Copyright Company and Date: 1986 Virgin Visions
Submitted by FaustoTHE CHARACTERS
Mary Godwin - 18 year old feminist writer (and future author of Frankenstien); follows her friends on a trip to Geneva and finds inspiration
Percy Shelley - Poet and Mary's lover, fascinated by science and has a tendency to stand naked on rooftops during thunderstorms.
Claire Claremont - Mary's pregnant half sister, is hopelessly obsessed with Byron and prone to epileptic fits
Lord Byron - Egocentric and self-indulgent writer with a club foot; presumably wrote the original book on how to be a player, among other famous works
Dr. John Polidori - Byron's suicidal and gay doctor (and future author of The Vampyre, itself the inspiration for Stoker's Dracula), has a strange kinship with leeches
Fuseli Monster - Demonic midget with a perchant for sitting on the chests of sleeping women
Armor Ghost - What this Knight lacks in looks, he makes up for by being well endowed
The Creature - Unseen apparition created through a seance and is a composite of the participant's worst fearsLESSONS LEARNED
Ghosts and monsters mark their territory with puddles of semen
Creating an entity out of your worst fears is a really stupid idea
Sex partners never die, as long as you have a death mask and a willing stand-in
You are never too old (or too intellectual) to play hide and seek
Some women can blink their nipples
There's nothing more deliciously thirst-quenching than a jar full of leech water
Mechanical Turkish women don't like their hoo-hoo's touched
The "free love" concept existed long before the 60'sSTUFF TO WATCH FOR
4 min - Ha ha! She fell!
14 min - Yeah baby, work those udders
17 min - In real life, he'd have slipped off and broken his neck
18 min - Are heterosexual men supposed to sit that close?
22 min - Freud would have a field day here
25 min - That's rude, not even bothering to invite the doctor to join them
36 min - RANDOM GRATUITOUS BREAST SHOT!
36 min - I wonder how much Justine gets paid for this
38 min - Now that's some high quality H20, right there
41 min - Nice recreation, except...where's the horse?
55 min - When a girl is out of tampons, its nice to know Lord Byron's around to lend a hand...er, tongue...
63 min - RANDOM GRATUITOUS BR...what the hell?
64 min - You gotta keep those anatomical models locked up, or else they run amok
65 min - What would a Ken Russell film be without snakes?
74 min - Julian Sands I can see, but Gabriel Byrne? I guess someone has to be the man in that relationshipNOTABLE QUOTES
Percy: Did you see the light? It was like the end of the world.
Byron: Then let us live and love, so that people will say that the Devil, as well as God, is an Englishman.
Claire: I wish my baby, it was born...lying smiling on its father's knee...and I was dead, and in my grave, with green grass growing all over me...
Percy: ...suddenly I'd had an image of a woman I'd been told I'd meet, and the madness was such that she had eyes in her breasts...
Polidori: What about a dark English nobleman who drawls women to him, sucks their blood, and discards them empty?
Byron: Or an obscene Italian doctor, raised by the Benedictines, who turns to sin and buggery?
Byron: Forget your women, Shiloh. Do not waste your brilliant words upon them. Poets are for each other.THE PLOT
There’s nothing quite as trippy as a Ken Russell film, and Gothic (1986) is certainly no exception to the rule.
1816, Lake Geneva. English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his lover, Mary Godwin, accompany Mary’s half sister Claire on an expedition to the Villa Diodati, home of Claire’s lover Lord Byron. The grand mansion has already become the target of tourists, who pay money to spy on the reclusive lord, perhaps to catch him in one of many acts of scandal to which he has been attributed. No sooner do the trio reach the shores of the Villa than Percy is chased around by two young women (fans of his work). Here we start to get the idea that these people are not as mature and cultured as we might think.
The group meets with Byron, who right off the bat begins making grand speeches in poetic jargon. Despite Claire’s attraction, he seems more interested in Percy…and not just for intellectual reasons, either. Dinner is served, and the discussion gives us some back story on Byron, who left England for reasons he hints at but does not divulge. Claire jokingly suggests that he’s actually the devil incarnate, a theory she tries to prove by crawling under the table and pull off Byron’s shoes to reveal his "cloven hooves". Byron responds by kicking her in the face (this is actually a reference to the real life Byron's club foot, a condition he was less than proud of). The awkwardness of this sudden act of abuse is broken by a spontaneous game of hide and seek, sending the players running to all parts of the mansion in a wild frenzy.
We get a brief tour of the mansion and its oddities, and the game ends with Percy standing naked on a roof during a thunderstorm, giving yet another poetic speech about lightning being a fundamental force of nature. With Percy safely back inside, the discussion turns to the secrets of life, and how it can be created. (Mary says nothing, but is listening nearby.) Byron then produces a volume of ghost stories, which the group takes turns reading to each other (this being what people used to do before TV and DVD players, how far we’ve come). Dissatisfied with the ending of the last story, Claire comes up with the idea of having each of them write their own ghastly tales.
Later on, during a brief orgy, the group is interrupted by an evil shape passing across a window. The shape is no more than a tree struck by lightning, but this leads into more talk about the forces of creation, and Byron gets an idea. A sort of seance is held, in which Byron demands that each of the participants "conjure up their worst fears” and bring them to life. Right away Claire begins screaming about “cold paws” on her face and falls into an epileptic seizure. She is taken to her room to recover, and Mary begins to butt heads with Byron over his treatment of her sister, who he obviously cares nothing about (on the other hand, he seems to care an awful lot about his own sister, the late Augusta, and not in a very wholesome way). Deciding the weather is unsafe for travel (and not wanting to leave Claire in Byron’s hands) Mary and Percy decide to spend the night. Sometime after the guests retire to their rooms, however, strange events begin to convince Mary and the others that an ominous apparition is stalking the grounds of the Villa.
In the midst of this, Mary confronts Byron again, this time revealing Claire’s pregnancy. Byron retorts by suggesting that Mary’s motives in forcing him to take responsibility are less than noble, as Percy could just as easily been the father (the group’s free-love ideals had lead to a few ménage-a-trios between Percy, Mary and Claire). As Mary tries to patch up her relationship with Percy after a jealous spat, the two come across a puddle of slime in the hallway, apparently left by the creature. Meanwhile, Byron sneaks into Claire’s chambers and “does something” to her, using his mouth and spilling plenty of blood in the process. The insanity now transferred to her, Claire goes nuts, leaving the others to decide who or what is stalking them and how it can be stopped.
First of all, one of the major complaints made against this film is the terrible acting. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so much worse that my standards have been lowered, or maybe it’s because I’m ignorant of how people actually spoke and acted in the nineteenth century, but I just don’t see it. Whatever overacting there may be, at least from my perspective, fits in with the film’s surreal nature. Granted, the actors are much older than their real life counterparts (the oldest, Byron, was 28 in 1816; Mary herself was only 18). The biggest complaint would be the issue of historical accuracy – it’s very unlikely that any of this actually happened the way the film depicts, yet, if anything, it is meant to be more of a look into the character’s mental and emotional states than any sort of biographical depiction of their lives. That said, it’s not a perfect film, and not for all tastes, but if you can stomach a bizarre flick, give it a try. A must for fans of Ken Russell’s work.