This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book is about the British film director Terence Fisher. It demonstrates that an appreciation of Fisher's films is aided by thinking about them in terms of that British accent. Ultimately, perhaps, this provides the best way of trying to understand what it is about Fisher's films that makes them so distinctive. It takes us closer to explaining why some of these films have captured the imagination of so many for so long. A way of establishing Fisher's work as significantly British is through locating it in relation to an indigenous gothic tradition. A revealing exchange of views about 'Britishness' and one especially pertinent to an understanding of Fisher's work occurred during the pre-production of The Curse of Frankenstein, Fisher's first horror film.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows that Terry Gilliam sometimes enjoyed a remarkable degree of financial support and creative freedom, especially with films linked to Monty Python. Gilliam employs an extraordinary variety of genres: medieval comedy; children's historical adventure; dystopian satire; the fantastic voyage; science fiction; Gonzo Journalism; fairy tale; and gothic horror. Peter Greenaway speaks of admiring Gilliam and fellow Python Terry Jones for their anarchy and irreverence. Derek Jarman puts 'glorious Terry Gilliam's Brazil' on a very short list of British 1970s and 1980s films he would keep. Gilliam's American work in the 1990s determines that he does appear in British Cinema of the 90s. The book argues the centrality of hybridity to Gilliam's films.
The politics of ‘Crazyspace’, children’s television and the case of The Demon Headmaster
Máire Messenger Davies
The BBC drama series The Demon Headmaster managed to combine the contrasting terrains of 'quality' children's television drama with the more commercial requirements of 'wacky kidvid' to produce a very radical piece of television. The Demon Headmaster series was a loud counter-blast to all this. It turned on the critics of children and childhood and pointed out the link between their formal, rote-learning methods of education and totalitarianism. The Demon Headmaster was the top-rated children's programme in 1995-96, with an unprecedented audience share of 70 percent of nine-to-twelve-year-olds. Childhood, in The Demon Headmaster stories, is not a problem for the adult world to solve; the problem is the other way around, with children rescuing adults from themselves. This message was doubly underlined because it appeared on television, in 'crazyspace'.
This chapter discusses two hybrid forms of Gothic drama in the 1960s, firstly the Gothic family sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family, and secondly the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. In a sense, both The Addams Family and The Munsters 'worried at' the home lives of their viewers, albeit in a humorous way, thus acting as classic American Gothic texts. An examination of the formation of Gothic television in the US shows that, as with early British television drama, the Gothic anthology series on American television was prefigured by the genre's popularity on the radio. This highlights the relationship between the domestic reception context and the Gothic text. Dark Shadows' particular brand of the 'fantastic-marvellous', the blending of stock characters and narrative events from the soap opera and the Gothic genre, therefore bringing into congruence the ordinary and the supernatural, might be seen to render viewer identification somewhat mystifying.
The male ensemble film, in its first phase up to Breaker Morant, is strongly influenced by the posture of the ocker; blunt, loud, hedonistic and conservative in the populist manner. The first revival film to foreground the male milieu and masculine ethics was Sunday Too Far Away. The absence of female characters in Sunday Too Far Away highlights the exclusivity of the male group and professional affiliations. The Club's depiction of sporting and business rivalries within a football club offers a further example of a male-dominated milieu within Australian society. The inevitability of fate in Gallipoli is comparable with the inexorable socio-political forces exerting their influence over the characters of Between Wars. Portrayals of male mates in later Australian film have outstripped the ambiguities, recessiveness or conservatism characterising the earlier cycle of male-centred dramas.
This chapter suggests that Van Sant's film Psycho extracts, exteriorises, and diffuses gender onto the surface of consciousness. The film is less of a romantic secret to be penetrated through shadowy hints and cloaks of anxious ambiguity and more a uniform topography of social fact, presence, utility, and kinesis. If it was earlier a catafalque and chrysalis for desire, it is now a banality, like weather. The rainstorm through which Marion Crane drives to the motel, once pathetic fallacy, is now nothing more than a realistic setting. There is realism, too, as Marion packs to take flight in underwear that is money green. The film brings to the surface of awareness and attention a stash that was earlier a guilty secret. Dying a second death, Marion is not packaged in guilt or gender, but is only and pathetically a passer-by in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rechnological necromancy and E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire
Carol Margaret Davison
Taking as its point of focus E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire (2000), a cinematic mise-en-abîme homage to, and a self-referential twenty-first century commentary on F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, this essay examines vampire cinema as an emblem of ‘technological necromancy’ that mediates our ambivalent responses to modernity, its proliferating technologies, and death in the wake of the secularising Enlightenment whose driving ideal – rational empiricism – undermined long established Christian certainties about the existence and nature of a soul and an afterlife. This essay reads Shadow as a compelling and sedimented, twenty-first century meditation on the nefarious, desensitizing impact of our cultural addiction to visual technologies, in which the vampire is used to mirror its audience. Shadow is also assessed as an interrogation of the gender and racial politics of cinematic spectatorship – particularly the influence and impact of pornography and propaganda cinema.
Terry Gilliam suggested a film based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense verse, 'Jabberwocky', taken from Through the Looking Glass. Gilliam reworked the traditional fairy tale narrative, so that the storyline would precipitate 'a collision of fairytales'. In Holy Grail the many-eyed monster had been an animation, but that was not an option in Jabberwocky. Drawing from Carroll, Pieter Bruegel, Paolo Pasolini and others, and incorporating elements of social document, social satire, evocative nonsense, slapstick comedy, distorted fairy tale, the grotesque and the monster film, Jabberwocky did not play safe. Jabberwocky offered Gilliam the chance to represent the intricacies of medieval society, celebrate its vital humanity, offer a comically inflected critique of his own world, and learn his craft. Despite its huge success, in terms of Gilliam's career as a film-maker Life of Brian was a step backwards from Jabberwocky.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explains generic and thematic adaptations in horror cinema from a wide range of aesthetic, cultural, political and theoretical perspectives. The history of horror film is full of adaptations that draw upon fiction or folklore, or have assumed the shape of remakes of pre-existing films. From its earliest days, horror film has turned to examples of the horror genre in fiction (such as the Victorian Gothic) or legend for source material. The book offers an insightful and timely investigation of adaptation in horror film as an increasingly trans-cultural activity. To account for why horror film narratives remain a consistently successful source for adaptations, be they generic or thematic, in horror cinema, one needs to consider horror's relation to the broad concept of myth.