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.
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.
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.
From its earliest days, horror film has turned to examples of the horror genre in fiction, such as the Victorian Gothic, for source material. The horror film has continually responded to cultural pressures and ideological processes that resulted in new, mutated forms of the genre. Adaptation in horror cinema is a useful point of departure for articulating numerous socio-cultural trends. Adaptation for the purposes of survival proves the impetus for many horror movie monsters. This book engages generic and thematic adaptations in horror cinema from a wide range of aesthetic, cultural, political and theoretical perspectives. These diverse approaches further evidence the horror genre's obsession with corporeal transformation and narratological re-articulation. Many horror films such as Thomas Edison's Frankenstein, John S. Robertson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, David Cronenberg'sVideodrome, Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers, and Terence Fisher's The Gorgon are discussed in the book. The book sheds welcome light upon some of the more neglected horror films of cinema's first century, and interrogates the myriad alterations and re-envisionings filmmakers must negotiate as they transport tales of terror between very different modes of artistic expression. It extends the volume's examination of adaptation as both an aesthetic process and a thematic preoccupation by revealing the practice of self-reflexivity and addresses the remake as adaptation. The book analyses the visual anarchy of avant-garde works, deploys the psychoanalytic film theory to interpret how science and technology impact societal secularisation, and explores the experimental extremes of adaptation in horror film.
Several Australian films of the 1990s incorporate Gothic elements, and often exaggerate the irony, black humour and reflexive characteristics exhibited by Gothic films of the 1970s and 1980s. Death in Brunswick adopts the Gothic sensibility wholeheartedly in its blackly humorous portrait of individual inadequacy, family authority and racial tension. A superior rendition of formative experience, which combines the rite of passage with the Gothic and the period film, is found in Celia. Having been made with the assistance of the Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC), Death in Brunswick went on to become the second highest grossing Australian film at the home box office in 1991. Muriel's Wedding is centred in the rite of passage formal. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert extends the motifs of personal growth allied to travel seen in Muriel's Wedding by adhering closely to the road movie genre.
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.
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.