft in there - only the gods know how many unread stories - not to mention some more 'collecteds' (I'm trying not to cause confusion between 'collections', as on LibraryThing, and 'collections', as in 'Collected Works of ...') that I've forgotten to put anywhere. And that's not to mention the physical act of finding the things in the chaos around here - just been hunting and the M. R. James has gone AWOL. Must buy more bookcases.
After your previous post I'd meant to put Dark Shadows on my 'to see' list over on Amazon (just done it) - I've quite liked what Tim Burton stuff I've seen in the past. Having said that, I've just been looking on IMDb and I'm surprised to find that he wasn't the director of A Nightmare Before Christmas - always the first thing to my mind when someone mentions Tim Burton. Perhaps something about the boundaries between producer and director blurring?
Incidentally, on IMDb, to me the cast and crew of Dark Shadows look a lot creepier in the pics of the premier than they do in the movie stills.
Now I feel guilty about writing that - is Michelle Pfeiffer an LT member, I wonder, and reading the Gothic Lit forum? Apologies ma'am (just in case).
(sighs) It's not easy being me.
Hello - good to hear from you again! I ought to put on record that I have high regard for Mr Gatiss (indeed, for all members of the League...).
I think the thing about A Nightmare Before Christmas is that it's very much Tim Burton's vision, but he needed Henry Selick's skill as a stop-motion director to bring it to life. Burton's early career was in drawn 2-D animation.
I can definitely empathise with you over the unread books and inaccessible stuff, especially as I'm currently redecorating (slowly) and have one empty room and the others looking ripe for a reality TV show about hoarders.
Yes, it is getting quiet around here, lately. Perhaps The Gothic is more a pursuit for the winter and the darker evenings?
The nearest I am at the moment is the 'Globe Theatre On Screen' DVD of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. I'm not sure if it counts as Gothic but it's 'in the same ball-park'. Haven't watched it yet - I'm saving it for the weekend.
Oddly enough, I've seen it on stage and, of course, I have the text (and a DVD of Gounod's opera), but I don't remember that I've ever seen a screen version, even on telly.
I seem to remember the Burton-Taylor version doesn't have much of a critical reputation. The part of Helen of Troy was increased (from a walk-on!) for Taylor. I wonder if it would have worked if she'd played Mephistopheles? I did see a little of the film on TV a few years ago. The look of it was a lot like the original "Star Trek" when it did Gothic - a lot of lurid red and purple lighting. Maybe this was just at the end though. It may have been a scene set in Hell.
I also saw excerpts played in - I think - an open-air theatre (not the Globe, as far as I can recall; it was filmed too long ago) and recorded for the Open University. This was back when OU programmes were shown on TV. It wasn't all calculus!
Good grief, I haven't read the play for 20 years. I do recall feeling that it consisted of a wonderful beginning - the initial scenes between Faustus and Mephistopheles; a wonderful ending - Faustus's long monologue during his last night; but the middle is just trivial knockabout stuff. Of course I can see the reason behind it, it shows Faustus squandering both his God-given and his infernal gifts, but even so it seems to weaken the play as a work of art (or maybe I was a bit precious 20 years ago and wanted my art to be high-flown and poetical; or again maybe I couldn't appreciate that what lies dead on the page comes alive on the stage. I've never seen a live performance, so I can't make a judgement there).
Funnily enough, I was talking about Richard Burton in The Medusa Touch at work today. Although, I doubt it's a film he'd like to be remembered by, particularly.
This sounds as if it would have been right up my street (there's an excellent, detailed and lengthy review if you scroll down a bit from the other end of the link), yet I have no memories of it at all - either of seeing it or hearing about it. It was obviously on when I had more interesting things to do than watch telly - wish I could remember what they were! Anyway, it's tempting enough that I did the pre-order thing.
I would have been 10 years old when this was transmitted, but I had no memory of it either (mind you I wasn't a "horror kid" then, I was into Science Fiction and Super Hero comics at the time, plus a new BBC drama series could come and go without a lot of hoopla in those days).
However I've since found out a bit about the series. It gets a favourable mention (and a b/w still) in Jonathan Rigby's English Gothic: a century of horror cinema. A couple of years after reading that book, a copy of the novelisation of Supernatural turned up in my local Oxfam bookshop.
As Rigby puts it, the stories/individual episodes offer "clever speculations on the origins of the main Gothic stereotypes." Rather like the US miniseries of a few years earlier, Frankenstein: the true story, the 1977 Supernatural present a spin on the old stories as, well, as the true stories.
Ah. I'd been wondering what, exactly, the reviewer I mentioned - 'peter41' - meant by 'original back stories and human interest elements'. That gets me even more eager to see them.
I found some info on the career of the series' screenwriter, Robert Muller - http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/902572/.
Given what I'd read about the series, I suspected he might have been a fiction writer as well. I found Supernatural: Haunting Stories of Gothic Terror was published in the same year as the series was released, but most of the editions on LT have him as editor rather than author. On the obvious questions - Did he author the book? Which came first, book or series? - I can't find answers.
Actually, though the author list needs cleaning up - there seem to be a number of writers of the same name lumped together - he was definitely a novelist - http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0014_0_14363.html - so it's a pretty fair assumption that he wrote the short stories, too.
And I only came online to check the local weather forecast and now it's ten-past-ten and I haven't even had my breakfast yet. Got carried away again, didn't I?
The cover of the Fontana paperback just has Robert Muller's name without any modifiers or additions, but the title page says "Devised and Edited by Robert Muller".
Here's what the contents page says:
"Dorabella or In Love with Death" by Robert Muller Adapted by Rosemary Timperley
"Lady Sybil or The Phantom of Black Gables" by Robert Muller Adapted by Mary Danby
"Heirs or The Workshop of Filthy Creation" by Robert Muller Adapted by Brian Leonard Hayles
"Countess Ilona or The Werewolf Reunion" by Robert Muller Adapted by Roger Malisson
"Viktoria or The Hungarian Doll" by Sue Lake Adapted by the author
"Mr Nightingale or Burning Masts" by Robert Muller Adapted by the author
"Gall or Ghost of Venice" by Robert Muller Adapted by Rosemary Timperley
I think it's clear that Supernatural was at least as much Robert Muller's baby as (say) The X-Files was Chris Carter's. He wrote all but one of the original "teleplays". The TV series came before the book. He only wrote one of the adaptations.
As an aside (or two), I assume Mary Danby is the anthologist who co-edited the "Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories" series, while Brian Leonard Hayles must be the screenwriter who created the Ice Warriors for "Doctor Who".
Actually, I couldn't resist ordering a copy on Amazon - like I need any more unread books around here! It was just 1p plus postage, so ...
Speaking of Amazon: because I've pre-ordered the DVD set, a DVD of John Wayne's 'Red River' has appeared on my 'Recommended for you' list. I'm not even going to try to work that one out.
I'm never sure whether to be relieved or alarmed when those algorithms get it wrong. It's not that I think the computers know something about me that I don't, it's the worry that anybody who sees the results will assume that they do.
It's not that I think the computers know something about me that I don't, it's the worry that anybody who sees the results will assume that they do.
Rest assured, it's the same technology supermarket chains use with their loyalty cards data. Oh!, and Yes, it's the same technology the US security agencies use to interpret people's library loans and purchases to identify potential security risks and to direct surveillance.
I was up to my uxters in these systems (from a supermarket loyalty card viewpoint, honest) when I read Philip K Dick's Minority Report. Having finished the book I thought, "Why would one need pre-cogs, the sales data tells all."
It is quite scary how much one can deduce from these massive amounts of data and how behaviour can be influenced on-foot of that knowledge.
Of course, your comment, "the worry that anybody who sees the results will assume that they do." is the key that opens the door of error.
That, I hope, is a link the 19 September edition of Night Waves on BBC Radio 3. It was a broadcast from the British Film Institute (BFI) and is a panel discussion about The Innocents, Jack Clayton's 1961 adaptation of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw".
I imagine it was a pre-screening talk, although the events timetable for September is no longer on the BFI website, so I can't check.
As I remember, there was rather more focus on the actual film and its making than the 'Sound of Cinema' series title would suggest - which much added to the interest.
I was intrigued to hear Peter Wyngarde on the programme - I hadn't heard or seen anything of him in years. An actor misfortunate (or not - don't know) to be indelibly associated in the minds of Brits over a certain age with 'Mexican' moustaches, curly perms, medallions, flared trousers ...
ETA - from the bottom of the webpage:
The Innocents is re-released by the BFI as part of GOTHIC: The Dark Heart of Film in selected UK cinemas on Friday 13 December 2013, certificate 12A.
Also, looking at the pictures, Wyngarde's still got that 'tache (though, like so many of us, no longer the luxuriant locks).
It's STILL one of the best and scariest horror films I've ever seen. One of the best Gothic mansions,
Now it's Ettington Park Hotel (the interiors were studio sets, of course).
Looking on the Web, I see that, despite the luxury makeover, the building still boasts (I suppose that's the right word) a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Britain.
Over the weekend I watched Helen Mirren playing 'Prospera' in The Tempest and it reminded me of your suggestion. I think Taylor and Burton missed a trick, there.
I think we've touched often in these threads on Shakespeare as forerunner of the Gothic - plenty of the elements are there in The Tempest (I'm talking about the play in general, here).
Haven't really made up my mind about this DVD at the moment, though - need to watch it again.
Does it qualify for mention in a Gothic film thread? I think so ...
What's it about? Err ... ummm ... well ... the thing is ... there's this young girl and ... ummm ... there are possibly vampires - or possibly not ... and there's a polecat-ferret masquerading as a weasel which may or may not be - well, I'm not sure really ... and there are dubious priests or monks or there may not be ... I spotted a theorbo towards the end - I'm always happy to see a theorbo - but that's off-topic ... and there's a cobwebby inside of a clocktower - I think (it may be down a dark stairway) ... chickens have a hard time of it ... there are sinister family secrets - or, there may be, anyway ... there are definitely more cultural references than you can shake a stick at ...
Okay, I don't know what it's about, but it was quite fascinating - going to have to watch it a few more times (having said that, I find 'Celine and Julie Go Boating' fascinating, but I've been re-watching that for years and still haven't figured it out, so don't hold your breath on this one - that's not a random tangent, by the way, there are some parallels). A lot of it is quite beautiful to watch, to.
If you started off with a traditional Gothic tale and then accidentally lived through the sixties and went to a lot of happenings and stuff and thoroughly earned yourself the traditional scrambled-memory and so on, and only then got round to making a film of your tale, you might end up with something like 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders'. Possibly.
The Hauntological crowd are very fond of this film (the term originates with Jacques Derrida and puns on "ontological", I understand. The current meaning seems to have settled on a nostalgia among British 40-somethings for '70s "folk horror" and Radiophonic music: the sights and sounds of '70's television - with forays further afield, such as here, into Czech surrealism).
The source is a novel by Víezslav Nezval. It's a surrealist novel that uses the props and tropes of Gothic in a similar way to Max Ernst's use of 19th century commercial and magazine engravings in his "surrealistic novel in college" Une Semainé de Bonté. The cover of the Twisted Spoon edition makes this point with an Ernst-style collage.
Incidentally, there's a regularly recurring march tune in 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders' that I defy any viewer to get out of their head in less than twenty-four hours - just can't stop myself humming and whistling it.
I wasn't overly impressed with the first one, 'Ghost of Venice'. I wasn't bored, but, somehow or other, the story didn't seem to flow very well. Also, I wasn't sure Robert Hardy, who was the main actor, fitted very well in the piece. It's possible the main character, Galt, an actor, was intended to be a bit hammy, but I thought Hardy was a bit unintentionally hammy.
The next story, spread over the episodes 'Countess Ilona' and 'The Werewolf Reunion', I thought rather good; not great telly, perhaps, but pretty good stuff. In this case, Ian Hendry was rather better at hamming it up - very much an ensemble piece, though, nobody was really the main character. One or two quirks, though - if anyone's seen it and could explain to me what the hell the countess kept doing with her manservant's gloved hand ...
I'd actually forgotten
I need to order a copy. This month's other BFI Gothic releases - The Thorold Dickinson version of Gaslight, and (hooray!) Schalcken the Painter, were in HMV yesterday. They're not there any more...
My local HMV is long gone - victim of the recession - makes me feel a bit guilty about buying so much online.
I was a little surprised to see John Osborne in 'Lady Sybil' - I'd forgotten he was also an actor.
ETA - *I meant, of both sexes - I was long paused over that by the treachery of language in a politically-correct age, then I was guilty of imprecision!
It's been a while since I finished watching and reading the 'Supernatural' stuff and I've realised that the stand-out one for me now, both the TV prog and the more subtle, short story version, is 'Viktoria'.
I hadn't really taken on board at the time that this is different from the other stories by being both screen-written and adapted to short story by someone other than Robert Muller - Sue Lake (though I should have, because it says so in black and white up in houseful's post at #85).
I don't want to say she was a 'better' writer than Muller and the others - I'd have to watch and read the whole lot again to make up my mind on that - but she seemed at least to have been a more ambitious writer, in that she was seeking to engage with, or at least reacting to, topical concerns. There's a sub-text of male and female homosexuality.
To be honest, her treatment might be a bit problematic; I don't want to go into that, though - not least because, at this distance in time, I have no clear memory of the 'state of play' of our culture's attitude to such things in 1977, and I have way too much reading going on at the moment to take time out to research it.
My point is that I imagined she was 'pushing the envelope' of her brief on this series and, so, she caught my attention enough for me to want to find out more about her.
I can't. Apart from a handful of screenwriting jobs between '75 and '81 she seems to have no online existence at all. And the one job, 'Triangle' where she might have had a fair amount of work - 'unknown episodes', so I don't know how much - I seem to remember as rather soapy.
It's annoying. I started off thinking I might have found a promising short story writer; now I'm wondering if she might not have been a hack and I'm wondering if the subtext might not have been part of her brief after all - some producer or executive's idea to 'spice up' the series a bit. It does seem a little odd to have a script by a different writer stuck in the middle of what was clearly Muller's pigeon.
I'm wondering if 'Sue Lake' might have been a nom-de-plume and she more active under another name. It seems difficult to believe in a writer simply not writing, but I suppose there could be all sorts of reasons for that to be so.
Yes, it does look as though the majority of her work was in soaps (not just Triangle, but Angels and Crossroads too). If only she'd ever worked on Doctor Who, we would have had her entire professional career subjected to minute historical investigation!
What's puzzling me is that IMDb gives it a rating of '7.5/10 from 61 users', yet they (and Wikipedia) describe it as 'lost'.
Time-travelling IMDb users? Very old users with long memories?
It's definitely a lost film. It gets some passing references in a couple of books I own, but the Wikipedia entry gives more information.
I assume those IMDb users are "setting the record straight" based on the film's critical reputation. No doubt Conrad Veidt's performance would have been something to see (is this the film where a still shows the veins in Veidt's temple standing out alarmingly? - edited to add: No, I'm wrong, that's The Hands of Orlac).
I'd love to see it, though.
We can still hope, of course - after the discoveries of recent years I've now got an almost complete version of 'Metropolis', which, in the past, was something one could only daydream about, so who knows what might turn up? There may a copy or two lurking in some cobwebbed corner, waiting for someone to recognise what it is.
Didn't know about that silent version of 'The Hands of Orlac' (or, I don't remember that I knew, or something like that ...), so that's another one for the wish list - and I haven't even got round to seeing 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' yet, so that's yet another. I've long had the intention of properly exploring silent films, but the practice has been quite slow and patchy so far.
The trouble is that I've a really random way of buying DVDs. I shove anything interesting into what is now quite a hefty wish list, then, every so often, I'll have a look through for anything priced at just a couple of quid or thereabouts, buying two or three if I find some. That doesn't lend itself to focussed programmes of exploration. I should rethink it ...
Edited because I've just decided I need to severely ration my use of 'of course'.
Quite on a tangent to this thread, has anyone else noticed a sneaky little quirk of Amazon's dispatching procedure? If you order from one of Amazon's independent suppliers on standard delivery, the chances are they'll dispatch it the same day, or the next if you're a bit late in ordering, and it arrives pretty much as fast as expensive express delivery; if you order 'Amazon fulfilled', they hold back dispatch for several days, presumably to ensure that it doesn't arrive as fast as express delivery; but the way they word your dispatch estimates makes it sound as if it's the independent sellers who will be the slower, rather than 'Amazon fulfilled'.
Ordering lots of Xmas presents lately, this has been really noticeable.
This should undoubtedly be in a different thread and group - apologies.
ETA - I should have mentioned I'm talking about UK Amazon.
Having written that, words fail me - I think I'm still stunned.
I like this better now than I did when I first saw it. I think Ken Russell's directing style looked old-fashioned, even a bit inept, in the late eighties (that fish-bowl lens, for example).
Just attempted to watch 'The Vampire Lovers' (1970), based (rather loosely) on Le Fanu's Carmilla, but I've given up after the first half-hour.
I was wildly in love with Madeline Smith as a youngster (yes, I know - yet another one), but, even for the sake of watching her ...
The screenplay is too crudely adapted and perfunctory compared to Le Fanu's story.
However, I was quite stopped in my tracks by the piece from the BMV 232, J S Bach, Mass in B minor, a piece of music with which I was unfamiliar. I really had to pause the DVD and come and hunt it up right then. A welcome new discovery, so the time wasn't fully wasted.
But I really wanted something creepy for New Year's Eve ...
I picked up a cheap DVD of this film earlier in the year, when HMV's troubles led them to (temporarily) filling their shelves with interesting, or at least obsurer, stock, but i haven't seen it yet. I worry that Bunuel's references are so specifically Spanish and Catholic that I won't get the references, which is pretty much the same as not getting the joke.
Looking at the film's wikipedia entry, there do appear to be some Gothic tropes (in the loose sense of characters, figures, clichés), particularly those belonging to the "imperilled lone female" side of the genre.
I'd believed it was a lost film - I think it was, for a long time - and I'd only seen one photo of Charles Ogle as the monster. Although this was presumably a posed studio portrait it's quite poor and gives no real idea of how the monster actually looks on screen.
And then footage of the creation scene turned up. I saw it on a TV programme at some time in the '80's or early '90's.
Finding the whole film on Youtube a couple of years ago was a real surprise. Looking on Wikipedia, it seems that a print of the film resurfaced a long time ago, but was in private hands and the whole thing only became available a few years ago.
The Jekyll and Hyde elements of the story have been foregrounded in other versions as well. There's a TV version from the late 60's/early '70's where Ian Holm plays both Victor Frankenstein and the Monster.
It's yet another modern take on the vampire myth. Now, I know anyone reading this is going to roll their eyes a bit when I mention vampires as the (relatively) good guys (good gals in this case) - shades of Twilight and so forth - but I really did find it very good with a quite interesting storyline and characterisation. Looking back, after it had finished, I could see one or two places where they'd papered over holes, but when I was watching I was quite gripped. I'd recommend it.
There's also an element of feminist allegory.
Well, I don't think I can say any more in case I spoil things for anybody who wants to watch it.
Oh yes - I suppose I should warn about some quite explicit violence and bloodshed, rather frank allusions to sexual matters, some quite ripe language, and Gemma Arterton in stockings and suspenders ... but all done in the best possible taste ...
ETA - I've just noticed that LOVEFILM classifies it as 'Action/Adventure, Horror' - it would have been much more accurately descriptive for them to have classified it as 'Drama, Horror'.
I expect this one will turn up on Sky Movies before too long. I'll watch it then.
I think I surfeited on vampire films a couple of years ago, from Murnau's Nosferatu and Dreyer's Vampyr onwards. I hit my limit after Zoltan,Hound of Dracula and had to stop for a while. I haven't even seen Let the Right One In (or Let Me In) yet.
I don't know how original that really is because I haven't seen most of the modern vampire stuff (
It's better than you'd think from the picture - not 'girl-on'girl' exploitative and as much a drama as a horror.
This will probably not give any real idea of the film, though it's strictly accurate, but it looks at the emotional costs of being a vampire. Nope - that really doesn't add much to the post ...
It gripped my attention all the way through, was moving in places, the end I thought a bit of a cop-out - daft, even.
I'm not up to arguing this very logically at the moment, but I don't think it fits quite as well into a Gothic thread as Byzantium.
Not great. Not bad either. Worth watching.
Pure big-spectacle, slash-bang modern entertainment, I'm afraid. But it was tongue-in-cheek with some funny lines - usually including language too effing ripe to quote here. And Gemma Arterton again, I think she has designs on being the new Kate Beckinsale.
I don't know what the Brothers Grimm would think about it (there's a film about the Brothers Grimm hunting monsters, too).
Do Corman's Poe films count?! I particularly like 'Pit and the Pendulum', 'Masque of the Red Death' and 'Tomb of Ligeia'.
Many Hammer, Universal and Amicus films have gothic veins. Too many excellent films to mention, but one of my very favourites is 'Brides of Dracula' - wonderful production design; Martita Hunt and Freda Jackson are excellent, and there is a real sense of death and decay throughout, not forgetting the inimitable Miles Malleson providing the comic relief.
More tv - Nigel Kneale's 'Beasts' is excellent, maybe more horror than gothic, apart perhaps from the claustrophobic 'Baby', and the creepy extra 'Murrain' about the persecution of an old lady (who may or may not be a witch) by her fellow villagers.
>65 veilofisis: - I saw 'the Tenant' once, about 35 or so years ago in a late night double bill (with De Palma's Sisters) in a London cinema. It was a very strange film! I think I was too young to fully understand or appreciate it.
It's difficult to say exactly what is and what isn't "Gothic" - I've been criticised for going on about ghost stories in previous posts...
If the essence of Gothic is buried or somehow irrational secrets or powers, that threaten the rational individual - remembering the argument that the Gothic arose as a reaction to the 18th Century enlightenment - then I'd say that the films and tv programmes you've listed are all squarely in the Gothic camp (with the observation that with Poe, the horrors are largely internalised in the main character's mind.
Thank goodness the programmers at the NFT in London had a wide definition of gothic in their recent excellent gothic film season, that rightly included 'The Amazing Mr Blunden'! I had a fabulous afternoon reliving my youth (there was also an interesting q&a afterwards with Madeline Smith, Rosalyn Landor, and Garry Miller that should turn up on the BFI iplayer at some point).
#133, #134, #135 -
What, exactly, is 'Gothic' has been a perennial round here and probably always will be. I enjoy it's reappearances - keeps me thinking. I'll note that the original Alien (the one with John Hurt's insides) seems widely regarded as a Gothic horror and, when you read Gothic literature lit-crit, it fits right in - plenty of the elements are there - so it can be a pretty broad church if we want it to be.
From what I can find out about it online, I have no memory of Beasts, but it sounds very tempting. I'm of an age that, rather than the conventional hiding behind the sofa when Daleks were on-screen, as a child I used to hide during Quatermass; so Nigel Kneale's involvement is a nostalgically quivery bonus, too. Thanks for that, Rembetis - it's gone on my Amazon wish list.
Quite coincidentally, I ordered The Tenant this weekend, so I'm looking forward to watching that. I also ordered Dark Shadows, mentioned in #75, #76, #78, above. Every so often, I go through my wish lists for a batch of stuff that's currently around the £3 or less mark and they showed up this time - also The City of Lost Children and Bergman's The Hour of the Wolf, but I don't know if I'll see those as Gothic when I watch.
I am too young to have seen the original Quatermass tv programmes when they were originally broadcast, though I have the BBC dvd of the 1958/59 'Quatermass and the Pit'. No wonder you hid behind the sofa as a child, it is scary even today.
The only programme I recall that terrified me as a child was an episode of the 1970 series 'Wicked Women' starring Anna Massey as Christiana Edmund - the Victorian chocolate cream poisoner (with Mona Washbourne playing her mother). I was only 7 at the time and had nightmares for weeks afterwards.
Do let us know what you make of 'The Tenant' when you get round to watching it.
Fantastic serial. I saw it for the first time only recently, it holds up fabulously.
This seems to jog a memory. Was there a story where a couple starved a woman in an attic? Horrifying stuff.
I also thought the policemen who arrived were stereotypical New York cops rather than the Parisien gendarmes they were supposed to be. Again, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the film but rather added another dimension to it.
The saddest people on the planet (using sad in the modern, pejorative sense) have to be the benighted souls who write the 'Goofs' sections on movies on the IMDb. I'd like to work up a short story where one of these uber-nitpickers meets a relevantly horrific fate.
Edited - 'biographer' replaced 'author'
#146 - I've always - all my life - been aware of Shelley Winters and known her name, without ever having been particularly in love with her. She just had such a screen presence that one just had to notice her. I don't believe I've ever seen the last two films you mention - I'll watch out for them.
WARNING - SPOILERS -
Debbie Reynolds says that Shelley Winters drove everyone insane on the set of 'Helen'. Shelley's 'method acting' meant that she inhabited the role of a person having a nervous breakdown, and, according to Reynolds, 'became the person in the film'. Shelley seems to have been aware of this herself, or perhaps was being cheeky when, in interview with the New York Times she said "I have to stab Debbie Reynolds to death. Poor Debbie — they'd better not give me a real knife." Bizarre that the night before the scene was shot Debbie Reynolds said that she had a nightmare in which she was stabbed. On arriving on set, she checked the knife and found the rubber prop knife had been replaced with a real blade.
I looked on Amazon UK late last night, following LolaWalser's post, and apparently Region 2 DVDs of the films can be ordered from a Spanish vendor. Original soundtrack, but with castilian subtitles.
Both films were directed by Curtis Harrington, a name I was vaguely familiar with but didn't know anything about. His obituary from Fortean Times reveals someone both interesting in himself and at the centre of a fascinating group of people.
Fascinating! Method acting to the max. The insurance on those productions must be insane...
I hope you find them. Pity about restricted issues (how I hate the regionalisation of media...), I got that double MGM feature Rembetis mentions for a few dollars.
>150 LolaWalser: I'm with you on the regionalisation of media! I also have the MGM double feature of 'Roo' and 'Helen' and play it on a cheapish multi-region dvd player. Around a quarter of my dvd collection consists of US Region 1 dvds that simply don't see the light of day on UK dvd.
I'm probably just being mischievous (killing time while my lunch is digesting), but I've been re-reading Kelly Hurley's 'British Gothic Fiction, 1885-1930' in The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction and I can't resist quoting a couple of his/her sentences here -
Critics of the Gothic agree on little else besides the literary historical fact that a genre that would be known as "The Gothic" came to prominence in Great Britain between 1760 and 1820, a genre distinguished by its supernaturalist content, its fascination with social transgression, and its departure, in formal terms, from the emerging norm of realism.
... and ...
There is even less consensus on what constitutes literary Gothicism in later periods and on whether the post-Romantic Gothic can usefully be distinguished from adjacent genres such as science-fiction, romance, fantasy, and horror.
ETA - pp. 190, 191, respectively.
I realised that if I accept that idea - having the wrecked alien spaceship and the Nostromo standing for decaying castles, having the company stand in for the degenerate, feudal aristocracy with murky intentions, Ripley as the (albeit rather formidable) damsel-in-distress, and so forth - I could say exactly the same thing about Resident Evil, which is pretty much built to the same blueprint. Yet I found myself oddly reluctant to do so. Resident Evil just doesn't strike me as Gothic.
When I thought carefully about what bothered me about a 'Gothic' Resident Evil, I realised my problem was that (to my memory, at least - this might not stand up to re-watching) the scenes are all well-lit with clean backgrounds, in contrast to the half-lit, water-dripping, 'greasy-scruffy-workplace' look of much of Alien (or the half-light and cobwebs of more traditional settings).
So, are the main defining elements of cinema Gothic simply low lighting and grime? Given the inclusion of menace, baddies and hidden agendas, of course, but they can be found in quite un-Gothic westerns, soaps, detective stories - whatever.
Shouldn't have mentioned detective stories - that got me thinking of film noir and I'm sure there's probably plenty of overlap between film noir and Gothic if I look for it.*
ETA - *As already hinted at in houseful's #63.
You are adding an extra dimension to the concept of Blade Runner as Gothic.
I found this interesting - intrigued by some choices, bemused by others - didn't know who most of these people were and never heard of half the films - but I've bookmarked it for further ferreting on some of the mentions.
... which just goes to show that I've watched WAY too many crappy films since buying this 'proper grown-up telly' back at the beginning of the year. As soon as I let my brain off the leash, I realise that Kiss of the Damned really isn't that good. There are a lot of genre cliches - grand opera aria soundtracking a key moment, Chopin for a lower-key scene, lots of visual ones, as well. It's a bit soapy in places. Plot and dialogue are rather perfunctorily written.
I note that, like so many contemporary films, the same name is credited for writer and director. You can imagine a director saying, "We don't need to waste all that money on writers - any damn fool can write a script - I'll do it!" And television seems all written by commitees, which I'm pretty sure all include an accountant or two to check on the prospective profitability of every trope used. Oops - it's bringing out the grumpy old man in me. No wonder my brain is rotting ...
ETA - And while I'm in 'grumpy old man' mode, I might as well make the most of it - SOD the tuna steak and broccoli - I'm phoning for some Chinese food and putting a bottle of white in the fridge.
"Seduced by the shadows and myths of early Hollywood cinema and captivated by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, he explored his own subconscious across a series of intimate and deeply surreal short films in the 40s and 50s, before later directing exploitation films.
This selection of early works...includes a powerful study of the notorious Californian artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron: The Wormword Star, plus the nightmarish psychodramas Fragment of Seeking and The Assignation. As a special bonus, we also present Usher, a brooding tale about fear and guilt that Harrington shot on 35mm in 2002, after years working in television and exploitation cinema. We are pleased to be screening restored prints from the Academy Film Archive, USA."
There's a two-disc box-set of his short films but, as far as I can find, only available as Region A/1 Blu-ray. I recently bought a blu-ray player but I'm still trying to work out how to hack it for multi-region (should've done that before I bought it, shouldn't I?)
Checked youtube earlier and the Harrington short The Wormwood Star is posted there as are some of the others.
Anyway, this film is called 'Night Tide' and was shot around Santa Monica and Venice Beach in 1960. Dennis Hopper stars as a young, naive sailor.
Storywise, it owes a debt to Val Lewton's 'Cat People', replacing the strange foreign girl who might actually be a big cat, with a strange foreign girl who might actually be a siren of classical mythology, who has wound up playing a mermaid in a sideshow.
This seems like a transitional film, trying to be a mainstream low-budget thriller but not free of Harington's bohemian and experimental and occultist background - from the (seriously good) jazz in the opening nightclub scene (with Harrington's friends cast as the customers - the most convincing '50's/'60s hip crowd I've ever seen on film, I think), to the casting of occultist Marjorie Cameron in a creepy role, to the fact that much of the film plays as a french New Wave film, in bright sunlight and accompanied by a wistful instrumental soundtrack.
All this makes it an odd, off-kilter film. It might be too languidly paced for some, and the denouement might be a let down (and I have to confess that a vital piece of "business" was unclear to me until I listened to the commentary track between Harrington and Hopper). Despite this, it does seem strange the film isn’t better known. It’s at least as good a ‘cult’ film as, say, ‘Carnival of Souls’. Maybe it was unavailable for a long time?
This from the 'Trivia' section on IMDb's entry for 'The Haunting':
The famous sharp contrast of the house against the dark sky and the clouds was created by the use of infrared film stock.
I wonder if this was a common technique? I find a slightly 'creepy' quality in infrared photographs of scenery and architecture - I'm now wondering whether this is the result of my unknowingly having seen examples of the above technique in horror films over the years.
I think read or heard somewhere that the very sharp and detailed image quality of some black and white films of the '60s was down to the use of near-infrared film. It's not particularly creepy, though - although it might be when applied to cloudy skies and gothic buildings.
I gave up after two episodes You could bail out after that ending? Gosh.
Yes, I am enjoying it, a lot, although admittedly the storytelling meanders a bit. I know there's been some comment online that it's derivative, not because it pulls together Dr Frankenstein, Dracula, et al, but because Kim Newman and Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill have already done similar things with their Anno Dracula and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series.
What gives this series a unique flavour is the focus on life: vampires and Dorian Gray extending it supernaturally, Dr Frankenstein creating it in his laboratory, the ancient Egyptian beliefs in an afterlife being a big driver of the plot, life after death (episode two's seance); and alongside life, of course death, by disease (TB, tropical diseases), by violence.
Must say, my mates agree with you that it's great. Also, I might have been in the wrong mood! It happens occasionally that something I dislike on first viewing, sometimes intensely, seems quite good on a second.
Watched The Uninvited a couple of times last week - a delight - thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed to combine elements of full-blooded horror like The Haunting (1963) with light comedy in the mode of the old, Rex Harrison, Margaret Rutherford Blithe Spirit, but I didn't think that was a detriment - I thought it worked very well on its own terms. I just didn't know quite where to put it (in genre terms).
Why the reference to The Haunting?
Just come back from a week walking in the Forest of Dean. For the evenings I took The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction and had intended to take all the films treated in it in the 'Monstrous Sexuality' section in Misha Kavka's 'The Gothic on screen' chapter. In the event, I had The Uninvited, The Haunting, Cat People (1942) and Rebecca (1940), but, for some reason I can't fathom, I omitted to order The Secret Beyond the Door (1947), which was there, plain as day, on my list. Still, I had my own, private, Gothic film festival.
As always, I thought The Haunting one of the finest horror films ever made.
I don't know whether it was a result of reading the section on it, but I found Cat People much better than I'd remembered. I thought Simone Simon managed to project both 'kittenish' and sinister in a way that quite fascinated - it was definitely her film, I thought.
As for Rebecca, I'd forgotten how much Olivier irritates me (at least when you take him away from Shakespearian language and period costume). Failed to watch it all the way through, twice. I may give it another go tonight. Also, if Cat People
Never heard of Penny Dreadful, but the reference to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen rings a bell - has it been discussed on one of the other threads, perhaps?
ETA - Oops! I was confused - thinking of 'The League of Gentlemen' - Mark Gatiss, etc.
>41 housefulofpaper: - ... "wrapped in so suffocating a mantle of faux-english gloss ...
I really couldn't see that - hence, probably, my reference to the British-made Blithe Spirit in >168 alaudacorax:.
The single instance when I was reminded it wasn't a British film was the weird accent of the shopkeeper who sold Rick the postcards and fags. And having written that, I looked him up on IMDb and find he was a Glaswegian. Um ... have to listen to him again.
Anyway, back to my initial point - I'm really surprised that the comment was written by an Englishman - I assumed at first that Jonathan Rigby might be an American critic and writing from a very different viewpoint or mindset than mine. I genuinely can't see (or hear) what he's talking about. If I didn't know different, I'm sure I'd happily slot it into a raft of old British black and whites.
I did however watch the first half of The Ninth Gate (1999). I fell asleep, but that was possibly more to do with me than the film. However, from what I saw, it strikes me that this is the ultimate film for this group's members - great big hints of Gothic mystery and horror - and it's about books!
The book and the film are sufficiently different (especially the latter half of the film) to make both entities enjoyable in their own right without the painful task of comparison.
I think The Uninvited is noticeably different to contemporary British films. Not because the US film hits any off-notes in performance or production design, but because most UK films are slow and stilted in comparison. There are a number of reasons for this. The acting is overly theatrical, for one. Technically, many of them give the impression that sound film has only just been invented. And then they are so class-ridden, with any working class characters reduced to comic turns or criminal heavies (exhibit A, a film I rewatched today: The Door With Seven Locks, an Edgar Wallace adaptation from 1940. It's a creaky mystery notable only for Leslie Banks' silkily revisiting (and sending up?) his Count Zaroff as "Dr Manetta" - oh, and the splendidly named leading man, Romilly Lunge).
Oops! Another tempting book. I have to restrain myself at the moment. I visited the ruins of Tintern Abbey a few days ago and there's the most marvellous second-hand bookshop, hard-by, that kicked a big hole in my pocket - nothing Gothic, I'm afraid.
Wonderful name. That reminds me: I don't think, when I'd seen Cat People in the past, that I'd ever registered the hero's name - Oliver Reed. And he never got drunk and picked a fight once - so boring ...
Sadly, of the original seven episodes only three have survived.
I think I saw 'The Exorcism' first time round, in '72, and it must have had quite an effect as it's stuck in my mind ever since.
I hadn't remembered the actors, though, and it was a little amusing to see Edward Petherbridge and Clive Swift comparitively young men, hair down on their collars, and in those early '70s clothes.
It was quite gripping, but a little dated in that it was a little wordy in places (which I don't see as a fault) – as was the tendency in the period – and with a left-wing message that I doubt would make it onto UK telly these days. Very much a period piece, but I thought it was quite good. It was the best-written of the three for me.
The other two were just a tad disappointing.
'Return Flight' was quite suspenseful and held my attention right to the end; but then I decided it didn't really make sense.
'A Woman Sobbing' was possibly the creepiest of the three: great work from Anna Massey and whoever did the lighting. Again, it gripped me till the end - but then I felt the ending was a bit pat and perfunctory.
Both of these gave me the impression that the writer ran out of inspiration before the end and I felt the stories weren't properly resolved.
But, as I said, even the weaker two gripped me to the end and I quite enjoyed the set. Probably a touch of nostalgia at work, too, as there was a definite '60s/'70s feel to them.
Thanks, I needed a nudge to remind me to watch this DVD. I've just watched "The Exorcism". I must confess that the message was laid on a bit too thickly for my taste (and I have to wonder whether all that railing against middle-class hypocrisy in the '60s and '70s actually helped the rise of neo-liberalism, rather than working for the vaguely or explicitly Leftist causes that the programme makers no doubt espoused).
Early on the team lose the support of the University (properly, the support of one of the Colleges, I suppose) and the experiment moves to a scary old dark house.
I suppose it's an interesting twist that they tale their ghost into the scary house rather than meet it there, but there's not really much originality here. Superficially it looks like a lot of found-footage movies (a cameraman is taken on to document everything (and be the hero of the film) and his footage is spliced into the "omniscient" camera viewpoint throughout), but I think it's roots go back to earlier models.
The original script (later reworked by others as the on-screen credits, and the DVD extras, confirm) is by Tom DeVille, who was behind Urban Gothic". This was a horror anthology series from around the turn of the millennium. It was all sort on very cheap-looking video (just slightly too early to be regraded to look like film, I would guess) and the producers seemed to try to make a virtue of this by playing the "found footage" tricks that films picked up on in the next decade: security camera footage, TV show recordings, a vampire as subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary...
The "found footage" in The Quiet Ones reminded me of that, not least because the film's characters when being filmed, seemed more like the media-savvy and rather narcissistic characters of Urban Gothic than people from 1974.
But the real debt is owed to Nigel Kneale, specifically "The Stone Tape" where another researcher pursues a materialistic theory to explain a supernatural phenomenon, with tragic consequences.
In this film, the professor (played by Jared Harris) is single-minded to the point of obsession and whilst being a more rounded character than the classic Gothic villain easily fills that role in the film, whilst Olivia Cooke as the subject of the experiment is both the victim and the monster (I was going to write that was original, then I remembered quite a few comparable film characters not least Linda Blair in The Exorcist).
I've just watched Return Flight and my impression of two stories rather awkwardly welded together.
There's the "helpful ghosts" plot, the sort of thing that is usually presented as true life (in magazines or reality TV, for example); and then there's the character-study story focusing on the Peter Barkworth character, the sort of thing I can't help feeling the production team for this series felt more comfortable with, or perhaps felt was classier or more worthy.
In this case, it feels like the two strands worked against each other, rather than each enhancing the other.
Since you've seen it, I can say this:
ETA - Edited for missing 'other'.
ETA - Again, I thought I'd read about Cat Girl here - obviously I didn't. I can't think where I'm getting these titles from.
I hadn't taken on board that the landing didn't go well - I should have realised that that sort of mayhem could only be implied on a BBC drama budget in 1972.
And if the haunting is only a memory or a playback of a traumatic event, and not spirits of the dead who are still sentient, then it makes sense that following the lead of a doomed aircrew will lead Peter Barkworth's character into an identical crash landing. While his character's childhood hero-worship and adult feelings of inferiority, I suppose, set up both his receptivity to the phenomena, and his decision to follow them.
It does make sense I suppose, but the fact that you have to sit back and puzzle it out means it doesn't have the immediate impact of "Exorcism".
Over in our 'Terror and Wonder ...' thread, mention is made of Mark Gatiss's 'Horror Europa'. The first film Gatiss mentions - and, if I remember aright, a favourite of his - is Daughters of Darkness (1971). I watched it last night.
At the same time I bought Vampyres (1974). I got this purely because it popped up in my Amazon recommendations, had good Amazon reviews and IMDb rating, and was dirt-cheap! I've been watching it tonight.
There seemed to be a number of strands of plot that didn't much come from or go anywhere, and didn't seem to mesh together (or serve a purpose?) - like the business of the bridegroom's 'mother', or that of the retired policeman, not to mention the bridegroom's weird personality and character. There were ham-fisted bits, too. For example, the director really should have been more careful about Delphine Seyrig and mirrors; once indulge in mirror-trickery in a vampire movie and you must keep things consistent - lapses stick out like sore thumbs.
Seyrig, as the Countess Bathory, had a screen presence that lifted the film. As did Andrea Rau who played the countess's sidekick - when she was onscreen; the sidekick was a secondary character, the main female characters being the countess and the young bride. The actress playing the bride was of the wooden post school and I felt that she and Andrea Rau could very usefully have swapped roles.
At the end I was left trying to figure out what I'd just watched. I'm still at a loss to describe it. It was not a horror film by any stretch of the imagination. It had very little of the supernatural, or of tension or suspense, little or nothing of shocks and scares or creepiness. The director could almost have been aiming at a Bergman-style drama, but I felt it had a strong whiff of soap opera.
It had many of the traditional elements the other was missing: spells of genuine suspense and tension; some scares; some real intrigue as you gradually worked out what was going on
It also had generous helpings of nudity and eroticism.
All in all this was quite entertaining stuff - thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was truly awful ...
However, I think my post gives a wrong impression. I didn't think it was a bad film. It's just that I didn't think it particularly good either. Gattis seems to regard it as a classic of the genre: perhaps it is in terms of influence on later stuff - I'm not really qualified to say, but, as a stand-alone film, no - I can't see it. It did hold me till the end, though.
Is the music for Daughters of Darkness really that bad? It just sounds 1970s to me...
The commentary you mention: I found that quite entertaining - Larraz came across as an entertaining old reprobate. I was really amused by his story of going to bed with the girl who slept with her eyes open - he was obviously quite freaked out by it.
Just in case you haven't found it, the spoiler thing - and practically everything else you might want - is here. At the time of writing, the spoiler thing is third section from the bottom of the OP.
Edited because my inner pedant was playing hell about those sentence-ending prepositions ...
>190 alaudacorax: Thanks for the link (for reminding that that thread exists, actually). I was thinking about the scene with the hand gesture (the one Larraz, in the commentary, says was done by the nuns to freak out his school fellows). That's if I'm remembering the scene correctly; I couldn't find my copy of Vampyres to check.
It had practically all the classic tropes - deranged scientist messing with things he shouldn't, the panicky town meeting, howling mob with pitchforks, mysterious and sinister things in the cellar, graveyard in the moonlight, horrifying bodily transformations, half-demented old priest searching for answers in old tomes, glamorous love-interest imperilled (with a hair-do to make Elsa Lanchester's blood run cold), frantic chases over the rooftops ...
I also spotted references to The Matrix, Tremors, King Kong - I probably missed others.
Yes - I thoroughly recommend Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - to Gothic cinema what Northanger Abbey is to the Gothic novel.
ETA - Not to mention some of the most atrocious puns in captivity - both verbal and visual.
The Were- Rabbit model is one of the exhibits at the British Library's Gothic exhibition.
Also, you don't want to know what I've done to a wax doll of hachingoc.
Just turned up in my Amazon recommendations - released on March 30th.
This is great news. It looks as if the restoration and extra features will be on a par with the Out of the Unknown box set that was released last year (and which I'm working my way through at the moment).
On a related note I think that, following restoration, the recently-rediscovered silent film starring William Gillette as Holmes will also get a commercial release.
I've now realised that I have the vaguest of memories of seeing these as a youngster and that I've long been confusing Wilmer and Rathbone in my memories.
I just have Freeview on my telly (it's a UK thing - you don't pay for it - I suppose it's what the US would call public service broadcasting). In recent months, a new channel has appeared, simply called 'horrorchannel'.
So far, so good, you might think. Trouble is, they make the most ridiculous and inexplicable scheduling choices.
Why on earth would they put 'Quatermass and the Pit' - a genuine classic in my book - on at 1:50pm on a Sunday afternoon? Too start with, from what I remember (haven't seen it in decades) it's going to traumatize any young kids happening upon it. And I'd love to see it again, but I'm sure as hell not going to sit indoors watching telly on a dry Sunday afternoon (no. I don't have any recording equipment). It doesn't help that whenever I've remembered to check the channel, later on in the evening - the right time to watch horror films in my book - they've been playing really down-market cack.
With some soul-searching I went with satellite TV about 10 years ago. I got really bad TV reception in the analogue days, and I doubt that now Freeview would work for me at all (even if my TV aerial hadn't come down in a storm a while back).
There are digital radio, as well as TV stations, broadcasting on the Sky platform, so it's useful for recording radio programmes longer than a cassette tape, that I might want to keep; or programmes I couldn't otherwise pick up - such as the archive recordings of Mervyn Wall on RTÉ the past two Sundays.
Maybe I should have explained how I keep those recordings - I've got a DVD recorder, so I can play back from the Sky Box to that and record onto DVD. It so happens
I've also got a turntable/ cassette deck. CD burner, which has an "aux" input. So with a DVD recorder hooked up as the "aux" I can record from the DVD to a more convenient CD (although DVD will allow a longer recording time).
The trouble is that it's just once in a blue moon that I want to record something. It never even crossed my mind with the Quatermass - just thought that I'd probably catch up with it some time or other.
Actually, after writing the last sentence, I went over to Amazon and found a Quatermass box set which I've put on my 'Do I really want this' wish list.
Is that a box set the films or of the original TV serials? (you might want to know that episodes 3-6 of the TV The Quatermass Experiment no longer exist, if it's the TV version you were looking at).
Yes, there was a lot about that in the Amazon reviews.
In the meantime, I realise I'd got myself confused. I've discovered there are two versions of 'Quatermass and The Pit' - the television (1958) and cinema (1967) versions - and of at least one of the other episodes. Clearly, it was the original TV series that had me hiding behind the settee as a little lad (talk about traumatizing young kids), but it seems to be the cinema films I'm remembering bits of.
I suppose I'll just have to buy the lot at some point ...
I suppose "my" Quatermass was Sir John Mills in the 1979 serial.
Is the seventies miniseries worth pursuing?
I must have seen the John Mills ones, but all I have is a vague memory of red skies and stone circles.
The 79 miniseries is all on youtube - the first part of the first episode is here if you want to get a taster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43EZbisZvqc&list=PL5DF7E07271F2AD65
I remember being very impressed with it on first viewing (bearing in mind I would only have been 12 at the time). I have got it on DVD - I've got a stack on DVDs to watch that almost matched the unread books pile - and watched the first episode yesterday. Although it shows its age in places, and Nigel Kneale's pessimism about the Modern world (i.e. the 1960s/1970s, remembering the script's long gestation period) maybe looks a little strident.
Or maybe not. One of the criticisms the series got was against the "Planet People", for being a hopelessly old-fashioned buch of hippies during the hight of Punk. And yet, there was something of a reappraisal from the 90s onwards. This was after "the second Summer of Love", outdoor raves, New Age Travellers/Crusties, and pitched battles between Ravers and Travellers on one side, and police on the other, at Stonehenge. What I take from that is, where Nigel Kneale maybe looks to have got it wrong or be behind the times, he might actually be ahead of everyone else.
The production is all shot on film, which makes it unbelievably lavish compared to the BBC serials, and actually looks bigger than the Hammer films (but at the same time more dour and 1970s). The soundtrack is an electronic score, all performed on synthesiser(s) I would guess.
>214 housefulofpaper: - I had a 'What the hell/You can't take it with you' moment and ordered the Quatermass first series box set and the three early Hammer films. Still awaiting delivery at the moment.
>213 Rembetis: - I've just had a quick glance at the John Mills one over on YouTube: it's pretty good picture quality for YT, so I must watch it some evening soon, before the copyright hounds catch up with them.
Just found some notes: I felt Kneale got so far and then ran out of inspiration and, thus, spoilt the story with a pretty feeble ending.
I hope you enjoy the Hammer Quatermass movies and the 1958 'Quatermass and the Pit' - let us know what you think when you get round to watching them. Enjoy!
Thanks, I started watching the other night, the first part. It reminds me of some other "Stonehengy" serial from the seventies... something with screaming children too...
Oh, and of a great movie whose title escapes me--British, possibly made for television, post-nuclear apocalypse. Made on the budget of a school play, probably, but with fantastic results.
Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about? Late seventies-early eighties max, Britain is ravaged by famine and radiation sickness, some girl has a baby (conceived before the catastrophe) and drags herself with it over the countryside... Everything terrifically devastated, grey and grimy.
First guess - Stonehenge = Children of the Stones; apocalypse = Threads.
omg yesssss!! On both! So you have seen "Threads"? What did you think?
Sorry, I never saw it (or its predecessor, Peter Watkins' The War Game). Perhaps the reason - if it's anything more than squeamishness (not about the gore but about the emotional impact - a very male response, that!) is that I don't fee any need to be convinced about how terrible the effects of a nuclear strike would be. I'm sure I felt the same in 1984.
The initial broadcast was well publicised, I remember. In fact, a photograph of the traffic warden with his bandaged face and gun was used as the cover of that week's Radio Times (Googling "Radio Times" and "Threads" was sufficient to call up an image).
That list of BBC2 Horror Double Bills is incomplete! Between July and September 1983 I had my first viewing of the classic Universal Horror films (on a p/w portable TV in the bedroom I shared with my brother; and one of those old-fashioned hard plastic earphones in one ear, so the sound didn't disturb him) courtesy of the last full series .
I'd remembered - how could I forget? - that it opened with the Browning/Lugosi Dracula, but couldn't quite remember the complete list. However, there was an article about these double bills in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of The Dark Side ("The Magazine of the Macabre") by Denis Meikle, which includes this rundown for 1983: 16/7/83 Dracula, Frankenstein; 16/7/83 The Bride of Frankenstein; 23/7/83 Dracula's Daughter, Son of Frankenstein; 30/7/83 The Mummy, Ghost of Frankenstein; 6/8/83 The Wolfman, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman; 13/8/83 Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein; 20/8/83 The Mummy's Hand, House of Dracula; 3/9/83 The Black Cat, The Raven, Murders in the Rue Morgue.
I have to assume the data is correct, although I was sure I'd seen more than one Mummy sequel.
The Radio Times (which ran an interview with Elsa Lanchester to tie in with the series) said the series would culminate with the Hammer Frankenstein and Dracula, but that never happened.
Looking for (and finding!) the Douglas Wilmer Sherlock Holmes in HMV, I also found a copy of Threads, so I'll finally be watching it before too long.
'Son of Dracula'? That one stood out of your list immediately. I've just been looking at its IMDb page and I'm pretty sure I've never heard of it, never seen it. And, now, of course, I've just got to see it. And there are a couple of others I've been meaning to re-watch for years.
Sometime ... sometime ... at the moment I have a stack of waiting-to-be-watched DVDs here, especially those Quatermass ones, but I seem to have slipped out of the mood, somehow - something to do with the lighter evenings and the prolonged spell of fine weather we're having, probably. We need a spell of rain ...
It certainly brought back my childhood watching - don't think I've seen it since. As >210 Rembetis: says, it still stands up very well today. Not least because of what it doesn't show you. Particularly evocative was the sound track >211 LolaWalser: which I think has been there, in the back of my mind, as the way to soundtrack such things ever since - I think it was a big part of the 'hiding behind the settee' thing.
Incidentally, Anthony Bushell as the slowly unravelling army bigwig impressed me very much - I see him as a supporting character in so many old, black and white things where I can't, offhand, remember him being called on to do any real acting - but really gave it his all, here.
In other news, I saw The Fanatic, Tallulah Bankehad's last movie, from 1965--maybe the best of the "former glamour star makes a turn as a super-creepy old woman" genre, if you favour drama over camp. Worth pursuing.
Lola, it's an bonus feature on the Region 2 DVD of House of Wax (the Vincent Price version).
Would have responded earlier but I am in Cornwall at the moment in an area with circa 1981 internet capabilities. Hope you enjoy 'Quatermass II'. And £7.25 for the two Wax films is a bargain - you won't regret it!
Yes, I saw! Ordered--there's probably little chance of getting a fancier issue.
Ha! :) I think you won't be disappointed. It was made pre-Code and has an altogether different atmosphere and style to what came after. It's also a technical curiosity, made in two-colour Technicolor, just right for the uncanny wax figures.
I had a look at the PDF files for the first time tonight. I don't think I could struggle through them. The prices for the paperback version on ABE books are shocking, especially since there must be plenty of copies around. It's worth while keeping an eye out in charity shops.
What about "Theatre of Blood"?
I looked for "The Fanatic" but it's been out of print for about a decade. Strangely enough the last release in the UK seemingly used the US title (which might indicate a ropey old print that's claimed to be public domain).
ETA - I meant 'Theatre of Blood' - I think I haven't seen 'The Fanatic'.
I'd have to remind myself of which one is that--I was thinking generally of all the Poe and American Gothic adaptations--probably seen too often, known too well. I remembered later I'd liked "The fly" a lot too.
Watching "House of Wax", it's true Price's mere presence does wonders. Not that the film is bad, I liked it well enough. Absolutely loved Carolyn Jones (what a lovely surprise to see her!) and the warmhearted ditz she played--too bad she got killed off so early. The other one wasn't fun at all, typical melodrama good girl.
All in all a delightful DVD. The copy of Mystery of the wax museum is pretty much as I remember seeing in a repertory theatre. Somehow or other and despite the presence of a screwball comedy duo it has so much more atmosphere than the remake. The scenes with Atwill in the cellar, for instance. I guess part of it is sheer technical difference, the sfumato of the older version working WITH the material, while the thick pastiness of the later one sabotages it.
Great description of the two Wax films. I might be wrong, but when I watched Mystery of the Wax Museum I had the feeling that it breathed the same air, so to speak, as the '30s shudder pulps.
Theatre of Blood is also known as Much Ado About Murder, apparently.
Have you seen "Dragonwyck"? Now that one checks off on all the attractions of hyper-Gothic--a castle-like dwelling, mysterious illness, dark secret (involving another, rather more unnameable illness), a beautiful ingenue, kissing cousins, murder, madness and Usheresque dissolution.
And Vincent Price in gorgeous youth, sans 'stache.
I was hoping to reply in the affirmative, and make some intelligent observations too. I was able to make an off-air copy a few years ago, but haven't sat and watched it yet. Hopefully I'll have a chance to see it over the weekend.
I did recently see Price in Twice Told Tales, which tried to do for Nathaniel Hawthorne what Corman and AIP did for Poe. Price is as good as ever, but overall the film just shows how good the AIP series was.
Do you watch movies online? If yes, let me know if you'd like a link to The Fanatic and I'll PM it to you. I found a real treasure trove but am superstitious about linking in public--everything seems to disappear as soon as I do that.
So, in the interest of utter self-indulgence, THEATRE OF OF BLOOD is something I've been trying to adapt for the stage since I finished directing MACBETH two years ago... I mean, come on, someone tell me I'm brilliant!
Also, hi, clearly I'm not dead. My extended absences from this group are really ridiculous, considering I created the damn thing. Miss the dialogue, folks. Hope you're all well.
I took a stack of DVDS of the stuff we've mentioned on holiday with me last week, for the evenings - never even switched on the TV - perhaps now I'm home.
The great Jim Broadbent played Lionheart, and, in a nice touch, Diana Rigg's daughter, Rachael Stirling, played Lionheart's daughter. The excellent Bette Bourne took on the Robert Morley part (with the delicious poodles). The set design of the derelict theatre was outstanding, and the audience at the performance I saw certainly found the show delightful, with much laughter, and gasps at the level of gore. It was very grand guignol! I still can't figure out how they did the drowning in Malmsey, it was so realistic. The exaggerated and grotesque swelling of Bette Bourne's stomach as he was force fed has stuck in my mind, as has Broadbent very loudly cracking open a critic's chest with a crowbar to get at his 'pound of flesh'.
So how was THE SCOTTISH PLAY?! Did the roof cave in? Anyone burst in flames on stage? Rabid raccoons streak through the audience? Theatre of blood must be a ton of fun to stage and play. Do it, do it, do it!
Peter, I think you can find Dragonwyck online in good quality, if that helps.
Sounds a lovely production. Have you seen Price's Doctor Phibes movies and what do you think about the similarities?
Belated echoes of all good wishes etc, too; and I'd like to hear how your Macbeth went, as well. It's all pertinent to the Gothic theme!
Apologies for not replying sooner...thank you for the offer, but actually I don't watch films online (not yet, anyway: stuff that doesn't get transmitted by the tv channels any more, and isn't available on DVD, is - I've discovered - on things like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Prime...so maybe it's just a matter of time. Although if I like something, I do like to have a physical copy).
'Theatre of Blood' was one of Price's favourite films. He was ecstatic with Lionheart, as he felt this was his chance to play the Shakespearean roles which typecasting had prevented in his career. He was also ecstatic about the cast, understandably, as here was the cream of British acting talent at that time - I don't think Price ever had a stronger supporting cast. 'Theatre of Blood' is definitely one of Price's strongest performances and films, and, although derivative, it has a literate and very witty script.
Talking of Vincent Price, there are some events later this year in England to celebrate his life, with his daughter Victoria attending many of them. Sadly, the cost is a bit extortionate! I am tempted with the 'Theatre of Blood' walking tour in Kensall Green cemetery on 4 November (cheap at £5):
Macbeth was such a treat, everyone was wonderful. I directed Salomesoon after (and played Herodias at the same time), and that show nearly broke me: it was some sort of weird BLACK SWAN thing or something. But I made it out alive and put up an original adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses just a few months ago. Closed it and took off to Wellington, NZ to visit my best friend for an extended holiday. In other words, theatre is doing well enough by me and I (hopefully!) by it.
In somewhat Gothic news, my list of reads and rereads (I've been woefully lax at cataloging on here over the last year) in Kiwi country, should anyone be dying to know: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Maldoror (three separate translations!), Salammbô, endless Patti Smith poems, some weird history of chess piece designs, a half dozen back-issues of ELLE DECOR, and M. R. James, because he's a fun guy to travel with.
If anyone finds this remotely interesting, the three albums that have been literally haunting me since the day I stepped into Wellington: BERLIN, Lou Reed; RADIO ETHIOPIA, Patti Smith; and DESERTSHORE, Nico. Apparently you can take a California punk out of the goth clubs, but you can't take the... Oh, nevermind. Even wading through all that gloom, the soundtrack of my days here just light me the f*ck up!
So glad I dipped my toe back into the Haunted Castle and got a few words out! Maybe I can take the next few weeks I have left here and, oh I don't know, resurrect my worm-eaten lit journals with some new posts!
I'll try to keep in touch. I promise!
While I'm here, was THe House of Wax originally issued in 3D? I seem to recall a gratuitous scene with a barker batting a ball on elastic at the camera.
I suppose we could argue HEAVENLY CREATURES, despite being based upon a true story, is quite Gothic...
'Kiwi Gothic' seems to be to be an academically significant phrase, though it's not in the indices of any of my books - there is a lot to be found about it online.
I found this article interesting - Kiwi Gothic. Incidentally, I draw veilofisis's attention to the penultimate paragraph's mention of 'Wellington intelligentsia' - might throw some light on what kind of people she's found herself amongst.
I think I'd better resist the temptation to link all the interesting articles I've found, but, for the purposes of this thread, the 1995 documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill, seems to be regarded as important and influential on later NZ cinema. I'd really like to see that.
Suffice to say that in >256 alaudacorax: I'd totally underestimated the significance of the Gothic in NZ culture (pakeha culture, anyway). Sorry, Kiwis.
ETA - And, yes, 'Heavenly Creatures' and 'The Piano' keep cropping up in these articles. I've never watched 'The Piano' because of Michael Nyman's godawful, brain-rotting music ... there's always subtitles, I suppose ...
Alaudacorax, Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill is available to rent on the BFI Player for £2.50.
I've only used it to see free stuff, so far (including some footage of Reading's trolley buses (in 1938) only a stones' throw from my house. Exciting or what? ;-))
The films of Jesus "Jess" Franco certainly aren't for everyone,
Who are they for?
Bloody hell, Lola! You can't say things like that in public! Anyway, I don't believe that's actually possible standing up in a hammock, especially not with all those pickled gherkins.
Anyway, RIP Wes Craven.
All the Gothic tropes were present and correct, but I was surprised by the political elements of the story. It's a period of US history I knew nothing about (patroons and the anti-rent war). The treatment seemed sophisticated, but then Ernst Lubitsch was attached to the project in its early stages.
Yes I did like it. It was cleverer (in its use of secondary characters, its politics,) than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise, but the important thing is it worked on my emotions. I'm turning into an old softy, clearly.
I noticed from a bit of googling that the film's never had particularly good reviews though. Here's a stinker from the Radio Times website (an old review from a 1980s print edition, at a guess).
"This preposterous old tosh, a sort of Manderley-on-the-Hudson"..."Vincent Price hams quite extraordinarily"..."there's a great deal of pleasure to be had from watching these ludicrous performances on phoney sets, but you can't escape the feeling that once it was meant to be taken seriously."
Besides, I want to note here my eternal love for high-voltage dramatics, phony sets, shabby costuming, unbelievable monsters and so on. The more the floorboards creak the happier I am.
Maybe that's the inner theatre freak speaking--I don't give a damn for "verisimilitude", I only want the poetry.
Yeah, I don't think it's useful to analyse this genre as if it were nouvelle vague or something. It plays by different rules.
Agreed. In fact I think the Radio Times reviewer knew that too. He's sort of communicating it to his readers under the lofty dismissiveness.
... by different rules
Yeah, I agree, too. Also, I'm not sure that 'high-voltage dramatics' isn't one of the prerequisites for anything we could firmly categorise as 'Gothic films' (or, possibly, it's a youthful diet of Vincent Price and his like that has made me think this way ...)
ETA - Since I wrote that I've mulling over my idea of the archetypal Gothic film, and I can't get past House of Usher with - of course - Vincent Price.
Just come back from a week's holiday on the Gower peninsula. I find I'm now absolutely incapable of enjoying waves breaking on a rocky shoreline during a strong blow without Ray Milland's opening voiceover buzzing into my mind - "They call them the haunted shores ..."
ETA: also bought the sets of Creature from the Black Lagoon and "The fly" (from the sixties) movies, and The Blood Beast Terror with Cushing. (What could possibly outdo that title?)
Have you seen The Old Dark House(1932) with Ernest Thesiger, Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, et al? I must also mention Dead of Night(1945) with the incredible Michael Redgrave performance as a mad ventriloquist. The Unholy Three(1930) and The Unknown(1927) with Lon Chaney come to mind as well.
I'm not familiar with that movie of Redgrave's but I've seen a couple other where he plays creepy villains, one with Joan Bennett, IIRC... Oh and I LOVE those Chaney Senior's movies--what a shame they are so hard to come by. I was lucky to see The Unholy Three in a retrospective on the big screen, but otherwise it's hard to come by anything but DVD-R stuff, basically "print-on-demand" DVDs.
Edited: Aaaack! Was thinking Gloria and wrote Lilian!
A quick look on Thesiger's IMDB page suggests They Drive by Night - an original British version from 1939. Never heard of it before, but I'm intrigued now.
Thanks! Now to see whether it's available anywhere...
Whenever "The Old Dark House" is mentioned, I must say:
"Have a potato."
O ... kay - you just sent me right back to my childhood/early teens, watching Fiend Without a Face ...