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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Gothic horror tradition can be traced back to any number of sources.  I've heard Mathew Lewis' Monk as the progenitor of them all, and it is indeed a horrifying treat to say the least.  It's got every convention you can imagine: darkened tombs, black misty forests, haunted hallways, satanic clergy.  It would make one helluva movie, but it's so nonlinear that I honestly don't see how you could translate it to a screenplay.

I've tried to trudge my way through other Gothic horror literature; more often than not, I have a difficult time making it through them.  Melmoth the Wanderer and Uncle Silas are classics of the genre, but I've never made it past the first few chapters of each.  The Turn of the Screw and The Fall of the House of Usher are much more pleasant reads.

It was Ann Radcliff's The Mysteries of Udolpho that really began the "women running from houses" motif.  The brand has extended across the decades, hitting a crescendo in the 1960s and 70s, where there was a seemingly infinite array of "women running from houses" paperbacks hitting the shelves.  Part Gothic horror, part romance - the ladies back then just couldn't get enough.  And every book, without exception, bore the same composition so there could be no doubt what genre we're dealing with.

The Gothic romance wasn't quite the sensation in other media.  I suppose you could include Dark Shadows as a television translation of the genre; and perhaps Mario Bava's work captured the feel of these books better than any other director.  But, by and large, the phenomenon was confined to paperback novels.  And here is a few shining examples.  Enjoy.


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