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6 - Danny’s Endless Tricycle Ride: The Gothic and Adaptation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Richard J. Hand
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
McRoy Jay
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
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Summary

The heritage of Gothic literature is evident in the way it continues to fascinate and haunt our contemporary culture. Whether it is atmospheric Victorian ghost stories, the exploits of mad scientists Frankenstein and Jekyll or the nightmare worlds in the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker, Gothic literature continues to be read, retold and contested, its themes, obsessions and worldview recurrently resonating into our own time. This is nowhere more evident than in the practice and industry of film adaptation. In its ceaseless search for source material, cinema has turned, time and again, to Gothic literature. Whether it is in examples of canonical masterpieces, literary obscurities or popular fictions, film-makers have found inspiration on the bookshelves of the Gothic. However, within the realm of Gothic screen adaptations, a wide variety of strategies have been used. In some cases, films have foregrounded their source: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh, 1994) go so far as to include the authors’ names in their titles. In other cases, strategies are more latent: the eldritch universe of H. P. Lovecraft has become a pre-eminent influence on contemporary horror and yet often remains a discreet source rather than a blatant one. Similarly, there are examples of film that are selective or allusive and borrow literary paradigms for their plots or archetypal figures. In so doing, we discover how literary tropes and themes have continued to manifest throughout the history of film: the philosophical anxieties and social tensions that were the impetus underpinning the literary Gothic have evidently continued to infuse twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture. Moreover, this infusion has an extraordinary breadth: as we shall see in this chapter, examples of Gothic adaptation have been centrally important in family-friendly horror films, as well as film versions of literary texts, from the popular novels of Stephen King to the neo-Gothic literary fiction of Sarah Waters.

The children's animation Hotel Transylvania (Genndy Tartakovsky, 2012) and its sequels (2015 and 2018) are a hectic bricolage of reference, constructing a vivid iconography of monsters and centrally foregrounding a classic pantheon of Gothic creatures instigated into popularity by Universal Pictures in the 1930s onwards, namely the protagonist Count Dracula and his friends Frankenstein (‘Frank’), the Wolfman (‘Wayne’), the Invisible Man (‘Griffin’, as in H. G. Wells's 1897 novel) and the Mummy (‘Murray’).

Type
Chapter
Information
Gothic Film
An Edinburgh Companion
, pp. 89 - 100
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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