Posts tagged: Cultural Gutter
In one of the first pieces I wrote for the Cultural Gutter, I wrote about how I like that there are so many versions of Batman. And I talked about how bats come in a “cloud.” I wish I had saved that metaphor for discussing Dracula, because there are so many more versions of him—and of vampires in general.
There is the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, in which Stoker looks over his shoulder at Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, James Malcolm Rhymer’s Varney the Vampyre and Dr. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven.* There is the historical Wallachian Voivod, Vlad III. There is the non-legally actionable Count Orlok of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922), voted the most creepily adorable vampire by me. There is Bela Lugosi’s classic performance on stage and screen and Carlos Villarías in George Melford’s Spanish-language version filmed simultaneously with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Paul Naschy’s Dracula wore turtlenecks and looked for love in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972) and Gary Oldman’s wore tinted glasses while doing the same in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) There is Christopher Lee’s protean count in Hammer Studios’s Dracula movies. In 1979, there were both an open-shirted Frank Langella in Dracula and a ratlike Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, The Vampyre. Marvel Comics’ Dracula has been a nemesis of Blade and Dr. Strange before moving to a castle on the moon. Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Dracula appears to bite it before returning in Dark Horse’s Buffyverse comics. And just a few weeks ago I saw poor Vlad getting over some things in What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and then came across a copy of Becky Cloonan’s illustrated Dracula (New York: Harper Design, 2012) It seemed like both a sign and a portent—as if Dracula were calling out to me across oceans of time…
This week, SF/F Editor Keith explores Robert E. Howard’s foray into the Lovecraftian…
With the exception of August Derleth, both the greatest preserver of Lovecraft’s legacy as well as one of the most unabashed imitators, few of the authors of that time were as committed to playing in the mythos as Lovecraft’s pen-pal, Robert E. Howard. The two men were similarly devoted to their mothers. Both led exceptionally unhappy lives that ended tragically and at a young age. Howard committed suicide in 1936 at the age of 30. Lovecraft died of stomach cancer the following year, at the age of 46. Howard, who did his best to live the tough-guy life and whose specialty was adventure stories, wrote several works set within the terrifyingly indifferent universe conceived by that gloomy New Englander with the long face, including overt mentions of Lovecraft’s monsters, mythical locations, and “the black gods of R’lyeh.” And few writers were as ill-suited for playing in that mythos as was Howard, whose stock in trade was “for he was incapable of feeling fear” characters like Conan the Barbarian,the demon-slaying Puritan Solomon Kane, and the skull-cracking Pictish king Bran Mak Morn.
Art by Tim Conrad. Via Diversion of the Groovy Kind.
Screen Editor alex writes a little about life, cartoons and sit coms:
I come from a family of eggheads, so summer camp for me was usually something like Mini University. We’d play with metal shavings and magnets, or compete to design the most aerodynamic paper planes, but one of the things we also got to do was use the Olympic swimming pool with a full size, triple-decker diving board. The very top board was always roped off, but one of my best friends dared me to climb up to the level below it and jump off with her. It was high enough that it was hard to even make ourselves walk to the edge, but we agreed that on the count of three we’d run and jump. It wasn’t until I surfaced that I realized she was still up there, staring down at me.
This week, Comics Editor Carol interviews Dave McKean about fantasy, working with different media and his new film, Luna.
Where some of your other films are quite stylized and, in the case of The Week Before, almost expressionist, Luna combines fantastic, expressionist and animated elements with more naturalistic ones. What are some of the challenges in blending the fantastic with the naturalistic
I think it’s easier to sustain a very stylized form of storytelling for a short film. I like stories that exist both in the naturalistic world and in our imaginative lives, films are so immersive in that sense, we can explore how our characters think and dream, as well as how they exist in the real world. I think it’s very easy to just go down the rabbit hole, or through the door to Narnia or Oz. I’m interested in the parallel narrative of our fantasy lives, or as Dean puts in it Luna, our imaginative lives. How the moment of ‘now’ that is palpably real, is surrounded by our memories, our dreams and hopes, the stories and connections that our brains make as we navigate the world–a universe of fantasy, or unreality, or surreality. I’m keen to explore this very human experience, how our minds create our own realities–a blend of fact and interpretation of fact.
SF/F Editor Keith enjoys a tale where a gentleman adventures because it is fun and because it is right!
I don’t remember how it was I first came across Adam Adamant Lives!, though I suspect it was the culmination of a plot put into motion the day I was born, my sole purpose for existing being so that I might one day discover a British television show about a swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman adventurer who is frozen by his mortal enemy and revived in swingin’ sixties London, at which time he teams up with a hip young woman and resumes his life of derring-do and crime-fighting. It’s as if the creative team at the BBC sat down one day and thought, “Well, some day Keith Allison going to be born, and he’s going to want to see this show.”
The Gutter’s own Carol interviews Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio; The Duke of Burgundy) about his films, sound design, mole crickets, pheromonal perfume and the pressure to put on a persona. Read it at the Toronto International Film Festival’s official Vanguard Program blog.
Romance Editor Chris looks at some novels set in the Twenties.
I’m going to flat out admit I know very little about the Roaring Twenties. What little I do is mostly cribbed from still images and movies like Chicago. You know: jazz! Drinking! Dancing! More drinking! Guns! And did I mention drinking?
Not exactly what you might call a rigorous examination of an era that contained seismic changes in the social, political, and economic landscapes. The Great War changed everyone’s understanding of The Way Things Worked. Many old traditions died — sometimes because there was no one left to keep them — and new ones were created. The Spanish flu proved that disease respected borders even less than aggressive armies. The revolution in Russia made it clear that divine right was wrong, and the US moved into a position of real world power. Commoners moved into positions held previously by only the titled (or super-rich). Women, having kept industry running while the men were away being uselessly sacrificed, showed no desire to retire from the fields previously barred to them, and in fact began to demand more access. The world was suddenly smaller, more fragile, and more interconnected than ever before. And suddenly, shockingly, more elastic.
Photograph taken near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Via Madame Pickwick Art Blog.
Screen Editor alex considers a little more about willpower and when to give up.
I’m still thinking about willpower from my last article, and while it’s true that ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ (as my Grandma used to call it) is an important skill, it also really helps to know when to bail. Oddly, even though the desire to give up comes pretty naturally, deciding when you should actually do it doesn’t seem to. Watching the things that have made me and the people I care about unhappy in our lives over the years, I feel like learning how and when to walk away can’t be overrated.
I think maybe we’ve been sucked into seeing our lives through the narrative lens of movies where the characters almost always get something good in the end for sticking with it. We’ve seen it happen so many times it’s hard not to believe that if we just work long and hard enough we’ll win the prize, but in my experience the real-life ratio on that is significantly skewed towards failure. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams – if it’s important to you and you believe you have a shot, then you should take it – I just think that we’re often not very good at being realistic about what our chances are or how much we’ll end up having to pay.
Comics Editor Carol writes about the Filipina superhero Darna and 1970s film adaptations of her stories. With special guest stars Mars Ravelo, Nestor Redondo, Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola!
Last February, Todd Stadtman and Tars Tarkas invited me on the Infernal Brains podcast to discuss space ladies with them. We covered a lot of films, but I didn’t get to one film Todd suggested we watch, Darna Vs. The Planet Women (1975). I finally did recently and he was so right—Darna Vs. The Planet Women was a movie I needed to see. Since then, I’ve watched Darna And The Giants (1973) and Darna At Ding/Darna And Ding (1980). And these movies bring together so many fine things: a costumed comic book superhero, space ladies, supernatural creatures, black magic robots, disco fabulousness and the sassiness of Vilma Santos’ Darna.
SF/F Editor Keith watches Halt And Catch Fire and hopes for a little more.
In the season one finale of AMC’s new series Halt and Catch Fire, the builders of the Cardiff Electric portable Giant computer gather around a conference table to read an unenthusiastically positive review of their new product. It is an unwitting apt reflection of my reaction to the show in general. What was touted, or at least what was expected to be, 1980s Mad Men with Computers ended up being just good enough to get me through the season relatively satisfied, but it never really clicks. It’s primary problem for me is the same problem I have with a number of shows: it is unwilling to commit to any emotion beyond reserved grimness.
Nothing good can ever happen to the sad sack quartet of Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), or Donna Clark (Kerry Bishe). Every minor victory, every shred of happiness these four might attain in their quest to build a portable clone of an IBM computer in the wild, early days of microcomputing, must be countered by a sledgehammer negative consequence. Every tiny victory must be followed the very next scene by a mental breakdown, a betrayal, a professional disaster, or even just a bloody kitchen accident. It soars past Shakespeare into the territory of pure Greek tragedy as each Sunday night, vengeful gods strive to grind these four people into oblivion, and along with them, the viewers.