Frankenstein & the Vampyre

DATELINE: Horrors’ Start

Lord Byron  Byronic Vampire?

As one expert notes, these personages in the title are the twin pillars of modern horror—more than a century of monstrous concepts: life coming out of the dead.

A Dark and Stormy Night  is the subtitle of this intriguing documentary that uses the words of five people thrown together at Villa Diodati in 1816. This illustrious group of young bohemians of the era included two immortal poets, Shelly and Byron, their paramours, and their young doctor.

For those without a proper literary historical perspective, Lord Byron challenged his housemates one stormy night to write a ghost story. They had the summer without light, as it was called, to do it.  In the United States, it was called “the year without summer.”

Switzerland and the world suffered in 1816 from a year without proper summer: crops failed, storms cascaded around the Earth because of a super-volcanic explosion in the Pacific. So with a constant barrage of thunderstorms and lighting candles in mid-afternoon, the crew of Mary Shelley, Percy Shelly, Dr. J.M. Polidori (Byron’s travel companion) and Claire (Byron’s latest stalker/groupie) took up the task.

They allegedly urged, critiqued, and drove each other on to come up with a horrifying tale. Mrs. Shelley wrote about the modern Prometheus, Frankenstein, and Dr. Polidori came up with the first elegant, aristocratic vampire that set the mold for Dracula in fifty years.

Some wags believed that Byron wrote the original outline, and Polidori, pretender to the poet, stole it and finished it.

The scandalous summer featured rumors of drugs, sex, and bizarre carrying on, which suited the weirdness of the weather in 1816.

Of course, burning the candle as it were all day and all night, led to an early demise of Polidori in 1821, Shelley in 1822, and Byron in 1824.  Mary Shelley lived to see her story take on a life in literature—and years later realized she had survived the ghosts of Diodati.

Fascinating documentary with earnest re-enactors, trying to avoid their sexual peccadilloes. It seems almost preposterous that those so young could produce such masterpieces of literature.

It’s a story worth watching.

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Profiteers of Science Fiction

DATELINE: MOVIE & TV MASHUP

 ImageHOST RIDLEY SCOTT

Prophetic writers have been the backbone of imagination since before an anonymous scribe wrote The Book of Revelations.

The Prophets of Science Fiction illustrates the power of ten brilliant modern writers to foresee the future. The documentary series with host Ridley Scott may be suffering from a misnomer in the title of the series.

The ten writers under examination are each given an episode and a dominating theme from their works becomes the focal point. Soon, however, observers will note that experts and scientists cite the writer only in the context of seeing a movie version of a short story or novel.

Yes, stunning movie clips from the illustrated visions of the writers becomes Ridley Scott’s point as he sketches storyboards while narrating.

Even with the biographical information on Arthur Clarke, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and others, the literary works really are secondary to the prophets of movie science fiction. Let’s face the fact that these great writers have been resurrected by the technologies they foresaw.

Any child knows that the movie vision has hallucinatory impact that causes nightmares. And, the series delves into the psychological terrorism of computers, death, and the time/space continuum. Kids generally don’t have nightmares from reading the books.

None of this should denigrate the series that is both literary and cinematic. It contains insights the average fan of movies (or books) may not understand about the writers and their lives.

The episode count succinctly distills (is that a tautology?) each horrific vision (or even optimistic view) for its accuracy against modern science. The results are quite impressive and may drive you to download a book or two to your tablet.

Of course, some great science fiction writers have been left out of the loop—probably saved for a second season that never came. We should therefore look at what the series gives us as a crash course in the genre as a gift, not the end-all.

 

If you like movies and TV, you can find the complete reviews of Ossurworld in books like MOVIE MASHUP and MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE. All movie books are available for download at Amazon.com for smart readers.