Monstrous becomings in Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers
Approximately one-third of the way through Abel Ferrara's 1993 film, Body Snatchers, army doctor Major Collins questions the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representative about the toxicity of chemicals stored on the military base. In Ferrara's adaptation, monstrous becomings have an erotic potential absent from earlier cinematic incarnations of Jack Finney's novel. Ferrara's revelation of the social and cultural logics is at work in US millennial culture. It is only fitting that the most pronounced moments of cinematic horror in Body Snatchers arise not from the fear of what one may become, but from the very act of becoming. In their increasingly spectacular representation of the narrative, social, familial and corporeal body in flux, Don Siegel, Philip Kaufman, and Ferrara's adaptations of Finney's The Body Snatchers engage historically-specific cultures in transition.
This chapter looks at the apparent simplicities of the situation comedy, comparing some 'classic' 1960s and 1970s British sitcoms with a more recent example, The Office. It aims to clarify the relationship of narrative form to ideological and historical content. The chapter focuses on the question of linear narrative development in sitcom: a vexed question in a genre that has traditionally been marked by, and has indeed in important respects relied on, a distinctive episodic circularity. By comparison with other forms of popular television drama, and notwithstanding its eternal popularity with programmers and audiences, sitcom remains notably underdiscussed. The fine line between humour and grim psychological realism trod by Alan Simpson's Steptoe and Son's comedy of frustration and entrapment was seized upon by critics as a means of redeeming the series from sitcom status.
Recursive and self-reflexive patterns in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and eXistenZ
In an overview of David Cronenberg's career, the author has deliberately chosen Videodrome and eXistenZ as crucial turning points for several reasons. Both films share a host of thematic interests that extend beyond the scope of authorial consistency most critics are willing grant all of Cronenberg's films, even those not based on an original script by Cronenberg himself. David Thomson singles out Videodrome when he argues for the emergence of a self-reflexive turn in Cronenberg's films. Having appeared in brief cameos in directors' films, Cronenberg established a public persona in 1999 when he served a term as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a form of public recognition unthinkable for the man who had been dubbed the 'King of venereal horror' and 'Baron of blood' in the early years of his career.
Aesthetic integration and disintegration in Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher
Adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's story, 'The Fall of the House of Usher', Jean Epstein's 1928 film La Chute de la maison Usher incorporates nearly all the major avant-garde trends of the previous one hundred years. It also interprets them through an early twentieth-century modernist sensibility. Ultimately, the film is a sort of cryptic and anachronistic palimpsest whose modernist tendencies exist specifically in this blending and integration of a variety of aesthetic attitudes at the service of purely formalist concerns. Epstein's theories, with their conflation of 'poetic and scientific language', would greatly influence French avant-garde cinema and Impressionist cinematic theory, in particular. The entire sequence of the film is a meticulously orchestrated progression of cinematic effects, with multiple exposures, abstract imagery, slow-motion photography and dramatic camerawork. They all operate in conjunction with the melodramatic movements of the actors to create a textured imitation of dazed mourning and grief.
Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein and John Barrymore’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Richard J. Hand
Two great works of fiction at opposite ends of the nineteenth century continue to be paradigms of horror with the concept of 'adaptation' at their heart. They are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Both present mad scientists who experiment with adaptation in the sense of metamorphosis and transmutation. This chapter looks at the Thomas Edison Company's Frankenstein and John S. Robertson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, two intrinsically 'melodramatic' adaptations that nonetheless resonate profoundly over the subsequent legacy of popular horror culture. Film adaptations of Frankenstein would remain as the Edison studios pioneered: a monstrous adaptation reliant upon special effects for an explicit creation sequence with an actor beneath extreme make-up at its conclusion. John Barrymore was already a legendary stage actor by the time he appeared in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
This chapter examines the development of a Gothic aesthetic of mortality in Graveyard poetry that in turn provided a significant influence for later Gothic novels. In its reflective, psychologically complex subject matter, poetry provides rich material for Gothic, and the genre drew upon the work of the graveyard poets, including Gray, Young, Blair and Parnell. Not only are the aesthetics of graveyard poetry significant in the development of Gothic, but also the structures of Christianity which emphasise life after death. The locus of death provides a focal point where the poetic and the constructed self meet, uniting the rational and the sublime in contemplating the terrible and unknowable, replacing the pre-Reformation prayers for the dead with a Protestant contemplation of Heaven.
Terry Gilliam was drawn to Watchmen, with its dark overtones and caustic take on American dreams, as well as its ambitious scope, making it for him 'the War and Peace of comic books'. Gilliam joked that The Fisher King was his 'selling out' film. The film had another distinction: few filmmakers are involved in hits based on the legend of the Holy Grail; The Fisher King made Gilliam perhaps the only individual to have performed the feat twice. The Fisher King offers a diagnosis of the soul's scurvy. The screenplay casts a critical eye over the egotism and vacuous materialism of contemporary America, depicting and denouncing that society as a sterile wasteland, lorded over by indulgent, vicious, morally corrupt and emotionally unaware elites.
Graeme Turner's judgement of the place and significance of the period films produced during the revival re-emphasises several key issues already acknowledged in relation to the Ocker comedies and the Australian Gothic. The film credited with inspiring the cycle of period films, and with endowing the new Australian cinema with an aesthetic maturity belying its age, was Picnic at Hanging Rock. Picnic's basis in the Gothic and its extension of its director's interest in alienating subjective experience underline the film's adoption of a period setting in order to offer a critique of authority within a fantasy-horror format. Fred Schepisi's films which use the period setting focus on male experience of intolerance and oppression, and refuse to temper their criticism of prevailing attitudes through simplification of issues or prettification of mise-en-scene. Sirens achieves a belated revival of the period film cycle, while developing the themes of its writer-director.
This book aims to provide resources for critical thinking on key aspects of television drama in Britain since 1960, including institutional, textual, cultural and audience-centred modes of study. It explores the continuing popularity of the situation comedy, and makes a convincing case for considering sitcom as a key popular genre. By offering a sense of how 'real' audiences respond to, and engage with, actual programmes in specific social situations, dominant conceptions of the social meanings of Carla Lane's Butterflies and Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Dad's Army are challenged and renegotiated. The book takes up Queer As Folk to focus on its status as an authored intervention in debates about the representation of homosexuality. It demonstrates that The Prisoner series inhabits contradictions by unpacking the complex question of the series's authorship, and the inadequacy of attributing its meanings to its creator, star performer or production team, for example. The book argues that The Demon Headmaster makes a significant contribution to the project of exploring and defining questions of ethics and justice in social organisation, in part, by claiming children's culture as a space of experimentation, resistance and subversion. It looks at the ways in which television drama embodies assumptions about its audience, and pursues this in a sophisticated way in relation to late twentieth-century television adaptations of 'the female Gothic'. The struggle between the BBC power-base in London and its satellite Departments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is also dealt with.
In the autumn of 2000, the original cast of Carla Lane's Butterflies reassembled to celebrate Ria's sixtieth birthday as part of the BBC's annual charity appeal Comic Relief. The constant recycling of 'old' situation comedies and their apparently enduring appeal has provoked surprisingly little academic interest. This chapter discusses the complex pleasures of viewing, re-viewing and remembering Butterflies. Most respondents consider Butterflies a 'superior' domestic sitcom in comparison with other popular favourites such as Terry and June, George and Mildred and The Good Life although these shows were also considered enjoyable. Butterflies' themes of marital boredom and frustration have strong similarities to Betty Friedan's interpretation of the discontent and dissatisfaction experienced by white middle-class US housewives in The Feminine Mystique. This book was often dubbed the 'founding' text of second-wave feminism.