Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Mary Shelley

The First Film Version of Frankenstein, Newly Restored!

The newly restored version of the 1910 Frankenstein is available on the Library of Congress YouTube channel and in the National Screening Room, a recently launched digital collection of films. And, like most films on the NSR, it’s freely downloadable in both ProRes LT and MPEG-4 formats, complete with the Sosin score.

 


Jack Pierce

Jack-Pierce_bannerJack Pierce (born Janus Piccoula; May 5, 1889 – July 19, 1968) was a Hollywood make-up artist most famous for creating the iconic make-up worn by Boris Karloff in Universal Studios’ 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, along with various other classic monster make-ups for Universal Studios.

frankenstein_jack-pierce_themanbehindthemonstersAfter immigrating to the United States from his native Greece as a teenager, Pierce tried his hand at several careers, including a stint as an amateur baseball player. In the opportunist twenties, Pierce embarked on a series of jobs in cinema—cinema manager, stuntman, actor, even assistant director—which would eventually lead to his mastery of in the field of makeup. In 1915 he was hired to work on crews for the studio’s productions. On the 1926 set of The Monkey Talks, Jack Pierce created the make-up for actor Jacques Lernier who was playing a simian with the ability to communicate. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, was won over with the creative outcome. Next came Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, also a silent Universal picture. Pierce was then immediately hired full-time by the newly established Universal Pictures motion picture studio. The 1930 death of Lon Chaney, who throughout the 1920s had made a name for himself by creating grotesque and often painful horror makeups, opened a niche for Pierce and Universal, Chaney’s films provided audiences with the deformed, monstrous faces that Pierce and moviegoers so clearly enjoyed.

jack-pierce_boris-karloff_frankensteinUniversal’s first talkie horror film, Dracula, eschewed elaborate horror make-up. Pierce designed a special color greasepaint for Bela Lugosi for his vampire character, but apparently the actor insisted on applying his own makeup. For all film appearances of the character thereafter, Pierce instituted a different look entirely, recasting Dracula as a man with greying hair and a moustache. The most significant creation during Pierce’s time at the studio was clearly Frankenstein, originally begun with Lugosi in the role of the Monster. The preliminary design was apparently similar to the Paul Wegener 1920 German film of The Golem. When James Whale replaced Florey as director, the concept was radically changed. Pierce came up with a design which was horrific as well as logical in the context of the story. So, where Henry Frankenstein has accessed the brain cavity, there is a scar and a seal, and the now famous “bolts” on the neck are actually electrodes; carriers for the electricity used to revive the stitched-up corpse. How much input director James Whale had into the initial concept remains controversial. Universal loaned out Pierce for the Lugosi film White Zombie. They also loaned out some of the Dracula sets for the troublesome filming. Lugosi had collaborated with Pierce on the look of his devilish character in the film.

frankenstein_boris-karloff_jack-piercePierce’s make-up can be seen in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mummy (1932), Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941), and their various sequels associated with the characters. He also helped comedian Bud Abbott augment his thinning hairline with a widow’s peak toupee in his early films with Lou Costello. Pierce’s final credit is as makeup artist for the TV show Mister Ed from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1968 from uremia.

Jack Pierce’s enduring work at Universal has become a huge influence to many in the entertainment field, including make-up artists Rick Baker and Tom Savini. Jack Pierce was an innovator in the world of screen entertainment and material design. Pierce understandably felt he never got the recognition he deserved and died a bitter man. Finally, in 2003, Pierce was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Make-up Artist and Hair Stylist Guild.

jack-pierce_wolf-man_lon-chaney-jrIn recent years, there is a strong desire to give Pierce a Hollywood Boulevard star for his popular lasting triumphs that have been preserved for decades on the movies he worked on. Pierce undeniably created screen icons to last beyond his lifetime. His contributions still continue to attract droves of attention to his astonishingly memorable, entirely original designs.


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Frankenstein – Berni Wrightson

Frankenstein_Berni Wrightson


TNT develop Frankenstein by Dean Koontz

DEADLINE: Cable company TNT has put in development Frankenstein, a drama series from Lionsgate Television and 1019 Entertainment based on the five Frankenstein novels by Dean Koontz, which have sold more than 20 million copies.

Feature writer James V. Hart (Dracula, Hook) and his son Jake Hart will write the project, a modern-day reworking of the classic Frankenstein mythology. It is set in present-day New Orleans and follows Victor Helios (Frankenstein) and his creation 200 years after they thought they killed each other in a battle in the Arctic. The creature has survived and Victor has used science to keep himself alive — and they’re now in the same city unbeknownst to each other. Victor has engineered a new race of bizarre beings who answer to him, and when the creature learns that Victor is alive, an epic war ensues built on 200 years of pent-up rage, with New Orleans caught in the middle. James Hart will executive produce alongside Koontz, whose books have sold more that 450 million copies worldwide, and 1019 Entertainment principals Terry Botwick and Ralph Winter. 1019  Entertainment acquired rights to Koontz’s Frankenstein book series in 2010 for what was originally envisioned as a feature franchise series.

Koontz’s Frankenstein actually originated on TV with the 2004 original movie/backdoor pilot Frankenstein on USA based on his concept, which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese, directed by Marcus Nispel and starred Parker Posey, Vincent Perez and Thomas Kretschmann. It didn’t go to series, and a year later, Koontz launched his book series with Prodigal Son.

This marks the series debut of James V. Hart, who has adapted the works of several big-name authors to the big screen, Bram Stoker (Dracula), Robert Louis Stevenson (Muppet Treasure Island) and Carl Sagan (Contact). This is not the first time he has tackled Frankenstein. Hart has a story credit on the 1994 feature Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s novel, which he also produced. Meanwhile, James Hart credits his son Jake for coming up with the idea for the Peter Pan sequel Hook.


Darkness – Lord Byron

Darkness is a poem written by Lord Byron in July 1816. Byron’s poem was written during the Romantic period, during which, several events occurred which resembled (to some) the biblical signs of the apocalypse. Many authors at the time saw themselves as prophets with a duty to warn others about their impending doom. However, at the same time period, many were questioning their faith in a loving God, due to recent fossil discoveries revealing records of the deaths of entire species buried in the earth.

In the past, critics were happy to classify Darkness as a “Last Man” poem, following a general theme of end of the world scenes from the view of the last man on earth. However, recent scholarship has pointed out the poem’s lack of any single “Last Man” character. Byron also uses the hellish biblical language of the apocalypse to carry the real possibility of these events to his readers.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went–and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires–and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings–the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire–but hour by hour
They fell and faded–and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash–and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless–they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought–and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails–men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress–he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects–saw, and shriek’d, and died–
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless–
A lump of death–a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge–
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them–She was the Universe.


Villa Diodati – Birthplace of Legends

Originally called the Villa Belle Rive, Byron named it the Villa Diodati after the family that owned it. The family was distantly related to Italian translator Giovanni Diodati, uncle of Charles Diodati, the close friend of poet John Milton. Despite the presence of a plaque at the Villa heralding a supposed visit of Milton in 1638, in fact the villa was not built until 1710, long after Milton’s death.

In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron settled at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with his personal physician, John William Polidori. There Byron befriended the poet Percy Blysshe Shelley, and Shelley’s future wife Mary Godwin. He was also joined by Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he’d had an affair in London.

Kept indoors at the Villa Diodati by the “incessant rain” of “that wet, ungenial summer” over three days in June, the group turned to reading fantastical stories, including Fantasmagoriana (Tales of the Dead). On the 16th of June, 1816, Lord Byron read Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, and challenged that each guest write a ghost story, which culminated in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, John Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

1816 was known as the Year Without Summer because Mount Tambora had erupted in the Dutch East Indies the previous year, casting enough ash in to the atmosphere to block out the sun and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem, saying he “wrote it… at Geneva, when there was a celebrated dark day, on which the fowls went to roost at noon, and the candles were lighted as at midnight”. Literary critics were initially content to classify it as a “last man” poem, telling the apocalyptic story of the last man on earth. Themes in Polidori’s tale would continue to influence Bram Stoker’s Dracula and eventually the whole vampire genre. Shelley’s Frankenstein is peerless.

The villa is featured in the film Gothic, the 1986 film directed by Ken Russell, which is a fictionalized tale based on the Shelleys’ visit with Lord Byron in Villa Diodati, the same event has also been portrayed in the films Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Haunted Summer (1988), among others. The villa also featured in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Haunted, where the frame plot takes place in a modern version of the Villa Diodati, and Tim Power’s novel The Stress of Her Regard has several scenes set there featuring Byron, Polidori and the Shelley’s.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s home is called “Belrive”


Dracula – 115 years old today

Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker was published on May 26, 1897. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham van Helsing.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, and the Gothic novel. It touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references. The historical connections with the novel and how much Stoker knew about the history are a matter of conjecture and debate.

When it was first published, in 1897, Dracula was not an immediate bestseller, although reviewers were unstinting in their praise. The contemporary Daily Mail newspaper ranked Stoker’s powers above those of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe as well as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

According to literary historians Nina Auerbach and David Skal in the Norton Critical Edition, the novel has become more significant for modern readers than it was for contemporary Victorian readers, most of whom enjoyed it just as a good adventure story; it only reached its broad iconic legendary classic status later in the 20th century when the movie versions appeared. However, some Victorian fans were ahead of the time, describing it as “the sensation of the season” and “the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century”.