Film, Media and Music

The ghost story on British television

In terms of television production and scheduling, the ghost story offers an entirely different incentive during the festive season, in that it is sold as 'special', season-specific programming, as part of the Christmas television package. Emphasising the importance of sound in this teleplay, the TV Times article accompanying 'The Open Door' unusually focused on the creation of sound effects for the episode. Mystery and Imagination was produced during an innovative time in the history of British television, often referred to as the 'Golden Age' of television drama, and saw the Gothic drama on television being used to 'showcase' new production technologies and the talents of ABC's creative personnel. The remit behind Ghost Story for Christmas was to produce a television version of classic ghost stories, referencing the tradition of oral ghost storytelling at Christmas, and from 1971 to 1975 these stories were the adapted work of M.R. James.

in Gothic television

Monty Python's Flying Circus clearly plays the key role in launching Terry Gilliam as a filmmaker. This chapter also addresses certain pertinent aspects of one of television's greatest comedy shows. One of these aspects is the importance of Gilliam's animation to the style as well as the structure of the show. One of the few self-referential moments occurs in Gilliam's animation, The Killer Cars, in which pedestrian-devouring cars are consumed by a giant mutant cat. Gilliam's animations transfer better than many of the great verbal sketches. Holy Grail is more focused on a single set of characters and a relatively coherent narrative. Hence the animation is decidedly less surreal than on television or in Something Completely Different. Holy Grail gave Gilliam a tough and highly instructive apprenticeship in filmmaking, but the opportunity only arose because he and Terry Jones were Python members.

in Terry Gilliam
Negotiating with the Daleks

This chapter connects a study of the commissioning and production processes of the well-known science-fiction drama series Doctor Who with the larger theoretical question of the understandings of 'quality' guiding its production and reception. 'The Daleks' ensures Doctor Who's survival by attracting significant audiences with a futuristic science fiction adventure. As James Chapman has noted, the evaluation and justification of quality in British television drama has focused on its social realist tradition or on its relationship with literature. The chapter shows how the assumptions of the production team, aesthetics of the programme text, audiences, and publicity discourses and merchandising contexts lead to different understandings of 'quality' and negotiations with and between these understandings. Along with merchandise, spin-off and supplementary texts in various media supported the attractions of Doctor Who and especially the Daleks, both stimulating and satisfying Dalek-mania.

in Popular television drama

This chapter investigates the legacy of the representation of family violence and domestic abuse in Twin Peaks. It shows how the Gothic mode subsequently flourished at the turn of the century in a number of long-running Gothic series and serials. For the sake of brevity, this examination of US Gothic television will focus on American Gothic and Millennium as case studies. Twin Peaks and American Gothic offer family-centred episodic narratives which are recognisable as American Gothic narratives, drawing on plots, characterisations and imagery which are easily identifiable within nationally specific Gothic convention. Millennium may initially seem more elusive in terms of generic categorisation. The argument that Gothic serial drama in the US made during the 1990s showcased innovations and changes within the television industry evokes a characterisation of the industry prior to and during this decade. This characterisation has been carefully outlined in John Thornton Caldwell's Televisuality.

in Gothic television
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This book is about the British film director Terence Fisher. It begins by setting the context by detailing Fisher's directorial debut to Hammer's horror production and the importance of the Hammer horror to Fisher's career. Hammer's horror production represents one of the striking developments in post-war British cinema. The book explains some professional and industrial contexts in which Fisher operated and shows how these relate both to the films he made and the way in which these films have been judged and valued. It presents a detailed account of The Astonished Heart, Fisher's sixth film as director, highlighting the benefits and some of the problems involved in thinking about Fisher's career generally in its pre-horror phase. The successful Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein, both inaugurated the British horror boom and established Fisher as a film-maker whose name was known to critics as someone who specialised in the despised horror genre. After The Curse of Frankenstein, Fisher became primarily a horror director. The book presents an account of the highs and lows Fisher faced in his directorial career, highlighting his significant achievements and his box-office failures. It also shows Fisher as a director dependent on and at ease with the industrial and collaborative nature of film-making. In a fundamental sense, what value there is in Terence Fisher's work exists because of the British film industry and the opportunities it afforded Fisher, not despite the industry.

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This book argues the centrality of hybridity to Terry Gilliam's films. Gilliam had a collaborative approach to filmmaking and a desire to provoke audiences to their own interpretations as other forms of intertextual practice. Placing Gilliam in the category of cinematic fantasist does some preliminary critical work, but crudely homogenises the diversity of his output. One way of marking this range comes from understanding that Gilliam employs an extraordinary variety of genres. These include medieval comedy; children's historical adventure; dystopian satire; the fantastic voyage; science fiction; Gonzo Journalism; fairy tale; and gothic horror. Gilliam's work with Monty Python assured him a revered place in the history of that medium in Britain. As a result, the Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life, along with his own, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, and Brazil, show him moving successfully into the British film industry. Most of his films have been adaptations of literary texts, and Jabberwocky forges an extended tale of monsters and market forces. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen builds on some tales from the original texts, constructing a complex examination of fantasy, representation and mortality. Taking crucial ingredients from medieval and older mythologies, the screenplay of The Fisher King resituates them and reworks them for modern America. Gilliam's complex interaction with Britain and America explains his ambiguous place in accounts of American and British films.

Horror and generic hybridity

The decade of the 1990s was characterised by a range of science fiction, fantasy and horror films that constituted a revival in the respective genres, both in terms of critical acclaim and box office takings. In his essay 'Horrality', Philip Brophy argues for reading post-1975 horror films as a 'saturated genre' in a constant process of referencing itself as a textual object. This combination of hybrid genres creates a film that offers both parody and homage to its antecedents: The Breakfast Club, Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This chapter examines how the film The Faculty combines the tropes and stylistic conventions of teen movies, gothic horror and science fiction to effectively create what the critic Thomas Kent has identified as a 'supergenre'. Supergenre is a process in which the spectator/reader can observe a 'shift ceaselessly from one set of generic conventions to another'.

in Monstrous adaptations
Dad’s Army and myths of Old England

Dad's Army, first aired in 1968, was the first comedy series to be set in the Second World War. This chapter comments on the form and content of Dad's Army and their interrelationship. In respect of historical authenticity Dad's Army understandably avoids the aspects of Home Guard experience which would defeat laughter. In production, Dad's Army was treated as a costume drama shot partly in the studio but substantially on locations near Thetford, East Anglia, particularly in the town and on Stanford, a nearby Military Training Area. The experience of contemporary life in a socially fragmented Britain, under a right-leaning 'New Labour' government, may be different. But it seems that Dad's Army brings out not so much nostalgia as a myth of Old England.

in Popular television drama
The spectacle of death and the aesthetics of crowd control

This chapter considers the context of the French Revolution and the spectacle of accelerated and mechanised decapitation and their joint influence on the Gothic imagination. The focus of the discussion is on stage representation, and the anxieties generated by attempts to represent insurrectionary violence in the 1790s in front of potentially volatile and unpredictable audiences. James Boaden’s dramatisation of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk is adapted (in part) to neutralise the representation of mob rule. Meanwhile, George Reynolds’ Bantry Bay, staged during a unique window of opportunity in 1797, attempts to re-imagine potential insurgents in loyalist terms. Paradoxically, the attempt to control the theatre through licensing had created larger venues than ever before, making audiences potentially more threatening.

in The Gothic and death
The Prisoner, authorship and allegory

This chapter discusses The Prisoner's precocious concern with the staples of postmodern criticism as simulation, consumption and identity. It addresses questions of authorship and genre, and considers how and the extent to which The Prisoner can be seen as allegorical. As namelessness, the erasure of names and the use of characteristics rather than proper names suggests, The Prisoner stands outside the critically dominant realist traditions of television drama and attracts allegorical interpretation. The Prisoner depicts a post-austerity Britain, modern and affluent, but weighed down by history and tradition. In addition to the tension between levels of meaning in its postmodernist allegory, The Prisoner, like Jason King, confuses ontological levels through metaleptic game-playing. On both narrative and formal levels, and for both characters and viewers, The Prisoner draws upon and evokes the paranoid centripetal drive of the subject-emergent-in-construction and that subject's self-constituting paranoid drive to construct meanings.

in Popular television drama