Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let Us Blind Them With Our Wickedness, or Thoughts on Ken Russell’s Gothic

You should know of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and wife of Romantic Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, of Ozymandus, because you paid attention in High School English and love horror movies.  With any luck you’ve even read the book.  But you may not know that Shelley’s novel was inspired by a weekend party with Lord “Mad, Bad, an Dangerous to Know” Byron, and Director Ken Russell of The Devils (1971), Altered States (1980), and The Lair of The White Worm (1988) made a movie about it.
Gothic (1986) stars Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, Julian Sands of Siesta (1987) as Percy Blythe Shelley, and Gabriel Byrne who coincidentally also starred in Siesta, perfectly cast as George Gordon Byron, more popularly known as Lord Byron, immortal poet and inspiration for Dracula and every vampire since.
A stylish literary script cobbled together with quotes from letters, poems and plays, Ken Russel depicts that fateful weekend at Byron’s Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva as a wild party with Romantic poets as 19th Century rock stars, getting high on ether and laudanum and trashing hotel rooms.  In between tantrums and flirtations they read each other ghost stories in a competition to frighten each other.  It is out of this contest that Mary Shelley is inspired to write Frankenstein.   Ken Russell decorates the mansion with a menagerie of goats, boa constrictors, and a collection of proto-steampunk sex-robots (The Difference Engine was published in 1990, so steampunk really wasn’t identified as a thing yet), just in case you might forget that you’re watching a Ken Russell film.
This weekend party has been filmed twice before: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, with Elsa Lancaster in a sly cameo as Mary Shelley) and Haunted Summer (1988, with Alice Krige, The Borg Queen, as Mary Shelley).   Look out for Timothy Spall, who you know as Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter as Dr. Polidori, take special note of the soundtrack by Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson, and if you don’t know who he is, I don't think we can be friends anymore.



my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, supernatural martial arts shenanigans and a 24hr diner with the best pie in town

read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback from these fine (amazon) bookstores.