Mary Shelley Channels Aspern Papers!

 DATELINE: Another Dark & Stormy Movie

Stormy night Gang sits around on a dark & stormy night!

Someone read the Henry James novella Aspern Papers and found inspiration to make a movie about the real people (Mary, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley) that were fictionalized for literary movies, but made flesh for a biopic.

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth make for a beautiful couple of poet Shelley and his young companion Mary Godwin. They are a couple of free-love, free spirits. Throw in the stepsister of Mary (Claire Claremont) who is moved to seduce Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) who greets Shelley with a kiss on the lips. Here we have the roots of The Aspern Papers.

It’s all the more intriguing because about ten years ago a lost manuscript of Claire was discovered in which she unloaded on the Romantic poets for their cruel attitudes.

This movie features Mary Shelley keeping her husband’s love letters and poems, savoring them. Of course, it was Claire who lived until 1879 and might have inspired Henry James to write his nasty novella about the mystery behind the free-love advocates.

The Shelleys meet Byron around the same time that Mary becomes fascinated with galvanism or electrifying dead bodies to bring them back to life.

The biopic is flavorful and masterly filmed, even giving us the dark and stormy night that Byron challenged them to write a ghost story. Dr. Polidori writes the first true vampire novel, and Mary writes Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus.

No one believes either was capable of such a feat—and their works were at first attributed to Shelley and Byron, respectively.

Byron comes across as a sniveling snake in this film, and Shelley is the whoremaster Mary’s father accuses him of being.

If you want to see the real Aspern Papers that Henry James alluded to in his covert way, this may be it.

 

 

 

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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.

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.